Next Avenue: What to know about becoming the grandparent of an adopted child, and how to prepare

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.

Bonnie Boreson was thrilled when her daughter announced that she and her husband were planning to grow their family through adoption. Already a grandparent by her older son, Boreson was no stranger to the joys of waiting for a baby.

New to her was the anxiety she experienced in the first few days after her grandson’s birth in 2012, when her daughter and son-in-law were caring for him in an Oregon hospital. As in most states, Oregon prohibits a birth mother from relinquishing parental rights until she has recovered from the immediate effects of the birth, giving her an important opportunity to be certain about her decision.

“I worried about the heartbreak if she changed her mind,” says Boreson, 66, of Tucson, Ariz. “They were already attached to this little baby.”

While exact adoption figures are difficult to track, the Virginia-based National Council for Adoption (NCFA) cites experts who estimate that nearly one in three Americans has been personally touched by adoption in some way. Still, the process — with its often excruciating waits and myriad unknowns — can intimidate the uninitiated.

Here are five tips to help you prepare for, and support, your child’s adoption journey toward parenthood:

1. Educate yourself

Prospective adopting parents receive mandatory education on adoption regardless of whether they go through the state-administered foster care system or a private agency or attorney who facilitates inter-country or domestic infant adoptions. Grandparents are rarely included in these formal education programs, but there are many resources to demystify the process.

Steffany Aye, founder and director of Adoption & Beyond, an agency that facilitates adoptions in Kansas and Missouri, recommends the prospective adoptive couples she works with gift their families a copy of “In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know about Adoption.”

Its author Elisabeth O’Toole, an adoptive mother of three, explains the paperwork, the role of social workers, how parents might handle privacy issues and the unknowns of a child’s medical and social history.

Also see: Give your grandkids 10 years of retirement for just $3,650

Aye also encourages eager grandparents to simply ask questions of their children. Most prospective parents are happy to calm fears, debunk myths and explain the correct language of adoption, a crucial way to fight stereotypes. For example, a birth mother, rather than a “real mother,” makes an adoption plan for a child, rather than “gives the child up.” The NCFA’s adoption terminology chart is a handy resource for learning the lingo.

2. Open your heart

Among the most significant changes in U.S. adoption culture over the past few decades is the promotion of open adoptions, in which birth parents maintain some degree of contact with the child and the adoptive parents. Multiple studies compiled by the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway over the last decade indicate that openness helps children develop a healthy sense of identity and process any feelings of loss. Most adoptive parents also prefer openness because the child’s birth parents can offer a biological and historical connection that they cannot, says Ryan Hanlon, vice president of NCFA.

“Open adoption has grown since the 1980s to the point that I don’t know of any organization that promotes closed adoption,” Hanlon says. “Still, grandparents might wonder, ‘Will my child be hurt by this? Do I have to share my grandchild with even more grandparents?’”

In reality, children are capable of loving multiple adults, and the more people available to reciprocate, the better, according to Aye.

Adoption & Beyond explains a healthy adoptive-birth family relationship as similar to that of in-laws in a marriage.

Also see: Federal law now gives some parents paid time off to help their kids with remote learning

“When you married your spouse, you accepted someone else’s child and extended family,” Aye says. “Some relatives you get along with really well and some you don’t, but these are all people who love your spouse.”

3. Have patience

Waiting for a new grandchild is difficult, no matter how he or she joins your family.

“It’s so much harder for adoption than a pregnancy,” says Hanlon, whose fourth child was adopted from China in 2018. “The advantage of a pregnancy is we have a pretty known timeline. It could happen earlier, but it’s not like we expect it to be 40 weeks and it ends up being eighty weeks. In adoption, we could expect a year and it takes two.”

Boreson has experienced both extremes in the adoption timeline. Her daughter and son-in-law’s first adoption was unusually fast; they brought their son home a month after first meeting with an attorney. After adding another child to their family by birth in 2014, they worked through an agency to adopt their third child from South Korea. That process, from filing the application to meeting their son, took nearly two years.

The waiting period is the perfect time to begin preparing your home, especially if the child is likely to be an infant or have special medical needs. For an inter-country adoption, Hanlon suggests learning about the child’s native culture and picking up a few phrases of his or her first language.

