I thought about addressing all the questions that adoption invariably brings up, since there are a lot, but the more I got to thinking, the more convicted I felt that (not) quitting seemed the right topic for Q.
Obviously, the whole purpose for starting the adoption process in the first place was to expand our family. There are several reasons that pushed us in that direction – we had always leaned toward adoption, we didn’t conceive a second child, my pregnancy with our first child was physically hard on me, we did not intend to pursue fertility treatments – but the primary purpose was to expand our family. Getting started the first time was hard for me…my husband remarked on more than one occasion that he felt he was the one pushing us (me) to get the paperwork filled out and submitted. He felt he was pulling me along, not because I didn’t want to do it, but because it was personally taxing, and I didn’t have much forward momentum. So he sort of provided the forward momentum for both of us at the beginning, and we (finally) powered through and got finished.
The second time around, he told me straight up that he couldn’t be the one dragging me (his words). I had to take the lead this time. Even though he know I wanted to do this, my taking the lead was the behavioral indicator he needed to know that I was ready. I was…and I did…and the paperwork got done quickly. It wasn’t as emotionally & personally taxing this time, perhaps because I had been through all of the hard answers once before and knew what to expect. Probably.
The important point is to say, during both of the application processes, and the waiting, we never considered quitting. It was never an option in my mind. Once we were in, we were all in, and I know I couldn’t have approached it any other way. For me, it was like committing to marriage…once we were committed to it, we were completely committed. We would stay the course, and we would not make the decision to walk away.
Unlike marriage, though, home studies have an expiration date. When we had our disruption, our social worker suggested we talk it over and decide if we wished to continue and try for another match. For us it was a no brainer…of course we were not quitting. We still wanted a child…we were not giving up…and (not insignificantly) we still had several thousand dollars invested that would not be refunded to us. However, we did agree that once our home study expired, if we had not had a successful match, we would need to seriously consider if moving forward (again) was prudent for our family. Fortunately, that was not a decision that we ever had to make, and for that we are profoundly grateful.
If I could say anything to those in the waiting stage, it is this: Don’t quit. It doesn’t always happen fast. It didn’t for us, but it will eventually happen. There are so many children who are in desperate need of you. Stay the course. Carry on. Trust that God has your child securely under His wing. just waiting for you to get there.
I’m behind this week on the challenge. A sick kiddo home from school for three days, a hubby out of town for two days, and a Mount Everest sized pile of laundry to fold will do that to you in no time flat. Oh, add to that overnight guests on Saturday night, which means extra cleaning (and yes, I’ve enlisted my husband to help). As it turns out, N is for No #AtoZChallenge Post, so I’m playing catch up today.
…which is what we have. Over the five(ish) years since we started, we have had consistent counsel and read consistently that an open adoption is the best and most healthy choice for everyone involved. Generally speaking, of course. There are certain situations where a closed adoption is advisable…severe mental mental health issues, violence, or a birth mom who not only doesn’t want the baby, but doesn’t care what happens to him/her. Believe it or not, there are birth moms like that, and we were presented with two or three.
I can’t imagine having to deal with any of those issues, and thankfully we don’t. We have enough dysfunction to deal with already, and we have a very easy, congenial relationship with our birth mom. She is unstable – no job, no home, on-again/off-again drug habit, on-again/off-again boyfriend, dysfunctional family – but she doesn’t have mental health problems, and she is a sweet girl who has shown that she loves our baby. We could not ask for anything better, and both social workers involved with our case have confirmed this. We have it good.
In our case, open adoption means that we have met both birth parents, and have a continuing relationship with them that consists of four written communications per year (with pictures included), and up to three visits per year, at a neutral location, and at the request of the birth parent. We are obligated to the written communication per a written agreement with our birth mom, and she is entitled to (but not obligated to) the visits. This is not how all open adoptions work, but it is how ours does. The most important component of it is that we know each other, and that we have access to each other.
The visitation stops at age three, and that is written into the contract. This is for our child’s protection. Our social worker explained that studies have indicated that between ages 3 and 12, visitation with the birth parents can be counter-productive to the parent/child relationship within the adoptive family, and they can create a lot of confusion. One of the biggest issues we all want to ensure is that our child feels secure and loved, and that he understands that his birth parents did not give him up because they didn’t want him, but because they loved him and wanted a better life for him than they could provide. This is the truth, and it will always be a regular part of our discussion of his adoption.
After age 12, if he desires contact with his birth parents, we can request visits. They have both indicated they are open to it. We will facilitate that as needed, and always with his well-being and best interests at heart.
