Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adoption 102: FAQ and Resources

This post is another extract of a presentation I shared with our families over Thanksgiving dinner 2007. This part was designed to answer questions I thought they might have, and also to direct them to other places where they could learn more. (Please remember that the answers related to our specific situation; your mileage may vary.)

How will you be matched?
  • A birth mother will contact us, on her own or through the agency
  • We will collect information about each other, talk, meet, get counseling
  • We will determine if it’s a match
  • We will sign agreements and make plans for the birth and contact afterward
How long will it take?
  • Between 2 – 6 months to finish the “home study”
  • Then between 6 – 18 months, on average (the fewer restrictions we put on the match, the more quickly it is likely to go.)
Do you get to pick any of your child’s characteristics?
With our agency, we can put some parameters on which situation we are willing to consider.

- M. and I will consider a child of any background.
Here are the stats for babies placed through our agency in recent years:
  • 46% Caucasian
  • 11% Hispanic
  • 10% Hispanic/Caucasian
  • 7% African American/Caucasian
  • 6% African American
  • 5% Asian American
  • 3% Asian American/Caucasian. The remaining 12% had three or more ethnic and/or racial backgrounds.)
Genetics (physical and mental health problems) - Again, M. and I have said we'd consider just about any situation. The one that would scare us most is a significant family history of mental illness.

Gender - We will NOT have any choice here, and we really don't have a preference. In fact, if we were having our child the "old fashioned way," we would probably opt to be surprised by our child's gender at birth.

What will you know about your child?
It will depend on our relationship with the birthfamily.

How much contact will you have with your child’s birth parents?
This will also depend on our relationship with the birthfamily. We have become strong advocates for open adoption, and hope it will include regular contact including visit.

The average through our agency is about two visits per year, plus photos, etc.

What will it cost?
  • That's private
  • A lot
  • We'll get a $11K tax credit (regardless of type of adoption)
What are the next steps?
The Dreaded Homestudy:
  • Questionnaire and autobiographies
  • Medical records
  • Financial records
  • DMV records and finger printing
  • Book reports
  • Personal references
  • Interviews
  • Home inspection
  • “Dear Birth Mother” letter and web site
Completed in May 2008!

As we were considering our options, we found the following resources to be very helpful, so we encourage anyone who would like to learn about adoption (especially open adoption) to check them out too.

- IAC’s web site:

- Adoptive Families magazine:

- "Adoption for Dummies," by Tracy Barr and Katrina Carlisle
(surprisingly "smart" and comprehensive)

- "The Kid: What Happen When My Boyfriend and I Decided We Wanted to Get Pregnant," by Dan Savage
(this is a sometimes poignant, always funny story. M. and I read it to each other at bedtime over several weeks, and it really helped us get our heads - and hearts - around open adoption. I highly recommend it...if you can handle a bit of bawdy talk.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adoption 101: The Basics

This post is an extract of a presentation I shared with our families over Thanksgiving dinner 2007 to provide them with some basic information about adoption and to inform them of our decision to pursue it.

It's a Brave New World
Much of what you think you know about adoption has probably changed. This is because of major developments in reproduction in the U.S. in general over the last 30 years. Such as:

  • Row v. Wade and birth control
  • Feminism and changes in sexual mores
  • Less stigma to unplanned pregnancy

= many fewer children to adopt

175,000 in 1970
127,000 in 1992 (last year of reliable data)

Adoption has also changed because we now have more social science research about adoption.

For example, we now know:
  • Kids’ levels of socio-emotional adjustment are the same as non-adopted as peers
  • Kids’ levels of self-esteem are the same as non-adopted peers
  • The sense of oneself as an adopted person emerges during adolescence and is related to qualities of relationships within the adolescent’s family
  • The strongest predictor of problematic adjustment outcomes during middle childhood is the parents’ perception of the child’s incompatibility with the family
  • ALL adoptees are curious about their birth families

There are Four Main Types of Adoption in the U.S.

Intra-family Adoptions
About 50,000 per year

Public (state) Adoptions: “Fost Adopt”
About 50,000 per year

Intercountry (international) Adoption
About 24,000 per year

Domestic Private Adoption
About 15,000 per year

2 - 4% of American children are adopted (excluding intra-family)

Domestic Open Adoption: What is It?

Family building that emphasizes openness and honesty!

It's an arrangement allowing for ongoing contact between members of the 'adoption triad' (adoptive family, birth family, and adopted child).

The most basic definition of open adoption is one in which the original birth certificate is not sealed, so the identities of the birthparents can be known.

Birthparents are typically involved in selecting families.