4. Follow the leader

It’s normal for grandparents to want to jump in and help their children prepare for a new arrival. Just as with a pregnancy, it’s important to let the adopting parents lead the way. Hanlon discourages constantly asking for updates or planning a baby shower without asking permission.

When Don Ray of Ronan, Mont., learned that his son and daughter-in-law were pursuing adoption, the 61-year-old hosted garage sales to raise funds and pitched in the same way he had before each of his sons welcomed their first babies.

“With any child, there’s a lot to prepare for,” Ray says. “Frankly, they need moral support and maybe some elbow grease to help them get the house ready.”

As the placement gets closer, talk about the plans for the child’s arrival. Adoption counselors often recommend that parents adopting a non-infant initially be the sole caregivers for the child to establish trust. This can be difficult for eager grandparents, as Boreson discovered. She happily traveled to South Korea to care for her two older grandchildren while their parents focused on the third, an 18-month-old boy.

Also read: Vaccinating children against the flu is ‘more important than ever’ this year: pediatricians

“The hardest, hardest, hardest thing for me in Korea was that I could not hold him,” Boreson says. “I understood, but it killed me.”

5. Respect the story

Every child who joins a family through adoption has a history that includes deeply personal choices and often difficult circumstances. While it is natural to want to know as much about your new grandchild as possible, most social workers advise parents not to share any more than the essential details of their child’s and birth parents’ stories, even with their closest family members, until the child is old enough to understand and make his or her own choice regarding what to share.

That won’t stop curious friends and neighbors from asking questions. In “In On It,” O’Toole’s advice is to make sure any answer is one you’d be comfortable with the child hearing, and reflects positively on adoption.

“This is the child’s story and it’s not your story to share,” Aye says. “There are ways you can educate people about adoption without having to share the specifics of your grandchild’s story.”

Jessica Wambach Brown is a freelance writer based in Kalispell, Mont. While she typically covers military history, veterans’ affairs and historical travel for national magazines, a personal interest in adoption led her to seek out resources for grandparents-to-be.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2020 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

NerdWallet: Try these new ways to get a better price for your old car

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

These days, you can sit on your couch and get a pretty accurate answer to the age-old question: “What’s my trade-in worth?”

As online used car retailers streamline the buying process, they’re creating more convenient ways to handle car-buying’s Achilles’ heel, the trade-in. And, with the current used car shortage caused by the pandemic, you might get a surprisingly high price selling your car to them rather than trading it in.

You don’t have to sell, of course; you’re just finding out what your trade-in is worth in the most accurate way possible — the price someone will actually pay.

Here’s what the process looks like, and how you can use the results.

Places to get a quote online

Although there may be other places in your area to trade in or sell your car, there are currently three companies dominating online used car sales: Carvana CVNA, -5.37%  , Shift and Vroom VRM, -3.75%  . These companies allow you to self-appraise your car and get a quote to either sell your car or trade it in for one of theirs. The transaction and paperwork are touchless.

Not all these companies are nationwide, and your vehicle will be inspected by a company representative — and the offer possibly adjusted — before you get your money.

Related: The best and worst times to buy a car

Another way to sell or trade your car is through CarMax, a used car superstore with outlets in 40 states and an in-person appraisal process that takes about 45 minutes. It may be easier to look up your car’s value on Edmunds.com, where you can get a CarMax KMX, -1.45%   quote without even having to go to one of its car lots.

A real-world comparison test

Before starting the appraisal process, I checked pricing guide Kelley Blue Book, known as KBB, to get an idea of my cars’ trade-in values at a dealer, then collected online offers from CarMax, Carvana, Vroom and Shift.

On these sites, you can fill in information manually or supply your car’s license plate number or 17-digit vehicle identification number to fetch precise year, make, model and trim. They’ll ask you about options on the car, color, if the car has been smoked in, and any warning lights or body damage. You’ll typically get an offer in minutes.

Here are the results for my 2014 Volkswagen SportWagen TDI with 41,000 miles:

  • KBB trade-in estimate: $10,213.
  • Lowest purchase offer (CarMax): $8,700.
  • Best purchase offer (Carvana): $13,067.

I ran the same numbers for my son’s 2016 Mazda3 Sport with 72,732 miles:

  • KBB trade-in estimate: $10,085.
  • Lowest purchase offer (Vroom): $7,750.
  • Best purchase offer (Shift): $9,100.

