You can read our Adoption Timeline here.
1. Find the right agency for you. There are a multitude of agencies in just the state of Texas alone. It’s overwhelming at first to know which to choose. Should you pick a local agency that casts a smaller net for birth moms or should you pick a larger, national agency where you are one of many waiting families? There is no right answer, just what is right for you. The only way to figure this out is by asking questions and trusting your gut. We would recommend asking the following questions…
· How long have you been in business?
· How many placements have you done since opening?
· How many placements have you done this year? (**Key to ask about placements NOT matches!)
· What is your average wait time for a placement? (**Take this with a grain of salt though, if the average is 9 months, that could will include some families who place in a few weeks and some who place after a few years)
· How many families do you currently have waiting?
· How long has the longest family currently waiting been on the list?
· How many failed placements did you have last year?
· What is your ratio of failed to successful placements?
· How many birth mothers are you currently working with?
· How do you find birth mothers or how do they find you?
· How involved is the agency in the medical care of the birth mothers?
· How frequent of contact does the agency have with the birth mothers?
· At what stage in a birth mother’s pregnancy can we expect to match with her?
· What process does the agency use to match birth mothers and adoptive families?
· When does this agency seek to have birth father’s parental rights terminated?
· When will a birth mother’s parental rights be terminated? (Very important if going with a national agency as not all states have the same laws. In Texas, a birth mother can sign 48 hours after birth.)
· Is there a time limit on your contract or will you have a contract with the agency until placement, regardless of wait time?
· Do you have any referrals we can speak with? (**Again, take with a grain of salt, they agency isn't likely to provide you names of the couples who waited years or had negative experiences.)
In addition to asking questions, we would also recommend looking at their website, including reviewing profiles of families who are currently waiting. Our agency also had an information session that we found EXTREMELY helpful in having the majority of our questions answered.
2. Truly understand the agency’s fee schedule. What is total estimated cost? How much are you required to pay up front? At what time and for what amounts will other payments be required? Do agency fees include birth mother’s living expenses or will those be additional? How are birth mother’s living expenses be managed (actual costs or flat fee)? If birth mother changes her mind, will you still be obligated to pay her expenses? What is the cost of a home study? Will there be a fee for post-placement visits? How much will finalization be? All things to understand before signing a contract. We would recommend spending the most time understanding how birth mother expenses are handled as this is where you can really start to run up a tab!
3. Relax, it’s just a home study ;). You will spend days, even weeks crafting the perfect responses to the “essay” questions posed. You will hand pick the best family and friend to be references. You will be able to eat off of your kitchen floor the day the social worker comes to your home. But on that day, you will find the experience to be very conversational. The social worker is not out to deny you because you haven’t baby proofed yet or don’t live in a mansion. He or she is not going to grill you or try to trip you up. The social worker is making sure they will be placing a child in a home where the parents are mentally, physically, and financially prepared (aka a loving, stable home). That’s it. You’ll still be a nervous wreck on the day of your home study, but there is no reason to be scared.
4. Don’t skimp on your profile book. We cannot emphasize this one enough!!! (shouldn't have made it #4 of the list, but was going for more of a chronological order J) Through your profile, you are marketing yourself to birth mothers. Do you want your marketing to be a hit Super Bowl commercial or a day time reverse mortgage commercial? Of course you want it to be a hit! To do this, you need to spend time and money. Take time to research the type of content others have put in their profile books. Take time to write each section from the heart. Take time to be colorful and creative – you want your profile to read like a magazine, not a classic novel. Take time to select the photos that capture who you are. Speaking of photos, spend money on a photographer to capture new portraits of you (we were lucky enough to have a professional photographer in the family!). Spend money on a scrapbook editor that will allow you the flexibility to make each page unique (vs. standard template). Spend money on high quality printing. I spent about three weeks practically non-stop working on our photo book and it was well worth it. Our agency told us ours was the best they’d ever seen and both of our birth mothers commented that ours stood out in the deck!
5. Prepare yourself to have tough conversations as a couple. In this process you will have to ask yourselves questions other families don’t have to. Are we looking for an open/closed/or semi-open relationship with the birth family? (*Most agencies will encourage at least a semi-open relationship as bonding is an important step for both the birth and adoptive parents.) Are we looking for only a newborn or are we open to an older child? If so, up to what age? Are we open to a birth mother who has used drugs? Are we open to a child with disabilities? Do we have a preference on race or gender? (*Not all agencies allow preferences, but some do) Are we open to siblings? There are no right answers to these questions, but would encourage you to make sure both partners are on the same page about the answers before you get too far into the process.
