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It takes an incredible toughness to go through the adoption process. Our society likes to believe that those who adopt, simply get the idea, gather up a few hundred dollars and whisk out to their local ‘adoption agency’ or ‘birth person on the street’ to ask, ‘Can we have your baby?” If this is what you’ve thought adoption was about, you’re very wrong. The names below are fictitious, but the steps involved to adopt can be very true.

 
 
Mary and John have gone through several miscarriages and rounds of IVF. They have approximately $20,000 left. They’ve decided their funding will either be exhausted by continued attempts with IVF; or, they’ll bet on a sure thing with putting their monies into adoption. They feel as though they’ve been through the mire. They’ve been married 6yrs, have good jobs and feel good about making a decision toward something that will have a happy ending. (Adoption)
 
But before that happy ending can happen, Mary and John will have to undergo a grueling test of just how much they really WANT to have a baby in their home.
 
How?
 
By going down the long road of proving themselves worthy to adopt and parent children. This task of proving themselves will put them through one of the toughest journeys of their lives. The process is one of the most ‘one-sided events’ they’ll ever undertake. And, unless they’re well educated and well read, it’s very possible that they’ll lose a considerable amount of money before they have a newborn in their arms…..
 
Before anyone can legally adopt a baby, they have to have a completed home study. This document is essential to adopt domestically and internationally. The cost for a domestic home study often ranges from $1500.00 – $2000.00. (An international home study often costs more.) The home study involves individual interviews with the prospective parent; interviews with both parents; written referrals from friends, relatives, bosses, and sometimes, their pastor. It will require that the hopeful adoptive couple submit to full disclosure of their tax forms, their loans, expenses, their monthly budget and any other additional income or debts they might have. They’ll be asked if they have a will, life insurance and a designated person to parent their child should both of them die at the same time.
 
It will require them to write out a biography of their lives and how they met; how long they dated and what kinds of issues they might have dealt with—prior to and post marriage– that were easy or difficult. They’ll have to answer questions about their parents’ discipline; talk about their own ideas concerning children; how their expanded family feels about adoption and how good their sex life is—or is not. They’ll also be required to discuss their failed IVF treatments; whether they think they’re ready to have a baby through adoption and why they think they should be allowed to adopt at all. Oftentimes, their boss will have to submit a letter discussing how well they perform their job and how long they’ve been employed with that job.
 
If their state requires a foster license in order to adopt across state lines, they’ll have to complete 16 hours of PRIDE or MAPP classes meant for parents of foster children (even if their child won‘t be a foster child). These classes will include discussions and assignments about behavior disorders, sexual and physical abuse of children, how to discuss adoption with older children, and specific mental issues more often seen in older adopted children who‘ve been through the foster care system.
 
They’ll have to submit to a state (and sometimes national) background and fingerprint check; oftentimes, a CPR class; and usually one or more parenting classes. Sometimes, there are classes designed to explain a recurrent theory holding that even when their child is adopted, they should understand the child is actually not ‘theirs’, but still belonging to the biological family—whether their child will feel actually feel that way or not. (State foster care systems like to remind parents of the theory that most children will long for their biological family……a theory that oftentimes is not true.)
 
In short, Mary and John will have to expose their innermost feelings, insecurities and strengths about themselves, each other and those in their extended family; then allow others to tell them HOW and WHY those thought processes are either correct or need correction…depending on who their instructors are.
 
Through all of this, will be a caseworker who will write out the home study and sometimes put his/her own spin on what’s being said or written by Mary and John. More often than not, the caseworker will be a complete stranger to the hopeful adoptive couple.
 
Sound overwhelming? It can be. Yet this is just the beginning of an adoption journey.
 
Compare the above then, with those who choose to get pregnant (or can easily get pregnant).
 
