M is for Money #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter MTo 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.

Money-IIWhen 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.

money banner

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.

75-percentBy 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.

ADOPTION-tax-creditSure, 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 adopFoster 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.
    • icwa_logo_114x114If 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.

god-says-trust-me-i-will-show-you-187You 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.

every child deserves a family

L is for Love #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter LAdoption 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.

adoption is loveWe 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.

adoption_is_another_word_for_love_ornament_roundI 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.

He used our birth parents, and he used us, and I am so grateful for it. 1cor13

K is for “Choose a Name that Begins with K” #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter K“Please try to choose a name that begins with K.”

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.

boy names kThe 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.

whyAt 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.

Whats-In-a-NameI 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.”

do what is rightI 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.

 

 

 

J is for Jail #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter JBoth 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.

fraudIf 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.

jailThe 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.

posession-drugs-sale-lawyerA 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.

I is for Inner Circle #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter IFrom the beginning of our adoption journey, we had a small group of friends with whom we shared the details of what was going on.  These were close friends, people we knew we could trust completely, who would rejoice with us and grieve with us through the ups and downs, and who would faithfully pray for us throughout.  Several of these dear friends honored us by providing references.  What an act of love that was to us, and as much as I love language, I can’t find adequate words to express how grateful we are to them.

We needed this group.  I needed this group, especially.  I needed some pals who knew, intimately, what I was going through.  I needed friends to confide in when I needed to talk…share…vent, and I did all of those things.

venting sessions

What I (we) also needed was a group of friends who, while they knew all the details of our experience, shared many other things in common with us, so that we could go out together, have play dates with our kids, laugh, cry, and talk…all without ever discussing our adoption.  We talked about it when we needed to, and the rest of the time we lived life with these friends.

This was not a large group of friends.  Sure, most everyone who has known us during the past 10 years knows we were somewhere in the process of adoption, but most did not know the details.  We didn’t talk about it a lot, not even between the two of us.  Our biological son knew that we wanted to adopt a child, and he prayed diligently for a sibling, but he didn’t know about the sadness we felt over not being matched the first time around; he didn’t know about the matches that fell through; and he didn’t really know about his baby brother until it was a foregone conclusion.  We wanted to protect him from the ups and downs of the journey, and we proverbs 4 23felt we needed to protect him from the disappointment of the disruptions.  He didn’t need to have that heaviness on his heart at age eight, not when he needed to focus his attention on school, and friends, and play.  We also didn’t want him to start feeling as though God was disappointing him by not answering his prayers.  We knew that wasn’t the case, but it’s sometimes hard to convince myself, and I’m a lot older than eight.

Frankly, we wanted to protect ourselves, too.  We didn’t want every conversation to start with answering adoption questions and giving adoption updates.  There were so many months when nothing happened, so there was nothing to tell anyway, so we intentionally stayed quiet about it.  Especially with the matches that fell through, because worse than dealing with it between the two of us (and sending an update to our inner circle), was to have to address it over and over and over with everyone we knew.  So we didn’t share much of what happened with many.

Now that it’s all over…and with a happy outcome…I want to share our story.  First and foremost, I want to have it written down for us, and especially for our adopted son to one day read.  However, I also want to share it publicly, so that those who know us and are curious about our story can read it, and those who are considering adoption can get a glimpse of what it is like.

silly girlfriendsWe still have the inner circle, and we (I especially) still need it from time to time.  Things come up, and they are not only cherished friends in whom we can confide, they are riotously fun friends that laugh and enjoy our quirky silliness, and they are praying friends who lift us up to the Lord regularly.  There are no better friends than that, and I am grateful for them.

H is for Home Study #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter HIt is exactly what it sounds like…a study of your home (not just the bricks and mortar) to ensure that it (you) are suitable candidates for parenthood.  Amazing that when we have biological children, the assumption is that we are suitable, but when we seek to adopt, we start at zero and must pass inspection of nearly every detail of our lives.

It is what it is, and if you’re committed to adopting, as we were, it’s part of the price you pay (no pun intended, right?).

We underwent two home studies, and in both cases we had a case worker with whom we forged a really great relationship right from the start.  That is important.  If you don’t connect, I would strongly urge you to find someone else do to it.  This is the person who, for all practical purposes, holds your adoptive future in his/her hands, and you want someone who advocates for you, which means you want someone who likes you…a lot.  It doesn’t hurt at all if the feeling is mutual.