And a friend let me run his 2019 Honda Civic Si with 4,200 miles:

  • KBB trade-in estimate: $22,225.
  • Lowest purchase offer (CarMax): $21,700.
  • Best purchase offer (Carvana): $23,077.

As you can see, pricing is highly variable. The more sources you contact, the better.

Do you really get that much?

These companies promise a no-haggle, fair price for your trade-in. But does the price change when the company’s representative shows up and goes over your car with a fine-toothed comb?

Sometimes, sellers omit important aspects of their car’s condition such as frame damage from an accident or rust, says Toby Russell, co-CEO of Shift. In these cases, after a physical inspection, the price is reduced. However, there are times when a customer gets more for a car because market conditions have changed.

Read: An expert’s guide to road-tripping with your dog

If a customer is transparent when describing a vehicle’s condition, “we don’t anticipate having to make adjustments to our offers,” says Carvana spokesperson Amy O’Hara. “But we are prepared should the situation arise.”

Online comments on sites such as Reddit support these statements. Most consumers found the trade-in or sales process at these companies to be fast, transparent and convenient.

Don’t forget the sales tax

With these figures in hand, you are in a position of strength when you visit an actual dealer.

In most states, if you trade in your car, you pay sales tax only on the difference between the cost of the new car and your old one. If your new car is $30,000 and you are getting $20,000 for your trade-in, you pay sales tax on the difference: $10,000. In a state with a 10% sales tax, you saved $2,000 by trading in.

That should be a consideration if a dealer’s offer doesn’t quite measure up to the offers you get online or through CarMax.

Also see: Toyota has finally made a hybrid of its most popular car—is it different from a Prius?

Let the dealer make you its best offer. Tell the used car manager, the internet sales office or the salesperson that you’ve already appraised your car on pricing guides and gotten quotes from online retailers. You don’t need to share the offers you have — just ask for their best price.

Factor in the sales tax before you reject anything, but with backup offers it’s easy to walk away, sell the car independently and return with cash to strike a better deal.

More from NerdWallet:

Philip Reed is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: articles@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AutoReed.

The Moneyist: I’m a 54-year-old widow. My fiancé and I plan to renovate my home. Is that a good idea? Will a second marriage affect my Social Security?

Dear Moneyist,

I am a 54-old-widow of 6 years, with average savings and a home (free and clear) that was paid for by me and my late husband. I am now engaged and need advice on how to move ahead with our finances. He has a good job and savings. He will be moving into my home, but we plan to make improvements to the home together.

We both have one child. I want what my first husband and I have worked and paid for to be inherited by my daughter. How should we handle the improvements to the property? Do I write a will stating the value of the home before those improvements should be inherited by my daughter, and the amount of the improvements be split between our children? Do I add him to the deed after the improvements? I want him to have lifetime use of the home.

I also draw monthly income from late husband’s retirement, which usually puts me into a higher tax bracket. We are trying to decide if it would be best that we not get married because of tax purposes and continue to file as single people. Or should we decide to marry and file married filing separately or married filing jointly? The retirement funds I draw from my last husband would be included in my taxable income. Together, we would have an annual income of approximately $150,000.

Engaged in Tennessee

The Moneyist: My sister-in-law moved in with her mother, changed her will, set up a new trust and inherited everything. Is it too late to claim what rightfully belongs to us?

Dear Engaged,

Congratulations on your engagement. Some people are lucky to find love once in their lifetime. You found it twice. I applaud you on your willingness to start life anew and to embark on a new adventure.

Before you get married and/or pursue a financial life together, I urge you to seek legal counsel. Tennessee is a separate property state and your home is currently considered separate (rather than marital) property. In community-property states, there is a 50/50 right to marital property. In separate-property states, that property is typically divided in a court of law if the couple divorces.

If you move into your home together after you are married, and you renovate your home together, you pay for those renovations out of a joint account and/or refinance your home from a joint account, your home becomes marital property. In other words, you cannot make a will to leave your home to your daughter, if your new husband owns half of it. On that note, do not add him to the deeds.

I recommend a prenuptial agreement, but there is no guarantee that such an agreement cannot be challenged in a court of law if the home you owned with your first husband is “commingled” (that is, becomes community/marital property instead of separate property post-renovation). A lawyer will advise you on the details, but I advise you to tread very carefully on renovating this home together.

