We adopted a baby. This baby is now an active, loving sweet toddler. It has taken me over a year to write about this as there are so many tiers to adopting, one post cannot cover the scope of adoption, at least in my opinion. I intend to write more about the process in the future as I am often asked to share our journey. What I can share is that it was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through with moments and times where I did not feel I could get through the adoption process. We adopted through the foster care system which is not something I was aware was even an option. We received a call for our babe when he was 17 days old, and soon we were on the adoption track. The process was a roller coaster of emotions, and I could not have honestly got through the process without the support of my friends.
If you happen to be thinking of adoption, I feel the best way to start the process and get the wheels turning from a thought/dream percolating in your head to a reality is to start with at least one step. The below tips are based on the three questions I am asked often by people considering adoption. Of course, when becoming parents we are all on our own unique journeys; these are a few steps I learned along the way when we expanded our family through adoption.
How did we first get started?
I called the National Adoption Center who sent an information packet about the different ways that one can adopt. My husband and I then started to attend orientations on private and open adoptions. We also contacted agencies out of state that dealt with both domestic and international adoptions. It was about informing ourselves and figuring out what the best process would be for us.
When you start this process, it can be stressful as some agencies will ask for a deposit for enrollment packs right up front. It all seems hopeful, but this is before the home study even starts and this is just to 'enroll' with the agency. What my husband and I learned from these orientations was that this wasn't going to be our route. We then decided to look into fostering to adopt.
Once we decided to go this route, I searched for agencies we could learn more about adopting through the foster care system. The foster system is to support the biological parent who has temporarily lost parental rights of their child/children. The foster parent is there to help that parent. Could I be on board with this? I wasn't sure and being honest with your self is important in this process. After we took our MAPP (30 hour course to foster or adopt a child from the Department of Children and Families) classes, I realized I was open to fostering, our caseworkers felt that we needed to be and were approved to be listed as a pre-adoptive home up to age 4 which is the age we felt would work with our oldest son who was six at the time. Our first placement was a six-week baby girl who was just adorable; she ended up going back to her mother who I ended up bonding with, I felt for her and her struggles. This placement did show me my boundaries; my husband was open to fostering as many children as possible while I felt heartache over the process. I asked our caseworker that if possible if any future placements could be a child that had a chance of being adopted. A few weeks later we were placed with our now son. This is the short version; there are so many layers to the foster system and our overall foster experience especially when it comes to the biological parents who are at times people struggling with circumstances that aren't always an easy fix. There needs to be a lot of non- judgment, and understanding. With adoption, in general, I feel you have to be mentally prepared to go with the ups and downs with a system that still needs work.
Is networking important?
Yes, networking is key. We originally joined an agency that was primarily an agency that worked with parents on fostering children that were in the midst of being free to be adopted. While in the middle of completing our paperwork the agency lost state funds, and it closed. This was one of two New York agencies who focused on adoptable children, and suddenly the program was shut down. All the prospective parents who were connected to these agencies suddenly found themselves in limbo. While we decided if we wished to continue I started to talk, connect with other parents who had adopted and listened to their stories. You can connect through Facebook, yahoo groups as there are many networks that support parents during the process, most of the time you just need to enter your state and keywords such as adoption, open adoption, and like-minded groups will pop up.
How important is the agency?
Learning from others experiences lead me to organizations that were informative and helpful while we continue on our road to expanding our family. One of the key organizations that were helpful when we found ourselves without an agency after months of paperwork was AdoptUSKids. I was able to connect with them, and they gave me local lists of resources/agencies I could reach out to start the process again.
In the end, I found our agency through a total lark. Erica (from Motherburg!) and I were doing a post piece; a spokesperson came to my home to speak about this brand, this beautiful woman happen to have adopted and was on the board of agencies that dealt with the foster system. She connected me to the agencies, and we had our agency one week later. We had a fantastic agency and supportive caseworkers who seem to care about all parties involved which helped as it is a pretty emotional process.
Remember it is called a journey, embrace the road your on, it may get bumpy, take deep breaths along the way and let your friends and family help you along the way.
There are children of all ages needing to be adopted. The Dave Thomas Foundation is an excellent resource to learn about adopting through the foster system.
An in-depth resource for parents-to-be navigating the adoption process that seems to cover every form of adoption available. Adoptive Families.
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