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40 weeks and counting

24 Jul

Source: etsy.com via Katie on Pinterest

 

A typical pregnancy last 40 weeks – nine full months. A typical adoption lasts a lot longer.

Case in point, 40 weeks ago today we had the first of three meetings with a social worker required for our home study. We had been working on an adoption plan for a long time before we even got to that point.


Here’s a look our timeline to date:

Summer of 2010 – Attended three open houses for local agencies that provide home study services.

Fall of 2010 – Bought our first home and selected our home study agency. Put further progress on hold as we began home renovation projects

Spring 2011 – Decide to begin working on adoption in July despite on-going renovation efforts

August 2011 – Met with adoption attorney to learn more about independent / parent-placed adoptions, met with Datz Foundation and started paperwork

September 30, 2011 – Submitted application and first round of paperwork to Datz Foundation

October 13, 2011 – Realize application was lost in the mail

October 14, 2011 – Resubmitted application electronically

October 21, 2011 – First home study interview

November 1, 2011 – Second home study interview

November 15, 2011 – Third and final home study interview

(and between September 30 and November 15, we did a whole bunch of other required tasks like getting fingerprinted, lining up our letters of reference, getting our state background checks, submitting to a FBI clearance and getting medical exams.)

November 19, 2011 – Attended American Adoptions open house in Northern Virginia

November 28, 2011 – Applied to American Adoptions, and began APQ process

November 30, 2011 – Home study draft received, and changes submitted

December 4, 2011 – Completed home study arrives in the mail

December 5, 2011 – Launched our independent adoption profile website and ordered adoption business cards (actually 4 x 6 photo prints)

January 2012 – Completed our APQ and began the process of planning our family profile

April 16, 2012 – Family profile completed

May 2, 2012 – Signed activation contract with American Adoptions and paid the hefty $10,000 activation fee

June 4, 2012 – Profile live on site and being shown to birth moms

July 2012 – Working on adoption video profile

July 12, 2012 – While on the phone about something else, adoption specialist mentions that our profile has been shown 24 times

July 24, 2012 – Wrote this post


So there you have it. It’s been two years since the day we went to our first adoption open house, about a year since we started getting serious about it and 40 weeks since we became actively engaged in the process. In short, long enough to have given birth to two children if that was the route we had decided to take.

Adoption is not easy. It takes a long time. It’s emotional. There is more paperwork than you can imagine. It’s expensive.

And it’s going to be worth every minute, every paper cut, every dollar and every tear.

Picking a Placement Agency

12 Mar

We knew back when we started our home study process that we’d have to pick a different agency for our placement OR pursue an independent adoption. In the end, we decided on both of those options.

Around the time we started filling out our home study application last August, we made an appointment with an adoption attorney to learn more about independent / parent-placed adoptions. Then in October we started meeting with our social worker from The Datz Foundation and she discussed the different options with us. While she certainly didn’t push us in either direction I kept hearing one of her points over and over. The big, national placement agencies have a lot of money and it’s difficult to compete against that. If we wanted to pursue an independent adoption, she told us, we’d have to behave like those agencies.

She suggested a profile at ParentProfiles.com. To be honest, the design of the site turns me off. Yes, it does group a whole bunch of people together in one place – like a placement agency’s website –  but the profile templates are really cookie cutter. Honestly, there’s probably something to be said for that … but I was hoping our personality and creativity would stand out a little more.

When I found some sites that had more attractive templates, I noticed that they had maybe 25 – 40 active families and they weren’t that easy to find so I worried birth families wouldn’t be able to find them.

The more I thought about it, the more I worried that an independent adoption would take too much time and as my 37th birthday was approaching, I worried that it was time I didn’t have to spare.

So, we hit up Google sites for a free website we could use on our business cards and started researching placement agencies. Phew. There are a lot choices out there.  

In the end, our pick was not that original. We decided on American Adoptions. They’ve done more adoptions in 10 years than any other placement agency in the country and they pretty much own “adoption” on the Internet. I guess it turned out to be one of those “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” kind of situations.

