This is the first newsletter I've ever cobbled together, so bear with me as I muddle through the better part of the last year in review. We are healthy, happy, and employed (though hardly wealthy). 2009 brought a lot of frustration and culminated in a life-changing decision.
Beginning in early 2007 Dawn and I started trying to conceive to start a family. After two years of heartbreaking disappointment and a clinical diagnosis for me indicating a persistent problem with no known cause we investigated our alternatives. The natural choices were artificial insemination (AI), IVF and adoption. Each has its benefits and costs. After a few failed attempts at AI we fully shifted into adoption mode.
We initiated the adoption process in December 2009, began a five week adoption course in January and wrapped up our home study interviews with a social worker last week. This means we will be eligible to be profiled and potentially matched with a birth family as soon as a week or two. The time-line for adoption after that point becomes very unpredictable and can move very quickly or drag on over a long period of time. We're hoping it moves quickly.
I realize this may come as a shock and surprise to some either because it seems so sudden or because adoption is simply a murky subject with lots of myths and misconceptions floating about. This was not a decision either of us jumped into without doing our homework and careful reflection of who we are and what we are trying to do. Below I'm hoping to dispel some common misconceptions about adoption to allay those specific concerns. We encourage and invite questions.
Myth: You get to pick out the child, like a puppy at a store.
Fact: With adoption, the adoptive parents must “sell” yourself in the form of a profile to the expectant mothers who will select you from many profiles. Profiles are a snapshot of your life, your interests, your environment and your family and friends with lots of pictures. We always have an opportunity to decline a child referral (being selected by an expectant mother) if there are unacceptable risks or other factors with the expectant mother or her baby. Matching is a very subjective process and the adoptive parents can only agree to continue a match, not initiate one.
Myth: Adoption takes years to complete
Fact: Adoption can take years to complete especially for international adoptions when complications arise with visas or the adoption policies of either country. Domestic adoption however can complete in weeks or months after a home study is complete depending on the state in which the child is born.
Myth: The birth mother can take back her child anytime after the adoption has completed in a domestic adoption
Fact: Once an adoption is finalized it is extremely difficult for the birth parents or family to gain custody of the child. Only in very rare circumstances such as when the adoption was completed in bad faith and documents were falsified or the birth mother was provably coerced by the adoptive parents or the adoption agency to make an adoption plan for her child will cancellation of the adoption even be considered by the courts. Once parental rights are voluntarily surrendered it is very difficult (and costly for the birth parent) to reverse that decision.
Myth: Adopted children have emotional / mental problems more frequently than non-adopted children
Fact: Most adopted children are perfectly healthy physically and mentally. There are always children with special needs and some international adoptions have higher rates of special needs children (such as Russia with higher rates of attachment disorders than some countries). As adoptive parents however we have the ability to only move forward with adoptions that have risks we feel we are prepared to handle. Many studies have shown little difference between the emotional health of an adopted child and the emotional heath of a child parented by his or her birth mother under similar circumstances (socially and economically).
Myth: We are adopting to give a child a better life
Fact: We are adopting because we want to have a family and cannot conceive of a child by ourselves. It is not an altruistic gesture to save a child from destitution. We are still new parents and not much different than anyone else and we are bound to make mistakes any other new parent would make (though we'd like to think we've prepared well enough to handle most anything).
Myth: Most birth mothers are teenagers who got pregnant accidentally
Fact: Most birth mothers are women in their twenties or thirties who for one reason or another have decided they are not able to parent a(nother) child at this time. It is a sign of love and forethought on the part of the birth mother to make an adoption plan for her child to ensure they are raised in a loving family that can provide what she cannot at the moment. In fact, most teenage mothers choose to parent their children.
These are the most common misunderstandings that we've encountered thus far with common conceptions of adoption. Adoption is one of those things it seems most people have heard of, have a positive feeling about, but know little about how it's actually accomplished and only ever hear about the horror stories presented on the news – such as the story recently about an American woman who adopted a boy from Russia and being unable to cope with some emotional problems he had sent him back to Russia on a plane by himself.
We'd also like to answer a few frequently asked questions about our adoption.
Q: How long does it take?
A: For us the process started in Dec. of 2009 and as of May 13th we are home study ready which means we can be profiled to expectant mothers. From this point a match could happen immediately or take over a year. The average time from home study ready to finalized adoption with the agency we're using is 8 to 9 months. The time it takes varies on a number of factors including how many children they have to find families for, how many adoptive parents there are that are home study ready, how open we are to race and risk factors (such as drug and alcohol use). We are very open to race and quite open to several risk factors after learning more about them and the effects they might have on a developing child. We have the ability to change our openness to any of these factors at any time if we change our minds.
Q: What is an open adoption?
A: An open adoption in one in which the child has some tangible link to his or her birth family after the adoption has been finalized. The degree of openness is up to the adoptive parents and the birth family and can range from letters, photos, postcards, and/or newsletters to in-person visits and gatherings. In some cases the birth mother may maintain an active relationship with the adopted child in a similar capacity to an aunt or uncle. It is fairly common for contact with the birth mother to fade away over time as she moves on with her life and needs to end this chapter.
Q: Why open adoption? Doesn't it just confuse the child?
A: Because everyone has a need to know where they came from, who there birth parents were, what they looked like, and what their heritage is. With traditional closed adoptions many adoptees find themselves desiring to seek out who their birth parents were and more information about their birth family. This can be very emotionally difficult for the adoptive parents even though it does not at all reflect on their ability as parents. With open adoption the child has all the information available on his or her birth family. Sometimes this is a lot of information including medical history of the birth mother and father and sometimes it's just a name and a story. The adoptive parents in an open adoption however never have to feel they are lying or hiding information from the child and in many cases the adoptees of open adoptions have little or no desire to seek out additional information on their birth family because they either have all they need or know they've been given all their parents had about the adoptee's birth family.
Q: When do you tell the child they're adopted?
A: Immediately and always. Conventional wisdom suggests the adopted child be told using positive language they are adopted from the get-go. Even with infants it's encouraged to talk about adoption and make it something as second nature as breathing The adopted child should be told an age-appropriate story about their birth and adoption and the truth should not be hidden. Even if the child's birth family has a sordid story it should be told but it does not have to be blunt either. Waiting to tell a child they're adopted until they're “old enough to understand” is only likely to lead to feelings of betrayal and, “what else haven't you been telling me?” The sooner and more frequently the better.
That pretty much sums up our adoption process thus far and the driving force of our efforts this year and last.
We hope all is well with you and look forward to visiting family again late this summer or this Christmas (and with a little one in tow with any luck).