With that we move on to…
As you have probably gathered from my previous posts, there are reams and reams of paperwork. Everything, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is documented…sometimes in duplicate or triplicate. You have to stay on top of it, or it will consume you.
And if you’ve reached this point in the adoptions posts, you know that the paperwork doesn’t end when the adoption is final, especially if you have an open adoption.
What we have facing us for the next 18 years is four letters per year, with accompanying pictures, because though the visits stop at age three, the letters do not. Our birth parents wanted to have a continuing written record of our son’s development, and I totally understand that, and desire that for them. I am grateful that they want it, because it demonstrates that they do love him, and explaining that they surrendered him out of love is much easier than trying to explain why they didn’t love him.
That being said, all of our written communication goes through our agency, and they forward it on to their respective addresses. Unfortunately, that is not always easy, as they do not always stay put or stay in touch. Such is the case with our birth mom right now…we (the agency, our social worker, and the two of us) do not know where she is, or how to contact her other than by phone (which may or may not be functioning). We are fortunate that the agency has an address for her grandmother, who (sadly) is the only person in her family with a stable address. So that is where our letters are sent, and we hope that she gets them.
UPDATE!! I just got word yesterday (Good Friday) that our birth mom is living with her grandmother, and she has a job. She contacted her social worker to ask about pictures of our baby, which are en route already. I am thrilled to hear this…to know that she is ok, and that she has found some stability. I am praying that she stays the course, and praising God for his infinite care and mercy. It was a Good Friday indeed!
As far as the legal paperwork goes, it is complete. His birth certificate is now available in Vital Records for our county, and all we need to do is go pick it up. Next week…so here’s praying that baby and mommy don’t come down with the crud that kept big brother home from school.
To be brutally honest, adoption costs too much money. W-A-Y too much money. Granted, it costs money to pay for agency fees, attorney fees, travel expenses, and (if you’re adopting internationally) all the required in-country fees…including bribe money in some countries. It is daunting. Daunting enough that many worthy families are priced right out of the market because they don’t have the resources. You don’t have to be monetarily rich to raise children…not even close…but looking at the amount of cash required to undertake a domestic or international adoption can (and does) derail adoption dreams for many families. And it shouldn’t.
When we originally began our adoption pursuit, we elected to pursue a domestic adoption. That is an adoption that is done within the United States, often on the local level, but also between states as well. The fees are not insignificant, and they cover agency expenses and birth parent expenses through the duration of the adoption. Many agencies have a sliding scale of fees based on family income, but it is never inexpensive, and it can get pretty astronomically expensive if you have a higher income. Some agencies have a maximum cap on the scale, and some don’t. Some agencies have set rates, and while you will know exactly what you are contracted to pay, that may not be your total out-of-pocket expenses. Even with set fees, it’s expensive. Too expensive.
Couple that with what you will lose (per contract with your agency) in the event your birth mom changes her mind, and it can be staggering. We had that happen, and our contract stipulated that we lost 50% of the initial chunk we paid (half total cost of a domestic adoption). Further, there was no refund option for the balance of the money, should we have chosen not to pursue it further. The balance was credited toward a new match, which essentially makes your decision for you.
By the way, we were very thankful that we had the contract we did, because it changed shortly after we signed, and the disruption fee went up to 75% of the initial chunk (or about 35% of the total cost)…and still no refund option That kind of cash is a lot for just about any family, but for a family who doesn’t have that kind of money in savings or other resources, it’s a deal breaker.
Sure, the federal government gives a one time tax credit for adoption, and it is substantial. But…it happens after the fact, so it’s a great tax incentive, but you have to complete the adoption before you can claim the tax credit, so it isn’t available to you when you could really use it.
There are so many families who go through domestic adoption more than once, and it boggles my mind that this is an option for them. The expense is not small at all. I am confounded at how normal, middle-class families are able to swing that. I’m in awe of it, actually, because adoption is such a rewarding experience, and it is deplorable that the expense of it can derail those plans for so many.
I wish I knew what to suggest to bring the cost down. I don’t, unless it is a complete overhaul (or eradication) of tax laws, so that our economy could run without government impediment. The cost of health care and insurance is sky high, which contributes significantly, and we are not moving in the right direction on those issues either. But I’ll save any more politicking for another post, and share the following:
- Foster to Adopt is a much more economical way to adopt children, because the children are wards of the state, and their expenses are covered with tax dollars. The only out of pocket expenses are agency fees and/or attorney fees.
- You have to know going in that getting a baby is unlikely, but there are so many older children and sibling groups that are desperate for homes. In our state, the price is the same for one kid or six kids.
