Selecting an Adoption Agency

Learning about adoption was overwhelming for me.  You are not alone in feeling that way! We contacted at least half a dozen agencies and read countless chosingarticles online trying to figure out where to start and what to expect.  We were not only in distress about how long we had been trying for a baby, but then we learned that we could have anywhere from three months to several years on the waiting list for an adopted baby too.  Then factor in the enormous price tag associated with agency adoption and we were dazed.  As we began to verbalize we were considering adoption to others; we got all kinds of input.  Some of it was amazing and helpful.  Others only shared horror stories of adoptions gone wrong or questions of why we weren’t doing IVF like their friend, sister, cousin, neighbor did.  We had to take some time and process this.  Was it really what we wanted?

Fast forward several months of just setting all the agencies paperwork aside and living life… we hopped back on the train to adoption and settled down and found the right agency for us.   But how do you pick the right agency for you?  The agency we picked was a small agency located in Ohio that only dealt with Ohio birth mothers and Ohio adoptive families.  Their cost was much lower than the national agencies and they had high placement rates with a wait time that averaged 18 months.  They were very upfront about their outlooks and what we could expect.   They made us feel like we COULD do this and we WOULD be parents again.

One of the top questions I get asked by people considering adoption is: “what agency did you use?” People like to know that they can trust the agency with the task of giving them the family they have dreamed of.  So that’s the first place to start.  If you know anyone who has adopted, ask them what agency they used.  Ask them if they liked the experience.  Ask them if there was anything they wish they would have known going in.  Some agencies are very commutative with their families while others don’t relay every bite of information as it comes in.  You need to decide what you are looking for.

Things you may want to look for in an agency:

  1. What services do they provide expectant mothers?
  2. Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
  3. Do they discriminate against single, transracial or homosexual families?
  4. How long is their average wait?
  5. How many families do they work with at any given time?
  6. How many placements do they do a year?
  7. What is their fee structure?
  8. When are the fees due?
  9. How do they handle expecting mother living expenses?
  10. Do they have “waiting” support groups or resources for you?
  11. Do they charge different rates for non-Caucasian children? (I know, it sounds weird, but some do!)
  12. How do they advertise?  Check their website for how they talk to expecting women considering adoption.  Are they guiding her in her decision or supporting her no matter what her decision?
  13. Do they support open adoption?
  14. How well do they communicate if you email or call with questions?
  15. Go with your gut and don’t sign anything too quickly.
  16. How do they handle birth fathers?  Do they see them as an obstacle or include them in the process?

You are looking for a few things by asking these questions.  You need to know how they operate and what will be expected from you so there are no surprises, but you also will be able to learn if they are ethical in their practices.   You may be thinking something like, “well I am not gay, so that doesn’t apply to me.”  Or “I was planning to adopt an African American child anyhow, so that’s great that the fees are reduced.”  But these things do nothing to promote ethical adoption or getting children to their forever families.

All this information can be overwhelming.  Hopefully you have found some recommendations from friends or support groups that can help you narrow down your search to a few agencies.  Once you start collecting information, you may want to start some file folders to keep each agency separate and you can then go through your own personal checklist of things you like and dislike about each agency.  Ultimately, go with your gut.  If something feels off, don’t ignore that.  Remember they have marketing to keep them afloat and in the business of facilitating adoptions.  You have to see through their glitter and make sure they are ethical for everyone involved.

Good luck in your journey!

Happy 1st Birthday Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

Wow, a whole year has passed… really?  It seems like this has been the fastest year of my life.  It seems like just yesterday that that little baby was still in T’s belly.  It seems like just yesterday I fearfully attended doctor visits with her and made trips to the hospital for amniotic fluid checks, wondering what day he would come and would she really be able to let him go?  I can’t imagine the pain she had, even knowing the choice she made was going to allow her the ability to give more to the children she was parenting and to him at the same time.  What kind of selfless love is that?  The strength in her and J’s choice astounds me.

