Friday, November 14, 2008

Answers to the adoption questions

Happy National Adoption Day!

Here are the answers to the questions I've received!

Q: What is something in the adoption process that you didn't realize (before you started) would be as hard as it was?

A: Good question! There were several things that I anticipated being hard- things like doing all the annoying paperwork, finding the money, waiting for a baby, and an adoption that fell through. Those were some of the hard things that I knew before hand would be hard.

The thing that came to mind that I didn't expect to be hard but was hard mostly has to do with the relationship with the birthmother. First let me say that I formed a relationship with all of our birthmothers much easier than I expected. I am a normally pretty quiet, reserved person. It takes me a long time to feel really comfortable with people. But with each of our birthmothers, I felt an almost instant bond and really deep connection with them. I really mean it when I say that I love them. Seeing these women carry a child/children, give birth, and then give that baby to me, is one of the most miraculous experiences of my life. Both of our birthmothers tried their best to not show us the pain and agony they were experiencing. But even just the little bit we saw was heart wrenching for me. It was so hard being there as they were going through that time. In those years, I wanted so desperately to be a mother. I would have given anything just to have a baby. But in those weeks, days, moments, I would have gladly given that baby back if it meant she didn't have to experience pain.

Before Abigail's adoption, we flew to meet her birthmother about a month before the birth. After the meeting, her caseworker told us that when we came back for placement, to just remind ourselves "we didn't cause this- we are her solution". In other words, when we see her struggling, to remember that this is what she has chosen as the best thing for her baby, and that we did not *cause* the pain. When he said this to us, I immediately thought "of course! Who would ever think otherwise?". But when we were there, and I saw the tears in her eyes, and she handed me that baby, I was so glad that I had those words to repeat to myself so that I could push away those feelings that I caused it. Sitting in a small hospital room, watching Jack and Aidan's birthmom sign away her rights as a mother. Sign a paper saying that she was no longer their mother, and that I was, I was bawling. She was strong, her mom was holding it together, and I was a wreck. I never would have thought that I would care about them so much that I would want their happiness over my own. That was the part of adoption that I never in a million years would have thought would be hard for me, but it was gut wrenching.

Ok. I'm glad this is typed, because I am totally tearing up right now!! I hope I can answer the rest without bawling! :) And I hope all the answers aren't as long- this might take a while! :)

Q: What did you do to find your babies?

A: When we first started the adoption process, not quite 6 years ago, there wasn't much of a push to 'find your baby'. When we adopted Abigail, the rules at the LDSFS agency were such that if you knew identifying information, such as a last name or address, the agency would not facilitate your adoption. So we told people we were looking to adopt, but we didn't do much networking. We had a pretty short wait, and we never really did anything besides create our agency profile and we created an online profile for the LDSFS agency.

When we were getting ready to try for another adoption, the rules had totally changed, and 'finding your baby' was a big push. So I was getting all geared up to try some things that I had heard other people doing. We hadn't quite made the step of applying yet when my sister called and asked if we might be interested in twins. We said yes, and she put us in contact with Jack and Aidan's birthmother. The connection came about because of a Yahoo group that my sister belongs to, and she had mentioned that we were trying to adopt. When a girl on this Yahoo group heard about this situation, she thought of us. So although we were matched outside of the agency, we usually say that Jack and Aidan found us, not the other way around.

Q: If you already have children, is it harder to get a baby? Like, do they offer them to the couples without kids first? Also, how long did the whole process take for you the first time?

A: I will answer the second part first, since it has a shorter answer! We started our application in December of '02. We were approved in March of '03, and we waited just 2 months before being selected. When that one didn't go through, we only waited 2 more months before we were selected again. Abigail was born in Jan of '04, so it was only about 1 year from application to when we had a baby. We were matched with Jack and Aidan in Jan of '05, and they were born in May. We had unusually short waits.

I don't think other children in the home makes it harder to adopt, nor does it make it easier. Agencies generally do not match the baby to the parents (there are a few times when the birthmother asks the agency to choose, but normally they encourage the birthfamily to choose where their baby will go). Because of the birthparents choosing, it can happen at any time for any one. I have talked to birthmothers who wanted to make sure that their child was not the oldest, or wanted to ensure they had siblings, or felt a connection to a child in a family, and made their choice based on that. I have also talked to birthmothers who wanted to help a couple who didn't have kids, or they wanted their baby to be the spoiled one, or whatever, so they used that to help choose. It really comes down to the preferences of each individual birthparent. But in general, I don't think that having other kids makes it any harder to adopt.

Q: How do couples pay the costs for adoption?

