Monday, February 8, 2010

Adoption: It Ain't Easy

Are there any fans of The Office out there? I'm going to describe one of my favorite Michael Scott quotes. I tried to find it on youtube, but it must not be one of the popular ones. I'm sure I found it extra funny because it had to do with adoption.

Michael walks in one day and tells Pam that he wants to adopt a baby from China, and would she please do whatever to get him one. Pam tells him that it might cost $1,000 just to apply, and he gets quite annoyed. Then she informs him that it might take a year to get the baby. And he says "A YEAR? I might not even want a baby in a year"!

I found that hilarious, and that quote has been rolling around in my head a lot lately. I realize that there is a large number of people who think adoption is easy (based on how many times I hear "oh, you got a baby the easy way" when people find out we adopted), but those comments do not annoy me. I just think that the person speaking either hasn't thought about it, or just doesn't realize. But lately, the people who think that adopting is just one big ball of fluff is starting to bug me. Based on some conversations I've had with some friends, as well as some blog posts I've read about adopting orphans from Haiti, I decided it was time for another "adoption rant" post!

Are ya ready? Here we go!

Adoption is not easy!!

Now, I don't want to scare anyone off, and if you are familiar with any of my other adoption posts, you will know that I love adoption. I would not have my family without it, and I usually spend my adoption efforts telling people how wonderful it is. However... it is not an easy thing to do.

If you want to adopt, you have to start with a homestudy. Most people take about 6-8 months to complete a homestudy. It can take a lot longer if you don't work at it constantly, or if you are adopting internationally. We did ours relatively fast- in 4 months. But I was very, very motivated, and we had no kids or anything but work to distract us. I set a goal to work on it every single day. I'm sure I missed a few here and there, but there were also days when I spent all or most of my day working on it. For the most part, I made progress every single day, and it took 4 months to get it done. If you can't even commit to the homestudy process, you probably are not going to be up for the process of adoption. I won't go into all the details of what comprises the homestudy, but it is extensive, and detailed, and there is a lot of *stuff* you have to do.

Okay, so once you make it through the homestudy, you now have to find a child. Do you want newborn? Infant? Older child? Adopt internationally? Domestic? Foster care? Do you have other children in your home to consider? Will you use an agency? A facilitator? Go independent? Are you open to different races? Birth defects? Drug exposure? There are positives and negatives and ramifications to every one of these choices. These decisions are not, nor should they be, easy. We struggled with each and every one of these choices. They each require thought, research, and discussion. Many people spend long periods of time just making the decision of what path they will take, let alone going that direction. Quite often this step comes before the homestudy, since the direction you go may change the details of your homestudy.

Once the homestudy is done comes the waiting. The wondering. The hoping and stressing. No matter what kind of adoption you are working toward, it is fraught with difficulty and quite often long periods of waiting. You generally have no control over anything at this point- you are at the mercy of potential birthparents, governments, caseworkers, and all sorts of people who may or may not care about helping you. Most people will wait for literally years before they are able to adopt. The ones who have shorter waits are the exception, not the rule. Adoption isn't an impulsive decision- you have plenty of time to sit around and question your every choice.

I also won't get into too many details about money, except to say that it is expensive. As in, the average adoption costs between $20,000 and $30,000. Of course, being an average, many people pay much less than that, but people also pay much more than that. Adoption requires a significant commitment of both time and money.

Let's pause and talk about Haiti for a moment. Their recent tragedy has brought the attention of the world to their plight. In no way do I want to downplay what they have been and continue to go through. There are so many people here in the US expressing desire to adopt from Haiti to help the children of that country. I understand the sentiment, I really do. The urge is there to gather those little ones and protect and shelter them from any of the horrible things going on. But adoption? It doesn't really work like that. Haiti has always had orphans, and people have adopted from there for many, many years. It can be done.

But it isn't as simple as Earthquake = orphaned children = I will have a new child next month.

You would have to start your homestudy! Yes, even after an earthquake, you can't adopt without one. You would have to find an agency who knows Haitian law. Haiti will have to make sure the children are really orphaned and free for adoption. I imagine, with the chaos in that country, it will take a long, long time to determine which children have relatives able to care for them and which really don't.