The nitty gritty of the home study looks like this:

  • homestudyApplication…fill it out fully.  Rest assured you are being checked six ways from Sunday, so do not lie.  If there are things that need to be disclosed, disclose them.  Better to deal with them now – especially if they are deal breakers – than after you have spent a lot of time and a good deal of money.
  • Health History…physical and mental health, so get your physicals.  Your doctor will have to fill out a form from your application packet that confirms your fitness to parent.  It’s not about perfection, just about reasonable mental & physical health…and “reasonable” is a very elastic term.  Don’t let this worry you.
  • Criminal Background…the rule of thumb is no felonies, but obviously each state has standards specific to the state.  This requires fingerprints, and it takes several weeks, so get your digits inked early.  In our state, I learned it is a misdemeanor to fail to license your dog.  Now I think this is a huge overreach of government intrusion into my business, but it’s small potatoes when you want to adopt, and the home study will require it.
  • Financial Background…your credit history will be checked, so if there are issues, address them and fix what you can.  Your income will be verified.  Every state has a minimum amount a family must make to be considered for adoption, with a set amount more for each additional adoptee (if you want more than one child).  We were considering that, so we had to verify we could, in fact, financially care for multiple children.  You will need at least one, and probably 2-3 years of signed tax returns to provide, so find them and keep them accessible…and you will have to update them for every home study renewal, and for your final adoption hearing.  Fair warning…
  • magnifying glassHome Inspection…clean your house, lock up your firearms and ammunition separately, have a plan to keep your cleaning supplies & medications out of the reach of children, pick up your clutter, lock up hazardous materials in the garage, etc.  It will all be checked.  On this point, I think it goes easier for families who have kids already (we did), because the health and well being of your child(ren) is an indicator that you are, in fact, successful parents already.  I’m not sure this is fair, but it is reality, so if you’re seeking to adopt your first child, jump high & clean through the hoops.
  • Interviews…the only residents of your home who will not be interviewed are pets and young kids.  In our son’s interview (he was only interviewed in the second home study, and was seven at the time), we were allowed to be present, but he had to answer the questions.  We were interviewed jointly and separately.  In our individual interviews, we were questioned about many of the personal issues that were addressed in our applications.  Be truthful and honest.  Don’t gloss over struggles and weaknesses, because it looks and sounds bogus.  Address them head on, and be honest about how you manage them.  We both did that.  interviewCase workers understand that no one is perfect, and why would you want that anyway?  We are human, and fallible…what the case workers (if they are doing their job right) need to see is that you are functional, that your marriage is stable, and that you have the necessary qualities to make a good parent.
  • Documentation…make sure you have certified copies of birth certificates (for everyone living in the home), marriage license(s), divorce decrees and custody arrangements (if applicable), legal residency and/or citizenship (if you were not born in the US), dog licenses (I’m serious!), and any other that is required.  Keep it accessible, because you will need it more than once (thank you CPS, or whatever that agency is called in your state).
  • Money…yes, the home study costs money, and it is not usually included in the cost of the adoption.  This varies by agency, so check the stipulations of the agency you select.

One very important point regarding your interview:  talk ahead of time about how you want to discuss your discipline strategies, because you will be asked.  Spanking these days is controversial, so if you do spank, make sure you are prepared to answer that question.  Also know that you will likely be required to sign an agreement that you will not spank your adoptive child, particularly if you are adopting from foster care.  This is crucial to understand, because when you adopt foster kids, there are almost always issues with neglect and abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, verbal, emotional).  Spanking is counter productive, because it reinforces abuse in the mind of the child.  You must be willing and prepared to use other behavior modification strategies, and you need to make sure that you can administer them consistently and with love.

OK, soapbox done.  Just be informed, so you can be good parents to whatever child(ren) God places in your family.

home study approved

This is boring, tedious stuff.  A lot of it is, in my opinion, overkill to satisfy the state’s requirements, but it not optional.  My husband and I talked about adopting before we ever married, and we both felt (and feel) strongly that God called us to it.  None of the hoops that we have jumped through to get to the end were lofty, but they were necessary, and in the end, our second child is now home.  It was all worth it for him…even licensing the dog.

G is for God #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter GI don’t know how anyone goes through the adoptive process – as adoptive parents OR birth parents – without God.  I know that adoption is not limited to believers, but I honestly don’t know how those who don’t find their strength in God are able to do it.  Adoption is hard.  Really hard.  Yes, the blessings do far outweigh the difficulties, and it really is worth it, but it is not for the faint of heart.

