In 2007, we began a journey that would change our lives. We felt God had called us to open our home to adopt a child. The calling was simple: “Prepare ourselves, be willing to accept an adopted child as our own, and be open to the child God sends us.” Simple as that sounds, it required probably one of largest amounts of faith that has ever been asked of us.
In January of 2008, just 3 months after we had completed our homestudy process, an expectant mother chose us to parent her biracial baby boy. She told us that just a couple of months prior, she was set on aborting, but that God used a friend to lead her to reconsider and, instead, place him for adoption. 3 months later, he was born, and has been our son ever since. Every day, I look at this little blessing, thankful for how he has changed me, and I don’t like to even imagine how different things could’ve been had she gone with her first choice to abort.
In January of 2009, we completed our 2nd homestudy, feeling again that we should just be prepared to open our home to another child whenever God chose to bless us with one. We assumed it would be several months, or even a year or two. To the contrary, one morning I received an e-mail from our social worker informing us that our homestudy was complete and had been submitted to the agency. That very afternoon, the agency called to report that we had been matched with a young mother expecting an African-American baby boy. Just 10 days later, he was born. We finalized his adoption 6 months later, and have loved every moment we’ve had with him.
In August of 2010, we began the homestudy process for our 3rd adoption. Rather than going through an agency where we would be “matched” with an expectant mother, we just wanted to be available to someone who needed us. As a result, we decided to do an independent adoption. We let people know through word-of-mouth, and we put an adoptive parent profile up on a website where anyone could find it. In November, a pregnant young lady in a tough situation found our profile and contacted us via e-mail. We corresponded for a couple of weeks, eventually meeting in person. We hit it off immediately, and agreed to adopt her biracial baby. In January 2011, she gave birth to a beautiful little girl, who soon became our new daughter. We finalized her adoption in September 2011, and look forward to seeing God develop her into the lovely young lady He has in mind.
Because we adopted transracially, S and I tend to be a magnet for questions. Misconceptions about domestic adoption abound, so this page is dedicated to answering the most common questions we have been asked. Mind you, I am no expert, so the answers are based solely on my research and our personal experience adopting our children.
What made you decide to adopt? Several reasons really. First and foremost, God has called us to do so. Contrary to our modern, worldly-view society, we firmly believe “sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3) Contrary to popular views regarding abortion, God “created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”(Psalm 139:13) While I cannot physically have more children biologically, we were very content with two children we had. But God really opened our eyes to the sheer numbers of children out there who need a loving home, and we realized that God had blessed us with the resources and abilities to raise more children. After much prayer, we decided that as long as God was willing to provide the resources and energy, we were willing to accept the children He chose to bless us with.
Why did you choose to adopt transracially? Actually, we didn’t. We felt God calling us to just be open. We didn’t seek out a specific race or gender. In fact, with most domestic adoptions today, the expectant mother chooses the adoptive parents she desires to raise her baby.
Because you adopted infants, do you plan to tell them they are adopted? (My first thought here is always “you do realize that, based on our skin color, I don’t think I will have a choice?!”) But, in all seriousness, yes, we will tell our children their entire story as we know it. To help with this task, I am a scrapbooker, and all my children have their individual albums that tell their lifestory. While my biological children’s albums begin with my journal entries throughout my pregnancy, my adopted childrens’ albums begin with my journal entries throughout our homestudy and adoption process. I was blessed to get photos of their birthmothers holding them, photos of their siblings, and for one of my sons, I even have some e-mails his birthmom sent us to check up on him. All of these things are included in their scrapbooks. Because N went home with his birthmom for the first few days of his life, I even have a few momentos like clothing from her that have been saved to give him in the future. In our minds, we have no choice but to tell them. Not because of their skin color, but because it is the story of how their lives began. It is part of who they are. They have every right to know. And by approaching it as such, my hope is that they gradually understand more of the concept of adoption as they grow, so that it never comes as a big, horrible shock. I want them to know that they are loved by all who have known them, just in different ways.
