Domestic Infant Adoption

OPTIONS ABOUND for those who wish to adopt – the only limits are time and money. With a biological child, you get what you get and they only come one way – very young.

So let me tell you about our options and what we decided.

First decision: international or domestic? We could go to a different country or stay in the States. We were not keen on international paperwork, so we decided on domestic.

Second decision: public or private? We could adopt through the public (e.g. “state”) system or through an agency/attorney. The difference is mainly in who is relinquishing the child to us – for public it’s the government and for private it’s first parents. We were not keen on the government being heavily involved in the process for this go-round, so we decided on private.

Most private adoptions are infant adoptions. So we’re doing what is generally known as domestic infant adoption.

Some of the work still goes through the state government. Our home study has to be submitted and approved by a licensed state social worker, for example. And the actual placement and finalization paperwork is managed by government entities. The majority of what we’ll be doing, though, will happen with private agencies or attorneys.

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Changes

So, we’ve had some changes here in our little bubble. Hubs’ work is transferring him to veryWest Texas (El Paso). Strange to live in a part of the world where moving 8 hours away keeps us in the same state! The turnaround time is pretty short so we have kept busy packing, cleaning, showing the house, and (for me) wrapping up local freelance projects.

El Paso | sundriedtomatoe.WordPress.com

Both of us are excited to soon be living in a city, rather than two hours outside of a city. We both grew up in cities, met in a city, spent our first few years together in the suburbs of a big city. Since then, we have been living in a bit of a rural oasis – big enough for us to get by (we do have a movie theater!) but definitely not what we are most comfortable with. Social interactions are distinctly different in a city suburb vs. a rural town. So are work opportunities…

And can I just say I am psyched about the opportunity for a career reset. While the last year has done wonders for my peace of mind and mental health, I miss a regular schedule, I miss someone else dealing with billing, I miss long-term goals and organizational movement. I miss the camaraderie that comes from daily work with other people. I miss a regular paycheck.

Man, do I miss a regular paycheck.

In other things to look forward to, we get a one-two punch on the foster/adopt front. El Paso is in a different CPS (Child Protective Services) region than San Antonio, so we might have better luck with the central office red tape. That’s not a sure thing, but it is something to look forward to. AND we will be LIVING within a few minutes of the central office, and all its centralized training and processing. This means we won’t encounter the weird limbo netherworld of rural foster care that we struggled with here. I’m excited about that.

And then, again, if all that doesn’t work I will be gainfully employed somewhere and we will be in a better financial position to pursue private adoption if we decide to go that route. So that’s another good thing.

All that being said, there’s some ambivalence about this move. Three years ago I was in a “get me out of here!” mindset and would not have looked back. That had more to do with my emotional and mental state than anything else.

I’m in a different place now, brain-wise, and it shows in how I’ve settled into this life we’ve built for ourselves. Life is quieter in some ways, but I’ve made more connections in the last 2.5-3 years than I did in the previous 10. Things just aren’t as frantic or as painful.

I guess I’m not trying to run away as much.

Unlike every other move in my life (there have been many) I feel like I’m leaving things behind, not just going somewhere new. There are people I will miss, and places and parts of the community that I will regret not having in a city environment. Three years ago I would NEVER have said that. Now I’m trying to figure out how to coerce people to move out there with us…

Just when that starts to get to me, however, I remember that now we will be within only a few hours of this:

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta | sundriedtomatoe.WordPress.com
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

And an easy day’s drive to this:

Breckenridge, Colorado | sundriedtomatoe.WordPress.com
Breckenridge, Colorado

And a weekend visit to my new niece who also happens to live here:

Las Vegas, Nevada | sundriedtomatoe.WordPress.com
Las Vegas, Nevada (from lasvegas.com)

And I can dip my feet in here on occasion:

Pacific Ocean, California coastline | sundriedtomatoe.WordPress.com
Pacific Ocean, California coastline (from kpbs.org)

I think we’re gonna’ be okay.

Choose Joy 2015 – First Thoughts

This has been a tremendous weekend. It’s strange because it’s been one of those times where no ONE thing happened that was earth shattering, but instead it was kind of a three day process of Things Happening.

I won a trip to a faith-based infertility and adoption conference in California. It wasn’t just the registration fee that I won – I also won airfare, hotel, transportation. Zero reason to keep me from going. And even so, I was nervous and hesitant. Because I wouldn’t use the word “faith-based” to describe my lifestyle. At all. And, in fact, that didn’t really change this weekend.

However, I’ve been following this event for several years, and it has always looked like a strange and wonderful microcosmic bubble of support and understanding and sharing. I wanted that. And holy smokes, I got it.

Part of what makes infertility so terrible is the way it isolates. It’s a loss that is completely unseen. It’s a loss that doesn’t usually include an event or any kind of mourning period.

With most other kinds of grief there are social and mental boundaries sort of built in – it only happens once, it’s a huge deal, other people understand, Hallmark makes cards for it. They do 5Ks for it. You know? There are ways to remember positively, and ways to share the loss, and ways to feel not-alone. And the whole “it’s been XX years since XX grief” allows you to not only mark your grief in a very real way, but also allows you to get some mental distance from it.