How many documents does a pregnant couple have to fill out? Does anyone ask about their family background? Do they submit to background checks? (In fact, those convicted of sexual offenses continue to have the right to pro-create.) Does anyone ask them what their plans are for discipline or whether they have a Will or someone to parent their children should both of them die at the same time? Do they have to worry their insurance won’t pay for the pregnancy or the birth of their child?
 
If getting pregnant takes longer than they’d hoped, will the hopeful pregnant couple need to update their family history as adopting couples do every year (and sometimes, every six months)? Barring IVF treatments, will the hopefully pregnant couple have to pay monies to apply for the possibility of having a child? (Adoptive couples can pay thousands in application fees and possible situations.)
 
It’s frustrating, unfair and oftentimes, those in waiting will want to throw in the towel and quit altogether. Will you??

this post is a guest blog by one of our members of a program we run - the Teen Leadership Development Series... they had their final meeting of the season this past Wednesday and will resume in September



 

Hey my name is Zhade. I am 17 years old and I am a part of the Teen Leadership Development Series (TLDS). We learn important things necessary for life. For example, we learn things ranging from Independent Living skills, to learning how to deal with our family. We are all from The Division of Youth and Family Services otherwise known to others as DYFS. We are teens ranging from 15 to 19 who want to make a difference in people’s perception of DYFS kids no matter their age.

We want to get rid of the statistics that all DYFS kids are unable to be cared for and that we are incapable of handling ourselves and others. Guess what………WE'RE NOT A STATISTIC WE ARE HUMAN JUST LIKE YOU!!!!!!!! We are capable of many things that we are doubted for. Believe it or not, some of your favorite singers, actors, comedians, and even major people in our lives have been in foster care. For example Tommy Davidson, he was adopted and look at him…famous comedian. Do you still think we are incapable? This is why the TLDS is here to show and explain to the world that we are normal just like you or you. We are humanly capable of anything that anyone else is.
 
In the month of January we held a meeting and assigned people to certain positions such as president, vice president, treasurer, media, and so on. We did an exercise to simulate if someone was going to throw a party, what things we would bring to it, but instead we replaced the party with the group and had what leadership qualities would you bring to the group every time we meet and even outside of the group.
 
Also here at the group……you know what I don't like the term "group" instead how ‘bout we say family. Here at our family meetings we have a system to win money...YES real money. There is fake money we have that we call LEAD bucks, and every time we answer a question we are able to put one LEAD buck per answer to increase our chances of winning money. I personally like this because it allows us to interact with each other and our family leaders (TLDS Coordinators and Recruiters) and allows us to have fun. So this is a positive group that we all are a part of, even new members enjoy it. More from me Zhade, the media promoter, next month after our next meeting. Hope u enjoyed my first blog for our family TLDS.  Next time, and be safe.
Today's post is from Malini, our Marketing Intern
 
There was an interesting article on the Today Show website that introduced me to the concept of  “Adult Adoptions”. Adult adoptions are supposedly on the rise in the US, although not every state currently allows them. There are many different reasons as to why people go through with adult adoptions; the main reason being a continued desire of former foster youth for a permanent family and the support, guidance, and companionship than stems from that. Most children in foster care, available for adoption, understand this desire. A permanent, stable “family” is what most people want, no matter their age. It brought to mind the question, “What defines a family?” Is there a clear definition?
 
The article featured on the Today Show website tells the story of Jillian, adopted at the age of 29 by her co-worker and husband. Although Jillian was not in foster care, she did suffer an unfortunate childhood with abusive and troubled parents; a familiar situation for many foster youth. What are your thoughts are on Adult Adoptions after reading the article? Should other states, which currently do not recognize Adult Adoption, join Washington state in making them legal?
 
