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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?

Still Just a Dream

3 May

It’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks for me as I gear up for a big event at work. I’ve been super stressed and I cracked a crown even though I have been diligently wearing my night guard (I am a big time jaw clencher when I sleep). On top of that, Don and I celebrated our third anniversary (and our second – we’re sort of procrastinators) and I could barely get away from the office long enough to have dinner with him.

After a marathon session at the dentist  (I was there for 3.5 hours today and have to go back again tomorrow), I decided to relax with a manicure and pedicure in preparation for aforementioned big work event. While I was in the chair, this song came on whatever satellite radio they had playing.

I’d heard this was a great adoption song before, but I’m not a huge Elton John fan <<I know, I know – I’m sorry>> so I couldn’t place it before today. Even now that I’ve heard it I’m not sure. I mean, it sounds familiar … but it might sound familiar because it’s Elton John.

Here are a few of the lyrics:

Hey you, you’re a child in my head
You haven’t walked yet
Your first words have yet to be said
But I swear you’ll be blessed

I know you’re still just a dream
your eyes might be green
Or the bluest that I’ve ever seen
Anyway you’ll be blessed

Want to add an element of weirdness to sitting in the salon and hearing what has been billed as the quintessential adoption song for the first time? Well, that’s a good thing because while the song was on I was watching the local news on closed captioned TV and that video with the zebra-clad baby and the lioness was being featured. I could not make that up.

So, remembering that I’m not a big Elton John fan, has anyone heard a good cover of this song before?

UPDATE (really just something I forgot to mention in the original post):
When I pulled up the “Blessed” video to embed on this page there was an ad for our adoption placement agency at the bottom of the YouTube video player screen. I tried to grab a screen shot since it seemed like a good omen, but it faded away before I captured it. Anyway, I’m not sure if it was actually a good omen or just more evidence that American Adoptions OWNS adoption on Google.

I Just Haven’t Met You Yet

13 Apr

For a whole bunch of reasons, I’m feeling anxious today. It mostly has nothing to do with the adoption.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I think when you reach a certain point in the game EVERYTHING is about the adoption.

We’re so so so close to activating, but there’s still one outstanding piece of paperwork and then we’re live on the site and waiting to meet our birth mom and our baby.

And I know someday that it’ll all turn out
You’ll make me work, so we can work to work it out
And I promise you, kid, that I give so much more than I get
I just haven’t met you yet

I might have to wait, I’ll never give up
I guess it’s half timing, and the other half’s luck
Wherever you are, whenever it’s right
You’ll come out of nowhere and into my life

Yeah, I have Michael Buble on a playlist. So what?

Our baby is coming. I don’t know when, but I can’t wait.

 

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.

 

 

 

Adoption Business Cards

6 Mar

There are lots and lots of different ways people adopt children, but the four that are the most common are:

1. Intra-family adoptions
Adoptions that occur within the same family. Step-parent adoptions would fall into this category, as would adoptions that happen by aunts and uncles or grandparents (often the case when a child is orphaned).

2.  Foster care adoptions
Adoptions of children in state custody after a parent loses or surrenders parental rights

3. Independent or parent-placed adoptions
Adoptions that occur without assistance (or with minimal assistance) from an agency. The birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s), work through attorneys acting on their behalf.

4. Agency-placed adoptions
Adoptions, either international or domestic, that are arranged with the assistance of a third party who handles the advertising for and counseling of birth mothers.

Don and I are simultaneously working on both independent and agency-placed situations.

There’s something to be said for having the agency do all the legwork for us. It’s easier and our agency places more than 300 children a year so they have a pretty successful track record with a slightly lower than average wait time. But, it’s not cheap.

However, we’re exploring an independent adoption for a couple of reasons. One is that if the right situation presented itself, it could be a significantly shorter wait time. Since we’re pretty open to different races and cultures, don’t have a gender preference and are will to consider some minor substance issues, we fit into the category of folks who can have a successful independent adoption. That doesn’t generally happen, though … and independent adoptions generally take about the same amount of time unless you can really commit to aggressive advertising.