When we started five plus years ago (with a Christian agency that had a great reputation), I was excited and nervous…and scared.  I had heard the horror stories of changed minds and children being ripped from adoptive parents’ arms months or years after the fact.  But I also knew that there were red flags present in those situations, and that making sure we chose a good agency, one that made sure all the details were done right, and was a believing agency to boot, would protect us.

great is thy faithfulness musicWhat I didn’t foresee at that time, and couldn’t articulate until much later, was that just having the Christian tag on the agency doesn’t make it the right agency for us.  I was confident when we went through our first home study, with a wonderful case worker with whom we connected instantly, that we had chosen the right agency.  A few months into our initial year, I began to have doubts.  Our profile was not being presented often…in fact, perhaps 3-4 times over the course of a year.  Our social worker was also the director of the agency, and as I had more interactions with her, I became more and more in doubt of her enthusiasm for our family.  I began to feel we did not have an advocate, and I began to doubt our suitability to be adoptive parents.  I wondered what was wrong with us.  With me.  What was making us a family that no one wanted?

lamentations 3 22In retrospect, I see now that it was not that no one wanted us, but it was that few birth parents saw us.  The reasons given were that we didn’t fit the profile desired by the birth families.  I was really, really discouraged.  What’s more, I didn’t have the words (ironic as that is) to articulate that to my husband…not until we moved away.

I am so grateful that we had (have) friends who are vigilant prayer warriors.  I know that there were many, many prayers spoken on our behalf, and I know that were it not for that, I would have felt completely alone, and completely marginalized by our agency.  I also see now that God was present throughout that entire, discouraging year, and rather than barring us from having our hearts’ desire, he was working diligently on my heart.

After our cross-country move, it took me over a year to gear up and be ready to try again.  We were starting again from scratch.  This time, when we underwent our home study, my heart was (finally) where it should have been all along.  I finally prayed, without reservation:  “Lord, I will take and love whatever child you have chosen for me.  Period.”  My heart was not there before.  True, our (Christian) agency didn’t care for us in the way I would have liked.  The director didn’t have the enthusiasm for us (or in my opinion, for her job in general) that I thought she should.  She did disappoint me desperately, and I came to believe that if she had lost her enthusiasm and joy for this job, perhaps it was no longer the job for her.

strength for today

But, my heart wasn’t prepared in the way it should have been, and God used that year to show me that.  As soon as I let go of my fears and doubts about WHO I could parent, God opened up the door that brought our beautiful son into our home.

We had decided to pursue adoption through foster care.  We had not made any limitations with regard to race or ethnicity, we were flexible in what special needs we would consider, and we were open to more than one child, of any age up to our biological son’s age.

all I have neededWe got a call from our agency, requesting us…appealing to us…to consider joining the domestic adoption program.  They had more birth moms than they had adoptive families to present.  They desperately needed more adoptive families in the program.  I saw God all over that.  How could we say no?  We couldn’t. and in that moment we set the wheels in motion that brought our son home to us.

If I wasn’t convinced in God’s providence before (I was), I have seen it firsthand now.  God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us to trust Him completely, and trust that He loves us and has our very best interests at heart.  I had to trust Him completely, and stop trying to engineer the outcome I wanted, and as soon as I did that, he gave me the best possible outcome, one that I could neither have engineered nor foreseen.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

 

F is for Finalization #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter FWe finalized our adoption on March 6, 2014, exactly seven days before our home study expired.  Three matches, two disruption, and one baby boy in eighteen months (less one week)…it seemed to fly by some days, and other days it seemed like an eternity.

We brought him home on September 28, 2013.  He was four days old, and we were out of practice with all things baby.  Never mind that…it really is like riding a bike…you don’t forget how to pedal, but you do forget how tired it makes you when  you’re pedaling 24/7.

Our post-placement visit happened on October 24, 2012, on his one month birthday…also the day we requested the finalization application from our local juvenile court office.  We got it, filled it out, sent it in (along with our identification documentation), and waited.  The paralegal assigned to our case called fairly shortly thereafter to schedule an appointment to sign the documents and present (yet again) our certified identification information.

name againSeriously, making sure we are who we say we are is a multi-faceted endeavor.

