IT BEGINS! The hubs and I have been shown our first birth mother profile, and we gave permission for our agency to share our portfolio with the expectant mother. Although this young lady will be shown a number of profiles, and it is unlikely that we will be chosen the very first time around, it feels good to finally be in this place where someone could choose us if they so desired. The idea that we could be bringing home a baby sooner rather than later makes my heart pitter-patter just to think of it.
Many people have asked me how adoption works these days, specifically open adoption. It is a concept unfamiliar to most people, unless you have gone through the process or love someone who has. WE HAD NO IDEA WHERE TO BEGIN OR WHAT WE WERE DOING. Also, no one could really explain it particularly well. I guess that is because there are so many variables and no two cases are the same. Four months later, we have gained a wealth of knowledge that I hope will be helpful to others in the same boat.
Firstly, there is no such thing as a closed adoption anymore, unless the birth mother specifically requests it. All adoptions throughout the country are open, and “open adoption” spans a very wide continuum. For example, at it’s most minimal, the birth mother and the adoptive couple will know each other’s full names. At maximum, the birth mother may insist on a certain number of visits per year, as well as monthly photos and letters. As an adoptive parent, one must choose what they are comfortable with and stick to it. The arrangement you decide on with the birth mother is written into the contract. In other words, you cannot agree to three visits a year and then just disappear. The only provision is if it’s in the best interest of the child not to see birth mom because she is not a safe person to be around at that time. As the parents, we of course get to make that call.
Oregon is a very adoption friendly state, both for expectant mothers and adoptive parents. During their pregnancy, expectant mothers are offered a great deal of counseling to make sure they understand the full commitment of what they are planning. Other options are discussed with the birth mom if she decides during her pregnancy she just can’t go through with an adoption, such as what types of public assistance might help her afford to parent, or other resources like counseling or rehab if those are needed. All of the options available to a woman with an unexpected pregnancy are discussed well ahead of time. On the other hand, consent to adopt papers are signed the day the baby is born. Immediately after those papers are signed, the mother signs another paper revoking her right to contest the papers she just signed. This means that the adoptive parents can take their new baby home without fear that the birth mother will change her mind and take the baby back. In many states, there is a 30-day waiting period, even after papers have been signed, where the baby can be reclaimed and the return is automatic.
When we were researching adoption agencies to join, we came close to signing up with one that works with adoptive mothers from every state. We requested that we only be shown to expectant mothers from certain states so we wouldn’t have to experience a full thirty days of incomprehensible fear that our newly adopted baby might be reclaimed. They were unwilling to do that for us, and so we signed on with our next choice, a local agency that only places infants in Oregon and Washington. Washington has excellent adoption laws too, similar to Oregon. The nationwide agency was unable to understand why we couldn’t just have enough “faith” that it would work out. (I am a gigantic fan of people busting out the “faith card” in order to try to manipulate me into seeing things their way). The final straw for us was probably when the adoption coordinator from the national agency told us, “I suggest you just reserve the majority of your heart for the first month. Try not to bond too much with the baby, and think of yourselves more or less as caregivers.”
Psycho. Psycho psycho psycho! What kind of person says that? Don’t bond with the baby? Should we refer to he/she as “it” and avoid eye contact at all costs, too? Please. I’m so grateful the hubs and I were on speakerphone with that lady rather than Skype when she decided to drop that little nugget of wisdom on us. We were able to look at one another and gesticulate wildly at the phone while mouthing “WTH?” back and forth at each other. If you are considering adoption and want to know the name of that agency so they can avoid it, definitely message me on the BG facebook page and I will gladly share.
But I digress. Back to the process. After a couple has miraculously survived the lengthy and emotionally draining process of becoming “home study approved,” each birth mother that turns to our adoption agency for assistance cites her preferences for an adoptive family. For example, maybe it is important to them that the couple is a specific religion, or even a certain race. If we meet those preferences, the agency emails us a detailed profile of the birth mother and asks us if we would like to be presented. After the birth mother has decided on a family by sorting through profiles, a meeting is set up and she will then decide if she wants to place her baby with you. It’s that simple! Ha! Ha ha ha! There is nothing simple about adoption! Nothing! But much like any road that leads to parenthood, it is worth it 1000 times over.
The hubs and I are feeling optimistic and relieved to be in the place we are now regarding the journey. I will keep you posted!