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Passing the Time

23 Oct

Photo courtesy of smellslikeupdog
Half-Past
courtesy of smellslikeupdog

Our video profile was posted on September 10 and it was, one one hand, a big relief. We went around and around with our agency over the video contract and then we ran into all sorts of problems actually getting it filmed.

What kinds of problems, you ask? Well, for example, I had an Avastin injection on July 2 that resulted in a big, red burst blood vessel in the white of my eye that was hardly the kind of thing I wanted immortalized on video. Then our puppy, Casey, got into the foam packing for the video camera and destroyed it. Oh puppy.

Anyway, once the video was posted, I  was relieved. For about three days.

That’s how long it took me to realize there was nothing left for us to do. We filed all our paperwork. We passed our home study. We filled out the Adoption Planning Questionnaire. We created our family profile. We filmed our video profile. All the tasks were done and all that was left was the wait. We’d been waiting for three months already by the time the video was posted, but our profile wasn’t technically complete until that video was online. Until then, I was still mentally checking things off a list.

And now I’ve come to the end of the list. Nothing from this point forward is in my control. We’re just waiting for time to pass.

It’s terrifying. As a project-oriented person, the end of a to do list leaves me feeling at odds.

I waited a month, hopping that feeling would pass. No such luck. A series of events in late September left me feeling even less in control of the world.

Our called our adoption specialist who offered this advice on passing the time: Decorate the nursery. Travel (with trip insurance). Go out to dinner and to the movies. Finish up any lingering house projects.

Oh – and start thinking about new photos we might want to put on our profile in three months or so.

Ah-ha! A project …

Our Video Profile is Done

10 Sep

Wahoo! Our video profile was posted this morning:

 

 

We were really, really nervous about this section – but I think it turned out OK.

Our agency sent us a video camera a few months ago and a list of instructions for making the profile. There were basically four different sections we had to complete – the family interview, individual interviews, a friend / family interview and the spots. The video spots constitute footage of us doing the things we talk about during the interviews. Our spots were taking Casey to the dog park, hiking, having a bonfire on the beach, going to the farmer’s market, working on Nice Mirror projects, cooking, playing with Casey and kids in the backyard, playing with our friend’s infant, kayaking, tubing, and having a crab feast with friends and family. We sent over an hour of footage and they edited it down to just 3.5 minutes. Nothing from our individual interviews was used and lots and lots of our spots were cut.

Our agency actually requires the video profile, though I think most agencies still offer it as an option. I can totally see the benefit of using video – if the photos were previously the most important part of your profile then it would seem video could become even more important.

What do you think? Does this seem like it gives you a better understanding of our lives than our print profile?

 

We’ve Done Our Part

10 Aug

The video. It is done. Well, our part anyway. Now we just have to hope those editors are magic makers.

Here’s a clip of me realizing we’ve finally finished this last major step for our profile.

It takes 3-4 weeks for the editors to do their thing. Well, that’s what they claim. They haven’t seen our footage yet. Might be closer to two months for us.

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.

What Happens Now?

9 Jun

Photo courtesy of Jerry Bunkers
Woman on phone using laptop
courtesy of Jerry Bunkers

On Monday, we officially activated with our placement agency. Our profile is live, searchable on the site and being sent out to potential birth mothers and families.

So, what exactly does that mean?

Back in January, Don and I filled out what is referred to as the APQ – the Adoption Planning Questionnaire. That document is the one that contained the 24 long form essay questions we had to answer, but it also contained all the specifics we’re looking for in our adoption – race, substance use, medical conditions of the birth family, etc.

When potential birth mothers enroll with American Adoptions, they fill out a similar form. Their answers are entered into a system that matches her answers against all the waiting couples. A random 20 matches that fall within the APQ are generated for her. She looks through those profiles to see if any hopeful adoptive parents stand out to her. If not, she can ask for 20 more until she finds just the right family.

In cases that fall within our APQ, we won’t know that our profile has been sent out. It just happens too often to alert 20 couples every time. Remember that these are situations we’ve already told the agency would make us happy so there’s really no point in contacting us since all it would do is make us wonder and worry.

However, sometimes there are no perfect matches because each birth mother’s situation is so unique and individual. In that case an adoption specialist looks for APQs that are close to being matches and reaches out to the waiting families to ask for permission to show their profiles outside the APQ. A close match might be a maternal or paternal disease that you didn’t indicate any level of comfort with or more alcohol consumption in the first trimester than you initially wanted. At that time, you have a day or so to give permission. Because those outside APQ matches are done by hand, the birth mother may only receive a handful of profiles. Therefore, they represent a good chance to result in a match so it’s really important you’re comfortable with your decision.

Back in the 70s  stoneages when I was adopted, there was nothing like this. There was, basically, one list of adoptive families for a county or state. Each family was checked off in turn as babies became available for placement. There was generally no contact between birth families and adoptive families, and the children would usually not be located very far away. I was born about 70 miles from my parents’ home and eight months old when I was placed.

These days, there is a very good chance we’ll be in a match 2 or 3 months before the baby is born. Or not. Sometimes you have day’s notice. Sometimes the baby is already born.

