Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems (sort of)

  
Today I talked to two different adoption consultant companies, Laura at Faithful Adoption Consultants and Shannon at Christian Adoption Consultants. I wasn’t looking exclusively for Christian organizations but these two had the best reputations by far for adoption consultants, (please note, consultants are not the same as facilitators, which are illegal in many states) and it was easy to see why. After speaking with both these ladies my heart sort of sank into my stomach because I realized that this is what our adoption journey could have looked like if I had chosen better. I didn’t know there were different ways you could expect to be treated by an agency. Now I do. 

I enjoyed speaking with them both because they both validated what I knew to be true, that this journey the hubs and I have been in is abnormal, and not a good representation of what adoption looks like. I pulled my punches big time in describing what had happened, both in speaking with them and on my last blog post. I chose to do that because I feel like it’s important to take the high road when I can, and also because if I can ever hope to sincerely forgive our agency for what they did to us, I can’t relive the whole awful thing over and over again. 

In this section I will be discussing finances. It is not the most comfortable thing to be open about, but I feel it is essential to be transparent about all areas of adoption. Education is key. I was impressed by both women because both of them advised me not to pay anything to retain them as consultants at this time. The reason?  Because our current adoption budget (minus the $8000.00 we would forfeit at our agency) wouldn’t be sufficient to afford any of the adoption situations they have available to match with their clients. They were actually looking out for us and advising us how to proceed wisely.  Of course that was very disappointing to hear, but it bolstered my faith in humanity that there really are adoption workers out there, even in this cutthroat industry, that possess and demonstrate integrity. I needed a reminder of that. 

I told them I would see what I could do about rounding up another 10K, and then would touch base with them in the future. At this stage really all we can do is save more up, slowly. We personally aren’t into fundraising or crowd raising or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  There are many folks that do, and I’ve got no problem with that. It just isn’t for us. It doesn’t feel right when we know there are others who need it more. 

Many adoptive couples finance part of their adoptions by receiving the available grant opportunities one can apply for. I’ve looked in to every single one I could find, and they all have income requirements, and our income is too high. It reminded me of filling out FAFSA forms right before college started, and I was soundly disqualified because my parents made “too much money.”  I’m sure I’m not the only one who ran into that questionable problem. And here I am running into it again, oy vey. Yes, the hubs makes a nice living for our family. But I imagine if you take almost any yearly income and try to slide 40k out, after taxes, you’re going to run into a problem, right?

I wonder how many families, like us, have had to fund their adoption expenses after years of funding infertility treatment expenses?  There should be a special grant for that! In that situation, many resources have already been tapped out to pay for the fertility treatments long before the couple even gets to the adoption part of the journey. Resources like personal savings, refinancing your home, taking out your home equity, borrowing from your retirement plan, getting a 0% loan from a merciful credit union, obtaining a 0% for-12-months-credit card, etc. Couples who have experienced an infertility journey, or an adoption journey, or both (shudder) are the most financially creative people in the world! I’m absolutely convinced of this. 

Our standing as of now with our current adoption agency is that we will be presented for immediate placements. I have no way of knowing if that is actually going to happen or not. Nothing more has been said about the meeting, in fact there hasn’t been any communication at all, with one exception: we did get a text last week about an immediate placement and if we wanted to be shown. We said yes. After two days of silence we texted for an update and learned the mother had chosen someone else. And that’s been it. We have friends who are also in the program who received two adoption opportunities for babies due at the end of June. We didn’t get those sent to us. We dare not reach out to ask why, for fear of being perceived as pushy! 😋

We are keeping on, and trying to keep adoption frustrations pushed to the side so they don’t interfere with our daily life. It is easy to let the process blind you to the blessings in front of you, as you chase the ones you hope are ahead of you. 

It can be a challenge to write about what’s happening in our adoption journey without making our lives sound like we move from one disappointment-filled moment to the next. I start a lot of posts I never publish, because I re-read them and think, “Wow, this sure sounds like another sad sack story.”  So I delete them. 

When we started this journey, the hubs and I were committed to making sure that adoption issues stayed below the surface, where it couldn’t affect our daily lives and certainly not the life of our sweet boy. But, adoption doesn’t work that way. Under the best of circumstances it doesn’t work that way. Under the worst of circumstances, when you’re all alone with no one to make sense of the process and encourage you to keep moving, it definitely doesn’t work that way. It infiltrates even the healthiest, most beautiful parts of your life until the day to wake up and say, “This stops now.”

