Z, Zed, Zeta…However You Say It, It’s Still the End #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter ZThe most fitting ending I can think of is this.

 

 

 

 

 


They meet.

 

They’re connected.

 

Thank you so much for reading our story.

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Y is for You #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter YToday is a shout out to those who carried us through this adoption journey, who prayed diligently for us, who prayed for our birth mom, who generously provided references, who encouraged us through the rough patches, who rejoiced with us when we were matched, who grieved with us when matches fell through, who counseled us, who reminded us of God’s tender mercies and perfect timing, and who ultimately praised the Lord with us when we brought our sweet son home.

You are appreciated.

You are valued.

You are important.

You are reflections of grace.

You are sources of strength.

You are cherished.

You are LOVED.

You-are-Loved

U is for The Unexpected #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter UFor as many things as you anticipate, going through adoption, there are that many and more that you don’t.  There’s simply no way to fully prepare for everything you will encounter.  In fact, there’s no way to even predict what you will and will not encounter…it’s both the beauty and the curse of the process.  So here are some of the unexpected things that happened to us:

  • planned parenthoodA start at Planned Parenthood:
    Considering the bulk of Planned Parenthood’s business, and the percentage of adoption referrals (1 adoption referral per 149 abortions in 2013 per CNS News), it is an undeniable miracle that our birth mom found her way to Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
  • Three matches…one baby:
    We never anticipated that it would take three matches to get us to our baby.  We expected a long wait, and the possibility that we would have to renew our home study, but we (and truly, maybe it was just me) never expected to have three birth moms select us…
  • broken-heartTwo disruptions:
    Equally as unexpected as having three birth moms select us was to have two fall through.  And it wasn’t the fact that the first birth mom changed her mind that was the bigger surprised, but the second whose mental illness (undisclosed) got the best of her and rendered her not competent to make sound decisions for her baby.
  • Our first match pregnant again, and requesting (begging for) us:
    Yes, this happened.  Yes, we were stunned, for several reasons.  She was pregnant again within two months of the birth of a daughter with medical complications.  She was begging to be matched with us again (and we were matched by this time to our birth mom), after changing her mind and costing us thousands of dollars.  We had to decline – our son would not have been six months before her baby was born – and as it turns out she was no more dependable the second time around, and the agency ended up letting her go until she made up her mind what she wanted to do.
  • Both birth parents involved:
    When we were matched with our birth mom, the birth dad was not in the picture.  A few weeks later, he was…until toward the end, when he ended up in jail (again) and missed our baby’s birth.  Back in the picture after he got out of jail, and they both requested to see our son at 3 months, but then they fell apart again, and he didn’t show up.  family supportSo where we didn’t expect him to be involved at all, at least he was…somewhat…was on board with the adoption, and gave his written consent.
  • Both birth families involved:
    We truly didn’t expect to have the birth families involved, especially as much as they were involved.  Both families have a lot of dysfunction, but they pulled together to meet us, and to support the decision of our birth parents.  We were surprised and thankful that this was the case…both because our birth parents needed whatever support their families could provide, and because it allowed our birth parents to feel confident in their decision.
  • law-and-order-logoHaving more than a little in common with our birth mom:
    I was really surprised at what I had in common with our birth mom…height, shoe size, blue eyes, fair complexion.  Add to that a penchant for crazy hair colors (pink!), flip flops, tattoos, loaded Subway sandwiches and Law & Order marathons (the original show, early episodes being our favorites).  There are a lot of other little details where we found we were similar, and it was a great connection point for us.
  • attitude is everythignGetting attitude from our agency at the end:
    This was so totally unexpected (shocking, actually) that, had I been inclined to recommend our agency to other potential adoptive couples, I am no longer.  I did not appreciate the head of the agency getting short with me on the phone when we were trying to push the final paperwork through…and it happen twice. “Big mistake. Huge!” (to quote Pretty Woman)  I wanted so much to have a warm relationship with them to the end, and have that be a part of our story, but that was not the case.  We are so very grateful for our son, and we know that God directed every step of our journey, but that hiccup at the end soured what was, until that point, a warm working relationship.

Stay tuned for more…the eXtraordinary surprises, because in the end, every detail was worked out perfectly, and God was glorified in everything.

flower do all to the glory of god

S is for Social Workers #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter SI am behind.  This has been a very stressful week, and I am behind as a result.  I doubt I will finish on time, but I will finish.