Once everything was signed, the juvenile court office could start requesting the documents from our agency.  Since our entire file had been previously presented to CPS, it puzzles me why it could not be then passed to juvenile court, but I don’t work in government (Thank God!), and I clearly don’t understand the convoluted, complicated way that government works.  But I digress…  The day we signed our application was also the day that our paralegal submitted a motion to expedite our paperwork, since our home study expiration date was looming…in four(ish) months…which in government time, is basically tomorrow.

We also got the sheaf of paperwork from our agency to fill out (again).  Here again I wonder why, as they had all the information already, and CPS had received it once already, and the process could have been expedited by eliminating this repetition.  But I digress…

In the midst of this, we went out of town, forgot to take the paperwork with us, so came home to 1) a notice that our court date was set for March 6, 2014, and 2) our paperwork needed to be filled out and returned to our agency YESTERDAY.  It was also at this point (less than three weeks prior to our court date) that the agency told us that CPS must approve us again.  I thought that was behind us, but no.  So I scrambled, got the paperwork completed that day, and it was hand delivered by a sweet, sweet friend that evening.

When I called our agency the next day, I spoke with the president/director.  If there is anything you might not want to leave a lasting impression with clients, it is a snippy attitude from the big boss, but that is exactly what happened.  She confirmed receipt of the paperwork, but stated that it was unlikely that we would make our court date, that we would probably have a continuance, because it was not probable that CPS would rubber stamp our paperwork in time for our hearing.  This ticked me off.

Just a note…good customer service needs to start at the top.
Giving clients – in particular, paying adoptive parent clients – attitude,
right at the end of your otherwise good relationship with them, does not
bode well for a recommendation from us to other potential adoptive parents.  

world-kindnessI asked her if there was a contact person at CPS that she, or we, could call to try and rush the paperwork through so we would not end up with a continuance, which would force us to renew our home study (and potentially cost us a lot of additional money).  No, she did not have a contact person.  What about a phone number?  No, CPS doesn’t have a phone.  Yes, those words were actually uttered to me.  I know she meant that they did not have access by phone to CPS, but seriously…some basic kindness would have been nice.

angelHere is where the angel of a paralegal (whom I previous mentioned) came into play.  She did have a contact number.  She could call and try to push the file to the top of the pile and get our rubber stamp.  She could and she did. Within a couple of days.

Our hearing went without a hitch.  Our parents were able to attend, along with our birth mom’s social worker, with whom we had become friends by this time.  It was quick, and fun, and our (now two) sons got to sit in the judge’s chair for pictures.  We are finished, and this month we will get a new birth certificate with his new name and my husband and me listed as his parents.

There are many, many, many things our agency did right.  This last detail, the one that would make our final memory of them a positive one, was not one of those things they did right.  I hope this is not the case for any other adoptive family.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because the outcome was perfect, but it is part of our story.

gotcha day

 

E is for Extended Family #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter EWe have been blessed though this adoption journey to have extended family on both sides who support us.  Incredibly blessed, because it could have been otherwise, and I have seen cases where it was otherwise.

From the moment we started this journey, we felt strongly that we wanted our family to reflect the family of God.  Both spiritually and physically, we wanted our family to be one that mirrored the family of believers of which we are a part.  We felt strongly that the decisions we made regarding our potential adoptive child should reflect, to the extent we were capable of managing, God’s adopted family.  Practically speaking, that meant (for us):

adoption through jesus christ

  1. We would make no ethnic, racial, or cultural restrictions;
  2. We would be open to special needs, to the extent we could foresee that the impact on our biological son would be positive;
  3. We would limit age to all ages younger than our biological son (to preserve birth order);
  4. We wanted all cases where we were being considered as a potential adoptive family presented to us.

With our first attempt, before we moved to our current state, my confidence had not caught up with my convictions, and I (not my husband) made limitations on our criteria that I almost immediately regretted.  But it was done, and even though we still allowed for more flexibility than most families seeking a private, domestic adoption, nothing came to fruition.

That all changed when we moved.  This time around, all of our criteria reflected what was in my heart…and is in my heart to this day.  And I wrote this. Nothing like making a public statement to the world (or at least, the blogging world) that holds your own feet to the fire.

So as it happens, our sweet baby, from the moment he was born, looked uncannily like our biological son.  They both strongly resemble my husband.  So much so that our birth mom’s mother (who was in the room with her when she delivered), mentioned it more than once when she showed us the pictures of his birth.  We hear it all the time from family and friends, who marvel at God’s handiwork.  We hear it from strangers…so much so, that many times I just agree and say nothing of his adoption.  But sometimes I do tell them, and remark on God’s exquisite design (and his sense of humor).

child equals jesusAnd you know, our family exactly reflects God’s family.  Both spiritually and physically.  It always did, I realize, and it continues to now.