So as I celebrate his day of birth, I also will be taking a moment to mourn their loss with them.  I thank God every day that through the miracle of open adoption I get to share him with them still.  They can see him periodically, text or call when ever they want, follow him daily with the countless pictures, videos and statues I post on Facebook.  I am thankful that when the day come that he starts asking questions, he will already know the love they have for him.  They hug him and kiss him and tell him they love him every time they see him.  He will already know them and his biological siblings, before he even knows how to verbalize his questions.  He’ll never have to search.   How amazing is that?

As Ezra has reached this giant milestone of turning ONE today, (*sigh, cry, weep, sniffle, smile, cry again*) I want to thank his first parents for trusting us and our family to love him as much as they do.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think of them.  This year has been such an amazing journey for us.  Our family has grown in ways more than just being a family of 4 now.  We have learned our strengths, our weaknesses and our endless love for each other.  We have watched this little, once helpless infant, learn to smile, “talk”, crawl, feed himself, test us, giggle, and now walk!  He now enters toddler-hood!  A new phase and a new stage.  Where has time gone lil’ man?

Happy Birthday Ezra Joseph! You are loved by more people than you will ever know or understand.  You are our precious little boy and the child that completed our family.  I love watching you with daddy and your big brother.  You are an awesome kid and I can’t wait to watch you grow into a young man just like I have watched Isaac over the last 12 years!

Stay tuned for birthday cake and party pictures.  🙂

Adoption Day Celebrating? – “Gotcha Day”

One of the things that has recently been on my mind is celebrating something called “Gotcha Day”.  While I think this often pertains to children from international or foster care adoptions, it is becoming more and more a thing to celebrate in the adoption community by all (or more) adoptive families.  In my understanding, the celebration started because in some situations the exact birthdate is unknown for the child and a celebration of when the child came into their family became the day to give gifts and celebrate their child’s life.  The new “holiday” has evolved and taken on this name “Gotcha Day”.  It is commonly celebrated by gifts, special treats, trips to the zoo or other outings by many more adoptive families than the origins intended.  This is where it seems to confuse and confound me.

The term in itself, “Gotcha Day”, while I think it is intended to be a funny little play on words that kids understand, I think it also stoops to sound like our children are commodities. Like celebrating the day I bought my first house or got my first car. I know not all my adoptive parent friends see it that way, I apologize if this post offends you.  I just don’t understand the logic behind celebrating this day.  Granted, my adoption was a domestic infant adoption.  I “got” my son the day he was born.  I “got” to hold him in my arms seconds after his birth.  I “got” to spend the days at the hospital with his birth family and we all rejoiced his entrance to the world as we ALL loved him dearly. I “got” to bring him home when he was released from the hospital.  I “got” to formally give him our last name 6 months later in a formal court hearing when our adoption was finalized.  While I put the word “got” in quotations… the key to each of those sentences is actually the word “I”.

I was the one who benefited from “getting” Ezra.  I gained a child.  He lost the parents he had known from the womb.  They lost him.  Celebrating “getting” him and calling it “Gotcha Day” seems to belittle the loss that surrounds adoption to me.  While Joe and I may always smile and acknowledge the day we brought him home from the hospital and how surreal it was and we will also always smile at the thought of him being forever “ours” after that emotional day in court. That celebration will not be as our new property, but that we welcomed a child into our home to love, raise and be our own.  I see him no different than our biological son.  I didn’t “get” Isaac.  He was born into the world and he was mine, a human being to love and cherish forever.   Not to mention, for Isaac, would it be fair if Ezra got essentially two birthdays (a Birthday and a Gotcha Day), while Isaac only got one?

The idea of parenting an adoptive child is to raise him as my own, while recognizing he WILL have differences that need addressed as he gets older and has questions.  But, for me to single him out and celebrate his being adopted, seems to me, to be insensitive.  While other parents may argue it makes their children feel special to have a day dedicated to them, I worry about the implications it will have on them as they get older and may see the day as pointing out their non-biological ties to the family they are raised in.