BUT, we’re pretty busy and we don’t have a lot of time to spend on the advertising and networking. We figure that at the point when the advertising will cost significant money, we’d be better off putting that money into an agency to find our birth mother.

Having said that, we decided that we would at least get the word out to our friends and family members on the chance that someone were to hear of a situation that might help us.

Before Christmas, I got an e-mail from Snapfish for 100 4 x 6 photo prints for $1 plus shipping. We had originally thought about making adoption business cards, but decided the 4 x 6 prints – especially at that price – were better.

Using Photoshop, we created the image below with our pertinent information and tucked them into our handmade Christmas cards.

I wrote a little note in each one that said something along the lines of this:

In 2012, we’re hoping to adopt a baby. If you hear of a situation that might be helpful to us, please share the enclosed card with our contact information. Thanks!

I also hand them out to people when it comes up in casual conversation. I’m sure I could be more aggressive about it, but I have not been for some reason.

Either way, the word is out. Only time will tell if it works, but we’ve had some inquiries from it. A co-worker mentioned a niece to me, but she’s largely out of communication with her family AND we think she found a successful match (yay!). Another co-worker told her daughter who told a social worker friend who knows two California families looking for an adoption match. No movement on either of those fronts, but that’s how it goes. Lots of interest, and maybe – maybe – one will turn into something.

So – if you know of a woman who is considering placing her child, consider us. We’re think we’re super great people and will try our best to be super great parents, too.

 

There’s Something Missing

5 Mar

Photo courtesy of hellofath
Empty Stroller
courtesy of hellofath

Now that our family profile information and pictures are in the hands of the media specialist at our placement agency, we’re in the pre-waiting stage. The real waiting – the waiting for our match – comes next … but for right now we’re waiting to see our final profile.

In a random e-mail from the agency, our adoption specialist suggested that some waiting parents found comfort in the chat boards on their website. So while waiting around in the Miami airport over the weekend, I checked it out.

There’s some really encouraging content there, but there’s also a lot of sad stuff.

In particular, it’s where parents turn after they’ve had a disruption. A disruption is the term applied to situations that happen after a match when the birth mother changes her mind. Sometimes the disruption happens a day or two after match, but sometimes it doesn’t happen until after the baby is born.

One couple travelled out state to pick up their baby and learned after they arrived that the birth mother had changed her mind. They rushed back to the airport to get on the first flight home and not prolong their heartache in a strange town, when a man looked at their empty car seat and joked, “I think you’re missing something.”

It’s a joke that any number of us may have made a handful of times. Seeing a man pushing a stroller without a child through the mall, you might casually say, “I think you forgot someone,” expecting to see a wobbly-footed toddler lurching a few feet behind him holding mom’s hand.

But read in the context of a disrupted adoption, it took on all new significance for me. Of course, the man was joking – and the woman who posted to the chat room knew he was. But it didn’t make the comment sting any less.

I was reminded immediately of a meme that went around Facebook last fall, one that I found both ridiculous and hurtful all at the same time.

Women were instructed to use the month of their birth to announce how many weeks along they were and the day of their birth to announce something they were craving. So, for example, someone born in December, like me, would be 12 weeks. Every0ne born on the first of the month of the month might crave Snickers, and everyone born the second might crave Reese’s cups. Then you would post this statement as your status update without explanation.

I am 12 weeks and craving Oreos, for example.

When I saw the first one, I was surprised. And then I almost immediately saw a few more so I knew that it was a joke. Well, joke might be the wrong word. The goal, a subsequent e-mail I received informed me, was to raise awareness of breast cancer screening and research. Noble, I guess, though since we were instructed to keep it quiet – especially from men – I’m not really sure how it raised awareness for anything.

Anyway, as the day went on more and more of these fake pregnancy announcements showed up in my feed. Eventually, I tuned out for a few days. I don’t like mass status updates to begin with and this one particularly bugged me. Why? Well, I was at the time – and still am – zero weeks and craving motherhood.  So, it’s not especially a thing I want to joke about. Combined with the fact that this stupid meme did absolutely nothing to bring attention to the very real issue of breast cancer awareness and research, it was completely pointless.