 
Picking your parents: Adult adoption creates new bond
The story below from the Huffington Post is unfortunately very typical, and just about any state can be substituted for California. What can we do to make the system more user-friendly for prospective parents who want to adopt from the foster care system?
 
from the Huffington Post  May 25, 2011
For James and Stephanie, their experience with California's public agencies is where the adoption process became a story of frustration, unreturned calls, and irrational bureaucracy. It took over a year before they were even considered for a waiting child. Their struggle presents a case study in the obstacles that face anyone trying to adopt a child from a public agency in California.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-katz/california-adoption-why-is-it-so-hard_b_854715.html
Some time ago, I wrote a magazine article about Mary Lou who learned when she was 30 that she had been adopted.  “I always knew I was different  from other members of my family,” she told me, “but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.”  From the moment she learned about her adoption, she became obsessed with wanting to find out more about her birth parents.  Every time she stopped her car at a red light, she peered into the car next to her to see if anyone looked like her.   When she sat under the hair dryer at the beauty salon, she scanned the faces of other women to see if she could detect  a resemblance.  She knew she had been born in a small town in Pennsylvania and when she accompanied her husband on a business trip to that town, she had a feeling she might get closer to her roots.   She told me that when she gazed out of the hotel window where she and her husband were staying, she had the feeling she was close to her birth mother.  She learned later that her birth mother had died, but was buried in a cemetery that she could see from that window.  While she was not able to meet her, it gave her a sense of peace to know more about her and what had happened to her.
 
I thought about Mary Lou when I read an editorial the other day with the headline, “Let the truth be set free.”  The article that followed described a bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly that, if signed by Governor Christie, would give adults access to their original birth records.   Only a handful of states allow that access.  In those that do, it is the experience that not every adopted adult takes advantage of that option.  Many of those who are adopted are content without digging into their past. However, for those like Mary Lou who agonized about her origin for years, access to their records would be freeing not only for them but for their adoptive parents who want their children to be as emotionally well-adjusted  as possible.
The following was written by Chris Jacobs our Program Director.
 
I would like to respond with some facts about National Adoption Center match parties. The children and teens who attend do know that they are coming to an event to meet families. The Center believes that not every child or teen is appropriate to attend a match party and no child/teen should be forced to attend. Children are prepared by their social workers to know what to expect, or in the case of our teens-only events, two preparation meetings are held with the teens before the match party to go over the agenda for the day, and address any concerns or questions they have.   
 
Of course, meeting families face-to-face is exciting and can also be scary---for the youth and for the families!    Center staff also meet with the families before each party to once again go over the agenda for the day and to coach them (because they are also nervous) about being sensitive to the youth, respecting their privacy and using this as an opportunity to interact and share what they have in common. The staff also provides some do’s and don’ts (no pictures taken with their cell phones, no promises made to youth, no discussion of adoption.)
 
The Center believes that the youth must have a voice in their own recruitment and our parties are planned to be “no pressure,” fun for the youth and always respectful of their feelings and privacy. There will inevitably be youth who attend for whom families do not request additional information. However, a match party is just one strategy their social worker can use to find them a family. The Center encourages the social worker to  discuss with the child, after the party, the child’s reaction to the experience.
 
It has been the experience of the National Adoption Center and other organizations that have sponsored such parties, that if the events are orchestrated with sensitivity and the children are prepared well before and talk with their social workers afterward, the experience will be a positive one for the child. As one enthusiastic social worker said, “In a perfect world, we would not need adoption parties.” The reality is that nearly 120,000 children around the country are yearning for permanent families. Attending such events increases their chances dramatically.”

May is National Foster Care Month!—“Across America, there are families who need these children as much as these children need families,” said President Obama in his Presidential Proclamation for National Foster Care Month. Obama stated the Administration’s commitment to achieve security for every child and raised visibility to permanency initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services. These initiatives are focused on reducing long-term foster care for children and over the next five years will invest $100 million in new intervention strategies to help youth move into permanent families. Recognizing that the Nation has a responsibility to provide the best care possible for children when they cannot remain in their own homes, Obama recognized the efforts of tireless individuals that work on behalf of children in out of home care. To access the White House press release visit:http://tiny.cc/900hv 

The National Adoption Center plans and executes multiple Match Parties throughout the year. These parties are a signature recruitment vehicle for the Center and a truly wonderful opportunity for children & youth looking to be adopted to interact with prospective parents in a safe, secure and fun environment. Our success rate is often as high as forty percent.
 