None of this is a thing with infertility. It is an ongoing grief because it is an ongoing loss (a death-magnitude loss) throughout the entirety of childbearing years. It is a specific kind of grief – one that only a limited number of people share. And it is unseen. There are no photos of now-gone loved ones to remind others (or us) of a life well-lived. There are few anniversaries. No 5Ks and very few support groups to create any kind of community or safe space to work through it.

Infertility is a lonely grief.

Sharing it online has been helpful because it allows me to connect with others who are dealing with similar stories. It also allows me to share what I’m dealing with in a way that is emotionally safe – posting online and moderating feedback means I’m not exposed to weird comments or judgement the same way I would be if I was sharing “in real life.” People say some awful stuff but it’s not because they’re mean or unfeeling. It’s because people don’t know this grief. It’s not familiar, and so they (even the really good ones) say dumb things.

So sharing in real life is rare.

One of the intense and incredible things about this weekend at the Choose Joy 2015 conference was being in a huge group where everyone feels the same way as me. They are dealing with the same kind of grief. They have similar stories and similar triggers, and struggle with moving on in the same ways as I do. In the eight years we have been trying to have kids, I’ve never once experienced that. Ever. There is no camaraderie in infertility. It is a thing that a woman (or family) experiences alone. And that is so different from how we, as humans, are wired.

The “not-alone” feeling was driven home for me right near the end of the weekend, when I happened to be next to two women who had the good fortune of having been able to birth some kids. They forgot themselves and spent a few moments co-lamenting the misery of summer pregnancies. It was such a little thing for them that they didn’t even realize how painful it was for those around them.

In that moment, though, instead of being upset, I was kind of fascinated. I realized that I have heard this kind of thing millions of times in my adult life. I have many, many friends with kids, and having kids comes with a host of trials and tribulations that are miserably real. I expect this kind of commiserating. It’s how we operate; It doesn’t bother me (anymore) because I know that sharing struggle, commiserating, is so integral to being a human and being a woman – you build a community around common experiences, and usually around common hardships.

I haven’t had that. It’s pretty much been eight years of suffocated suffering (that’s weird to type) but I got it this weekend. I got to share, to commiserate, to say “holy smokes I KNOW how you feel” and get that response in return.

I didn’t even realize how much I craved that simple human connection.

So many people came out of the woodwork when we started having miscarriages – miscarriage is a 1 in 3 event (meaning most couples have had at least one). Infertility has a 1 in 8 occurrence rate. And yet, except for very brief glimpses into that pain (and only six years ago, when we were regularly losing pregnancies), we don’t talk about those things. We don’t commune over those things. There is no common ground between us an those around us in relation to infertility. We don’t lessen the pain by sharing with those who can empathize – we really can’t. And we suffer for it.

But this weekend I got to do that. I got a community. I got to share. I got to listen as a fellow, as someone who could empathize. And just that simple thing of being able to commiserate, to give and take, with people who deeply understood because they’d been through the same stuff… it was insane.

I so needed it. I so needed the experience of feeling that others are dealing with this, and that I’m not alone, and that even if it might be forever it won’t always feel like it does now.

I’m not alone.

How incredible.

Course Correction

I have been using “I” for a lot of posts recently, mostly because it’s easier to write, even when what I really mean is “we.” In contrast, today is definitely a “we” post, even though it gets tricky to write.

The foster-to-adopt process started for us back in early November of last year when we attended an orientation meeting hosted by Child Protective Services (CPS) in the nearest major city – about two hours away. We drove to the city on a Saturday morning and spent the day listening to workers talking about the basics of the foster and foster-to-adopt process. It was a lot of information we already knew but it was a worthwhile trip to get some faces and some personal accounts of how things play out.

Since then, Hubs and I have been on our own, filling out lots and lots of paperwork and trying to anticipate what the needs will be so we are at least somewhat prepared. Our previous experience with government processes (plus a lot of reading about foster/adopt through the state CPS system) means we are aware that there will be “emergencies” where someone somewhere dropped the ball or forgot about us and we will have to scramble to make up the deficit.

[image source]
[image source]
Our human contact since that orientation meeting has been abysmal. Combined with the mountains of deeply personal paperwork that just keeps on growing, the whole experience thus far has been discouraging on the best days, but mostly deeply troubling.

Hubs and I have had multiple conversations about this, especially as the holidays approached and sailed by. Neither of us feels any kind of peace about the process; most days we feel increasing anxiety and unrest. There’s a growing thought that we are working hard to become part of a system that will certainly ignore us throughout the whole process (years) and will probably be a malign presence in our life.

This isn’t a good option for us. With the information we have right now, this has become a situation where we need to take a step back and look for better, healthier options for us and for any kids who might come into our lives.

