What If We Checked No: Answering The Medical Questionnaire

A New Kind of Normal Adoption Month - June 2014

Today is week 2 of Adoption Month here at A New Kind of Normal! If you missed week 1, you can catch up by checking out my advice on getting started with the adoption process!

The “paper chase” may be one of the most stressful steps of the adoption process. Ok, all steps are pretty stressful but at this stage of the process (which occurs between having your application approved and completing the home study), you may feel like you are buried beneath a mountain of paperwork. Thankfully now a lot of the required paperwork can be submitted online so you don’t find yourself living at the post office. Adoption agencies can now offer online adoption management services that can expedite the paperwork process, improves communication, and provides readily available access to status updates.

Between background checks, submitting medical clearance forms from your physicians, and writing a seemingly endless autobiography, you begin to wonder if you will ever make it through (and if you have an ounce of privacy left). Our autobiography questions and subsequent interview questions covered everything from how we were disciplined as a child to how our extended family feels about adoption to how infertility has affected our sex life. While it seems overly invasive, it is important to remember that the process is not only about completely the mandated requirements for adoption but in order to know you personally, as a couple. and as a family in order to match the best match possible for your family.

Of all of the vast variety of forms we had to fill out as a part of the process, answering the adoption medical questionnaire regarding what health conditions or needs we were open to was definitely the hardest to fill out. On one had we felt like if we had had a biological child we would not have had the option to choose which health issues we wanted to avoid in our child but on the other hand, we knew we needed to take each line of that questionnaire into serious consideration. While we were beyond ready to become parents and just wanted to have a child to love, we knew we needed to take this opportunity to be as prepared as absolutely possible to parent a child with physical, mental, or emotional needs.

The questionnaire covered physical issues as simple as having a visible birthmark to more serious issues such as muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis as well as possible transmittable diseases from a birth parent such as Hepatitis or HIV. The questionnaire also covered issues such as a family history of mental illness (or an older child already receiving a diagnosis) and a family history of learning disabilities. Of course it is impossible to know everything to know everything at the time of placement but this questionnaire sought to allow the adoptive family to be as prepared (mentally, emotionally, and financially) to parent a child with needs.

The questionnaire had the options of yes, no, and maybe next to each of the possibilities. Our agency advised us that saying “maybe” was the same as saying “yes” so take the option seriously (versus having the attitude of I’ll think about it later).  They shared the story of a couple just as eager to become parents as we were and they checked yes down the list in efforts to welcome a child into their family as quickly as possible. They ended up becoming parents of twin toddlers who both had cleft lip and cleft palette and had not yet had corrective surgery. All of their family was 10+ hours away so they found themselves over their heads and in desperate need of support. The story served as a reminder of the seriousness of each line of that questionnaire.

Because of our history and the direction we felt God was leading us in, we knew there were certain needs we would be open to in addition to being open to any gender or any race. I will not be sharing specifics of our selections for privacy reasons (not only for our family but Abby’s birth family). When we got the call to be matched with our daughter, our social worker said we have a baby girl that we would like to place with you that has the possibility of having X. It was one of those blanks that we prayed long and hard over before making a decision to check yes. Even though there was a chance that she could have been sick, by the grace of God, Abby is absolutely 100% healthy but we have asked ourselves many times, “what if we had checked no?” If we had checked no to that box, we would have never received that phone call and we would have never been so amazingly blessed to have our daughter. Praise God that He led us to check yes and we did.

Every step of the adoption process is full of tough decisions. I cannot stress the importance of research, education, and support. There is always the possibility of the unknown but the purpose of the paper chase and home study process is to help you become as prepared as possible to welcome a child into your family via the miracle of adoption. Our social worker worked right alongside of us answering questions and recommending resources and our agency conducted group seminars where we would cover topics such as bonding and attachment and preparing for a special needs child but we would also have the opportunity to meet and connect with other adoptive families in waiting alongside us. Adoption Learning Partners is a wonderful resource before, during, and after the adoption process. Just as I visited the site to get the URL, I noted 3 that we need to take now.

If you are considering adoption as a way to expand your family, it is never too early to start considering which possibilities would best fit your family as well as starting praying for direction on how to grow your family. I took our being led to become a transracial family and being open to certain special needs a calling. We feel like God was leading us down a certain path, we followed in faith, and now have an absolutely gorgeous little girl!

 If you are considering adoption or just starting the process, have you taken any time to consider the needs of a child you would be open to? If you are an adoption veteran, how did this step of the process affect you? 