Our personal experience, due to my poor choice of agency, has been like a rotten apple. Our lives are like a bowl of fresh fruit, and our journey with our agency is like the one rotten apple in the middle of the bowl that starts to “influence” everything around it, trying to make the fruit it is touching rotten as well. The hubs and I obviously aren’t going to let that happen. We have been blessed with a beautiful life and one sweet, miraculous little boy. We pray for more children, but not at the expense of our little family. So, how to move forward?

The current understanding with our agency, I believe, is that we are on the list for immediate placements. That means that if a baby is born and the mother wants an adoption, but she didn’t make an adoption plan, we will be on the list to be called. I have no idea how long this list is. I have no idea if we will really be called. This is the arrangement that seems to work best for everyone because it eliminates the need for there to be any communication between us and the agency. We just hear from them someday if there is an immediate placement, and if we don’t, we don’t. Most of their placements are from women who are 2-3 months away from delivery and the expectant mother chooses an adoptive couple. We won’t be hearing about those situations. 

(I have always loved the idea of an immediate placement. Some agencies call them “stork drops.”)

Many people have encouraged us to walk away from the agency and start anew. Or hire a lawyer to retrieve our program fee. Those are great ideas, and probably what should happen. But the very idea is exhausting. Eight thousand dollars is a lot of money to say goodbye to, particularly when it is needed for any adoption that may take place. History shows (thanks, Google!) that hiring a lawyer would result in the hubs and I still not getting our program fee back, and having our legal expenses plus the agency’s legal expenses to pay for. Oh, ick. I don’t even like to consider that outcome. Plus, I’m just not a litigious person at heart. The naive side of me feels like people should be able to handle their business without suing each other, you know?

Other than that, there is always the possibility that enough people know we are hoping to adopt and a situation may get networked back to us. I’m considering creating a page on this site that has our detailed family profile, in case someone happened to stumble upon it. I will probably wait a little while to do that just because I’m really trying to embrace the blessings that I have, instead of focusing on the ones I don’t. 

There is a lot of mystery around why the agency didn’t just fire us, since they can at will, according to the contract. I think the answer lies in this statement: “You guys are an excellent family. You’re a great resource to us.”  

At the time I was completely confused by this. We are a great resource to them?  How, exactly, is that the case?  Then I figured it out. We are a great resource because when expectant mothers are considering what agency to work with, they can show them different profiles of families they work with, and we market well. Got it. Adoption is a business, friends. For those considering embarking down the path, begin with your eyes wide open and understand the world you are about to enter. There are lots of ways to do it, just be sure you are well educated about the method you are choosing. 

A Fun Lesson About Choosing Your Adoption Agency Wisely

Many of you heard we had a not-so-fun meeting with our adoption agency last week. I waited to write about it until the emotions had cooled off and I could approach the whole thing from a somewhat grownup perspective. 

It lasted two hours.  The meeting objective was for the hubs and I to sit there while the agency director and adoption coordinator told us every reason they couldn’t stand working with us. The agency is very loosy-goosy and not worried about customer service.  They admittedly focus their energy and attentions exclusively on the birth parents, and any communication, or request for communication, from the adoptive parents is perceived by the agency as taking away time from the birth parents. The hubs and I, for our part, feel that since we and other adoptive parents are the ones funding their company, that we are entitled to a reasonable amount of communication, which we aren’t receiving. 

Another reason I held off writing this post is I didn’t want it to be all about demonizing the adoption agency. The truth is, the owner isn’t a horrible person. She’s just not a business-minded person, and she runs the agency like a family, if the family values are that it’s okay to be flaky sometimes and everyone should just chill out, man. She’s the type of person who gets her feelings hurt extremely easily, and holds on to it for all it is worth. We learned at the meeting that a couple emails I wrote back in January and February “hurt her feelings.”  (Not because I said anything mean, but because she thinks we don’t trust them. Spoiler alert: We don’t.) Not to be super calloused here, but the adoption agency owner’s feelings are not high at the top of my priority list. Of course I’m not trying to upset people, but I would say that was going to be unavoidable in this case. She’s what I call a “peach person.” We all know them–the person you have to speak ever so carefully around, even more so regarding sarcasm, for fear they will become easily bruised and offended.  It’s exhausting to be in the company of peach people, and it is just my luck I chose an agency owned by one.

