Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a closer look at domestic adoption - vocabulary!

Rather than stumbling back down the convoluted path we took to educate ourselves about domestic adoption, I'm going to cut right to the chase and share what we learned.  Let's start by making sure we are all speaking the same language.

A closed adoption is one in which no identifying information is exchanged between the birth family and the adoptive family.  The families do not meet each other, and there is no ongoing communication.

In a semi-open adoption, some information is exchanged, such as first names.  The information is not intended to be fully-identifying.  The adoptive family typically sends photos to the birth family at regular intervals during the child's life.  Frequently this is facilitated by the adoption agency.  For example, the adoptive parents send the pictures to the agency, and the birth parents can pick them up (or not) as they choose.  This creates a buffer between the parties and allows for increased privacy. 

In an open adoption, fully-identifying information is exchanged.  Birth families and adoptive families meet each other.  The birth family often chooses the adoptive family (this is true for semi-open adoptions, too), and there is typically some type of ongoing relationship between the birth family and the adoptive family.  The nature of that relationship is determined by the people involved, and it can vary quite a bit.

Most domestic adoptions are semi-open or open, but birth families can opt for a closed adoption.

In addition to vocabulary, let's take a look at some history.  In the second half of the nineteenth century, charities began gathering orphaned or abandoned children in crowded cities and moving them west to find families to take them in.  These families were usually looking for older children who could provide extra hands around houses and farms.  The children were put up on blocks to be inspected by families.  This is the origin of the phrase "put up for adoption." 

Adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals have discontinued the use of this phrase.  "Give up for adoption" has also been deprecated.  Instead, birth families make adoption plans or place a child with an adoptive family.  Besides having such negative origins, the old phrases do not reflect the role that birth families have in the adoption process.  Birth families are not passively surrendering their babies; they are actively involved in planning the best possible future for their children.

Some families who consider adoption decide that it's not the best option for them.  Most people without adoption knowledge refer to this as "keeping the baby."  A baby is not an old sweater that you decide to keep for an extra season.  Babies require a lot of care and attention.  Deciding not to place a child is referred to as parenting.  Just as we don't want to understate the birth families' role in making an adoption plan, we don't want to understate the amount of work involved in raising a child.

Usually when I tell people about our open adoption plan, they respond with, "What if the birth parents change their minds?" or some other question or statement based on a common misconception about adoption.  I think that next time I post I'll talk about a lot of the misconceptions about open adoption, and hopefully as I address these misconceptions, the reason that open, domestic adoption appealed to us will become clear.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

domestic or international?

One of the first questions we had to answer once we decided to adopt was whether we wanted to pursue an international adoption or a domestic adoption. We chose international.   Remember when I said that most people know very little adoption?  I was one of those people.  I thought that an international adoption would be faster, less expensive, and less risky than a domestic adoption.  I started searching the Internet for information on how to proceed.

The State Department has a ton of excellent information about adoption for nearly every country in the world.  They are constantly changing the layout and organization of their website, but it’s usually pretty easy to find adoption rules and regulations by country, and you can view statistics regarding how many children have been adopted from each country for the past several years.

After spending some time reading about adoption laws in various countries, I became extremely overwhelmed.  Fortunately, there are adoption agencies that specialize in particular countries.  Unfortunately, this limits the number of countries available to you.  For example, in 2010, the sixth most popular country from which Americans adopted was Taiwan (I’ll discuss the top five countries in a moment).  Despite being sixth on the list, only 282 adoptions were processed.  When I divided this number across multiple agencies in different states, I started to worry that any given agency would not have a tremendous depth of knowledge about Taiwan’s adoption program.  This was purely personal preference, but I wanted an agency that was a well-oiled machine.  After all, there is a lot of uncertainty with adoption in general, and the more experience the agency had with a country, the more secure I would feel.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five countries from 2010:

1.  China - 3401

Most people know that China has a long-standing international adoption program, making it a popular choice for many adoptive families.  In 2007, China levied a more stringent set of requirements on adoptive parents.  Some of the requirements make sense; for example, adoptive parents cannot have a history of domestic violence or child abuse.  Some of the requirements, however, seem unnecessarily strict – adoptive parents cannot suffer from hearing loss or a severe facial deformation.  Chris and I do not meet China’s requirements, but even if we did, I would not have been comfortable enrolling in a program that rejects people for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to raise a child.