So, if I feel so inclined to celebrate a Gotcha Day, I’ll do so with my pets.  For my son, we’ll find other ways to celebrate his life and our family together.

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013

open adoption bloggers interviewI am honored to be a part of the Adoption Blogger Interview Project for 2013.  Each year the website pairs adoption bloggers that have experience with all aspects of adoption with another blogger, after getting to know one another and reading each others blogs, we interview each other. You can view all the interviews for this project at: openadoptionbloggers.com.  We are part of the 3rd group which will be posted on 11/26/13.

I was matched with an amazing blogger on the other side of the country, Robyn 20121117-161741-img_1903Chittister, who has been blogging for several years and has adopted two beautiful children.  I was shocked by how similar we are in our opinions on adoption reform and it was a real pleasure reading her blog.  She is witty and a straight shooter,  I hope you take some time to check out her blog at http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/

Me:  I want to live in Robyn’s Adoption Land! You speak out on adoption costs, are there any groups or policy makers you have connected with? Or do you have plans to?

Robyn: I wish! Once I’m done with the series – and I think I’m about halfway there – I’d like to summarize it. From there, I have to figure out who the correct contacts are and try to at least get the issue on the radar. I once floated the idea of a Change.org petition to an adoption forum. I didn’t get a very positive response. One person actually said it might not be Constitutional to have federal level adoption laws, as adoption might be considered “commerce between states.” I have no idea if that’s even true. The federal government can set educational standards, so I don’t see why they can’t set adoption standards.

Anyway, I would really love to do *something* about the sorry state of adoption in this country. If there’s one good thing that comes out of the Baby Veronica case, I’d like it to be that people realize that we need standard adoption laws, and lawmakers respond.

Me: How would you address fraudulent expecting mothers with the living expenses paid?

If the woman is pregnant, all agencies and attorneys in Robyn’s Adoption Land are networked. The agency can post a query asking if this woman is working with any other agency. If she is, the woman needs to decide which agency she’s going to use. She can’t receive services from multiple agencies or attorneys. I don’t want to create a system in which a woman is locked into using an agency or attorney if it is not meeting her needs (physical, emotional, etc.) but I do want to make sure that a woman isn’t trying to game the system.

Hopefully, this will cut off most cases of fraud. Once a woman has a baby and chooses not to place, it can be difficult to prove fraud vs. a sincere change of heart. I do believe that if fraud is suspected, it should be taken seriously and investigated. As it stands, adoption fraud isn’t punishable in most states. It’s horrible.

Me: What classes pre-adoption and post adoption would you feel to be most valuable to Domestic Infant Adoption?

Robyn: We took a transracial adoption webinar the second time we adopted. I definitely think a transracial adoption course needs to be required, even if people don’t believe they will be adopting transracially. (I can expand on that if you want.)

I think a class on open adoption – what open adoption is, what it isn’t, what it can be, basically, the ins and outs – should be required as well.

I’d like to see more offerings that involve being educated by adult adoptees. Whether that’s a formal class or a reading list, I don’t know.

Post-adoption, I think an “Open Adoption After the Adoption” class would be helpful. It’s one thing to learn the theories and guidelines, but when you have real people to deal with, it’s far more difficult.

Me:  Do you feel classes for the adoptees would also be beneficial and/or required?

Robyn: I have a hard time requiring adoptees to do anything. They didn’t choose to be adopted, and now they have to take a class about it? I’d like to see support groups offered for them. Pact has a tween/teen group that has some interesting offerings in terms of seminars.

Me: Did you have family and friends opposed to your transracial adoptions? If so, how did you deal with it?

Robyn: I’ve wanted to adopt since I was 13. I thought I’d adopt from Romania one day. By the time Max and I were married, Romania was (and remains) closed. So, I looked at Russia, because I have Russian heritage and I’ve always been interested in the countries that made up the USSR. But Russia required extensive travel, and they like their adopting moms to be 100% healthy, which I’m not. So, I looked at countries that escort. At that point, I started thinking about Ethiopia.