Our extended families?  They have been supportive from the beginning, and they are thrilled with the beautiful little man who became a part of us.  I knew from the beginning that he would be loved.  I knew it even before I knew we would have a him and not a her.  I knew that, whatever child God provided for our family, s/he would be loved.  I knew, because our families have demonstrated that kind of love – on both sides – for us.  And they have demonstrated that kind of love – on both sides – for previously adopted children.  I knew, and more importantly, God knew, that our child (whomever that may be) would be loved.  And that, really, is the most important thing.

jesus loves the little children

D is for Disruption #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter DWe had two disruptions.  But let me start from the beginning…

We were officially certified to adopt on September 13, 2012.  The initial home study is good for 18 months in our state, and from that vantage point it seemed like a long time.

Our first match seemed to come very quickly.  She was about 3 months pregnant, so we still had a long time to go, but that was fine.  We met her, and she seemed satisfied with the match, so we felt satisfied as well.  One of her priorities was to find a Christian family for this child, and we fit that criteria.

From that point forward, though, things were awkward.  She wanted me to meet her for doctor appointments, but it always seemed a little strained.  She missed appointments here and there, though she did make the ultrasound that showed us she was having a girl.  That made things more real, but then she blew off the sugar test for diabetes.  More than once.  There were times she simply refused to answer her phone.  All throughout I felt hopeful that this match would stick, but in the back of my mind I half expected it to fall through.

broken heartWe got the call the day before her 38-week appointment, telling us she had the baby early and decided to keep her.  I was not surprised,  Disappointed, but not surprised.  We talked it over and decide we would hang in there until our home study expired, and decide at that point whether or not to continue further.

Part of the driving force for that decision was loss of money.  We lost half of what we had paid already, per the contract we signed, when this disruption happened.  The balance would not be refunded – again, per our contract – but applied toward our next match.  These terms are not unusual in domestic adoption contracts, but they are expensive.  We knew the risks when we entered into the contract…it is the nature of any adoption contract that potential adoptive parents have all of the money and none of the power.  You have to accept that going in…and we did.

Match number two happened within a few weeks.  We were thrilled about it, and perhaps I was especially so, since the disruption had caused me to start wondering what was wrong with us that she didn’t follow through.  This is not the first time I struggled with those questions – the waiting can beat you down – but more on that in another post.

We met this birth mom on a Friday.  She was visibly pregnant – close to seven months we learned – and she had CPS problems that prevented her from parenting this child and the two other children she had not surrendered for adoption.  They were with family members.  She wanted to decide where this child went, rather than having him (yes, it was a boy) become a ward of the state when he was born.  She was positive, upbeat, friendly, and excited about us.  We felt the same way.  Everything seemed great.

psalm91-4On Monday morning we got the call.  She had suffered a psychotic break over the weekend, and had to be involuntarily committed.  It was then that we learned she suffered from bi-polar disorder – apparently severe bi-polar disorder – and she was not only institutionalized, but she was not deemed competent to make decisions regarding the baby.

“Run, don’t walk, run from this match.  You do not want this.”  That was the advice from our social worker, and she was right.  We were thankful that this happened right away, that no contract had been signed, that no additional money had been paid.  I believe that God was protecting us here from a situation that could have been very difficult, and very costly, for our family.  Costly in more ways than financial.

But then, through both of these disruptions, I saw that God was protecting us.  The little girl from the first match?  She had a heart problem that required open heart surgery and a feeding tube.  We would have taken her anyway, but I wondered if the birth mom was afraid we wouldn’t.

The other (more sinister) hunch I had about the first match, though, was that this woman scammed everyone.  She was a single mom of three already, all with different fathers, pregnant with her fourth, with no way to provide for any of them except through the state.  I wondered if she decided to “give this one up because she couldn’t care for her” (her words) in order to get support until the baby was born.  I don’t know this, but I half suspected it.  Whatever her reasons, I didn’t trust her completely, and I see now that God was protecting me from myself.  I wasn’t highly emotionally invested in her…something held me back…and in the end, I was not devastated by the disruption.  I thank God for that, because it enabled me to be open when the right match came, and I was able to connect with and care for our birth mom in a way I could not have otherwise.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
Psalm 5:11