In our first, “Let’s Talk Specifics” entry, we hopefully provided you some additional clarity about a homestudy – what it is and how you get one. For our second post in this series, we want to explain the next major step in an adoption journey – selecting an adoption agency.
Type “domestic adoption agency” into your Google search bar, and over one million results will be presented to you. Agencies in every state, some with multiple offices, others with just a small staff, some with religious affiliations, others without…overwhelming to say the least. It can be hard enough for us to decide where to eat on a Friday night, so imagine our struggle on selecting an adoption agency! Luckily, this is where our adoption consultant comes in to save us.
If you recall, we are working with an adoption consultant, Susan. She doesn’t work for a specific agency, but rather an adoption consulting group and is a professional who walks this journey with us, watching out for red flags, assisting with paperwork, and answering our questions. Also, Susan has professional relationships with numerous adoption agencies, to whom she recommends adoptive parents. This was a huge help to us, shrinking that enormous, frightening number down to 15-20. This list provided a really good “starting point” for selecting an agency. In fact, because we are working with a consultant, we could apply and work with multiple agencies, potentially increasing our chances and speeding up the adoption timeline. Seems simple, right? Just pick a few and go? Well, if there is ever a recurring theme in adoption, it is that the process is slow and never as simple as it may seem.
Once we selected the agencies we felt were a good fit for us, the paperwork trail, similar to the homestudy, began again. Contact forms, applications, and contracts had to be completed, signed, and notarized. Nearly all of our homestudy paperwork and forms needed to be included, in addition to our family profile book (more on that in our next “Specifics” post). Fees had to be paid. Further, with a few of the selected agencies, a phone interview with their staff and attorney was required, where they explained the adoption process and legal implications of working with the agency. Whew!
Of all the paperwork, one of the hardest struggles was determining the “type” of child we are willing to adopt – characteristics and qualities of a child that are beyond our control. Not only are there decisions about gender, race, and age, in each agency application, there are checklists upon checklists of every disease, level of substance abuse by the birth parents, and family medical conditions, through which we had to decide our comfort level. It is very intimidating to make these decisions. Again, as Elisabeth O’Toole’s states in her book, In on it: What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption:
Could you parent a child of a different race? Which races specifically? Could you parent a child from another country? Which countries? Could you parent a child in contact with the birth mother? Birth father? Birth grandparents? Siblings? Could you parent a child with physical disabilities? Which ones exactly? How about mental disabilities? Could you parent more than one child? An older child? How old? What about a child who has been neglected or abused?
It’s hard to check “no” on some items; feelings of guilt come quickly with thoughts such as “we’d love any child, as long as we can be parents.” But we, like any adoptive parents, had to honestly ask ourselves what was the best fit for us. O’Toole continued:
Until I faced these decisions, I had never thought so specifically about adoption – or parenthood, for that matter. If anything, I had a vague, untested belief that I could parent any child who was in need of a family. And I really wanted to be that person, someone who could handle any obstacle with equanimity, one with boundless patience and humor, able to provide with generous hands whatever my child needed from me. I still want to be that person. But I’m not. It was only by considering adoption myself – by facing that checklist in front of me on the dining room table…that I was compelled to acknowledge and accept my own capabilities and limitations as a potential parent.
And we also sat at our dining room table, with these checklists in front of us, trying to determine as best we could what we could handle in our family. Once we figured it out, we sent off our packets of applications, contracts, and other documents so that we could become “active” in each agency’s system, to be available as potential parents for birth mothers who make an adoption plan. Currently, we are active with about five agencies and are relying on God’s help to wade through the cumbersome clunky process that is adoption.