The Moneyist: My mother’s will says her boyfriend can live in her home after she dies. Can I still kick him out if the deed is transferred to me?

You don’t say what property your fiancé brings to the marriage. Assuming he has a home, he should also protect that asset too. If he does not have his own home, you can write a will leaving him the right of survivorship in your home, meaning he has the right to live there for the remainder of his life, assuming you predecease him, and your daughter inherits your home in its entirety.

Marrying again before the age of 60 can also be tricky. Your Social Security survivor benefits will be affected if you marry now. You qualify for survivor benefits if your previous marriage lasted 10 years, you are 60, you remain single after your or, if you do remarry, you only did so after you turned 60 (or 50 if you have a disability). A second marriage for you requires careful planning.

Don’t make any hasty decisions. You are in love again, and that’s the most important thing. If you are on a pink cloud, it can be intoxicating. When you notice how your spouse chews their food, picks Cheerios out of their teeth, yawns like a bear emerging from hibernation or snuffles loudly instead of using a tissue, that’s when you wish you saw a lawyer before a justice of the peace.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check outthe Moneyist private Facebook FB, -3.30%  group where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

CityWatch: As yellow taxi drivers struggle, city to announce six-month pause on new licenses

Helicopters circled and horns blared in solidarity as a fleet of yellow cabs shut down traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday, the latest effort by the city’s beleaguered taxi drivers to draw attention to their cause and demand debt relief for their high-price medallion loans.

“Seventy percent of the drivers are not working. The taxi fleets have most of the taxis in storage,” said Sergio Cabrera, a longtime cabdriver and member of advocacy group Yellow Taxi United. “In 21 years of driving, I’ve never seen it like this.”

With anger among taxi drivers hitting a breaking point, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) planned to announce a six-month pause on new licenses for for-hire vehicles, a move that could stem the tide of new competition, including from disrupters Lyft LYFT, +1.75%   and Uber UBER, -1.59%  . A formal announcement is expected on Friday.

But the move does little to address drivers’ main demand for debt relief.

The city’s yellow-cab drivers felt the full force of the blow when the coronavirus pandemic hit New York, with trips plummeting 84% from their pre-COVID levels by early April. And while there’s been a slow trickle of returning passengers over the past several months and new relief efforts by the city’s TLC, drivers say it’s still not nearly enough to sustain business as usual — or to pay back expensive medallion loans.

With Manhattan still largely devoid of office workers and tourists, Cabrera said, drivers are turning to the outer boroughs for fares.

Coronavirus update: Global cases near 30 million; Trump contradicts CDC head on vaccine timetable and again derides face masks

“In the outer boroughs where the average people live, there is much more movement,” Cabrera said. “Manhattan is not busy, it’s not functioning the way it should be. I don’t know when it’s going to come back.”

The strain on the city’s taxi drivers is compounded by years of tightening margins and spiraling debt, as competition from apps like Uber and Lyft has flooded city streets, and declining values of the high-price medallions required to operate have left many drivers hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. In 2018, then-taxi commissioner Meera Joshi characterized a spate of driver suicides as “an epidemic” in the industry.

“COVID is just the latest problem,” said Carolyn Protz, a driver and member of Yellow Taxi United as well as the NYC Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association. “Our problems as medallion owners go back much longer.”

Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union representing both yellow cab and Uber/Lyft drivers, had staged Thursday’s slowdowns on the Brooklyn and Queensboro bridges to draw attention to demands for debt forgiveness for medallion owners.

Representatives of alliance did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

As with many issues facing small-business owners in the pandemic, city officials say that further support and bailout money should come from the federal government and financial institutions, rather than local government agencies already facing budget cuts and potential layoffs.

“The city is obviously in a financial crisis. There’s not a current opportunity for a traditional bailout for medallion owners who are indebted to banks,” TLC Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk told MarketWatch. “It would require federal action and some regulation for banks that may have taken advantage of medallion owners who find themselves with higher interest and untenable loans.”

Last week, it was reported that Connecticut-based investment firm Marblegate Asset Management LLC has recently forgiven $70 million worth of medallion debt, and in some cases capped individual owners’ debts at a ceiling of $300,000. The average driver-owner carries $600,000 in medallion debt, according to the TWA, and over the past decade, medallion prices had been inflated from around $200,000 to as high as $1 million, an investigation from the New York Times found last year.