Now, pretend that all that was taken care of... you would still have to parent the kid. It probably won't be an infant, so do you speak french? Are you willing to learn french and/or deal with the language barrier that will exist between you and your child until they learn English? Do you know anything about attachment therapy, since you are hoping to form a parent/child bond with a child who has been traumatized and orphaned? If you are Caucasian and the child is black, have you considered the ramifications of adopting transracially? Would you even know the basics of hair care to get you through the first few weeks? Adopting an older child can be extremely challenging. Don't get me wrong- it CAN be done. People do it all the time. But it isn't easy, and you have to know enough to know what could be involved with taking that step.

I guess my point is that if you feel that adoption is the right thing for your family, all of this is worth it. If I felt we had another child coming to our family, I would do it all over again, no question. But if you are just a little tired of morning sickness, or just don't want to gain the weight, adoption is not the easy way out. It is not something you just decide to do based on a whim. I don't think pregnancy is easy by any stretch of the imagination, and I would hope that more people would think through what they are saying when they say they want to adopt!


Jennifer said...

Absolutely, a lot to think about. I always appreciate what you have to say.

Lisa L. said...

First, i totally love that quote from the Office.
Second, it bugs me when people say that adoption is the "easy" way too. I want to tell them that when they go to the hospital in labor, they can be fairly certain that they will come home with a baby. And even though postpartum and recovery comes with it's own challenges, at least you know that nobody is going to take your baby because they changed their mind.
Very well said!

The Petersons said...

Very well said!

Lisa said...


Chase, James, Mandy and Joe said...

I love your "adoption rants" you always say things the way I wish I could!

Katie said...

EXACTLY!!! You have no idea how many times I have wanted to say just that in the last few weeks! THANK YOU!

ali said...

I'm so glad that you post about these things Shanna, it's such a good thing for all of us to know/remember.

I've always thought that it was so interesting that you have to do so much work to adopt a child, but any idiot with a working set of reproductive organs can have a baby. Now, I think it would be hell on Earth if the government started regulating that sort of thing, but it does seem a little odd at times, doesn't it? I know we started down the adoption path when we were having some fertility issues and I remember that one of the requirements was that we had fire extinguishers in the house and I was like-- "DUH! I never even though of that before having my first child!"

It just kinda made me think...

Cecilee said...

I always a enjoy a good rant, especially if its informative.

btw, loved that episode of The Office.

thetallgrl said...

I cannot believe people have said that adoption is the easy way to have kids! Even before your excellent post I knew it was extremely difficult and emotionally draining. I'm just glad that it all worked out for you and Kydon!

Valeni said...

So good to read your excellent writing Shanna. Hope you all have fun at the circus this week-end and please send us a few pics!

erika said...

We love The Office, and I love that quote. I totally remember it!
I always love your insights. You are a great writer.

Jennifer said...

Great rant! A friend of a friend's adopted son just arrived from Haiti, she began the process years ago and expected to wait another 6 months, but since everything was in order the gov. sped up the process because of the earthquake. And yes there are all the things you mentioned, language barrier, and a 4 year old coming to live in another country with someone he's met a couple of times. Worthwhile but not easy.

Opp Family said...

Thanks Shanna! My thoughts exactly and we did have an "easy" adoption in that we didn't have the long wait and our costs were extremely low, but that is such a teeny tiny piece of the puzzle. I've never gone through labor, but I would gladly have traded it for the emotional labor I went through while waiting to bring my baby home, not knowing if that was going to be the end result at the hospital. Worrying over the birth family, knowing no matter the outcome someone was going to feel pain. Plus waiting for 10 days after bringing her home wondering if her birth mom would change her mind. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of my child's birth family and acknowledge the sacrafice they made for my child (and as a secondary, me).
It too bugs me when others think that adopting from Haiti is as simple as going to the store and bringing home their Haitian child - and that there is no other legwork involved.
I'm forever grateful for adoption, so thankful my child came to me via adoption, so thankful for my child's birth family. But to no one involved was it the easy way.
Thanks again for your education!