A: There are a lot of things people do to pay for adoptions. In general, most people will pay somewhere in the range of $15,000-$30,000. The first thing that helped us was the Federal Tax Credit. In 2008, you can get up to $11,500 of qualified adoption expenses credited back from the taxes you would normally pay.

After the tax credit, it is just a matter of finding money. It might come as a gift, savings, working overtime, many people do fundraisers for adoptions, getting loans, selling expensive items (we sold our really expensive car and bought a really cheap car), etc. Also, many companies offer adoption benefits.

In our case, we had a portion of the money given to us. We used our employee adoption benefits. We cut out vacations for a while, I worked a ton of overtime, and we just saved all we could. Once we paid for our first adoption, we used the money that came back from the tax credit to pay for our second. After the second, we again got most of the money back, and we put it away as our 'emergency fund'. We originally thought that if we adopted again, we would use the money for that, sort of a perpetual fund.

Q: Is overseas adoption easier or harder than U.S. adoptions?

A: Both. There are things that are harder, and things that are easier. The homestudy process is much harder. You have to do a lot more paperwork, plus you usually have to do things like get translations, send things to the State department, send it to the country you are adopting from, etc.

It can be much harder if there is political or other unrest in the country. In Guatemala for example, there were many, many adoptions coming from Guatemala to the US. I think it was second only to China for the number of adoptions. Then there were major problems uncovered with the way some of the adoptions were being handled, and it became a big mess. People who were already in the process had to either stop, losing all money and time invested, or try to keep going and hope that it would somehow go through, taking much more time and money than they first thought. A similar thing also happened recently in Vietnam. China is making changes to their program, and what used to be a 1-2 year wait has now turned into 5+. You are at the mercy of 2 different countries- the US and the country you are adopting from. If anything legal or political happens to disrupt things, it could become very difficult to complete the adoption.

On the other hand, international can sometimes be much easier. Except for big disruptions or changes, there is usually a known timeline. You can plan for your child a little easier than with domestic. In domestic adoption, you could wait 2 days or 6 years, there is no way to tell. But in international adoption, there are children in orphanages, waiting to be adopted. That makes it easier in many ways.

Also, the money that you pay for an international adoption is usually doled out in smaller chunks as you go, rather than one lump sum due at birth, so it is easier to finance. I wrote more about the differences in domestic v. international adoption in this post.

Also, domestic adoptions are usually newborns, and international are usually older infants or toddlers. It is harder to take care of a newborn, but you don't have as many worries about attachment and difficult transitions. It is easier to take care of a toddler, but they may have problems from being in an orphanage. Like most things, there are pros and cons to each choice.

Whew! Did you make it to the end? If you have any follow-up questions, or thought of any new ones, please continue to ask! And Katie should be posting her questions and answers today as well, in case you need a little more reading!

Now for the fun part! The prize! There were 4 people who asked a question, and I picked an name out of a bowl. The winner is.........


Ok, I know a lot of Jennifers, and I think this might be my sister Jennifer? But there isn't anything identifying on your profile, so I can't really tell! (I do feel kind of dumb for not knowing) If you are Jennifer my sister, then let me know and I will send your prize. If you are another Jennifer, send your address to and I will mail it out to you! And Melinda and Rebecca, I haven't forgotten your winnings from the guessing game! I got those today too, and they will go out this week! Well, Rebecca's will.... Melinda, yours will be in the pile of 'stuff that needs to go to Melinda'. ;)


Opp Family said...

Very well written Shanna! I can totally relate with the birthparent's experience being the hardest. Even though I know our daughter's birth mom is happy with her decision to place, I still fill some sadness knowing how she sacrificed for her child and us - I think that requires an extra special person to be able to do that - and I think she is amazing. I like that you put that you didn't cause this, you were part of the solution. That is similar to how I tried to think during our placement, and it was so emotional and so difficult. That is why when anyone would say, oh adoption is so much easier - you get to skip the labor and delivery, to which I would reply, it's true, I haven't had that experience, but to go through the emotions of adoption, I would venture to guess it has to be much easier going through the physical pain than the emotional. That is again a reiteration of why I think birth parents are such AMAZING people, they have to go through both.

ali said...

Wow, Shanna, what a great post. I have such a spiritual reverence for adoption, and I teared up reading your post too!

I did think of a question, but it was the same as the person who asked about other siblings, so I figured I couldn't repeat :)

Katie said...

Wow, your answers were so good. I wish that I was so good about talking about adoption. I have so much to say I have a hard time knowing when to stop, so my answers ended up being a ton of rambling, overwhelming information. You did a great job. I'm glad you decided to do this too.