- There is a high percentage of special needs kids in need of forever families. Many are babies or toddlers who have significant health issues. If you are equipped to care for special needs, or desire to parent special needs kids specifically, this is the way to go.
- If you are a member of a Native American tribe, and have any inclination at all to adopt, run (don’t walk) to the Foster to Adopt program. There are so many Native American kids who are languishing in foster care due to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires Native American kids to be adopted by families that have at least one Native American parent. The unintended consequence of that law is the lack of qualified families who meet this requirement, while there are many other families (ours included) who qualify in every other way, and would take these beautiful kids. But we can’t.
- Private adoptions through an adoption attorney (check here for a list of attorneys in your state who specialize in adoption) are typically less expensive. I didn’t learn this until after we had already contracted with our agency, otherwise we would likely have seriously considered this avenue. Interview the attorney and find out if s/he is a good fit, and what expenses to expect.
- There is a downside to using an attorney, and that is the (possible) lack of financial, psychological and emotional support (and counseling) for the birth parents. They will need support, and it is worth evaluating in your decision.
You might ask why we didn’t pursue the Foster to Adopt program. When we started again in our current state, we did intend to do exactly that. However, our agency sought us out and asked us if we were willing to join their domestic program, because they were in desperate need of adoptive families to match with the birth moms in the program. Throughout our hole journey, we have followed what we believed God was calling us to do, and we felt in this case that this was his way of steering us toward the right match. In my mind, there was no way we could have said no.
I’m still not convinced that we won’t end up considering one more addition to our family through adoption. My husband is not so sure that’s the right direction for our family, but I don’t know. God has a way of using time and circumstances to show us the way, and as we have through all of this, we are continuing to rely on his guidance.
Adoption is, ultimately, an act of sacrificial love. Sacrifice on the part of the birth parents, who choose to surrender their children to parents who can provide what they can not. Sacrifice on the part of adoptive parents who are willing to jump through the hoops and come up with thousands of dollars, to bring children who are very much wanted – and loved – into their homes. The thing is, from the adoptive parent perspective, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. It really just feels like we did what was necessary to expand our family…just as we did with our biological child. Was it harder? Maybe…maybe not.
We have always felt that we were called to adopt. Not because we didn’t want biological children (we did, and we have one), but because we felt keenly for these children in need of stable homes…homes that are not possible without adoption. In so many cases, I wanted us to be the right family for them, wanted to scoop them up and bring them home. My heart has been full to the point of breaking so many times for the needs of these kids. We have hoped and prayed for them, and that it would be clear to us when we were the family that was needed.
It was clear, in myriad ways, and most surprisingly, in ways we could not have predicted. I am so grateful for that, and for knowing that God was guiding us toward the birth parents whose needs were needs that we could meet, and who committed themselves, without being believers themselves, to make a sacrifice for the sake of their child that would radically glorify God.
I have mentioned more than once that I don’t know how people go through adoption without God. It takes a fortitude and strength, and I don’t have it without God. Still, there are many non-believers who undertake both sides of this journey, and they may not ever know the powerful witness they are for God, just in doing this one thing. Why? Because they are modeling the sacrificial love that God shows us daily…love that is steadfast, love that they (we) choose to take on, love that may or may not be returned, love that is unconditional, love that does not measure what can be gotten in return. God uses us…all of us…to show the depth and breadth of His own love.
It never occurred to me until that moment that naming our child could become controversial. It never crossed my mind that she would ask to participate in the naming, even if it was as simple as asking that the name start with a certain letter. For the record, that was not a simple request.
We have discussed names numerous times over the past five years, trying out different name combinations and trying to come up with something we both liked. This is nothing new…not for us, not for any couple who is expecting. The sticking point for us was that when we named our first son, I reluctantly agreed to let my husband use a name for our second child (assuming that child was a son) that I didn’t particularly like, provided that it was a middle name, and not the name by which he would be addressed for the rest of his life. So though I wouldn’t get to choose a full name that I liked, I would get to choose his first name.
The birth mom’s request derailed the direction we were going completely, and I (we) had to start over. She made the request because she has two other kids, both of whom have names beginning with K, and even though she wasn’t keeping this baby, she still wanted to have this connection. And though I didn’t love the idea, I was sympathetic to her desire. So we started experimenting with new name combinations, still incorporating my husband’s choice, and we came up with something we liked. I told our birth mom at her next doctor appointment, she seemed to like it.
