The (long and exhausting but totally worth it) Adoption Process
We get these questions a lot… “Where are you in the process?” or “How long will your wait be?” and they’re great questions! (heck, I want to know the answers, too) but there isn’t a super easy answer, especially if you don’t know what the ‘process’ is. So I’ll do my best to make a pretty mundane process on paper engaging for you. Hmm… (putting my thinking cap on. Oh come on, don’t you remember those things from elementary school? Mine looked like a miners helmet). Right, focus, how to engage you in a mundane process… ebyaM I lliw etirw lla eht sdrow sdrawkcab! Holy gosh, that proved harder than anticipated. STACY! quit procrastinating from the post and get to it!
I will let my handy-dandy spreadsheet I created guide the way…(don’t act like you’re surprised. Love my color coded cells on a spreadsheet).
Alright, this was the first chunk of tasks:
–Information meeting: It was exactly what the name implies- information about The Cradle. Their vision, their beliefs, who they are, what they stand for, what they do. We loved them and signed with them before we even left the meeting.
–Consultation with Adoptive Parent Counselor: Meet Lorrin. You guys, she is the greatest!
She is our counselor and she guides us through this journey and processes new information with us. Everyone say “Hi Lorrin!”
–Classes: These are “face to face” classes that Mike and I attended together.
–Payment: And for the sake of being as transparent as possible about the process, there was a $500 fee when registering. Our money has never been better spent. There wasn’t a shred of hesitation. If I were to spend $500 on anything else, I would cringe. But not this.
Here’s the next chunk:
–Application for Adoption of a Child: This consisted of basic info.: name, dob, demographics, occupation, address, height, weight, complexion, references (maternal and paternal references, as well as three non-familial references).
–Balance Sheet: Woof. I left this to Mike. This is basically just a sheet of anxiety if you ask me. Oh wait, you are asking me? Well then, this is a load of freakin anxiety! This form included our monthly incomes, an extremely detailed breakdown of our monthly expenses, average monthly checking account balance over the past 12 months, financial assets, financial indebtedness, life insurance coverage, and a calculation of debt-to-income ratio. So my Sour Patch Kid addiction was exposed. And we couldn’t just say 3/4 of our income went to Amazon and 1/4 went to Target, we had to itemize it. (I’m obviously kidding. It’s 3/4 Target and 1/4 Amazon).
–Cultural Awareness Questionnaire: This was a questionnaire that Mike and I filled out together. We identified which racial/ethnic groups we would consider adopting (ANY!), researching the diversity within the school boundaries we currently live, identifying the current social organizations we are a part of, the diversity within our circles of friends, the challenges that come with adopting cross-culturally, reflecting on life experiences of being a minority and our first realization of different races, reflecting on when we have been in situations where prejudices have been expressed and how we responded, and how we will embrace our child’s heritage in our actions (about 15 questions…but who’s counting? I am. I just did. You’re welcome).
–Autobiography: We each had to write an autobiography (35 questions we answered) and a family tree. The autobiography required us to reflect on our childhood experiences and emotions, relationships with family members in the past and present, work history, how Mike and I met, the strengths and limitations of our marriage, our educational background and experiences with school, any past counseling, significant losses, our relationship with Rowan, and a reflection on our current parenting.
–Criminal Conviction/ Arrest History: Luckily we both have pretty clean records. But gosh, what college student walking to the bars at 12am is thinking “make good choices tonight, you never know how this might impact your never thought about plans of adopting in the future.” Whew. Glad we are good in this department.
–Payment: We had another payment of $500 due to go towards our HomeStudy.
Once these were all completed we met with Lorrin, our counselor, again. She processed with us any new information from the classes we attended. Our meeting with her was downright pleasant. (I will write another post about what we discussed with her in more detail, because I am sure you are on pins and needles. If so, that’s silly. Pins and needles hurt. Just wait on the couch or something a tad more comfy, please).
This is the next chunk and this is where we are “AT in the process”….kind of. See the places without X’s? Yup, we need to do those before meeting for individual counseling sessions with Lorrin.
I won’t outline that section in too much detail. The forms are/were pretty straightforward. And you did not misread, we signed a form stating we would not spank our child. Wouldn’t want to hurt our hands.
One form I will mention in more detail is the Adoptive Family Preferences. This is a form where we check YES or NO to being open to adopting a child whose bio parents report different medical/mental conditions they and/or their extended family have/had.
The medical/mental conditions include the following: sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait, schizophrenia disorder, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, suicide attempts, eating disorder, ADD/ADHD, speech delay, learning disability, cognitive impairment, autism spectrum, polycystic kidney disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Next we have to identify what we are comfortable with in terms of STDs (Hepatitis, HIV, and STD/which types).