6. What to tell? When to tell? Personally, we announced to our immediate families that we were planning to adopt as soon as we made the decision. But, we waited until our home study was approved to announce publicly. We also waited to announce we had been matched the first time until we met the birth mother and signed the adoption plan. Given this placement failed, we were more cautious the second time and waited until we had had several meetings with the birth mother and were more confident before announcing. Whatever you decide, these are all very personal decisions. One piece of advice would be that once you announce your plans to adopt, tell everyone you know to tell everyone they know. While the odds are highly likely that your baby will be placed in your arms through your agency, there are many stories of success where someone had a friend of a friend that led to an adoption.
7. Other people can be jerks. Well, maybe not jerks, but ignorant and uneducated about adoption and the struggles prospective adoptive parents and their families go through. If you are like us, you have probably already experienced insensitive remarks while attempting to conceive naturally. You know the constant, “When are you going to have a baby???” at social gatherings where you just want to scream at back, “We are trying!!” PS -- That was probably the best side benefit of announcing our plans to adopt, people stopped asking! On the other hand though, it opened us up to a whole new onslaught of questions, some of which were hurtful. Here is a flavor so you can prepare yourself (and our mental responses)…
· “So you’re just going to adopt?” – NO, we’re not JUST going to adopt…this isn't a decision we came to lightly nor is it an easy process.
· “Don’t you want a baby of your own?” – Seeing as we’re not talking about a pretend baby, yes, this baby will be our own. If you’re asking did we try to conceive naturally, yes – but it wasn't in God’s plan for us
· “Aren't you scared there could be something wrong with him or her?” – Like any parent, we worry about the health of our unborn child. And with any pregnancy, there are risks. All we can do is pray for a happy, healthy baby.
· “Just because the birth mother isn't in a position to care for the child, it doesn't mean she still won’t keep it.” – OH THANK YOU for reminding us that she has the right to keep this child until signing the paperwork. It’s not like we stay up at night worried about this possibility or anything…
We could go on and on, but think you get the jist. Our recommendation is to try your best to stay calm and educate those around you on positive adoption language.
8. The wait is a roller coaster. This is something we said at least a thousand times while we waited. You have the highs of completing your home study and getting “on the list”, the first profile showing, the call you’ve been matched, the first meeting with the birth mother, the doctors appointments, the birth of your child. But, you also have the lows of waiting for your profile to be shown – sometimes with months of inactivity, the birth mother who changes her mind, the excruciating 48 hours praying her signature and placement is in the cards for your family. The ups and downs are an unavoidable part of the process and our best advice is to surround yourself with supportive friends and family who will help you to manage your dips and make the most of your peak moments!
9. Try to avoid “the day my life changed” conversation. If you had asked us when we first started this process when we planned to tell our child that he was adopted, we would have said over dinner one night when he was around 7 or 8. However, our agency referred to this as “the day my life changed” conversation. It is said to possibly lead to feelings of distrust and confusion. Instead, our social workers recommended speaking openly and positively about adoption constantly with your child from birth. This way, he or she will ‘just’ always know about the adoption and hopefully will be proud of it. This really hit home with us. We love the Modern Family episode where Mitch and Cam clap every time they say the word adoption and in the end of the episode, Lily claps when she hears it too! With our family, we tell our son every day how special he is that he is adopted, how much we prayed for him to be a part of our family, and that he is the answer to our prayers. We also have purchased a few children’s books about adoption (God found us you and We wished for you) that we read as a family quite often. Warning, these are tear jerkers the first few times!!!
10. It will be sooo worth it! The best part about adopting is the question changes from if it will happen, to when. Adopting our son is absolutely the hardest experience we have ever been through, but it is also the most rewarding. There are no words to describe the exuberance you will feel when you first meet your child and again when you hear he or she will be yours forever. We never knew we could feel so much love until we locked eyes with our son. He is our greatest joy, our whole world. When we look at him, we know that we had to go through the years of infertility, the wait of the adoption process, the failed placement, because we had to be available at just the right moment to be his mom and dad. God knew he was our son and picked him specifically for our family. We prayed for 1306 days for our son and the moment he was placed in our arms, we knew, God had answered our prayers.