There are hundreds of adoption agencies and attorneys in the United States. What makes Adoption Choices special is the adoption experience and genuine interest that the professionals here have for everyone involved in the adoption process. Adoption Choices is deeply invested in placing a child with the perfect family, finding prospective parents the best child, and supporting birth parents. No one gets forgotten in the process.
As a writing intern, I was given the opportunity to interview Virginia L. Frank, one of the attorneys who works with Adoption Choices. She provided invaluable insights into the adoption process and her work as an adoption attorney. In her 27 years of experience as an adoption attorney, she has garnered numerous accolades. Most recently she has been awarded the 2018 Top 10 Family Law Attorneys in Oklahoma (for the second time since 2016) and been ranked as a Platinum Client Champion on Martingale Hubbell. Needless to say, her qualifications speak for themselves. Here are some of the highlights of our interview.
Interviewer: Davina Ward, Intern
Interviewee: Virginia L. Frank, Esq.
Q. What made you decide to become an adoption attorney?
“Well, my experience as an adoption attorney is colored by and comes from where I grew up. I grew up in rural Oklahoma, where most people in high school with me, many of them were pregnant or married, or married and pregnant, or would be married after high school. Many of them were single parents.
I loved my childhood, but it was poor, very very poor. I was raised by a single parent. My mom, my grandmother, and I, we grew all our own food; we canned it, froze it, and did all that and looking back on it I loved it. We definitely qualified for welfare. My grandmother came from an educated family. She slid into poverty because her husband died, so it was a case of situational poverty. Unfortunately, my mother had the same exact experience, situational poverty, so two generations, we’ll just make that poverty. I didn’t even have any store bought clothes except maybe underwear until I was probably 12 or 13, my grandmother just made everything.
As early as junior high, I was exposed to lots of angst about abortion, having to raise children, or relatives raising their children while they were still young. Or lots of discussion about the fact that they were going to be raising these children and it seemed to be the norm, but there was never an option for them to do adoption.”
Q. What do you do as an adoption attorney?
“I give a lot of advice. I try to educate the parties. It depends on who I’m representing, what I’m telling people. I try to explain the adoption triad. I try to make sure everybody has informed consent as we move through the process.
It’s a very big process, both emotionally and it’s a big commitment financially to the adoptive parents. It’s also a big commitment of taking another child into your home, that’s a stranger, outside of the family, taking a child into your home, and making that child be a part of your tribe, basically.
I grew up Native American, and I’m a registered Native American with two tribes. Generally across American that you can only register with one tribe and that’s tribal rule. I’m registered with and enrolled as a member of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah. My family has land from Absentee Wyandotte, and I have the actual land grant deed from Woodrow Wilson, which is pretty cool.
What I do, is I try to help people, my practice is kind of narrow, I help people get across state lines in adoption, that and ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) are the two things that I actually do a lot of, and I really do enjoy. There’s a whole lot body of law for each of those, for how you actually go about giving all these notices and kind of working through that process with culture, with the rules with the tribes. I try to find native American families who are registered to adopt Native American children. A lot of people do it because that’s the rule and they try to abide by it.
I do it because living in Native America and growing up with Native American Culture where I was going to pow wow’s and school activities and things like that, with Native Americans. I like to give the child a little bit of their culture. They may not grow up in Native America, but at least they’ll still have a little bit of heritage from where they came from. I don’t think you need to grow up on a reservation to appreciate that.”
Q. What are some questions that you ask going through the adoption process?
“I always ask about the child’s health and medical things going on with the mother and child. Most of the time I ask if they’re Native American. Mainly, because the ICWA laws are so strict, and I don’t want people to get involved if they won’t qualify. The child, not the mother or father, needs to be eligible for registration or registered in the tribe.
I also ask about race. If they are going to have a child of a different race in the home, not only how do they feel, but how their family feels? How does their community feel? How does their church feel? What is that going to be like for them? In different parts of the country, people still have great prejudice, and just because you love the child, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to. You don’t want the child to be ostracized at school, at home, or when relatives or grandparents come over.
So, I talk about that, what is their background. Religion, too. What is their religion going to say about it? Is their religion going to accept a child who is different, that looks different. It gets them to understand what is going to happen and prepare them for it. If, in fact, they want to choose to stay within their community’s culture, which I recommend for them and any child that they bring into the home, then is the placement good for them?
The fourth thing would be drug or alcohol use and mental illness because when you adopt a child, you don’t know anything about the child’s history like you do your own. Everyone in America knows an alcoholic or someone who is affected by mental illness. We all have a relative who is a drug addict, but when you are adopting a child across state lines and maybe even across the country, you don’t know anything about their history. So you need to ask about that.
As an adoptive parent, they need to be prepared to help the child if there are any complications with that, because you don’t know, depending on what type of mental illness or what type of background the birth mother or father might have because they might need services. In private adoptions, usually (with exceptions) there is no one to actually pick up that bill.”
Final Thoughts from the Interviewer
Prior to this interview, Virginia Frank had been a bit of an enigma to me. I knew that she was an adoption attorney, at least, but I didn’t know how personal helping others in their adoption journey was to her. To hear her speak of her childhood, her Native American heritage, and adoption was astonishing. She was warm, open, and passionate. It is no wonder to me that she has had over 27 years of consistent success as an adoption attorney. I have no doubt in my mind that she will have many more.