Then we identify the level of substance use we are okay with considering during pregnancy: alcohol (mild, moderate, or severe), cocaine use, heroine use, marijuana use, methadone, opioids.
We also indicate whether we are open to a child with the background of rape, incest, or twins. (Did you have to pause a minute when reading this list? I know I did).
And lastly, we look at different conditions: blindness, cleft lip/palate, club foot or other orthopedic problems, deafness, dislocated hip, Down syndrome, dwarfism, major heart defect, minor heart defect, missing limb, limb deformity, partial hearing loss, partial sight loss, positive for Hep.B, positive for Hep.C, Positive for HIV, prematurity (major complications), prematurity (minor complications), risk for cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait, spina bifida, and surgically correctable conditions.
Wowzas, am I right? Maybe you can see why we haven’t done this form yet. It feels… wrong. With Rowan, we knew everything about her prenatal care and we would accept her in any condition upon her arrival into this world. We now have the “luxury” or “privilege” of choice. It doesn’t feel right. I begin to choke up when thinking about putting a NO anywhere on this form. All I see is a tiny, innocent, perfect little baby that I am turning away. And that breaks me. Breaks me enough that we haven’t done this form and we have had it for months.
Okay, more paperwork:
We need to do those darn fingerprints yet. The hours at the facility stink, so we just haven’t gotten to it. [edit: we just did! The lady was very nice, even about my “hat hair”]
Then we have these online courses to do. I have only done one of them. And, total disclosure, I failed it my first time taking it. No joke. I whizzed through the slides and half assed the essays at the end. Boy did that backfire. I did a second take and passed! (Hold the applause. That’s embarrassing, people). It was a course on conspicuous families. For my language nerds out there, something I learned from it is this: when people ask intrusive comments, respond by saying “we are an adoptive family” instead of saying “my child is adopted”. This way it is an inclusive statement and doesn’t make our child feel singled out (even though you are trying to do the opposite!) Language nerds, you feel me? Love this.
I also learned that there are three general ways to respond to intrusive comments: 1) with humor, 2) with guardedness, 3) by educating the other party. In the exercises I did, I did’t respond with humor at all! Not even once! (weird, right? since I’m so funny…). I responded mostly by educating (ha! of course. I mean, just look at this blogpost). And I responded 5% of the time in a guarded manner. Basically, I was getting tired of the intrusive comments and was like F off.
Okay, you still with me? Almost done. The last thing we have to do is a create a family book about us (“profile workbook”). This, people, this is the book that the bio parent(s) look at to choose which family they will match with! No pressure (<– who said that??) PRESSURE! The bio parents will be presented with about 4 family’s books that match their criteria and they choose which family they want to meet! What the?? you kidding me? I cannot even begin to think about what to put in this book… like will they be impressed by my ability to carry an impressive amount of groceries up three flights of stairs in one load? Will they think it’s cool that I prefer reading children’s books and literature over adult novels? Will they relate to my need to bite my nails and the skins around them while driving? Will they find my addiction to chocolate and sweets endearing or downright despicable? (oh man, chocolate covered gummy bears are my jam. I’m so angry that Marianos stopped carrying them. Mr. Mariano, whoever, wherever you are. If you’re reading this. Bring them back. Pleeeeeease. If even just for a night. I will spend that night traveling from store to store, buying every bag you got. Or Mrs. Mariano. Shame on me for thinking it’s a man that owns the store. Grrr.)
Ah crap, I almost forgot. Then we have our home visit. Basically, Lorrin gets to come to our home and see us in our element. This part excites us. This is where we are at our best. By the end of the home visit, we will have paid $4,000 (of $40,000). We will later have a ‘program fee’ of $12,700 and a final ‘placement fee’ of $22,200. That will bring us to a whoppin $38,900. That excludes lawyer fees, so that’s why when people ask, I say $40,000 when all is said and done. I know people are greatly interested in the financial aspect of adoption and often ask “Why does it cost so much?? These are children in need!” I get it. In another post, I will further dissect where the fees are going. Because, like you, I had total sticker shock.
And after we have X’s in all the spreadsheet boxes and have paid our dues, we wait…
and probably wait some more.
But you know what? The wait will be worth it. ….........................................................................................................................................
Did you seriously think I would end on that cliche? No way, Jose. I bet no Jose’s are even reading this. So I will make the phrase more relevant. No way, Lisa. No way, Matt. No way, Liz. No way, Carlos. Just no way. (wait, what was I even saying no way to? now I can’t even remember…)