The adoption coordinator. Another delicate flower with thin skin. We learned after signing on (paying lots of money) with this agency that our coordinator, the only domestic coordinator, was in her mid-20s. This is her first job out of college. She also placed her baby for adoption about two years ago. I will begin by saying, this is not a job for someone with little work/life experience. It requires someone that understands and respects the complex and emotionally draining road that infertile couples have traveled just to reach the adoption office, to say nothing of the trials after getting there. I think that’s well out of the reach of most 24 year olds. It certainly would have been for me at that age. The fact she herself is a birthmother only serves to drive home the point: that is the group she can relate to. It’s who she wants to talk to. It’s who she wants to help. And heaven knows birth mothers need a kind, compassionate resource they can rely on during an adoption. I suspect she does an excellent job of that. Unfortunately for the hubs and I, she’s an abysmal resource for adoptive parents and she doesn’t hide her resentment very well.  And, she’s it!  There is NO ONE ELSE. What do you do when there is no one to advocate for you?

You advocate for yourself. And this is something both the hubs and I do well. In order to do this, our adoption agency needs to communicate with us. It was our reasonable requests for that communication that got us called up to the world’s most inconvenient meeting to be scolded like small children for two hours, for the heinous crime of being proactive. 

Their goal: to continue to work with us if we would stop bothering them. Trust them to do their job. Stop contacting them. The trouble is, we don’t trust them to do their job. I, Nancy Drew, was the one who discovered the first adoption match was a fraud. ME. By doing a five second Google search. During the meeting, we learned that they consider Googling an expectant mother’s name an invasion of privacy and they don’t do it. I asked them if they regretted having that particular policy in place after spending untold amounts of money on the adoption fraud couple. The adoption coordinator looked thoughtful. The agency owner looked proud. “No, I don’t,” she said. “I won’t ask our birth mothers to sign a release for the Google. It just scares people away if they think you don’t trust them. We still work with couples we suspect of fraud, anyway. In fact, we are still working with the couple you found out about. Because you never know, they may change their mind after all and place after the baby is born. And our focus is on that baby, all the way through the birth.”  I think this was supposed to sound altruistic, but the truth is there is no shortage of agencies that would gladly find a placement for an infant, and collect the hefty finder’s fee in the process. Might I add, if someone admits to scamming you, good business sense would dictate you run far, and you run fast. Or, if you’re this agency, keep working with the couple that admitted they want all their expenses paid, please and thank you, even though they never had any intention of considering adoption

As you might expect, it was not reassuring to hear that our agency is still working with the couple that have actually admitted to the fraudulent behavior. The hubs and I were badly betrayed by the couple, but the agency is still working with them?  Is it okay that we find that a bit strange? We also learned that adoption fraud is quite common in our agency due to the adamant refusal of “the Google” and that it is something to be expected during an adoption journey with the Adoption Agency. 

  
Did I mention I almost vaulted out of my seat when she mentioned “the Google?”  A business owner, in the year 2015, believes she needs a signed consent form to Google a person’s name. I don’t even know where to begin describing how disturbed I am that this is someone’s reality, and now I’m an unwilling part of it. 

Near the end of the meeting, when it became clear that the hubs and I did not find our communication requests unreasonable, and when they could hide their utter disdain for us no longer, we reached an impasse. The owner badly wanted us to quit. She wanted it bad. She kept leading us to it and then trailing off…it reminded me of two high school kids trying to break up, but the instigator won’t pull the trigger. It was strange, and fit right nicely in with the overall theme of the meeting. 

According to their contract, they can fire us as clients at their leisure.  She didn’t do that, either. I suspect it’s because that would look pretty bad for the agency. After all, who wants to sign on with an agency that has a reputation for firing their clients after they have paid a good chunk of money up front? Probably no one. And that’s when I realized they are basically stuck with us, regardless of their desire to fire us. 

As of this moment, I assume we are still represented by this agency. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary since our meeting that accomplished nothing. 

My hope is that other people may learn from this and have a better adoption experience than we have had. The process is hard enough by itself, and deeply emotional under the best of circumstances. Hire an agency that has a support person for the expectant mother, but also has a separate support system for the adoptive parents. You want your agency to work for you, not actively against you. Not all agencies are created equal, so make sure to do your research with a list of what is important to you within reach. Consider this a cautionary tale. 

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Last week, within an hour of learning that our first adoption situation was faux, I was independently contacted by an acquaintance from my adoption support group. Her daughter had decided to place her baby in an open adoption, and could I send her our portfolio to review? They were having lunch so it would be best to have in the next hour or so.

I would have moved freaking boulders with my bare hands  to make that happen. I bustled around my office at the speed of light, scrambling to scan each page of our adoption book into pdf files that could be emailed. The scanning app stalled, the printer kept malfunctioning. As I scanned, I practiced deep breathing techniques to stop freaking out, since I was convinced my printer’s ineptitude had doomed us to failure. I was near tears thinking I was going to miss our window of opportunity. When I got it done and realized the file was too large to email, I completely blanked on how to use Dropbox, the world’s easiest app,  in my frenzy; I sent an SOS to the hubs, and he came through from work, compressing the files and getting them sent. Go hubs! Cue the huge sigh of relief, crisis averted.