So, I called my mom and I asked her how she felt about having a grandchild who was a different race. Her response was, “I don’t care if he’s black, Korean, or blue. I just want to be Grandma!”

The only somewhat negative reaction I remember was from a co-worker. We had a very close knit group at work, and, when we were on a phone meeting, one of the guys I worked with asked about how the adoption was going. I mentioned that we were thinking of Ethiopia. He said something to the effect of, “It might be hard enough for the kid to be adopted without having to worry about not looking like his parents.” It was definitely worded from a concern for the child standpoint. I did think that had some merit, so I really stepped up the research at that point, seeking out books and blogs by transracial adoptees.

Now, we did have one of my uncles say that maybe we should foster first, so we could find out if we “could love someone else’s kid.” That, by far, was the worst response we received.

So, the short answer to your question is, no, not really. But I’m really bad at short answers.

Me: You had a post on agency discrimination, Do you find charging different rates based on race to be ethical?

Robyn: I do not find charging different rates based on race ethical. I think it’s racist. I have a post in draft form about this, but it’s way too long and needs to be broken up.

Me:  What is your favorite parenting moment?

Robyn: One night, when Jackson was almost one, I think, he cried out in the middle of the night. I went to get him, and he fell asleep in my arms. The look on his face… he was an angel. It was just beautiful, being his mom.

Me: Kids say the darnedest things… Example of one of yours?

Robyn: This was actually the toughest question. It’s hard to remember all of the amusing things my kids say, because there are a lot of them.

Jackson is especially funny and “quippy.” A few years ago, when I was employed and Max was not, we were all playing outside. Jackson got into his Cozy Coupe and announced, “I’m the Mommy. I’m going to work. My manager is selfish and mean.”

As for Cassie, she will randomly say “Dammit” at oddly appropriate times. It’s the one swear word I still use around the kids, and she totally picked up on it.

open adoption bloggers interview 

I’d like to thank Robyn for her participation in this project.  It was a honor to be paired with her.  You can see our interviews as well as all the other adoption bloggers featured on www.opanadoptionbloggers.com

And remember to check out Robyn’s blog at http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/.  

National Adoption Awareness Month

National Adoption Awareness Month

Sarah Baker | November 01, 2013 | 12:18 PM

national-adoption-monthEvery November we now celebrate National Adoption Month. The history of National Adoption Month is relatively new. As we learn more about adoption and the need for forever homes and advocating for ethical adoptions, the awareness continues to spread.

History: In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, as an adoptee himself, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November. Then in 1998, President Clinton directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to expand the use of the Internet as a tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. (childwelfare.gov)

Activities and celebrations are kicked off with a Presidential Proclamation, and while efforts made at the national level certainly help build awareness of adoption, participation in local programs, events, and activities by those of us with a direct connection to adoption can often be the most effective way to promote positive perceptions, debunk the myths, and draw attention to the tens of thousands of children in foster care who wait and hope for permanent families. (adoption.com)

Adoption Awareness is needed in many areas. First, helping find waiting children from foster care their forever homes is a huge priority. Every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. There are many situations that can lead to their orphan status, but that does not make them unwanted or unadoptable. While foster adoptions are vastly needed, there are all types of adoptions that this month celebrates: Kinship adoptions, step parent adoptions, domestic infant adoptions, international adoptions, etc.

This month isn’t just about celebrating the beauty of adoption or bringing awareness to the thousands of children waiting to be adopted. Adoption advocacy is also an important part of National Adoption Month. Working hard to learn about adoption and the long term effects it has on everyone involved is necessary. Helping expecting mothers find and develop the tools they need to parent when they are considering adoption is also a huge step. Advocating for adoptees rights to their original birth certificates and birth certificate reform, as well as promoting open adoptions is beneficial for their self-identity.