Domestic Open Adoption: The Bad News

  • Many adoptive families = the competition
  • Disruption (about 40% of matches through our agency do not end in adoption)
  • Unpredictable time and cost (because so much depends on the birthmother's situation)

Domestic Open Adoption: The Good News
  • Age of children (M. and I would really like to begin parenting with a newborn)
  • Health and family histories (these are usually available for the birthmother, and sometimes available for the birthfather)
  • Prenatal care (most birthmothers work hard to provide a healthy prenatal environment)
  • More control over match (we can opt out of a situation if it doesn't feel right for us)
  • Cost and time (our adoption will likely cost less and take less time than adopting internationally)
  • And, most important, in our view, it is healthiest for the child (for the reasons presented in the research outlined above and below)

How Open is Open Adoption?

Levels of openness in the relationships vary widely, spanning from mediated contact - which implies letters and photographs sent through a third party (so that the adoptive family can maintain privacy) - to full disclosure of the adoptive family's personal information, with visits between the birth family and the adoptive family.

We have become strong advocates for openness and hope to be able to have ongoing, regular contact including visits.

Some More Research Findings:

Adolescents who had contact with birthmothers reported higher degrees of satisfaction with their level of adoption openness and with the intensity of their contact.

Birthmothers in fully disclosed adoptions had lower adoption-related grief and loss than those in confidential adoption. Most indicated that placing a child for adoption had no effect or a consistently positive effect on their relationships with their current romantic partner or spouse.

Adoptive parents in fully disclosed adoptions generally reported a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and less fear that the birthmother might try to reclaim her child.

Today, most domestic adoptions have some degree of openness.

Options for Open Adoption:

  • Private adoption (lawyers)
  • Agency adoption (profit and non-profit)
  • Adoption facilitators (non-regulated)

The Independent Adoption Center (IAC):
Why did we choose it?

  • Open adoption pioneer = years of experience
  • Non-profit organization, not religiously affiliated
  • Large, national agency w/office in Los Angeles
  • Competitive stats (cost, time)
  • Good marketing to adoptive parents and prospective birthparents
  • Services and support, particularly for the birthparents

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The (Power)Point Is: We're Adopting!

Soon after M. and I determined that we wanted to adopt and how, we knew we needed to share the news with our family. We were excited, and we wanted their support. But we worried a bit about how they would respond, and who to tell first, and all the usual complexity of sharing big news with loved ones.

Then I struck upon the idea of a presentation over Thanksgiving dinner. The benefits of this unusual method would include spilling the beans to many of them at once and "controlling the message." (Can you tell that I have plenty of practice as a spin doctor?) And heck, I'd been needing to learn PowerPoint anyway.

So we invited all of our guests to plan a "show and tell," something they would enjoy sharing with the group. We encouraged them to be silly or serious, and to bask for a moment in the spotlight. (One note: this was an usual family gathering in that none of the kids would be around, so we could have uninterrupted adult conversation.) It was a great relief that all of the participants were up for it.

M. and I made sure we enjoyed a tasty meal and plenty of good wine before M. got things going by reading an excerpt from the book "1491" about Squanto. My brother-in-law talked about the week he spent following the Tour de France, my sis-in-law explained her new obsession with mahjong, my mom read a poem, everyone had something fun or interesting to share. It was great!

Then came my turn. We hooked up the laptop to the TV and I started my show. There was a gasp and then a cheer when the first slide went up. "Adoption: What I'd Like Our Friends and Family to Know."

I used this very goofy vehicle that evening and on several subsequent occasions with others, to relate our situation, provide some general information about adoption in America today, and to talk about the pro's and con's of the various types of adoption from our perspective. I went on to describe open adoption - something so foreign to most people - and the process that would be involved in bringing our baby home. I concluded with a FAQ section, anticipating many of the questions I thought they'd have (but might not feel comfortable asking) and some notes about what they could do to help.

The presentation turned out to be a great way for me to get out a lot of complex information without comments or questions that would sidetrack. Then we had a candid conversation with everyone expressing their excitement for us! It was a very special evening that I will never forget.

(Unless my plans change) in the next couple of posts I'll share most of the content of that unorthodox presentation...sans all of the fancy PowerPoint special effects with which I dazzled the audience at Thanksgiving, I'm sorry to say.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adoption? Why Don't You Just Have Your Own Kids?

Stop. Don’t read any further unless you can accept that our child – who we expect to come to us through domestic open adoption – will be our own kid. M. will be our son or daughter’s real dad and I will be our son or daughter’s real mom. And by the way, our child’s birthparents will also be her or his real parents.

We came to adoption down a long and bumpy road (although, I have learned, not as bumpy as most). M. and I are both “late bloomers,” and didn’t know ourselves well enough to commit to a life partnership until well into our thirties. Of course, before we were married, we talked about our plans for the future, and we agreed that we wanted them to include children. We also agreed that while it would be nice to just enjoy our adventures as a couple before buckling down to parenthood, we (well, me especially) heard the old biological clock ticking.

