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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Adoption FAQ

When we first announced our plans to adopt I wrote this post on some questions and answers to things I anticipated being asked early in the process. Now that's were nearing the arrival of this precious boy I wanted to do a post covering the questions I'm asked most often. You can read every detail about our adoption journey on our adoption page here!

I understand that adoption is confusing. There is a LOT to it and every adoption situation can be very different from other adoption situations. Laws vary state to state. Different agencies, lawyers, consultants, etc may also have different ways of doing things. No birth mama's situation is exactly like another's and no adoptive family is exactly like ours either. That being said, I'm answering these questions as best I can from OUR perspective in relation to OUR story!

If you know someone in the process of adopting I want to encourage you to talk to them. Be excited about the journey they are on. Be supportive! Be loving! Be patient with the roller coaster of emotions they are experiencing. And ASK. Ask how they are, ask questions about things you don't understand. Don't assume. And most of all don't judge. I assure you this decision they have made isn't something they did lightly and the journey of adoption is about a billion times more difficult than anyone can ever fathom until they walk the path themselves. Be someone they can vent to, listen (even if you can't relate). Just support them! And most of all? Pray. I know when I hear from someone that they are praying for us it means THE WORLD to me. Prayers are powerful and so appreciated during the entire adoption process. Pray for the adoptive family, pray for the baby, pray for the birth mama too!


I'm an open book and appreciate that opportunity to help others learn about adoption...just as I'm learning myself! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I've heard and our answers to them:

Why are you adopting?

First of all, we are Christians and the Bible clearly calls us to care for orphans (Jame 1:27). The Bible calls us to do many things. For example it calls us to spread God's Word to all nations (Mark 16:15). While I don't personally feel lead to mission work, I support those who do and encourage them in their calling. My calling has been to adoption. God put it on my heart in a HUGE way and I listened.

I've never felt called to something in the way I've been called to this path. God began putting adoption on our hearts back when Kye was an only child! This has been something He's been weaving into our lives for a long time. Even when it's hard, even with so many unknowns, I've never felt so SURE that I'm doing exactly what the Lord wants me to do. Even before we officially decided to adopt the phrase "step out in faith" became so meaningful to me. It's crazy just how true that statement is for this journey. Adoption is a HUGE step in faith!

You can read more about the awesome ways in which the Lord lead our family to adoption here! 

I have heard it be said that we are "buying a baby" or "only adopting because we wanted to make sure to have a boy." Let me just say that none of those things are true and they are pretty horrible things to say about such a beautifully difficult process. I will also add that it's pretty horrible to say that a family shouldn't be allowed to adopt because they can conceive and have biological children. It truly has baffled me at some of those lines of thinking. My prayer is that our journey can help others have a better understanding and appreciation for this process.

What does an adoption consultant do?

People are often confused about the adoption process. Most often people assume we have been working with an agency and are surprised when we tell them we haven't. Again there are many paths in adoption. We personally decided to use an adoption consultant (specifically Casey Z with Christian Adoption Consultants)

I compare an adoption consultant to a wedding planner. We're the bride, the birth mama is the groom, the lawyer is the "vendor" and the consultant is the one that navigates it all and helps make it all go smoothly. We paid a set fee for the consultant services. They offer a variety of options but we chose to have Casey Z design our adoption profile book and she then put us in touch with agencies and adoption lawyers that CAC works with often. It's through those connections that we were matched with Mama E.

How did you find this birth mom?

We applied to several agencies and sent our info to many lawyers based on recommendations from Casey Z. Agencies and lawyers also send Casey Z situations. Mama E signed up to work with a lawyer and that lawyer submitted Mama E's info to people they work with, including Casey Z. Casey Z saw things about Mama E's situation that fit what we were looking for and sent her situation to us to review. Several other hopeful adoptive families most likely also saw the same info we did on Mama E.

This happened many times. We'd receive emails pretty often with situations for us to review. Many times we didn't feel they were a right fit for us, so we didn't do anything. With Mama E (and the 7 other birth moms we submitted to) we decided to present.