It absolutely MUST be noted that from being notified that the first adoption situation was a fraud, to the second adoption being initiated,  a mere 47 minutes had passed. The only way this neon sign from God could have been made clearer is if He had used sky-writing to spell it out over our house.

Within an hour of emailing the pdf adoption book, I received the message that her daughter loved our profile, and saying it reminded her of her own family. Could we meet in the next couple days to talk adoption specifics?

I couldn’t believe that something this amazing had happened to us!  We went from the very bottom of the adoption roller coaster, after being emotionally derailed by Carrie and her husband, to being offered the opportunity to adopt out of the clear blue sky. In my mind, the whole convulted puzzle finally fit together, and it was good. It was good, people. It seemed like this was what we had been preparing for, like all the heartache and pain had led us to THIS moment.

As confident as we were, we told no one but our parents while it was all unfolding, just to be on the safe side. Because, duh. Our track record was abysmal and it was all starting to feel a little bit too much like The Boy Who Cried Wolf: Family Addition Edition.  We kept the news to ourselves and felt like we were hiding the greatest surprise ever, which also felt kind of sneaky and fun, if I’m being honest.

The expectant mother went into labor a couple days ago and we hired a lawyer for her. The family asked nothing of us other than for prayers. There were/are factors in play that made/make it largely impossible for the birth mother to raise the baby. She knew this, and chose adoption.  It was a very brave, very self-aware thing to do and the hubs and I were impressed.  Her situation is the type where, if she chose to keep the baby, her parents would be the ones doing the raising.* Her parents are folks who have dedicated their lives to raising children, both biological and adopted. They are people who have relished the role of grandparents over the past few years and recently began enjoying a well-deserved retirement.  As you can imagine, raising a newborn is probably not at the top of their retirement bucket list.

*Note: I’m not being judgemental. The above statement was shared with me, I did not come to that conclusion “just because.”

The hubs and I, demonstrating our shared inability to sense a pattern, really believed we were going up to meet the baby today and begin the process of adoption. As you may have gleaned from my sarcasm, that did not happen.  I received a call this about mid-morning that the daughter had decided to parent her baby.

I sincerely wished her well, gracefully congratulated her on the new addition, and took it like a champ. That is not a humble brag folks; that is a straight-up, unabashed, honest to goodness BRAG, and I stand behind it.

We set a new record, folks!  Two failed adoptions in one week! I guess we all get to be famous for something at some point!  Hooray.

This time was easier because of the shorter time span, and also because my adoption group acquaintance is a really great person who kept us in the loop and up to date the whole time.  She is a neat lady and she is trying to handle this as best she can, too. I think she was as surprised as I was at the sudden change of heart, because, if you remember from a couple paragraphs up, she and her husband are going to be the people raising that baby, something they had not planned on.  That is easily as unfair as what keeps happening to the hubs and I.  I really do wish her and her husband the very best as they navigate this unexpected new challenge, and pray for health and joy for them, and baby girl, and their daughter.

As for the hubs and I, maybe it’s time to take a hint. We don’t know.  We’re evaluating our next steps. When you consider the years of infertility, the pregnancy losses, the failed adoption situations…I mean, if you called someone several times and left voicemails that weren’t returned, followed it up with a few text messages and emails that were ignored, and finally, showed up at that someone’s house and rang the doorbell to no answer, even though the lights were on and both cars were in the driveway, what would you surmise from the situation?  That’s where we are right now. We’re infertile adoption stalkers.

It sounds pitiful, but truly, each day brings us so much joy with our little silver lining, Mr. E.  Things sure aren’t going our way, but that one time, they did. We must never forget that, and treasure the gift we were given.

 

Movin’ On

Good afternoon, friends!

Not since I took John Travolta to task for being an icky, semi-closeted creeper who gropes women publicly in the hope of appearing straight, have I had so many views on my blog. Wow!  I look at my stats every now and again, ever since that one time I accidentally learned they were there. I figured it out because WordPress actually personally contacted me to see if I had a website breech, because my page views per day went from around 150 to almost 13,000. I assured them there must be a mistake of some kind. They walked me through how to see my stats and sure enough, they were popping. I guess a lot of people don’t like John Travolta and were interested in reading about my abject horror at his behavior. I personally never had a problem with the guy until his busy hands/close talker/deviant showmanship at the Oscars, but that was all that I needed to add him to…My List. 