Either way, the match call is exciting and I can’t wait!

What was your match call like?

And, we’re active

5 Jun

Nearly two months after our family profile was completed by the design specialist, we have activated with our placement agency. Phew. That was a long time coming and during that period our profile was not being shown to anyone. As of yesterday afternoon, our profile is live on the site and we can be included in profile books sent out to EBMs (expectant birth moms).

This in between time has been hard because, even though we’d done all we could do, no one could see our profile when choosing the family to adopt their child. The hardest parts are yet to come – the agonizing wait for a match and then the anxious days and weeks leading up to placement – but at least all of that is moving toward building our family rather than being stuck in a state of paperwork / contract limbo.

Wish us luck!

Our Family Profile is Done

16 Apr

Here’s a sneak peek. I’ll write more about the process of having this created soon, I promise.

Our First Adoption

19 Mar

This is Casey. We adopted him yesterday from Lost Dog Animal Rescue. He’s a 12-week old terrier mix, though mixed with what we have no idea. Any guesses? We’ve heard a few votes for rottweiler.

We’ve been wanting a dog for years. When we moved into our new house, the urge grew stronger and about a year ago I started allergy shots. Still, we knew we were going to have to look at one of the allergy friendly types of dogs like terriers or poodle mixes because while the shots help they don’t typically eliminate your allergies (especially when you are well into your 30s and have suffered with allergies for more than 25 years).

There’s no such thing as a hypo-allergenic dog, but there are some breeds that are better than others.

In order to determine my allergy level to Casey, the rescue organization suggested burying my head right in his hair and giving it some time. Also, making sure he licked me … which with a 12-week old puppy is not so hard. I’m sure I looked like an oddball snuggling this puppy right next to my nose and eyes in the store, but I was willing to do whatever necessary to make sure Casey is a good fit for us.

I had a small hive on my arm and one on my jaw line … but nothing much else happened. And for me, that’s probably as good as it’s ever going to get.

So, we went to the adoption event on Sunday and adopted our first family dog (we both grew up in homes with dogs and cats, but have never had a pet together).

The first two weeks are the trial period. If my allergies are just too bad we can return him to his awesome foster mom … but we already love him and so I’m extremely hopeful that he’s going to be a good fit.

We had not planned on adopting a puppy. We expected to adopt a 2- or 3-year old dog, but Casey stole our hearts. He’s mostly house-trained and crate-trained and has done a pretty good job at maintaining his training since we brought him home yesterday. Since we haven’t picked up a crate yet, we’re using our shower stall and as his safe place during the day. He has his nice soft bed in there, a bowl of water and some toys. I’m pleased to say there were no accidents when we went to the theatre last night, or this morning (I went home to let him out at lunch). So he definitely seems to have the crate-training (or shower stall-training in this case) down pat. We do need to get an actual crate because we want him to feel safe and contained and to be able to go in there whenever he wants when we’re home and hanging out as a family.

Here’s another picture because I just can’t resist.

Of course, we need to tell American Adoptions about his addition to our household. We mentioned that we were likely to adopt a dog to them a few weeks ago and they seemed very flexible about it, but I’m sure there will be some requirements. Also, we should find some time to take a picture with him since apparently that will help our profile greatly.

And, in case you’re wondering: No. We did not adopt the dog to help with our profile. You can check my medical record to see how long I’ve been taking shots to facilitate this adoption AND check my browsing history to see how long I’ve been obsessed with allergen friendly terriers.

On the other hand, we did need to make sure we found a dog that would be good in a house with kids. Lost Dog asked us the top three things we were looking for in a dog and we said: allergen friendly, gentle with children, social. Casey fits the bill very well. He had tons of fun with some toddlers at a BBQ yesterday. He gave a few tentative licks while they were petting him, but otherwise stayed away from their personal space, was patient and played nicely.

So, is Casey the cutest puppy you’ve seen in a long time or what?

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.

 

 

 

These are a Few of Our Favorite Things

22 Feb

Photo courtesy of LornaWatt
Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String
courtesy of LornaWatt

Seems like all adoption agencies and independent profile sites LOVE the list o’ favorites. Our placement agency is no exception. I thought you might like to see our lists.

View the entire list of Our Favorite Things [pdf]

Some of Don’s Highlights

Favorite animal – Squirrels
I know – so cute.

Favorite children memory - Feeding ducks with his grandmother.
He does not mention that his grandmother let him skip Montessori Kindergarten in order to feed these ducks.

Hero – My dad
Awww.

Thing to Cook – Omelettes
Yeah, he does make an awesome omelette.

Some of Susan’s highlights

Childhood Toy – Kermit, Miss Piggy and Scooter
Did anyone else have these? Scooter was probably my favorite. Boy, did I love those things.

Hero – My grandfather who came to the U.S. with nothing and made a happy life
He taught me that if you love what you do, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.

Tradition – Hosting a big back yard bash to welcome summer and Don’s birthday
We had to skip it last year and I was so, so sad.

Vegetable – Brussels Sprouts
I love them so much it’s crazy. And, yes, I know they are usually everyone’s LEAST favorite.