When presenting it meant that we reviewed the info about the birth mama and that it was a YES for us. That if she chose us, we'd want to complete the adoption process with her. To present we sent our adoption profile book and a personalized letter into the lawyer who then showed it to the birth mom.

How did you become matched?

Mama E received many letters and adoption profile books. She looked through them with the lawyer and with family and friends. She told us as soon as she saw ours she knew it was the one. She referred to us as "Barbie and Ken" and felt drawn to our love of Disney and that our children look so much like her babies. She loved knowing her son would be raised in a family similar to hers but that we'd be able to provide for him in ways that she feels she's unable to.

She chose us, we talked on the phone and then moved forward with becoming officially matched by signing paperwork and submitting the dues owed to the lawyer.

What do the fees include?

We had quite a bit of sticker shock with this situation. And again, every situation is different in many ways...including costs involved. The cost of an adoption has many variables. Due to Mama E's living situation we had a lot higher fees in order to help cover her living expenses and basic needs throughout her pregnancy and for 6 weeks postpartum.

Fees also include lawyer costs. While we were shocked at the amounts, now that we are this far in the process we do understand it a bit better. Our lawyer is PHENOMENAL. They are so knowledgable and help us navigate all of these often murky waters. They handle SO much and we're truly appreciative and thankful to have their support.

We spent close to $3000 for our home study and to renew it
We spent around $2500 for our work with Christian Adoption Consultants
We spent $43,000 for Mama E's expenses and lawyer fees related to adoption (will also include finalization)
There may be additional fees related to lawyers and Mama E expenses which we will know once it's all finished.
Fees do not help cover travel expenses.

Why is birth mother giving her baby up for adoption?

This is Mama E's 5th pregnancy. She has three little, little ones all very close in age. This was an unplanned pregnancy and she does not have support from the birth father nor is she in a phase of life where she's able to provide for this baby in the way she feels is best. There are many reasons behind such a difficult decision but it really boils down to the unconditional, selfless love she has for this child. She has a deep maturity to be able to see what is best for him and recognize that it's not something she feels she can provide. She was presented with options regarding this pregnancy and what a blessing to choose the most difficult path. She has incredible strength and determination and a true love for her baby. All birth mothers deserve SO much more respect than they often receive. To make the decision to allow another family raise your baby? It doesn't get more selfless than that.

Can the birth mom change her mind?

Yes. She can decide today that she wants to parent. She can decide tomorrow. She can decide when he's born. This is HER baby. Up until the moment she signs her parental rights over to us, she has every right to change her mind.

This is one of the many reasons it's incredibly difficult to be an adoptive parent. It's extremely hard to know that at any moment this baby you have prayed for and been waiting on for so long could not end up being in your arms. It's extremely hard to remember that it's NOT YOUR baby and that there is no guarantee that it WILL be.

No matter how confident Mama E feels about her plan, no matter how confident the lawyer feels that she will follow through with that plan, I will not feel that confidence until the papers are signed. Period.

Does the birth mother get paid?

A common misconception is that adoptive parents are "buying a baby." I totally see how it can appear that way with the crazy high costs of domestic private adoption! But it is NOT the case.

When Mama E first decided to pursue a plan for adoption she met with the lawyer and they worked out a budget of her needed expenses. Obviously if an expectant mother lives with her parents and they are paying her bills and providing her food etc then there are less needed expenses for the expectant mother. Mama E didn't have housing and has three young children living with her. She has higher expenses related to her pregnancy simply because she has more financial needs.

Throughout pregnancy those financial needs are met on an as needed basis. Bills are paid directly to the bill holder. Gift cards are given for living costs. And once the baby is born and the rights are signed she will receive additional remaining funds to help cover such expenses during her time of healing from the pregnancy (6 weeks postpartum).

So the short answer is NO. She's not "getting paid." She is just simply having her needs met while she's walking such a selfless path of fulfilling an adoption plan.

What will happen when she goes into labor?

When Mama E goes into labor she will call us and we will head to the hospital to meet her. As of right now she would like us in the delivery room with her which is an incredible honor. She is, of course, able to change her mind if she would like.