We were married in November 2004 when I was 35, and I knew enough about physiology not to assume I would get pregnant as soon as we were ready to staring trying. So, shortly thereafter I began to make plans to try to get and stay pregnant (you know, eating right, medical exam, vaccine update, etc.), and a few months later we began a new time in our life: trying to conceive - TTC, for those in the know.

I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t pregnant after the first month of unprotected sex. Or even the second…or fifth. By the ninth month with not even a "glimmer," even after more deliberate “trying,” I made an appointment with my doctor at Kaiser, who referred me to their infertility clinic. That was weird.

To enroll in the infertility program at Kaiser, you and your partner must first go to a class where they provide very basic information about conception and all of the things that can prevent it. M. and I sheepishly showed up (scorning the directional signs that said “infertility” along the way. I mean, common! Couldn’t they throw us a bone and call it “fertility” class instead?) It was the first time we sat in a room with other people struggling to build their family. I was struck by how diverse the group was, in terms of age, ethnicity, and apparent education. That was reassuring.

I could ramble on now for quite awhile – and perhaps I will at some point – about the medical “assistance” we got from there. We both have mixed feelings about it. Long story short: after four IUI’s (including two that were “medicated” e.g. shots in the arse), we flunked out of Kaiser’s program. They suggested that our problems may be due to “low ovarian reserve” (that was tough news), and counseled that our options were: to live childfree; to pursue the much more invasive – and expensive - route of in vitro fertilization (IVF), particularly with donor egg, since mine seem to be cooked; or adoption.

We felt like we’d reached an important fork in our road. As is our way, we began to research. We read books and articles, talked with a few people, and explored some pretty strange corners of the internet. There was even a time when I was fantasizing about an IVF “vacation” in Thailand, were babies could be made more inexpensively, all while getting a tan.

Anyway, the more we investigated and searched our souls, the more comfortable we felt with the losses of infertility and closing the door to a biological child, and the more comfortable we became with adoption. Conversely, the more we learned about IVF, the more uncomfortable we became with it.

We went to an adoption conference sponsored by RESOLVE, the national infertility group. They had guest speakers representing all parts of the “adoption triad” – adoptive parents, a birthmother, and a young woman who was adopted as a baby – and they were really helpful to hear. During the breaks we could wander around to the various booths of different attorneys and agencies and such and gather more info. I had already been reading some about open adoption, and so I was particularly interested in getting more info on that.

We came back and read, and thought, and talked some more. We realized that with adoption, if we stuck with it, we would certainly become parents...we just wouldn’t know when. On the other hand, with further treatment, we could invest many more hours, and dollars, and tears without any assurance of achieving our “goal.”

We were convinced: we would love a child, however s/he comes to us. So, adoption was the best path for us. The day I put the enrollment packet and a big check in the mail to our agency, I was giddy. I think that was the closest I will ever be to what it feels like to get a positive on a home pregnancy test.

I became an expectant mother.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Well, Hello There!

I wouldn’t say I’m a technophobe, exactly. I’m just not very proficient. I haven’t gone out of my way to stay current with trends and developments, and so far I’ve gotten by okay. I didn’t get a Face*book profile until just a few months ago, after much haranguing by friends and spouse. I barely ever turn my cell phone on (until recently) and I have no idea how to “text,” u knw? I’ve never downloaded a song and you*tube is amazing to me! Never-the-less, I’m going to give this blogging thing a try for a few reasons.

First and foremost, I have found the blogs of others a tremendous source of information and even support in the last few years. There are a few I read religiously, and some I’ve found at just the right moment and never returned to. Perhaps akin to my attraction to reality TV, reading about other people’s “real lives” through their blogs has taught me a lot, inspired me, provided comfort, and (even) helped me feel more normal…whatever that is. Although I don’t expect to be profound, or even particularly interesting, if this blog evolves into something that could somehow, someway provide someone else with some of all I’ve gotten out of other blogs, I’d be so gratified.

Second, it’s kind of strange that I’ve never been a journaler, and I want to give it another try in this early 21st century format. After all, I love to write! AND, I love to share my thoughts and opinions. (Whether or not they are actually received doesn’t seem to be an issue with blogging; I’m not sure yet what I make of the one-sided “conversations.”) I know many people find journaling to be helpful in sorting through emotional challenges – and at other times – and I can understand why. But I’ve never been able to stick with it. We’ll see how it goes now.

Third, I want to share more about our journey to parenthood with our loved ones. They have been so supportive, and naturally very curious. An easy, efficient way to let people know about new developments seems like a great idea! (Let’s just hope there continue to be some new developments!) It is my dream that this blog will ultimately document the arrival of our son or daughter and then the milestones we celebrate together as a family.

So, thanks for stopping by. I hope you return soon and often. And please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think about what you read here. I appreciate your interest.

My path to parenthood is not the typical one, but you know what they say about the road less traveled…