Is it very easy to adopt in the U.S.? Yes and no. I say yes, because compared to the lengthy waits, red tape, and expense involved with international adoption, domestic can be a much simpler process. I say no because I don’t believe any adoption is easy, no matter where it takes place. It can be frustrating, frightening, lengthy, and heart-wrenching. Outside of your homestudy, you have very little control over anything, and are, instead, at the mercy of the legal system. I have really come to view it similiar to a pregnancy–biological children are born of a physical pregnancy, while adopted children are born of an emotional “pregnancy”; both can be exciting and frightening, and there are never any guarantees. The good news is that God is ultimately in control of things, and there comes a point where you just have to have faith that He will work things out in His timing.
Can a birthmother change her mind and take her baby back? This is a common misconception that is primarily based on one high-profile story that happened a number of years ago. There is always a risk of a failed adoption, however, this fact is not limited to domestic adoption. Today, while every state has their own laws regarding time frames, as a general rule, a birthmother cannot legally consent to place her child for adoption until after birth. Then, she has a very specific period of time in which to change her mind. In some states, she has 24 hours, while in others, she may have up to 3 months. But you know these laws and risks well in advance. Realize too, that in most cases, the birthmother has put a great deal of thought into whether to place her baby with you. Though she may have regrets one day, she realizes that she made her decision, and has no desire to “steal” her baby back. You can, however, take steps to protect yourself. Do your research. Carefully evaluate and research any adoption professional, lawyer, case worker, facilitator, or agency you choose to work with. Make sure they use ethical practices for the sake of the birthmother as well as yourselves. Make sure they cover all legal bases. Ask questions. If your gut tells you something is wrong, listen. Don’t, I repeat, DON’T get so wrapped in adopting a baby that you overlook red flags. You want to look back on your adoption experience and have confidence that the birthmother was treated with love and respect and that all legal bases were properly handled.
What is a “homestudy” and what does it involve? No matter how you choose to adopt, a homestudy is required. A homestudy is a very thorough investigation and report about your home and lifestyle, performed by a case worker assigned to you. It includes physical exams, bloodwork, home safety inspections, interviews, recommendation letters, state and federal fingerprints and criminal background checks, and sometimes much more. A homestudy typically takes a couple of months at best. After the homestudy is approved by the case worker, you are free to adopt.
What options are available to adopt an infant? There are basically 4 ways to adopt an infant domestically: State adoptions place foster children up to 18 years of age into permanent homes, though infants typically take a year or more before finalization. This is often a preferred option due to the little to no cost involved. Full-service agency adoptions help you with the whole process including homestudy, matching with an expectant mother, post placements, and finalizations. This option is generally the most expensive, often running between $20,000-$30,000. In a facilitated adoption, a hired “facilitator” actually matches you with an expectant mother, then you go through a third party for homestudy and/or finalization . Facilitators are illegal in some states, and where legal, they could cost anywhere from $4,000-$15,000 just for a matching. Independent adoptions allow you to network to find an expectant mother on your own, then you follow your state law for the legalities. Some states outlaw print or internet advertising, limiting the adoptive couple to word-of-mouth networking. The costs involved with this option can vary significantly, depending on the type of networking used.
This is a pretty simplified summary, as there are also adoptions that combine these options, but these are the 4 basic ways. The latter 3 ways generally take about 4-6 months to finalize after the baby is placed, though parental rights are legally terminated much sooner.