When does the baby officially become yours?

Once the baby is born we wait.

I anticipate this being the longest wait of our lives.

We will be at the hospital with Mama E. As of right now (again this can change) she would like the baby to room in with us in our own room at the hospital. We will be spending that time loving on that baby and praying praying praying about her decision.

48 hours AFTER he is born Mama E will then legally be able to sign over her parental rights. Once she signs those forms then he is officially ours. Her signature also takes care of the birth father's rights as well (since he has yet to come forward).

Legally he won't be officially ours until the adoption is finalized which is typically 6 months after birth.

Why are you assuming baby will need NICU care?

Part of the information we received initially about Mama E included a note to expect a minimum of 5 days in NICU for the baby. We have assumed that the entire pregnancy and know we could have longer than 5 days as well.

We are doing our best to be open and honest about this experience while also keeping Mama E's and Tab's stories private. There are things that not everyone needs to know about Mama E. Things that even Tab won't ever need to know fully. And there are things about Tab that wouldn't be fair to share either. We're trying to respect everyone involved in this beautiful story that God is writing.

We want to share the NICU possibilities because we believe in the power of prayer and appreciate all those lifting up this sweet baby and pray that God puts His protective hands around this baby and that little, or NO, NICU will be needed at all!

What does ICPC mean?

Interstate adoptions are governed by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. This compact is often referred to as the “ICPC”.

Since we live in Georgia but are adopting in Florida we will have to go through the ICPC process. This is simply paperwork traveling from Florida to Georgia that will allow us to cross the state lines with Tab after placement (meaning after Mama E signs those rights).

We have been told that the ICPC time cannot start until we are discharged from the hospital. So if Tab is in the hospital for 5 days, ICPC will start on the day we leave. If he's in the NICU for an extended time (max would be 4 weeks probably) then ICPC wouldn't start until discharged.

The time for ICPC is typically 2 business weeks. This is just the time it takes to get all of the paper work processed. During that time period Tab will not be allowed to leave the state of Florida. We are allowed to travel anywhere within Florida but cannot leave the state until we are given that clearance.

This is all handled by our lawyer, another blessing to not have that stress on our shoulders. But will mean a lot of travel expenses while we remain in Florida waiting!

Does insurance cover any costs?

No. We have Medishare. They will not cover any expenses related to Tab until his first well visit once we are home.

Medicaid will cover all of Tab's birth related expenses as well as any cost related to NICU.

Will he have a relationship with the birth mom?

Really in today's adoption world there are very, very few completely closed adoptions. Most are semi-open where the adoptive family sends photos and letters to the adoption lawyer or agency who then sends those items to the birth mother (or family) and any correspondence is sent with the lawyer as the "middle man." Some are more open than that with direct communication, special social media sites set up to easily share items, texting, calling, even scheduled face to face visits.

As far as our future relationship with Mama E? That is really up to her. We entered into the adoption process keeping our hearts and minds open to whatever future relationship felt right for us as well as the birth mother. As of now Mama E is only wanting us to send photos of Tab to the lawyer at certain time intervals (at two weeks old, then quarterly, then yearly up until age 18). She does not currently plan on having any on-going direct relationship with him or us.

I have talked to her about this during some of our time together and she plans to keep her current info with the lawyer in case Tab ever desires to find her.

I'm hopeful we may stay in better touch than just through the lawyer but I respect and understand her desire for that distance and I do appreciate the opportunity to bond with him as OUR baby once the rights are signed.

With siblings involved my hope is that long term Tab will be able to meet and possibly have a relationship with his biological siblings even if Mama E doesn't want a relationship. I also want Mama E to fully understand just how much SHE means to us. I have told her many times that this experience isn't just about gaining a baby into our family, it's about HER and her other babies as well. She's part of our family now, forever. And we'll always have her back and be here for her as a support system.

We don't know the Lord's plan in all of this. Yes, we believe the Lord called us to this child but we also see ways in which the Lord may be putting us in Mama E's path for a reason too. We want to be open to allow whatever plans the Lord may have in this adoption journey to come to fruition.

