After this post by Katherine Coble, and my subsequent overreaction, I got to thinking, a lot, about the process of adoption – specifically, the ones I went through as an adoptive parent. I remembered how scary it was, especially with the first one. We were navigating uncharted waters. If it hadn’t been for our social worker Janet, we would not have survived. We called her eight or nine times a day.
I thought it would be a good idea to save some unknown social worker out there a lot of grief by posting as many factiods about the process (as it stood in the mid to late nineties). I have no doubt that some of you are considering adoption, but have many questions. I’ll perform this brain dump as a service to you. My focus in on international adoption through an agency, because that’s what I know. Also, there’s so much to remember, I’ll have to make this into a series. So, here we go:
What’s involved in finding an adoption agency? Call, call, call . Do NOT grab the first one whose ad you see on the internet or the phone book. We were surprised by how many stipulations the agencies had. Some require you to be in a certain age range, some give first preference to a-parents who belong to a specified religion, or have a certain income, and myriad other requirements. Full disclosure: after much search, we decided on Heaven Sent Children in Murfreesboro. We can’t say enough good things about them. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be dealing with TWO agencies, your local agency, and the larger umbrella agency (Bethany, AIAA).
A quick note about the above: as you can tell, if you make the decision to adopt, for a while your life will be an open book (personal info, financial, everything). If you are a secretive (ok, maybe “private” is a better word) person, stop reading now.
Is this going to cost a fortune? I’ll put it this way, the two adoptions we were part of were the two single biggest one-time expenditures we’ve ever had. We’re not rich. Others might not consider it as much. Let’s just say, the cost is similar to a “natural” birth, with a ceasarian delivery and a few other complications. I only say this because most people wouldn’t think twice about those costs. Also, there is help: many employers have an adoption assistance program, there is a federal adoption tax credit, and there is actually such a thing as an adoption loan (we had one for Trillian because she was so unexpected). In the late 90’s, all fees together came to about $13K-$15K .
Here’s what I told Kat about the fees in the comments of the above post: We had to pay attourneys, and airfare from Korea for a baby and an adult escort, and the “fees” for the international adoption agency, and the “fees” for the local adoption agency, still more “fees” for the Korean adoption agency, the orphanage, the home study, DHS fees, immigration fees, a fee to get fingerprinted by the FBI, and the fee for Muriel Robinson to make it all official. I’d say that in the process you get nickle-and-dimed to death, but most of the time the ticky-tack fees are in the hundreds of dollars.
What is the “God” form? This is only my name for it. I wanted to warn you about this ahead of time. Early in the process, you will start filling out forms. You will not stop until your hand falls off. One of the forms is extremely tough to fill out, especially for a pro-lifer like me. You have to specify characteristics that you would not accept in a future child. I’m not talking about superficial things, or even race, but mostly medical conditions or family history.
Now, most of us, when facing these questions, will glibly say, “we would accept any child”. And it only seems fair, that’s what parents who have bio children have to do. But the social worker will stress over and over the graveness of the situation, forcing you to think very hard about what’s involved in raising a child with certain conditions. Since Lintilla is in the medical field, she was able to tell me specifically what we would have to do in each situation. Janet stressed that we had to be honest with ourselves, for the sake of the child. Every time I checked the “no” box, my heart sank a little more. I know there are people more prepared for special needs kids, and we did the right thing.
But it haunts me to this day.
By the way, the wait for special needs children is MUCH shorter – if you are one of those blessed people who is equipped to handle it.
What’s the homestudy like? – Performing the homestudy, along with coordinations with the “big” agency, is the main purpose of your local agency. There are (of course) forms to fill out for the state DHS, the FBI, and the INS. You have to answer lots of questions, most of them framed like a job interview. Have you decided on how you will handle discipline? Where will the child go to school? And so on. You’ll be asked questions about your personal history, and if one of you has previously been married, you’ll have to provide documentation of the divorce. And of course, the social worker will look your house over.
One quick note about that: When that’s going on, take a good look around. For the next twenty years, your house will never be that clean again.
More in the next installment. Also, if you are a prospective adoptive parent and have questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll try to include them next time.