What option did you use for your adoptions? For our first adoption, we were very new to the process, so we hired a non-profit, full-service agency to help us. They completed our homestudy, counseled us as we created our adoptive parent profile book, matched us with an expectant mother, took care of the hospital, insurance, and delivery issues, completed our post-placement visits per state-law, and handled our finalization. It was nice having only one entity to deal with for the process. For our second adoption, we had a similiar process. We hired the same agency, however, we lived in a different state this time, so we had to hire a third party to handle our homestudy and post-placement visits. The agency handled everything else for us. For this recent adoption, we felt a bit more confident in the process, so we decided to try an independent adoption. Our state requires that a certified agency handle the legal aspects of an adoption and counsel the expectant mother, however, we are allowed to do a great deal on our own. We networked by telling everyone we knew that we were adopting. After a lot of research, we also decided to put a profile on a website called “Parent Profiles,” through which our daughter’s birthmom eventually found us.
Is it true that there are lots of adoption scams out there? Similiar to almost every aspect of life, there are dishonest people in the adoption world. While scams are the minority of situations, if it happens to you, it can seem much worse. There are agencies, facilitators, lawyers, and average individuals who will try to scam adoptive parents for money, and there are individuals who will participate in “emotional scams.” You can reduce your chances of being scammed by being as informed as possible. Research everything and everyone you deal with. For agencies and adoption professionals, see the section below. If you are attempting an independent adoption, learn how to guard yourself with every contact. Learn what questions to ask, how to research IP addresses, phone numbers, and other personal contact info. Learn how to utilize social networks to research individuals. Learn how to identify “red flags.” Join adoption scam notification groups found online. When a situation looks promising, proceed with great caution. Remember, there is never a guarantee of a baby until legal finalization has occurred.
What agency did you use? After much research and prayer, for our first adoption, we chose to use an agency in the state we lived in at the time. We loved the fact that they were a Christian agency, took good care of their natural mothers, offered counseling and educational services to natural mothers before and after birth, and were highly recommended by other professionals around the state. As a result of the “pros”, we overlooked the “cons” and used them again for our second adoption. Unfortunately, they have had a lot of issues since then–illness, new staff, disorganization, etc. that has affected their quality of service. Because of this, I can’t recommend them at the present time. I also won’t say their name though, as we did have 2 very successful adoptions with them, and therefore I won’t recommend against them either. For our third adoption, we decided to do an independent adoption, selecting an agency that specialized in handling the legal aspects of a designated adoption, per our state law. While our experience with them has been good so far, the director will be retiring soon, and the agency will be closing in a few months.
All I can offer is to just do your research. Every agency will have its pros and cons, and you have to find the best fit for you.
How can we help ensure we have researched our adoption professional enough? There are lots of ways. Ask the professional lots of questions. They should be willing to answer most questions openly. Ask them for references. Realize that references will be biased, but it is a way to get insider info about the agency. Ask the references lots of questions, and be sure the answers line up with what the agency says. Check the Better Business Bureau. Do a Google search for the professional’s name and see what pops up. You can find out a lot that way. Call the appropriate state licensing department and make sure the professional has the proper license. It may take a few calls, but this can also be a source of info. Contact local maternity homes and talk to medical professionals. They often know about adoption professionals in your state, and may be able to offer info. None of these methods are all-inclusive or offer a guarantee, but together they will give you a broad picture of the professional, their standards and ethical practices, their background and legal handlings, and so on. You greatly increase your chance of a positive experience. And, it goes without saying, be sure to pray for God’s guidance in choosing.
Is it expensive to adopt a child? It can be, but doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to adopt to in the U.S. The state foster care system is overrun with children that need permanent, loving homes. In most cases, state adoptions do not cost anything. Independent adoptions require only the cost of the homestudy and legal fees. Facilitated adoptions add the facilitator fee to the independent adoption cost, and these fees vary significantly. Agency adoptions also vary tremendously, depending on their size, services, and locations. It also depends on whether they have a non-profit status.