Back to the woman on the plane and the comment that hurt her so. It’s true that her immediate heartache was that empty baby seat, but I suspect something had been missing for a very long time.

Part Two: Picking an Agency for the Home Study (or Why We Reluctantly Decided Against International Adoption)

21 Nov

Photo courtesy of
‘Strange street sign’
courtesy of ‘quinn.anya’

Don and I started preparing for our adoption well over a year ago, in July of 2010. When we started to investigate what we had to do to get started, we quickly discovered that the home study was our first big hurdle and that picking the agency to conduct the home study was very important.

The agency that does your home study will be very involved in the early stages of your adoption, and will probably conduct your post-placement visits as well. Therefore it’s really important that you feel comfortable with your choice.

I’ve previously mention that we wanted to be able to pick the agency based on facts and figures – we both like to research and gather information. However, since this process is as much about personalities as anything else, you really do have to base some of the decision on a gut reaction.

Luckily, we had some friends who adopted recently and they gave us lots of great advice (in this post our friend is offering advice to someone else who is adopting and it showcases why we found their advice so valuable).  

We started by investigating the agencies in our area that conduct adoption home studies. We picked three we wanted to visit at the advice of our friends.

At first we didn’t know what kind of adoption we wanted to pursue – domestic or international – so we picked two agencies that specialize in both types, and one that only works internationally (with a stronghold in Russia).

First up was the agency that specializes in international adoptions. They have programs in several countries, but it was their strength in Russia that appealed to me.

A word about my interest in Russia. It was completely arbitrary. I had long heard stories about the conditions for Russian children waiting for adoption and I felt drawn to the country. My mother visited before the collapse of the Soviet Union and I knew she would enjoy going back with us for the visits before and during the adoption. Since she was then approaching retirement (and is now retired!), I thought she might like to take on the role of the Cultural Attaché for our family – seeking out ways we could include our child’s biological background into our decidedly non-Russian traditions.

The agency’s website listed the days and times it would hold open houses or informational meetings. We selected a day and signed up online. As it turned out, we were the only folks who attended that night so we got lots of attention (and subs and cookies from Subway). The administrator carefully went through their programs with us and walked us through the home study materials. She also showed us a video made by one of the families that chronicled their journey to adopt in Russia – including both trips to the country, the interpreter’s role, meeting the local doctor, etc. I have to admit that I cried a little bit when the mom got to hold her little boy for the first time  – he was about 14 months old.

She also went through average wait times for international adoption and I was astounded. I had it in my head that international adoption was easier in a lot of ways. I assumed there might be more up front paper work. But once you got through that, wouldn’t the wait time be less? These babies were living in orphanages for goodness sake. They should try to place them as quickly as possible. Sadly, that is not the case. International adoption is very rewarding, but it can be very difficult.

Even before that meeting, Don had expressed his interest in adopting a child as young as possible so that we could bond and be responsible for his or her earliest influences. We learned at that first informational meeting that if we decided to pursue an international adoption, there was virtually no chance to get a child under 12 months. There are lots of complicated reasons for this, but basically no one wants to exile their own citizens so it’s important to make sure no one in the country wants to adopt the child first. It might sound simple, but honestly it had never occurred to me before.

So even though we initially were skeptical that attending these open houses would give us a feeling about the agency that was right for us, we did get a feeling after that first visit. And our feelings told us that we probably didn’t want to pursue international adoption.

If I am honest, I still think about those kids in Russia and other Eastern European orphanages a lot. Don and I are only planning to have one child, but if something ever changes, I would maybe re-consider an international adoption. It’s true that there are lots of kids right here in America who need to be adopted into loving families, but there also are plenty of families waiting to welcome them. For me, it was a very tough choice.

The next agency we visited was the one we ultimately decided to work with for our home study. Such a good choice for us.

How did you decide between domestic and international adoption?  


We’re going to name the agency that conducted our home study when we get to that section, but keep the names of other agencies off the blog since our experience at one was so negative and we don’t think that it’s indicative of services they normally provide. However, if you would like to know more, please send us an e-mail.