At the meeting with the counselor (where we met the birth father for the first time), we learned that she (they) had vetoed the name. They didn’t like it. Not only that, they had chosen a name they liked, something they thought would go well with our choice for a middle name. Wow! I was not prepared for that, and I left that meeting – an otherwise positive meeting – feeling very irritated about that change. It ultimately boiled down to the fact that I got removed from the name choice entirely, and it hurt my feelings and made me angry. I wanted to be involved, and if we decided to accommodate them, I didn’t get to be. This never occurred to them, obviously…they were simply thinking of something that would make them feel connected to their (our) baby.
I talked to both our social worker and our birth mom’s social worker, and I learned something else about naming. When it comes to adoptions, names can cause huge problems. HUGE. And they can derail an adoption plan. They have derailed adoption plans. No one felt that it would in our case, and we had no obligation to use the name they wanted, but I was reminded that, when measured against the fact that they were surrendering their child to us, the name was not that big of a deal. They were right. I didn’t want them to be, but they were.
I talked to my husband. I asked my husband if we had to use the name he wanted. His response? “You promised.” He was right…I did. I just never anticipated not getting to choose at all. we continued to discuss it. He knew I was really, really hurt by this, and ultimately he became, “Whatever. Choose whatever you want.”
I didn’t want that either. I didn’t want him this to be a point of contention for us, which it would have been for a while, and I was really struggling with doing what I knew was the right thing. After some real soul searching, and some begging (yes, begging) God to turn my heart on this and make me OK with what I knew I needed to do, I agreed. The caveat was that I got to choose the order, and that he would be called by the other name regardless of the order. My husband agreed, though he did say at first, “Well, I’ll just call him “…”, and you can call him “…”.
No. Really, no!
In the end, the birth parents got the name they wanted, and that was the right thing. My husband got the name he wanted, and that was the right thing. I got to choose the order and the name by which he would be addressed, and yes, even that was the right thing. And the truth be told, the name – his whole name – suits him perfectly. It is masculine and strong, just as he is and will be, and it is just right.
Both of our birth parents spent time in jail during her pregnancy. Her stint was the result of some really bad decisions that cost her a fairly good job, and resulted in fraud charges. She was in jail for about five weeks. While she was there, her on-again/off-again boyfriend (and our baby’s birth father) hooked up with her sister, and her sister (we think) stole all of her clothes. It seems her sister had access to her (temporary) home while she was incarcerated, and took full advantage of it. I mentioned at the beginning of this #AtoZChallenge that dysfunction is very common in birth parent situations, and that often extends to their families as well.
If my memory serves, I believe our birth father was incarcerated twice during the pregnancy. When we met her, he was not in the picture, and I seem to recall that is because he was in jail (they had also – temporarily – broken up). About half way through, he was back in the picture again, and wanted to meet us and be involved from that point forward. He signed all the pertinent paperwork, and our social workers arranged a meeting with a counselor that included our birth parents, her mom and sister (the one who stole her clothes, and who was also pregnant), and his mom (who ultimately did not show up). The meeting went well. Questions were answered, fears were put to rest on both sides, and though it was stressful, it was very productive. I did eventually meet his mom, and several more of her relatives, the most stable of whom was her grandmother.
What continually surprised me over the months was how much her family remained involved, despite the fact that it was a constant whirlwind of drama & dysfunction. Once they met us, they were supportive of her decision and never (as far as I know) sought to change her mind. I am grateful to them for that, because they certainly created enough drama otherwise.
The birth father said several times throughout his (temporary) involvement that he wanted to be present at our son’s birth. Ironic, but not totally unexpected, that when the time came, he was in jail again. This time for drug possession with intent to distribute, though he claimed repeatedly that he had no use for drugs. Of course they had broken up (again), only to get back together after she gave birth, only to break up again. It’s a bad, and painful, pattern for her.
A sad detail that I believe (but do not know for certain) was connected to our birth father’s eventual drug incarceration: our son was born exposed to methamphetamine. I touched on this previously, but not on this angle. Our birth mom stayed clean for so long, and then when stress (and bad influences) overwhelmed her, she did what she knew would relieve it. I doubt it flitted across her mind that it would create more stress than it relieved. It did, but for those terrible moments, she was able to be numb.
Jail is not uncommon, especially when stupid decision and drug habits are involved. It is sad, but sometimes a relief as well, because at least (for the duration of the jail time), they aren’t using, and birth mom is getting regular prenatal care. In our case, our birth mom was diligent about going to the doctor, so the only impact jail had on that was that she could not see her regular doctor. I know that we had a better situation than many, and that God was a constant factor in protecting our baby. I am continually grateful for that, because I know how different (and how much worse) it could have been.