Getting Started With Adoption

Getting Started On The Adoption Process - A New Kind of Normal Adoption Month

 

Before John and I were married, we had a conversation about our dreams of family and parenthood and early on in our courtship we knew we had the desire to adopt. We thought we would have two or three biological children and then adopt but when infertility turned our lives upside down, plans changed. The further we got into fertility treatments, the more discussions we had about choosing IVF or adoption as a way to become parents. Many, many hours were spent in prayer as we sought God’s direction. We desperately wanted to experience pregnancy and have a biological child but as we learned the chances of IVF success were growing smaller and the daily impact of my endometriosis becoming greater, we felt a growing peace in our hearts about adoption as the way to grow our family.

The day my hysterectomy was scheduled, we dove into getting started with adoption. Start to finish our adoption journey took just shy of a year. Our formal application was approved in August, our home study was completed in November, and we brought Abby home in June (with two failed placements in between). Abby’s adoption was signed, sealed, and delivered (aka finalized) the following March. Our wait time was impacted by our openness to either gender, any race, and certain health conditions but the average wait time for domestic infant adoption is typically between 12-18 months.

When we first started the adoption process, we quickly went into information overload. After surviving the process, I would offer these three tips on getting started with adoption (and keeping your sanity!):

1- Learn the basics

Believe it or not, I highly recommend Adoption for Dummies as a great starting point. It gives a great overview of the different types of adoption (domestic vs international, open vs closed) as well as the different avenues of adoption (adopting through the foster care system, adopting through a private agency, or adopting through an attorney or facilitator). It also gives tips on how to survive the paper chase (the mountains of paperwork that accompany adoption between submitting a formal application and your home study being approved), how to not freak out during the home study (when you feel like there is no longer any privacy to any facet of your life and you spaz about how clean your house has to be for home visits), and how to prepare to meet potential birth parents without wanting to throw up (ok, you will still want to throw up before such an important meeting). I feel like this book helped us get an understanding of steps involved in adoption and decide which options would work the best for our family.

2- Request as many free information packets and attend as many free information seminars from agencies as you can.

Choosing an agency (or an attorney/facilitator) that is right for you is a huge decision. It may be one of the most important and most personal decisions you make during the process as it is important to chose an agency that best suits your needs (such as your price range, your preference for a national agency vs a smaller local agency or your preference for a religious versus a non-affiliated agency).

Most agencies will send out information packets and host free seminars or open houses as a way to learn more about them and the options they offer. Some agencies focus on international adoptions. Some focus on domestic adoptions. Some offer both.

Not every international agency completes adoptions through the same countries so if you decide to pursue international adoption, you need to be sure to find an agency that specializes in the specific country you would like to pursue. Important note: if you choose to adopt internationally, it is crucial that your agency is Hague accredited (meaning they are in compliance with the Hague Convention and intercountry adoption regulations). If you aren’t sure which country to pursue or would like to check out the specific adoption requirements and adoption fees for different countries (they are all different), agency counselors will gladly help walk you through the process in person or over the phone. With both John and I having health issues, we were had the option to adopt internationally but we were limited to specific countries because of different countries adoption requirements.

After looking at all of our options, reading tons of material, and attending seminars, we decided to pursue domestic infant adoption and chose a private Christian agency in our state. All of the homework and research paid off and we had an excellent and very personal experience with our agency and would 100% chose them again if we decide to adopt again.

3- Find support.

The adoption process is a wild, wild ride and an emotional roller coaster. It was so important to have the support of other couples going through the similar process that could offer advice, share in the excitement, and provide a shoulder to cry on. We had a couple at our church that had adopted (and had actually been the ones to recommend our agency) and John had some friends that he worked with at his diabetic camp that had also gone through the process. I had also been a part of an infertility group on The Bump and before moving over to the adoption group that provided so, so much support. This group most definitely helped me keep my sanity. I am still in contact with many of the ladies that were going through the process at the same time on Facebook and we are able to continue to have support as our children grow and new situations arise. Adoption is most definitely a journey and continues to be a roller coaster at times. We have definitely come into a new season in our family as Abby is getting older and beginning to ask questions. We are lucky to have continued support from our agency, the tools we learned during our adoption classes we took before bringing Abby home (Adoption Learning Partners is an amazing resource), and a group of fellow adoptive parents to help give us some counsel on the new territory we are finding ourselves in.

 

If you are planning to adopt in the future (or know someone who is), I hope that you will find these tips helpful! Starting the process can be both exciting and overwhelming so having a starting point in mind is always a plus!

We celebrate our Family Day (sometimes called Gotcha Day) June 22 so I decided to make June adoption month here at A New Kind of Normal! Every week will be a different blog post about various aspects of the adoption process and will end the month with a Q&A post (maybe I’ll get brave and do a video!) so if there are any specific questions that you would like answers to, you can leave the question in the comments, send me an email, or find me on Twitter