Anyhoo, for the past couple of weeks there have been 500-600 people following the events of our bad soap opera-like life, and finding that out was a great way to start the day! It feels pretty amazing to know that many people care. Or, that it was like watching a huge train wreck in slow motion installments and you couldn’t turn away no matter how hard you tried. Either way, I totally get it, and I thank you.

I’ve heard from a lot of folks, many of them wondering why I’m not simmering with rage over Carrie and her husband and their less than honorable intentions. I will tell you that it was a very hard, very intentional decision to forgive them. 

My first instinct upon learning the whole story was not, “Aw shucks. Who among us hasn’t used our baby to emotionally torture and extort paternity tests and gifts from an innocent family and receive nine months of free swag from the government?

I was pissed. Then shocked. Then angry. Then feeling sorry for myself because I was sure the entire universe was conspiring against the hubs and I to make bad things happen to us over and over again until we gave up. Then, I took a deep breath, ditched the dreaded victim mentality, and made a decision.
The pursuit of adoption takes a lot of energy. A lot of energy, and time, and focus. It is a full time job at times. If I chose to harbor anger or frustration towards them, they were just receiving more of my resources. They already received five weeks worth, after all. So, I forgave them as I have been forgiven so many times (I’m talking ’bout you, JC!”), and put those two in my review mirror. Well, except for this post of course, but it doesn’t count. I’m trying to make a point here people!

http://mom.me/fun/3127-daily-dose/item/churchill_quote/
We are moving forward. It’s hard to keep the hubs and I down for long. That doesn’t mean we are sadness-free, just that we are keeping the faith. We have been ready for a baby in our arms for a long time and E sometimes asks me at bedtime where “his baby” is.  We will stay the course, with hearts full of hope that somewhere out there is a baby that needs a devoted and loving daddy, a goofy mommy, and a sweet big brother who is ready to share his cars!

Until next time!  One of these days I’m going to have actual good news to share!

Moving On

Good afternoon, friends!

Not since I took John Travolta to task for being an icky, semi-closeted creeper who gropes women publicly in the hope of appearing straight, have I had so many views on my blog. Wow!  I look at my stats every now and again, ever since that one time I learned they were there. I figured it out because WordPress actually personally contacted me to see if I had a website breech, because my page views per day went from around 150 to almost 13,000. I assured them there must be a mistake of some kind. They walked me through how to see my stats and sure enough, they were popping. I guess a lot of people don’t like John Travolta. I personally never had a problem with the guy until his busy hands/close talker/deviant behavior at the Oscars, but that was all that I needed to add him to…My List. 

Anyhoo, for the past couple of weeks there have been 500-600 people following the events of our bad soap opera-like life, and finding that out was a great way to start the day! It feels pretty amazing to know that many people care. Or, that it was like watching a huge train wreck in slow motion installments and you couldn’t turn away no matter how hard you tried. Either way, I totally get it, and I thank you.

I’ve heard from a lot of folks, many of them wondering why I’m not simmering with rage over Carrie and her husband. I will tell you that it was a very hard, very intentional decision to forgive them. My first instinct upon learning the whole story was not, “Aw shucks. Who among us hasn’t used our baby to emotionally torture and extort paternity tests and gifts from an innocent family and receive nine months of free swag from the government?

I was pissed. Then shocked. Then angry. Then feeling sorry for myself because I was sure the entire universe was conspiring against the hubs and I to make bad things happen to us over and over again until we gave up. Then, I took a deep breath, ditched the dreaded victim mentality, and made a decision.

The pursuit of adoption takes a lot of energy. A lot of energy, and time, and focus. It is a full time job at times. If I choose to harbor anger or frustration towards them, they are getting more of my resources. They already received five weeks worth, after all. So, I forgave them as I have been forgiven so many times (I’m talking ’bout you, JC!”), and put those two in my review mirror. Well, except for this post of course, but it doesn’t count. I’m trying to make a point here people!

http://mom.me/fun/3127-daily-dose/item/churchill_quote/
We are moving forward. It’s hard to keep the hubs and I down for long. That doesn’t mean we are sadness-free, just that we are keeping the faith. We have been ready for a baby in our arms for a long time and E sometimes asks me at bedtime where “his baby” is.  We will stay the course, with hearts full of hope that somewhere out there is a baby that needs a devoted and loving daddy, a goofy mommy, and a sweet big brother who is ready to share his cars!

Until next time!  One of these days I’m going to have actual good news to share!