How is your relationship with Mama E currently?

We really have a natural, easy bond. We are a LOT alike. We both speak openly and share our personal stories openly as well. We connected right away and I truly feel like we have a one-of-a-kind connection. I've received MANY sweet texts from her that leave me in tears and she's been such a blessing in my life. I'm so thankful for the bond we've created and that we're able to be there for each other through this process.

In many ways our bond makes this process easier, but no matter how close an adoptive mama feels to a birth mama it's still such a delicate relationship. I'm always mindful on how I phrase things, what questions I ask, how much I divulge. My focus is on HER and her comfort level with every phase of this process. I'm here to support her and love her through it all.

Are you breastfeeding this baby?

No.

The mommy guilt never ends. And I was surprised at some of the judgments for not deciding to attempt to breastfeed this baby.

Yes. It IS possible for adoptive mothers to nurse. And since I produced milk easily for my biological children it IS possible I'd be able to do the same for him. However, it would require A LOT. Including hormones to make my body think I'm pregnant.

Zach and I discussed the possibility. It honestly breaks my heart to think about not nursing him and not having that special bond. But neither of us felt comfortable with the idea of all the hormones I'd need to take and the risk of the emotional rollercoaster attempting to nurse would bring on top of all the adoptive emotions, possible NICU stay emotions, and just newborn emotions in general. And while having three other children to care for. After experience postpartum depression in the past I don't want to run that risk agin. 

We see the value of breastmilk and have been SO thankful for the donations we've already received for Tab! Our goal is at least one bottle a day of breastmilk for him and, so far, that seems like it will be an obtainable goal! If you have milk you'd be willing to donate (we'll cover any shipping related costs!) please contact me at journeyofphood@gmail.com

How does adoption compare to pregnancy?

Many adoptive mothers never experience pregnancy. Many pregnant-experienced mothers never experience adoption. I'm in a rare spot where I've walked both journeys.

So far? Adoption is a MILLION times harder than pregnancy! I'd dare say a billion times harder. It's hard. It's hard for so many reasons but a big one is the loneliness that comes with this journey. Most people can't relate to the process. TONS of women experience pregnancy and can relate to the difficulties and struggles, but adoption isn't super common (especially not where we live) and it's a very hard, lonely, long walk.

I honestly woke up this morning and my first thought was "I just wish I could keep sleeping until he's here" The entire adoption journey is difficult but this phase of waiting is especially hard. It's exhausting and stressful and scary and just hard. I know the joy will come. But it feels like it's still ages away until we'll finally have him in our arms. Until we will be able to breathe for the first time in so long, finally knowing that he's ours forever.

Would you recommend adoption to anyone considering it?

When people have written me and asked this question my first response is to tell them to REALLY pray. I'm so, so thankful that I didn't rush in this decision. I'm thankful I was patient. That I prayed. That I allowed Zach that time to pray as well. I'm thankful it wasn't a decision we took lightly and one that we REALLY sat back and allowed God to have complete control over. He's been in the drivers seat the entire way and I'm SO thankful for that.

It's not an easy path to walk and if someone enters it thinking THEY are in control, then it'll only be that much harder. While I have struggled many times along the way (as in like every day ha!) I have PEACE in knowing this is GOD's plan. His path for us. The story HE is writing.

Adoption is a beautiful thing and it's something that is needed in our society. So many babies are needing forever homes. Families to love them. An opportunity to be raised in the Lord. This journey will mold you and shape you and rock your faith in ways you never imagined. I'm eager to see the end of this story for our family and pray it encourages others to begin a story of their own. It's not all sunshine and rainbows and I want to encourage those who are adopting that the sunshines and rainbows will come. I'm just currently in the waiting for that day :)

I tried to answer the most commonly asked things I have heard so far into our adoption path...if you have a question I didn't answer feel free to contact me anytime! I'll gladly add to this list as well as answer any question anyone else may have!

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram (I post Stories pretty obsessively!) to keep up with our growing family :)

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