Countless new “forever families” have been created thanks to our Match Parties, yet we sometimes receive pushback from folks who believe these events are exploitive to the children. What do you think?

Our daughter found her birth/first family.  And when they responded—in kindness with no doubt a good dash of curiosity—they invited her to visit.  She took them up on the invitation.  (And yes, gut reaction: I was thrilled for her—and them—but, at the same time, died a little inside.)

 
An adult now, she needed no permission to go.  Using her own instinct to confirm this was the right time, she and her boyfriend made the trek several months ago. I heard later that all who gathered were delighted how well she fit in, particularly with sibling sisters—in looks, height, temperament—for they were amazed that they all share the “same” nose, thin hair, and baby blue eyes. (Amidst the giggles, their mantra: “Oh, thank goodness, I’m not the only one!”)
 
It had been over 16 years since she’d seen them face to face.  I daresay she might not have remembered much of that visit, but I do. That was a trial because she wanted to stay with them. Felt right at home.  Did notwant to get in the car and drive to our house. Kicked.  Yelled.  Begged. The whole gamut of emotions.  All of it—anguish included—broke my heart at the time.
 
With screaming by her and blubbering by me, my husband had quite a time driving in torrential flooding rains through several states.  At one point, she started a new wave of hacking emotion and blurted once again, “I want to go back home—back there!”  When I protested and said we would miss her too much, she looked at me with a puzzled stare, “Well, I’d only stay if you and dad stayed, too!”  (Hmmm.  Good to know.)
 
We never hid from her the fact that she is adopted.  In fact, we used the term often–both casually and formally.  It was a natural, any day term she grew up hearing.  I imagine it shaped her identity somewhat, even when she was quite young and didn’t understand all of its ramifications. 
 
Carroll Connor (the actor who played “Archie Bunker”) was reported to have said to his adopted son, “It’s like this:  when your mother and I got married, she ‘adopted’ me and I ‘adopted’ her, and then we adoptedyou!”   I liked it.  Simple. Clean. Sweet. True.
 
And isn’t it true how much we do “adopt” each other within family circumstances, neighborhoods, church or temple communities, or even workplace teams!  We labor at cultivating harmony by adopting and adapting to the practices and ideas of others, even when doing so pushes our buttons.  Even as it makes us grow and reminds us that we are each a “work in progress.” 
 
We adapt and weave our unique threads in many tapestries within our lives. Sometimes we adopt good or even great things from one another. Sometimes, we take on, shall we say, some less loveable characteristics.  Nonetheless, they help form us (and the tapestry to which we contribute), making us more of who we grow up and in to being.   
 
Remembering that didn’t stop my heart from pounding when she said she was going on her adventure.  Or when, at five, she wanted to stay in the house of her first parent.  Rather than react, we thought it best to respond—in kind and kindness.  But there are natural questions adoptive parents have.  Will she still love us?  Will she want to be with us?  And bottom line:  now what do we do?
 
I always sensed that her natural inquisitive nature would, at some point in her life, win out and she would opt to search for her biological roots. We told her when she was ready to find her first family members, we would do whatever we could to help her. That she found them on her own was to her credit and her will.  (She has both, in spades!)  
 
One of the most difficult things any parent does is let their child(ren) grow up.  In an adopted child’s life, this might extend to being okay with or even supporting them to discover their roots and go “home” to a first parent.  Not easy.  Not necessarily comfortable.  But real, nonetheless.
 
During the visit, we Skyped.  After she left the chat, those who stayed behind told us how well she fit in and said how fun it was to see what a remarkable young woman she is becoming.  (Of course, we concur!)  I did my best not to cry (and, in a feat quite remarkable for me, succeeded!).  
 
