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!