How open is your adoption? In the U.S., there are 3 basic types of adoptions. Confidential (or closed), semi-open, and open. Closed is just that…you will receive no personal information regarding the birthfamily. You may or may not receive a basic health record for the sake of the child. Semi-open and open adoptions come in varying degrees. Semi-open means there is a balance between the sharing of personal information and remaining confidential. For example, our sons’ birthmothers were willing to share their information with us. We have their names, last known contact info, and medical histories. We got to meet them both, talk with them, learn about them and some of their reasons for placing their sons for adoption. However, we chose to keep our personal information confidential. They know our first names and the state we live in, and general information about us, but that is all. They were OK with this. We also chose to share pictures and updates of our sons, but we go through the agency to do so, which keeps our information confidential. Finally, there is open adoption. Again, this comes in varying degrees of openness, from exchanging all personal info on both sides to getting together several times a year. This is what we have with our daughter’s birthfamily. We exchange e-mails and photos frequently, and will even be visitng together in person periodically. I know of one case where the birthmother is the nanny for the adoptive parents. How open you and the birthparents are willing to be is decided prior to the baby being placed, though details may be worked out as you get to know each other better.
Do you plan to adopt any more children? Only God knows the answer to this one, but we are willing. We love children, we love being parents, and we love sharing what we have with others.
Before I close, here are a few statistics to consider:
- According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, in 1995, there were over 10 million women in the U.S. who had considered adoption. Of those 10 million, only 1.6 million had ever taken steps toward an adoption. However, only 437,000 women had ever adopted. EVER! That’s just 1.3 percent of the original 10 million!
- Compare that to the fact that around 100,000-200,000 domestic children, age newborn-18 need adopting each year. A large number of these children wind up in the state foster care system. Obviously, it is a myth that there are no children available for adoption here in the U.S.
- Furthermore, in some parts of the country, about 50% of newborns placed for adoption are white, with the other 50% consisting of every other race or mixture of races. In other parts of the country, about 50% are African-American, with the other 50% consisting of every other race or mixture of races.
- Based on my research and experience, about 70-80% of people applying to adopt are caucasion, seeking caucasion infants. VERY few people are of other races, or are open to any race and older ages. Sadly, there is such a need for adoptive parents for African-American specifically, that many agencies and organizations offer grants and discounted fees for this race in order to help lower-income people afford adoption.
- Obviously, when you do the numbers, they show a shortage of adoptive parents and an abundance of races other than caucasion, as well as an abundance of children older than the infant stage.
- It is a sad state of affairs we are in. In fact, with the current economic “crisis,” recent numbers are showing a drastic increase in children of all ages being placed for adoption. Biological parents are hurting, they are scared, and they may desire something different or “better” for their children. They want help. Unfortunately, worldly lies have influenced many to believe that abortion is a quick solution to a “problem.” In fact, between 1 and 2 MILLION abortions are performed every year. And I won’t even begin to get into the statistics of the poor women who wind up suffering emotionally and physically after an abortion.
- We have also learned that, contrary to popular belief, many women who abort truly feel there is no other option and later have many regrets, and most women who place their babies for adoption truly love their babies. However, some women have a desire to finish school, some feel incapable of parenting, some have no support system in place (which any parent needs!), some may have dreams for their child that they feel they cannot provide, some may feel a threat to their life or welfare if they keep the baby, some may already have a child or children and fear they can’t afford or handle another, some may be pregnant by rape, realizing that the baby is an innocent victim as well, and some may be battling an addiction that they just can’t overcome enough to parent. Think of it this way: no matter how messed up her life or priorities may seem to an outsider, she loved her baby enough to give it life! Furthermore, many women love their babies so much that they don’t want the child to be caught in the red tape of the state social system, and therefore choose to use a private individual adoption, private agency, or lawyer, where, in most cases today, the biological mother can actually choose the people/family she desires to parent her baby.
I would like to leave you with a youtube video slide show I found. This is a similiar relationship to what we have with R’s birthmom. Listen closely to the words. Oh, and you may want a box of tissues handy!
If you would like more information about our adoption experiences, then click here to view the adoption posts on our blog. If you have an adoption-related question that you would like me to answer, ask and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.