Giving her wings and encouraging her to fly was a bit risky, because—well, she did just that!  (She’s always been and will forever be fiercely independent!)  Referencing the Khalil Gibran quote from The Prophetabout our children being the arrows—I would say, in her case, she was both archer and arrow; she saw the target and willed herself there.  She discovered the door and could not but open it.  She looked for and found (another) home.   In her case, search and reunion resulted in a true reintegration that was wonderful for all involved.  Seeing them, Skype-face-to-Skype-face, after so many years was quite amazing; it was obvious how delighted they were to be with her again.   We heard their laughter, as natural and knowing as any family’s, for in the span of being together less than a week it was clear they cultivated private and “had to be there” jokes.
 
What I wondered (okay, worried) about was:  would she “settle” there–in that home–or would she return and still be “at home” with us?   It is a valid question to which only she held the answer! No matter the hurt on our part, we would have supported any decision she made.  So this left us with a choice:  be sad for me/us or be happy for her/them.  We chose and continue to choose to be happy for her/them. 
 
True to her nature, she let us know her most amiable answer:  to be in touch with all.  To love and respect all.  As the archer, she shot for a distant shore and could have remained there.  But, as the arrow, she found she could consider home, for her, where the heart is.  Hers. Ours.  Theirs! 
 
Before she went, we faced the possibility that she might no longer acknowledge her adoptive home. After all, she had stars in her eyes, adventure in her back pocket, and a passion for the unknown as scintillating as any pioneer who crossed the prairies in search of a new home. 
 
Upon her return, I asked her what she felt about “family” now?  Her answer:  “Oh—nothing different, really.  Family?—it’s just bigger, that’s all.   I am like them in some ways.  And I am more like you and dad in other ways.  But it’s all good.”
 

While I experienced a wall between us and some quite palpable distance before she went, the months since her return, much to my surprise, there seems to be emerging a unique and different closeness—she calls a bit more often to tell us news and even asks our help now and again.

 
She went home and came home and is home—all at once. Based on this experience, this I know is true:  all of us are working toward going home and finding “home”—being with people we love and “at home” as ourselves with them.
We just received some extremely exciting news.  The National Adoption Center has been named the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund’s Non-profit of the Year!  To mark this honor, DVLF will present us with an award at their annual Heroes event. 
 
The Hero awards are given to youth (21 and under), adults, non-profits, and businesses who have bold ideas, act with selfless intention, are admired for their integrity, and are regarded as courageous in advancing the equality of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in the Delaware Valley and beyond. 
 
We are honored by this award, but do not consider ourselves as heroes nor the work we do heroic.  But our work is meaningful and does make a difference. 
 
We saw this firsthand at a recent event tailored specifically to the LGBT community.  The event, called the LGBT Adoption Café, was a forum meant to introduce members of our local LGBT community to the world of adoption.  Among other things, there was a panel comprised of gay and lesbian adoptive parents and adoption professionals.  The discussion was honest and informative.  The day before the event – after months of partnering, planning, promoting and creating a worthwhile event the weather forecast called for torrential downpours and emergency flood warnings!  It was too late in the game to cancel; we had to take a deep breath and hope for the best.  That evening we were amazed at the turnout!  We had over 80 participants, all eager to learn about adoption.  It was evident that the event was needed and worthwhile. 
 
Our goal is to expand the pool of potential permanent families in the LGBT community and develop services for LGBT prospective families.  We do this through educating, advocating and promoting best practices for culturally competent services within the child welfare system.  Heroic?  No.  Addressing the fundamental human right to parent?  We certainly believe so.



The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) strives to increase philanthropy and grantmaking to support the community needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight-allied communities. DVLF advances philanthropy for the LGBT community through endowment building, fundraising, community outreach and education. 

 

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