Our social worker the second time around was great.  After our first disappointing experience that included a social worker that didn’t seem to really be in our corner, I was fairly skittish about the second go round, so you can imagine my relief when we met our social worker, and she appeared happy to meet us, enthusiastic about representing us, and desirous of supporting us through everything.  She was our advocate, and she did not disappoint us.  Even when she had to make the phone call to tell us of our disruption, she was sympathetic and kind, and she encouraged us to stay the course.  Those are not easy phone calls to make, and she handled it well.

When the second match went south, she was quick to point out that this was not a situation we wanted.  Not only would it have been very difficult dealing with a mentally ill birth mom, but the potential for a hereditary illness was there as well, and bipolar disorder is not something to take lightly.  Judging from the birth mom’s psychotic break, it was a potential disaster that we were grateful had been avoided.

amazingadvocates2And finally, when the right match happened, she was so happy for us.  She made sure we knew to call her anytime we had questions or concerns.  She kept up (and kept us up) with our paperwork, and she educated us well on what to expect at the hospital, including that she would be our voice and advocate at the hospital for anything to do with insurance or the legal issues surrounding our adoption.  We were grateful for that, because hospital insurance representatives and social workers are working for the hospital, and that is almost never going to align with the best interests of the adoptive parents.

We were extraordinarily blessed during our adoption, though, because we had two advocates in our corner…quite unexpectedly.

social workers change futuresWe met our birth mom’s social worker at our second match, and we connected instantly.  She liked us immediately, and the feeling was mutual.  We spoke briefly afterwards, and she told us she liked what we had to say.  When the match fell through so quickly, it never occurred to us that we would have an advocate in her, but we did…in spades.

She is an extraordinary woman with not only a passion, but a gift for her job.  She cares for these birth moms with a mother’s love, she treats them with respect, she is kind, and she is tough when she needs to be.  Above all, she exemplifies the love of Christ to them.  Her birth moms thrive under her care.  Our birth mom thrived.  I thrived.  And I still thrive, because we are still connected, and she is as much a part of our story as our birth mom.

Adoption-HeartWhen I say that God has been present in every single detail of our adoption, this was no exception.  She wanted a match as much for us as for the birth mom she represented, and she obviously felt that we would be a good match for our birth mom, because she encouraged our birth mom to choose us.  I can’t thank her enough for that, because she was right.  We connected with our birth mom immediately, and I felt confident from the beginning that it was right.  God was at work there, not only connecting us to this wonderful social worker, through whom we were connected to our birth mom, but also smoothing the way ahead of us and allowing our relationship with our birth mom to feel natural and easy.  We saw each other every week, and every week I was reminded of the extraordinary things God does.

This lovely woman, with her heart for these troubled young women, is the best thing our agency has going for them.  I hope they know it, because she is worth her weight in gold.  God called her to the job she does, she does it extraordinarily well, and she touches the hearts of everyone with whom she works.  I am so very grateful for her, for all she did for our birth mom, and for how she blessed us in the process.

Romans_8-28

R is for Remember… #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter R…If You Wouldn’t Say it About a Boob Job…

This might be my most favorite thing I have ever seen about what not to say (and conversely, what to appropriately say) to adoptive families.  Spencer Findlay created this hilarious video that makes an excellent – and awesomely funny – point about some of the truly dumb questions asked and comments made to adoptive families.

In Spencer’s words:  Sometimes very well meaning people will say some pretty insensitive things to adoptive families. We can only assume that they’re not trying to be mean, but instead lack the vocabulary to say what they’re really asking. So that’s why we came up with this rule of thumb: “If you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, don’t say it about an adoptive family.”

(filmed and edited by Spencer Findlay)

Without further ado:

Click on through to the YouTube or Vimeo pages if you want to see the comments attached to the video.  Funny, funny stuff, and a huge shout out to Spencer Findlay for the perfect way to address this topic today!

REMEMBER…if you wouldn’t say it about a boob job, don’t say it at all.

N to the O to the P…Catching Up #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter NI’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.

A to Z Letter OO is for Open Adoption…

…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.

open adoptionIn 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.

open_adoption_3The 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…

A to Z Letter P P is for Paperwork

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.

Gavel_paperworkWhat 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.

letterThat 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.

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