Each day this month, I plan to post on our social media outlets, giving thanks or bringing awareness to adoption. You can follow our adoption at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

Here is a link to a calendar of unique ways to celebrate adoption and spread awareness. http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/pdf/2013calendar.pdf

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Birth Certificate Reform

Sarah Baker | October 10, 2013 | 02:17 PM

The Kardashians are always making headlines, whether we like it or not. The most recent hot topic, aside from loving or hating Baby North’s name, is Khloe’s fertility problems and news about visiting an adoption lawyer.

There are so many topics that can be addressed with this segment of “Keeping of with the Kardashians” Kim pushed Khloe into meeting with an adoption attorney, one for her own need to gain knowledge of adoption, but also because she felt Khloe needed to start weighing her options. Another hot topic that revolves Khloe’s meeting with the adoption attorney is that in the initial questions to the lawyer, she seemed most concerned with asking about how to NOT know the birth family and can she proceed with medical information but in a closed adoption. Of course you know, I am an advocate of open adoption, so that portion of the episode probably deserves its own attention for a later entry. (If anyone is interested)

So… back to the clip that I want to touch on today. I feel this one is a very interesting topic actually. In this deleted scene clip (http://www.eonline.com/shows/keeping_up_with_the_kardashians/videos/213572/khloe-kardashian-questions-birth-certificate), Khloe tells her mother about an interesting birth certificate fact she found out during the meeting with the adoption attorney. An adopted child’s birth certificate is edited to reflect the adoptive parents as the parents of the child. It is not altered to ADD the adoptive parents, it is changed. The birth parents are removed and the adoptive parents are added. The child’s birth name is also deleted (if it differs from what it is at adoption) and the new name is put in its place. While Kris, Khloe’s mom, seems shocked by this news, she quickly realizes that the reason Khloe is bringing it up is another reference to the fact that Khloe doesn’t believe she is biologically a Kardashian.

The whole scene made me wonder how many people out there do not know that an adopted child’s birth certificate is permanently altered with their birth information deleted, even in open adoptions? I suppose there are two sides of this, that one it protects the birth parents who don’t want to be found or, I don’t know, are in protective custody or something? But, seriously, why in the world, with all the changes that have happened in adoption in the last several decades, is THIS still happening?

My thoughts are that by altering a birth certificate it is striping the identity from a person. Just because they are adopted, does not mean that their original identity should be hidden from them. Ezra’s revised birth certificate actually just came in the mail about a week ago. I thought that when I got that new birth certificate, showing his last name the same as ours and reflecting us as his parents, I would be really happy. Instead, I was oddly saddened. With my open adoption, we are lucky enough to have his birth parents in our lives. We even have a copy from our adoption lawyer of his original birth certificate for his records, since now the original is sealed. But, receiving that document raised a lot of questions and concerns by me, for my son. I knew there were groups and activist out there that spoke out on adoption reform and “birth certificate identity theft”, but it wasn’t until I saw my son’s “new” birth certificate that I felt I really understood the stance these adoptees take.

How hard would it be to reform this practice?

1. Keep the original given name of the child on the certificate and amend it to state new legal name.

2. Keep the birth parents name(s) on the certificate with adoptive legal parent’s names added to reflect the adoption.

3. In cases where the birth parents personally request to remain anonymous or there is a danger to gaining that access, then maybe “seal” that information for the first 18 years, but don’t make it difficult to obtain after the child is no longer a minor.

4. If the child, as an adult, would like the birth information removed, then they can request to do so.

Nothing should ever be used to keep a child in the dark about their adoption though. Going through life feeling out of place and then finding out you are adopted only to hit dead ends in your search is cruel. Which is one of the reasons open adoption and talking about Ezra’s adoption to him with age appropriate information is important to us. Everyone says that adoption is about giving the child a better chance in life. So if we are truly doing this for the children… then don’t strip them of their identity. Let them be proud of who they are. There are many ways to reform adoption and birth certificate reform is just one of the many injustices adoptees deal with.

So while the present reform groups focus a lot on making sure original birth certificates are unsealed and made available to them as well as not being sealed in the future for new adoptions, I think we can go one step further and change the way we handle what is ON a birth certificate to begin with.

I would love your experience or feedback on this. Please comment below.