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.
I read a sentence last night that stuck with me; it went something like this: “It sometimes occurs to me that those around me aren’t doing the feverish reading and research we are in preparation for adoption. It’s a good reminder that I should be sharing what I know with family and friends rather than just assume they have the same knowledge base.”
I haven’t been communicative about what I’ve been learning. This is a personality thing with me – when things are tough or challenging I tend to hunker down. So I figured I’d share some of the things I am learning about and working through. Hopefully this is interesting information for those who know me personally, and perhaps also interesting to readers from Other Places.
I’m making the choice to use “I” and “me” pronouns because it’s easier when I’m writing. Note that Hubs is part of all this learning and decision making – many of the “I” and “me” pronouns are actually “us” and “we.”
Today, a brief overview of the three basic options available for adoption – international, private-domestic, and public. This includes my thoughts on each and why foster-to-adopt is where I’m at right now.
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION is any adoption outside the US. It can be as close as Canada or Mexico, and as far as Russia or China.
This option was wildly popular in the 70s and 80s, at the height of the “closed adoption” movement, and is still going strong today. Specific characteristics of this option include a closed adoption – meaning there’s zero contact with first parents – and children who are (usually) ethnically different from their adopted parents.
One of the major “pluses” of this option from an adopter’s point of view is the finality of this type of adoption. Once a child is on US soil and paperwork is rolling on the States side, it is almost unheard of that a child is removed from their adopted home.
One of the major “minuses” of this option from an adopter’s point of view is that this option is heavy with bureaucracy and expensive. It’s usually the most paperwork-y and expensive of all three major adoption options. Adopters are dealing with termination of parental rights and citizenship issues in TWO countries. This often means waiting years, and jumping through a lot of weird international hoops.
Why it’s not for me:
1 | It’s expensive. Plain and simple, the money for it doesn’t exist in my life right now. After the IVF cycle in Feb-Mar 2014 there was a conscious decision to avoid all major debt for several years. Gotta’ get that bottom line out of red and into black. A $40,000 price tag is not feasible.
2 | I’ve read countless articles and blogs that talk about adoption, especially international adoption, as a “ministry” to the “poor” and “disenfranchised.” Personally, I’m trying to avoid the mindset that I’m rescuing anybody. (I feel like this is a subject big enough for a whole post of its own.) Basically, I’m not comfortable with the “feed the hungry” approach to adoption and that’s a common approach for international adoptions from the US.
3 | I’m not interested in waiting years to be a parent. Been there, done that. Done waiting.
Private Domestic Adoption
PRIVATE DOMESTIC ADOPTION is commonly referred to as domestic adoption or private adoption. This is adoption within the United States through any avenue other than state-sponsored systems. Usually, this is adoption through a domestic agency that matches pregnant mothers with adoptive parents. On rare occasions, a domestic adoption will be an adoption that doesn’t involve an agency as the intermediary (usually someone who is pregnant already knows someone they want to adopt their child) – this is sometimes called an “independent” adoption.
The major “plus” of private domestic adoption, and the reason it is so popular, is because it allows adopters to parent from infancy (sometimes from a newborn’s first moments). I could go into detail about all the reasons this is a positive for parents, but I think you can probably figure it out. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be touching on it in future posts.
Used to be that domestic adoptions were closed, meaning once children were adopted they and all parents were completely cut off from each other. The US did some extreme things to keep adoptions closed, including sealing all records (sometimes in perpetuity) and creating “new” birth certificates for adopted infants. There’s been a move toward open adoption in the last two decades which seems better for everyone involved.
I like open adoption. It seems like a good idea. Tough, but good.
Why private-domestic adoption is not for me: A few reasons. Kind of a few and a half.
1/2 | I’d be 100% gung-ho to do an independent adoption. I’d get three jobs to fund it. The thing is that there’s no one out there (that I know of) who is with child, doesn’t want to parent, and wants me to parent instead. And, you know, I don’t think I’m really going to find that. Ever. Most women who are pregnant want to parent. The vast majority of those who don’t want to (or can’t) parent get an abortion. The few who do go to term have a family member take over parenting. A very small number go through an agency. Of that very small number, I know none personally. And I probably won’t. So it’s not really a real option.
But if you know someone who is pregnant, doesn’t want to parent, and hasn’t already hooked up with an agency, let me know because I’m all over that.
1 | Though not quite as expensive as international adoption, domestic adoption is still prohibitively expensive. It includes legal fees, medical fees, “finder’s” fees for agencies, and a host of ancillary expenses. We’re talking $20-$30,000 here. I don’t have that and I’m not gonna’ have it anytime soon.
2 | The intermediary role of agencies troubles me. I have some extended family members who chose adoption and I picked up on some less-than-positive impressions of agencies. So when I first started investigating adoption options for myself I made a point to click over to the “are you pregnant?!” areas of adoption agency sites. Many of those sites have one thing in common – the rhetoric for expectant mothers has a clear agenda; it’s designed to be highly persuasive.
That kind of got the hairs on my neck raised. I then actively searched first-hand accounts of first mothers and adoptees. Negative accounts from first mothers usually involve the perception of coercion. For me the mere possibility that a mother might want to parent and be coerced not to is a deal-breaker. I’m still too close to that desperate desire to be a mother and being unable to. That I might possibly be the cause of that for some other woman is too much to process.
I realize that coercion is not a universal first-mother experience by any stretch, but I can’t handle even the remote possibility. Not right now.
3 | First parents change their minds. They can seriously consider multiple potential adopting families and will eventually choose only one family, essentially rejecting other adoptive parents. Even after first parents have chosen their adopting family and surrendered their child, the overwhelming joy of a newly adopted child can swiftly change to deep loss. Most states have a “waiting period” for private adoptions – this is a time for first parents to consider their decision and allows them to change their minds. In short, an adoptive family can lose their child after placement.
I’ve been through multiple miscarriages; I’m not emotionally able to deal with the possibility of losing another child. Not right now.
PUBLIC ADOPTION is also a type of domestic adoption, technically, but it is through state systems. In the first draft of this post I started explaining the whole process of public adoption but it was really long. So check in tomorrow; I’ll post a bunch of details on public adoption.
Why public adoption is for me:
1 | State subsidized system, meaning the state absorbs (almost) all associated costs.
2 | Children who want parents as much (or more) than I want to be a parent.
3 | First parents have ample opportunity to remain parents – in fact the state system is heavily skewed in favor of first parents keeping their kids (ie: no coercion).
4 | It’s a relatively open system. Even after we adopt we can still maintain contact with first families.
5 | Immediate placement.
Right now it’s the best option. I’ve been through more than enough to convince me that I shouldn’t depend on public adoption being the best option forever. But for today, for now, for where I am, I’ve chosen this direction.
Thanks for reading. More tomorrow. Please feel free to ask questions or drop a word of encouragement.