Getting Oriented

This post was originally published on AdoptionBlogs.com on May 14, 2010. Republished here with permission.

Tonight, my husband and I attended an orientation meeting by a local facilitator. We’re most likely going to sign with them in the very near future. Both of the presenters worked for the organization and were mothers through adoption. There was a man who was there with his (deliciously cute) baby daughter, to talk about his adoption experience. The rest of the people there were first time adopters. My husband and I were the only ones who had been through the process before.

I felt very strange.

I’m used to being the one answering the adoption questions. I kept silent as people asked about open adoption, whether birth parents could change their minds, and what the difference between an agency and a facilitator was. Now that I’m home, I can answer the questions here. Sometimes, being a writer is cool!

Question: What is open adoption and why would I want to do it?
Answer: Open adoption is defined as the birth parents and adoptive parents knowing each other, having identifying information about one another. Open adoption takes many forms. Some people just exchange letters and pictures. Some email or become Facebook friends. Some have visits. Occasionally, some people in open adoptions live close to one another and are a constant part of each other’s daily lives.
Open adoption has only been around since the early 1990’s, so there’s not a lot of long-term research. However, many adoptees in closed adoptions expressed dismay, or even anger, about not knowing their heritage, not knowing the answers to questions, like, Why was I placed for adoption? Who do I look like?. It appears that open adoption, in which adopted kids know their birth parents, really are better for the children. (Look for a future post with more thoughts on the meanings of open adoption.)

Question: What is the difference between an agency and a facilitator?
Answer: Please see the post “What’s the Difference?“. Note that I talk about being cautious with facilitators, but that I’m using one. This particular facilitator does not work with attorneys, but with agencies, and has a reputation for strong support for adoptive parents, expectant parents, and children. You really want to know that they’re not just going to take your money and leave you to figure it out.

Question: Are home studies transferable?
Answer: Yes, most of the time. If you’re doing a domestic, private adoption, you can have your home study done by one agency, but adopt your child through another agency, attorney, or facilitator. For example, we have a home study agency, but they don’t do a lot of domestic placements, so we’ll work with the facilitator as well. Sometimes, you find an agency that you just love, but it’s in a different state. An agency in your home state can do your home study.
The home study is yours! You pay for it. It belongs to you. You have a right to see it before it goes to anyone, and you should do so.
Now, if you start out doing another type of adoption, then you might need to update or amend your home study. For example, some countries require specific components, adoption through foster car often has more stringent requirements than private adoption, and so on.

Question: How long will it take?
Answer: That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? According to Adoptive Families magazine, most adoptive parents go through the process, from signing with an agency to finalizing their adoptions, within 3 years. In the presentation tonight, we were told that families of color can adopt in as little as 6 months. The more open you are to race, gender, health issues, and other factors, the shorter your wait time. (Look for a future post on why you shouldn’t focus on the wait time when determining what you’ll accept.)

Question: What does the process really entail?
Answer: In general, for private, domestic adoption, it goes something like this:

  1. Sign with an agency, attorney, or facilitator.
  2. Fill out paperwork.
  3. Complete a home study. (Can be done concurrently with #2.)
  4. Write a “Dear Birthmother Letter” and make a profile book.
  5. Wait while your letter and profile are sent out.
  6. Match with an expectant mom.
  7. Welcome your child home.
  8. Complete your post-adoption home study visits.
  9. Finalize your adoption.

I’m really looking forward to writing posts based on what I learned tonight.

Yes, even though I’ve been living adoption for over 5 years, I’m still learning quite a bit. I hope you are too!

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