2.  Ethiopia - 2511

Ethiopia had been growing in popularity since around 2005, and we were very seriously considering Ethiopia when the Ethiopian government announced that it planned to reduce the number of adoptions by up to 90% effective in March of 2011.  The reason given was that the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs wanted to increase the amount of time spent screening adoptive families.  I don’t know what the additional screening entails, and it seemed superfluous to me in light of the extensive background investigations that adoptive families undergo before their cases ever reach Addis Ababa.  However, as soon as I imagined the situation in reverse, I understood why a foreign government would want to institute its own screening process.

As you can imagine, this was very disruptive for families enrolled in an Ethiopian adoption program.  Although the Ethiopian government planned to process any “cases in progress” as quickly as possible, the only cases deemed “in progress” were those for which a dossier had already been accepted.  I’m sure there were plenty of families who had not yet reached that point, but who would have considered themselves “in progress.”

We decided that there was too much uncertainty surrounding Ethiopia to move forward.

3.  Russia – 1079 and 5.  Ukraine – 450

I’ve grouped Russia and Ukraine together because of the similarities between the two countries.  We did not seriously consider either country.  Their programs are more expensive than other countries, and the children are slightly older.  In Russia, for example, 666 of 1079 adopted children were between one and two years old.  Ukrainian children were even older.  For reasons that I struggle to put into words, I am more comfortable adopting an infant, at least the first time around.  I am slightly terrified by the idea of becoming the mother of a toddler overnight, let alone the mother of a toddler who has just undergone the intense trauma of moving around the world (plus any traumas incurred prior to placement). 

4.  South Korea – 863

South Korea was looking like our best option.  The cost was reasonable, and, like China, the Korean program was well established.  We contacted an agency, but the waiting list was 2 to 2.5 years long, and we learned that South Korea had announced its intentions to decrease the number of international adoptions by 10% a year for the next several years.

After learning all of this (and more!), we were no closer to making a decision that we had been at the very beginning.  Chris decided to reach out to an online group of trans-racial adoptive families in Denver.  We e-mailed the group’s moderator asking if there might be families willing to share their experiences with us.  We received an incredible number of responses.  To our surprise, about half of the families had adopted domestically.  We decided it was time to learn more about domestic adoption.

I think this is a good place to stop.   Next time I post, I’ll share how we went from learning about domestic adoption to deciding it was the best way to start our family.    If you have any questions, feel free to comment!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

a blog is born

Chris and I are really excited to share the news that we are adopting a child.  After a TON of research, we've chosen an open, domestic, infant adoption.  We have completed our home study and all of our training, and now we are in the waiting phase.  We hope to be matched with a birth family in the next few months.

As we've journeyed down the adoption path, I have learned a tremendous amount of information about adoption.  I have met some truly wonderful and amazing people who were willing to share their adoption experiences so that Chris and I could start our family.  I want to pay it forward someday, and maybe this blog will help get me started.

I've also discovered that most people know very little about adoption.  Some of the people I've spoken with - people that I know would never intentionally hurt me - have said some really offensive things.  I hope that this blog will help dispel some of the many myths about adoption (especially open adoption).

I have a litany of topics I'd like to discuss - international vs. domestic adoption, open vs. closed vs. semi-open adoption, choosing an agency, disruption myths, birth mothers, home studies, expenses - the list goes on and on.  There are a few aspects that Chris and I have chosen to keep to ourselves - potential matches, for example - at the present time, but I will try to be as honest as I can.  I also plan to talk about infertility, but to a lesser extent; I'd rather focus on a joyful future than a painful past.  However, it is part of what brought us to this point, and I want to be a source of support for any other couples who may be experiencing infertility.  Also, the science is REALLY cool. 

While the waiting phase is kind of frustrating, it's also kind of peaceful, and it's the best time to write this blog.  I certainly won't have time once a baby is placed with us!  Thanks for reading.  I look forward to sharing our story with you.