Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adoption: The Waiting Game

Photo: www.

A big chunk of the time you spend "adopting a child" consists of waiting, and waiting, and waiting. First paperwork, then waiting. This is true whether you want to adopt through an agency, whether domestic or international, or even adopting through Foster Care (where there is an immediate need for families to open their homes to children). It all takes time.

We've already had a lot of waiting with trying to fill out the paperwork and then waiting to be approved. Now we're waiting to be matched.

It takes time to match adoptive/foster families with the children who would be right for their home. And with older kids, it takes more time to find a home in which they will thrive and feel like they fit in and are loved. And in our case, we are adopting domestically through an agency, most likely getting a newborn... and the "waiting time" is because we are waiting to be matched with birth parents (usually before the baby is born or shortly thereafter).

In America, there's a big emphasis on letting birth parents choose the families that their child will go to. Agencies give them access to "parent profiles" (like our adoption profile on the LDS Family Services website) to choose a family from. They can meet with as many families as they'd like before they make a decision. They can pick a family at any point during the pregnancy or after they've already had the child.

One thing that is discussed in the matching phase is the level of "openness" you want in an adoption. Open adoptions are becoming more and more common, in which birth parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information, letters, pictures, visits, and treat each other like family (which they are). That, to me, is what an open adoption is. But the actual definition of "open adoption" can vary from situation to situation and may only include meeting the adoptive couple once, knowing their first names, and/or communicating by letter through the agency.

From our side of things, we are waiting to be "chosen." You really never know how long it will take to find that right match. If you're too "picky" about what preferences you have for the child you want, you might wait longer. If you already have kids, you might wait longer. But there's not much you can do to make it go faster. You just have to wait and find peace with that. This is one reason infertility is such a devastating blow to anyone wanting to have kids. If you're super fertile, you can time when you want to have kids almost down to the month. If you're infertile, you have no control. None. It is out of your hands. There really is only so much you can do.

>>insert terrible feelings about infertility here<<

Once a perfect match is found (based on what the birth mom is looking for and what the adoptive couple is looking for), there's more waiting! Sometimes the baby isn't born yet, so there's still more pregnancy to go through first. If that's the case, the birth mom has all the way up until the baby is born to change her mind. She can change her mind about what couple she wants to place the baby with. She can change her mind about adoption completely. If this happens, you're back to waiting for another match. Only after the baby is born can the birth mom sign away (relinquish) her parental rights. Then the child is placed with the adoptive parents, sometimes at the hospital, sometimes at the agency's office, or wherever everyone has decided to meet and have "Placement Day."

Depending on the state's laws, there is a time period after the birth mom signs the relinquishment papers in which she can still change her mind, called the revocation period. So, more waiting! (This applies to birth fathers too, but sometimes they can relinquish well before the baby is born.) We live in Utah, but we adopted from Georgia. Georgia's revocation period was 10 days. We knew that beforehand, so we were prepared to have to wait 10 days there (just in case birth mom changed her mind).

If you end up adopting out-of-state, you can't leave the state you're in with that child until the two states have communicated about the adoption and you are given permission to leave. That's called the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). You can't just willy-nilly pick up a baby and get on a plane with them, even if you're adopting them. Lucky for us, it only took 10 days to be cleared to leave the state... and that coincided with the revocation period, so we were expecting to stay for at least 10 days anyway. Depending on which states are having to do the communicating, ICPC can go fairly quickly or take a few weeks. Also lucky for us, we were adopting from a state where we had family. Many adoptive couples fly to another state to adopt a baby and don't know anyone, so the first few weeks of having a newborn are spent in a hotel.

Then, after you're home with your newborn... depending on the state, you can't finalize the adoption until after the child has been with you for a certain amount of time. For us in Utah, it was 6 months. It's a supervisory period. Our agency "checked in" on us to make sure the adoption was going smoothly. So, more waiting! (I'm not sure what could happen in those 6 months. The adoptive parents would have to be doing something severely wrong or they would have to decide they didn't want to adopt the child anymore or something. I doubt this happens very often.) After that period, you can finally go to court and have a judge issue an adoption decree stating the adoptive parents are the legal parents with all the rights and responsibilities as if the child was born to them.

This is what we have to look forward to. Don't be surprised if you ask how things are going and I say, "Still waiting." Ha ha. Please ask, though. I love when people take an interest in our journey. I promise you won't hurt our feelings. :)

With all this said, we are keeping busy and not really thinking about the wait. Not anxiously thinking about it anyway. The longer we wait, the longer we'll have to prepare, right? I'm cool with that. We're just going about our lives as if we're not going to adopt anytime soon, but getting prepared as if we are... if that makes any sense. Ha ha.

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