Advocates say it’s a helpful step, but more aid is needed.

“Even the amount that they’ve lowered the debt, it’s an undoable amount of money to make those payments on a monthly basis,” said Cabrera, the cabdriver and advocate. “Most of the banks have a forbearance going on medallion payments right now, so that has helped. But we need massive debt relief. We need the city to step in.”

At the height of the pandemic, the TLC launched the Get Food NYC food delivery program, paying licensed taxi drivers to deliver meals to vulnerable New Yorkers. More than 20,000 drivers have participated in the delivery of over 100 million meals since March, according to city data, collectively earning close to $40 million, Jarmoszuk said.

“We have a lot of problems, we cannot deny that,” Jarmoszuk added. “These things did not happen overnight. It could have been far worse, but we were able to put supports in place to lessen the blow. Solutions [will take time] but they will happen.”

Also on MarketWatch: New York City schools delay in-person instruction — again

Still, drivers are concerned about their debt, and what the industry will look like on the other side of the current crisis. “My concern is for the future, after COVID,” Protz said. “Going forward, there need to be many less for-hire vehicles [on the road].” 

“I’m in the Bronx by the [Bronx Terminal Market],” Cabrera said. “I’ll sit here until a call comes through or someone comes out of the mall. The days are long. The income is not where it needs to be to make any kind of payment on what I owe.”

Personal Finance Daily: Why the CDC’s moratorium on evictions won’t solve America’s looming $100 billion rental crisis and mortgage rates remain near record lows

Hang in there, MarketWatchers, and don’t miss these stories:

Personal Finance
Trump’s crackdown on ‘critical race theory’ training leads to cancellation of Justice Department ‘unconscious bias’ program

Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget said ‘critical race theory’ was ‘divisive, false and demeaning.’

‘This is just slowing the clock on evictions’: Why the CDC’s moratorium on evictions won’t solve America’s looming $100 billion rental crisis

‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in early September that it was establishing a temporary ban on evictions across the country.’

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer say U.S. should immediately cancel $50,000 in student loans for millions of borrowers

‘Even before the COVID–19 pandemic, the United States also faced a historic student loan crisis, which is currently holding back our struggling economy,’ Warren said.

Mortgage rates remain near record lows — now the challenge will be finding a lender willing to give you one

The supply of mortgages has dropped to the lowest level since 2014, according to one metric.

Two teachers face a difficult choice: One welcomes ‘normalcy,’ while another feels ‘rage.’ COVID-19 has radically altered their feelings about school

Schools have a lot of different plans, and teachers have varying views on whether they want to get back in the classroom.

New-home construction pulls back slightly, as builders shift attention away from the multifamily sector

Multifamily starts fell 25% between July and August, reflecting the volatility in that sector of the housing market.

Worried about COVID-19? New $399 Apple Watch tests blood-oxygen levels. Other products do this for $17 — but what does the FDA say?

‘What we don’t want is for people to go, Oh s—! I’m looking at my oxygen levels and it’s low, it must be COVID,’ says medical director of Respiratory Care Services at Houston Methodist Hospital.

How long the $300 unemployment benefit lasts all depends on which state you live in

More than $30 billion — two-thirds of the FEMA disaster-relief funds being used to fund the extra benefits — has been distributed to make the $300-a-week payments across more than 20 states

Elsewhere on MarketWatch
A handful of wealthy countries own more than half of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine supply, warns Oxfam

Oxfam warns that the promised supply of global doses from leading vaccine candidates is largely being divided up between the richest nations.

U.S. jobless claims fall in mid-September, but the economy still suffering lots of layoffs

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits through state and federal programs fell in September for the first time in five weeks, but initial jobless claims are still very high and point to ongoing job losses due to the pandemic.

Trump disputes CDC director on vaccine rollout, blames high coronavirus death toll on ‘blue states’

President Donald Trump discussed his administration’s plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible during Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing, and disputed earlier comments from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

Stock markets have now seen the ‘peak of Fed stimulus’ unless these 2 things happen

Investors were left disappointed by the Federal Reserve’s action — or lack of — late on Wednesday, as the central bank failed to indicate any new stimulus.