When I would tell people I was having a biological baby, there are basically two questions I was asked: When are you due? Is it a girl or a boy? When I tell people that we are adopting, there is a whole bundle of questions I get asked. Are you adopting from a different country? Is it expensive? When will you get your child? Boy or girl? Will they be “damaged”? (More about that question later). Are you infertile? (More about that question as well). Everyone is genuinely excited for us and we are excited too! But I thought it might be helpful to tell our story and explain the process a bit for everyone out there that knows us or might be going through something similar.
First off, adoption is not our second option. Not that it is really anyone’s business, but we are not infertile. We had always talked about adopting and were planning on it down the road, but after a rocky delivery with our first baby we just eventually decided that we didn’t want to go through that again. There are over 100,000 adoptable children in foster care, and one of them is ours.
Secondly, even though we are extremely excited to be expanding our family and even though we already love our child so much, this is a very painful and difficult process to go through. A child is taken from their biological parents (whom they will always love very much) and has suffered severe trauma. I read that being given to an adopted family for the first time is like being kidnapped to a toddler. I am not telling you this to make you feel bad, but to get you to understand that adoption is as painful as it is beautiful. Even though our suffering is minuscule compared to the struggles our child will go through, it is not a super simple process for our family either. It is a pile of paperwork, money, and training involved before you even get placed on the registry of adopting families. The wait can be years and you can be matched with several children before finding your forever child. So yes, it is exciting, but we will need lots of support and love through this.
Our family has decided to adopt through a private agency from the foster system. What this means is that DHS has a list of adoptable children and we pay money to have a private agency work with DHS so that we don’t have to. Working directly with the state takes an excruciatingly long time (a home study alone is booked six months out, where our agency is about two weeks out) and can be very frustrating. This is not their faults, they are overworked and underfunded and we are just low on their priority list.
We are adopting domestically. We don’t have a preference for gender or ethnicity, but the child will need to be younger than our daughter. We won’t be getting an infant. A child that goes into foster care legally has to wait about 18 months before becoming adoptable, so our child will most likely be between 2-3 years old when they come to us. They take that time to try reunification with their biological parents, and if that is not possible, make sure there are no relatives that are willing to take them in. We won’t be getting a child older than Isabel since they don’t recommend adopting out of birth order (aka since Isabel is the oldest, she should stay the oldest.)
I also want to explain the steps as well so that people can understand our process a bit better.
1. We do research, read books, talk to families that have been through the adoption process to get advice, decide what kind of adoption we are called to, and apply. This step takes anywhere from a few months to a few weeks.
2. This is what I call “Paperwork Purgatory”. This step is lots of trainings, readings, paperwork, and background checks. Paperwork includes millions of personal questions, employment verifications, financial disclosures, agreements, and medical questionnaires. The trainings are extremely thorough and include topics such as racism, transracial families, trauma and abuse, identity, biological families, and communication about adoption. This step takes about 2-3 months to complete.
3. We complete a Home Study. This is where an adoption worker comes to your home and spends a few hours with your family and inspects your home for safety. They are here to get to know our family in order to make the best match with our future child. This step can take about a month or two (since we are going through a private agency. If you go through DHS this step could take well over half a year).
4. We get placed on a registry and wait for our match! We are able to look at the adoptable children and inquire ourselves or our worker can find a child she thinks would fit well with our family. If the child is a good match, we decide to move forward and meet their foster parents, case workers, and service providers. This is the longest step and can take anywhere between six months to two years to find the perfect match.
5. Our social worker goes to committee on behalf of our family. A few families get matched with the same child and a judge reviews the families to select the best fit. If our family gets selected, we have a child! If not, we keep looking for our match.
6. Our child comes home! The social worker will bring them and drops them off and… we are parents! For six months the child will legally still be under state custody. Then we will go to court again to finalize the adoption. Many adopted parents call this “Gotcha Day” to celebrate the day that their child was officially joined into the family.
If you want to know how to support adopting or foster families like us, make sure to check out my future blog about how to help adopting families.