Before we made up our mind however, we (I) did a lot of research. Here are the things I really liked about American Adoptions:  

  • As I mentioned, they own the Internet when it comes to adoption. Type adoption into Google and you’ll find that American Adoptions is the first item displayed (sometimes via paid ad, sometime organically). See image above.
  • They spend more than $1.5 million a year in marketing to reach out to pregnant women considering adoption.
  • They complete more than 300 adoptions a year – an excellent track record.
  • They have one of the lowest adoption disruption rates.
  • There’s a money-back offer. Well, not really. BUT, they do have unique financial protection for clients. If a birth mother changes her mind, the adoptive family does not lose any money they spent on living expenses, medical expenses, counseling expenses and in most cases, legal expenses. The only money that’s committed up front that will not be re-funded is the activation fee (which, in the interest of full disclosure, is steep and allows them to spend so much money on advertising each year). However, that activation fee is still in place as you try for your second placement (whether that is immediately, or if you want to take some time).
  • There’s not  a set cost; each family sets a fixed budget for their adoption. We set a budget up front and the staff outlines all potential fees for each situation. 
  • Domestically, 99 percent of their adoptions are healthy newborns and infants.
  • The agency was founded by an adoptee (like me!) and his adoptive parents and lots of people on the client services staff have personal experience with adoption, including the adoption specialist assigned to us. Same goes for the birth parent specialist side of the clinical practice, too.
  • Counseling for birth moms. Look, all agencies require this so nothing sets American Adoptions apart here. BUT, it’s hard to get a feeling for how well they do it. We’re not entirely sure how well AA does it, but, for the most part, we liked the way they answered our questions about it. I don’t want a disruption, but I also don’t want to take a child from a woman who feels like she’s being coerced at the last minute.  

Selecting the placement agency is the part of the process I have felt the least comfortable with so far. There are so many choices and whoever we pick will ultimately be responsible for bringing our child to us. I’d love to be able to say that we made an entirely logical decision based on facts, figures and statistics. But, in the end, parts of picking this agency were totally random. We liked the people at the informational session. They waived the application fee when we attended an open house. The design of the profiles on their site are more appealing to me than some of the others I’ve seen. The list goes on and on. BUT, at some point, we just had to pick and American Adoptions seemed like a good fit. Time will tell if we made a good call.

 

 

 

Fingerprinted

16 Nov

Yesterday we went to the county courthouse to get fingerprinted. Cameras and cell phones aren’t allowed inside so I couldn’t document the visit, but here is the proof we did it.

Arlington County (VA) is inkless, meaning they scan your fingerprints. No alarms went off and bars didn’t slam down around us, so we must not be on any major Wanted lists. Phew.

I thought we’d be able to take funny photos of our hands after the process, but thanks to technology the shot I hoped we’d get was not possible. Don, ever the sport, did pose for the series below for me, though. Here he is doing his best to look like a hardened criminal. I’m not sure it’s very convincing.

The fingerprints are required to obtain state police and FBI clearances for all adults living in your house. Our home study agency provided the cards for us (there were a couple of pieces of information we had to fill in) and we had the scans taken at the Sheriff’s office (which in our town is at the courthouse, but it might be different for you). We paid $10 each for the imprinting.

The next step is to send them off to our agency, along with a cashier’s check for $50 for the processing made payable to the state. Again, the exact procedure may be different in your state, but here in Virginia the home study agency will forward them to the Background Investigation Unit in Richmond and the results will be sent back to them.

To find out where to be fingerprinted in your area, type the name of your city and state (or county and state) and fingerprints into Google and it should be fairly evident.  

So, did you have to get inky for your fingerprints?

 

Grants Available for Adoptive Parents

5 Oct

A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of People magazine and happened across an article about HelpUsAdopt.org and its founder, Becky Fawcett. HelpUsAdopt is a not-for-profit program that provides qualified couples and individuals with grants up to $15,000 toward their domestic or international adoption or foster care expenses. What I especially love is that, unlike some other assistance programs I’ve heard about before, Becky’s group helps people regardless of race, ethnicity, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or race. 

Here’s a little clip from a Today show feature on her important work:


Adoption expenses can vary widely depending on the situation, but just as point of reference, Don and I expect to spend about $30,000. For some people, especially those who tried expensive infertility treatments before exploring adoption, the cost is prohibitive.

If you’re a casual reader on the subject of adoption it might occur to you that people who can’t afford the process would be well advised to reconsider their choices, but let me assure you that no one is letting families or individuals who can’t afford to raise a family adopt a child – and HelpUsAdopt is pretty clear on that point, too. There’s a big difference between managing the on-going additional expenses that a child brings to a family – any family – and finding the additional $20,0000 – $30,000 it will cost for adoptive parents to bring their child home.  To qualify for a grant, you have to have an approved home study – which means, among other things, that a state-licensed agency believes you have the financial means to raise a child in a stable, healthy environment. These grants just help you bring baby home a little easier.

You also have to show that you have financial obstacles and need assistance with the up-front expenses, and you have to be able to “distinguish the difference between not wanting to write the check(s) for your adoption expenses and not being able to.”

Don and I don’t qualify for one of these grants, but I still think they are pretty great. If you agree, you can support the organization’s mission in a whole bunch of ways:

Here are some other financial resources for folks pursuing adoption.

Did you find creative financial resources to help with your adoption?