Of course, gloriously, this means more waiting on our part. Whatever our next step is will cost a LOT more money, so we need to adjust our approach and squirrel some cash away. (When I say “some” I mean “a lot of.”) Until then, we will keep on keeping on, and continue to hope for some kind of miracle that will wipe out all this agonizing and planning and being responsible.

Until then. BLERG.

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[image]

Learn With Me: Foster Care and Public Adoption in the US

Yesterday I posted about the three options readily available to potential adopters in the US (click here to open that post in a new window). My current journey is with public adoption, or adoption through the state system. This post is a more detailed account of the basics on how that system works in general, and what it means for me.

NOTE: I use “I” and “me” pronouns almost exclusively when talking about family stuff. In reality, these pronouns are often more “us” and “we” type stories. I use the first-person pronoun simply for ease of writing (and reading).

Public adoption is the adoption of orphans who are citizens of the US. In the US, children are only orphaned after all family connections are severed – usually via unfit parenting/guardianship. To be a ward of the state (that’s the politically accurate term for orphan in the US) a child goes through years of disruption. In the US, the goal of the state system is to keep a child as close as possible to their first parent(s) so it takes many years for first parents’ rights to be completely terminated.

First, children are removed from parents for a probationary period (Child Protective Services generally tries to find extended family to take kids in) while parents work on getting themselves together. This can mean taking anger management classes, getting off drugs, becoming educated on neglect and malnourishment, etc… If a parent gets themselves together, their children are returned to them. Only when no extended family is available is a child placed in foster care. Eighteen months is the absolute minimum amount of time parents have to get right. So nothing beyond temporary foster care even begins to happen until after a child has been in temporary care for well over a year.

As a child’s state-decided “plan” moves from temporary (foster) care to permanent placement (adoption), a lot of things have to happen. First, there has to be clear, legally compelling proof that first parents can’t ever be parents to that child. There has to be a lot of investigation, many court dates, and usually depends on zero effort (over an extended period of time) from first parents. The vast majority of what I’ve read, from both state organizations and from personal accounts, indicates that if a first parent is trying the state will continue to hold a child in temporary (foster) care. The state really wants kids to end up with their first parents.

So for parental rights to be terminated (the first legal step in adoption from the state system) the first parents have to be done. If that’s the case, state systems then move on to recruiting immediate and extended family of first parents to take over as permanent guardians. This is how aunts and uncles, older siblings, and grandparents end up becoming legal guardians of kids. This is called kinship care/adoption and it’s relatively common in state systems. Again, the goal is for children to end up with first parents; if that’s not an option the state wants those kids as close as possible.

If no extended family members are available, the process of legally separating the child from their first parents begins. This separation takes months to years. After that process is complete, the child is then a ward of the state and available for adoption. The process of adopting a child then takes (again) months to years. The average age for a kid in the state system who is able to be adopted is around eight years old.

Two ways to participate in the system, as parents. First is foster care only, where the home is open to house kids who are in temporary conditions or who are legally free but have not been adopted. The second, the one I’m working on, is foster-to-adopt, where foster parents are approved to adopt kids who are legally free for adoption. In Texas, every parent goes through foster certification. The ones who also want to adopt have additional requirements to be allowed to adopt.

Like yesterday, there’s so much more I could say about this. Trying to distill the information I’ve been gathering for a year into a few hundred words has been an effort, and has generated some deep conversations at my house. I suspect there will be more about how I feel (personally) about this adoption option in future posts.

Please drop a note of encouragement or feel free to ask questions. This is hard. It’s hard in unexpected ways and right now it feels like it will always be hard.

Thanks for reading!


FROM ADOPTUSKIDS.ORG: For children in foster care available for adoption, and for whom no adoptive family has been identified, the AdoptUSKids national photolisting website serves as a tool for connecting their caseworkers with prospective adoptive families. Over the last decade, 20,000 children previously photolisted on AdoptUSKids have been placed with adoptive families. AdoptUSKids is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Administration for Children and Families. See the full-size infographic

Infographic for AdoptUSKids Celebrating 20,000 Children Placed With Adoptive Families

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry up and wait is officially upon us! We have been assigned a social worker and I think training starts in January but it’s actually kind of hard to know – there’s not much official word. I keep telling myself everyone involved in this process is horrifically overworked so if they don’t get us information we need it’s not because we dropped the ball somehow. It’s just because they’re busy. ALWAYS BUSY.

The more I read about this process the more it looks like there are looooooong periods of waiting punctuated by short bursts of insane activity. This might actually work okay for us; we like our recovery time.

Right now, the level of “unknown” coupled with the waiting is just slightly overwhelming. We have no idea how long it will be before placement (though all signs point to “a few months”) and we definitely don’t know how long it will be until we are 100% bona fide parents, free from the strictures of the state system (though all signs point to “a few years”). I find myself trying very hard not to fixate on the few knowables we have right now – dates of PRIDE training, the name of our social worker, getting the pets up to date on vaccinations…

…redoing the spare room…

It’s exciting. Even with all the unknowns, it’s movement. That is amazingly, thrillingly, frighteningly exciting. We’re on the path.