Jane Hall, founder of Adoption Advocates, started her life with loss most people never face. Those losses led her to a path and career she never imagined. Adopted at age 9 through an unfortunate situation, she made it her life’s mission to correct the adoption process and make sure all parties involved know their rights and are protected.
You were adopted at age 9. Can you talk a little bit about that time in your life?
I knew I was being adopted, I just didn’t understand why. When I look back, knowing what I know now, everything that ethically could’ve been done wasn’t done. It was so wrong… how it happened. It’s not that it had a bad result, but a lot of rights were violated the way it was done.
My sister and I were taken to this house and stayed there for a while. Different couples would come and talk to us. My sister was eventually placed with a local family and I was placed with two people who traveled a lot. I didn’t find out until many years later that my birth mother signed a relinquishment not knowing what it was because she was mostly deaf and my father told her to sign it. Because my mother was disabled, she didn’t understand that she had rights. My birth father was an alcoholic and I guess he thought my mother couldn’t handle us. I didn’t really fully understand that I was leaving my family forever. It didn’t hit me until we went to the courthouse a few months later and the judge asked me if I wanted to go with my parents, and my answer was that I wanted to stay and I wanted to go; I was just a kid. That answer has always haunted me because I said yes. I didn’t realize at the time what leaving really meant – it meant never seeing my family again.
When did you decide to start Adoption Advocates and why?
In 1982, I went to work for an attorney who taught me personal injury law. It was fascinating, but in the back of my mind, I knew I eventually wanted to work in adoption law. I began to research Texas adoption law and realized that in order to work in that area, I needed to do it from start to finish. I started Adoption Advocates and applied for a Texas child placement license. In April 1991, Adoption Advocates received its license. I sent out pink and blue announcements to all of my fellow attorneys and that’s how we placed our first baby. As time went on, I was referred to Janie Cravens, who started doing consulting for us. Her work changed how we did things. Doing adoption is her calling. I was fortunate to have her expertise in shaping the agency. She taught me how to honor the rights of all of the parties involved, including the adoptee.
What was your original mission statement for Adoption Advocates and how has that mission changed over the years?
Openness was part of our original mission statement, but as time went by, it was clear that the issues were more complex than just advocating openness. There is no question that openness is the cornerstone of our organization, but we realized that training and education for adoptive families were critical in the adoption journey. To this day, our training requirement involves two days of presentations. Our efforts in education are probably unparalleled in the adoption industry. For example, our training includes a panel of birth mothers who talk about their personal adoption experience.
How has the adoption process and how people perceive it changed in the last 20 years?
Most agencies now promote open adoption. When I started Adoption Advocates, there was more secrecy in adoption. We also place with same-sex couples now. In the beginning, it was not the norm. Now we do about one to two same-sex adoptions a year. The most important reason that’s changed is that birth mothers are open to it now.
What myth regarding open adoption do you most frequently encounter?
Most adoptive parents look at open adoption with great fear of the mother taking the child back. Once they attend our seminar, that fear subsides.
What is the most important thing you want people to know about adoption?
If you want to have a family, adoption is a joyous way to achieve that.
In your own words, what is the primary goal of Adoption Advocates?
We provide positive choices for birth families and adoptive families such that their individual needs are met and their rights are protected. That’s the right way to create a family.
How do you feel about the use of social media between birth parents and adoptive parents before and after the adoption process?
Facebook is good, Facebook is bad. Social media would really be good to dispel the myth that open adoption is a scary thing. Social media could play a huge part in educating people about adoption.
What is your current role at Adoption Advocates?
I am available when a complex situation arises. I provide advice and recommendations at the board level as well as legal consults as needed. I love what we do, so I can’t help but educate others about adoption. I am still fascinated by building families through adoption.
What drives your passion for adoption?
When parents want a child, they should be able to adopt. Watching a family being created is an amazing privilege.
What would you like to see changed in the adoption industry?
The biggest issue currently going on is adoptees getting access to their original birth certificates without having to seek permission of the birth parents. Also, there is a very real need for the Texas legislature to pass a law requiring the health department to receive updated medical information about birth parents. The single biggest issue for an adopted child is getting updated medical information so that adoptive parents and the child can be aware of any genetic health concerns.
Where do you see Adoption Advocates in 10 years?
My hope is for it to provide its services, especially adoption training, to even more clients, since they do such a good job at that.
What does Adoption Advocates mean to you?
I got the opportunity to fix something that was wrong for me on a personal level. Not many people have that chance. I am constantly amazed at Adoption Advocates’ success and am so grateful for the families we have created. I’ve been on an awesome journey and look forward to the future of Adoption Advocates.
Where is your favorite Austin hangout?
My whole family lives within a block of me, so I would have to say my neighborhood!
What is your favorite pastime?
Reading; I probably read two to three books a week. My favorite book I read recently was “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I also enjoy hiking and spin class. I have a lot of fun with my granddaughter, Kai, and my grandson, Jonah. They are, of course, almost perfect. They make me young again. I also love meeting up with my daughter, Rory, somewhere, and having a margarita.
What is your favorite quote?
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien