Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

Just the facts, Ma’am

On the list of things that cheese me off, people and resources purporting to espouse “facts” that are, at best, poorly researched and, at worst, downright lies, rank right up at the top. When those resources are targeted toward people who are especially vulnerable and looking for reliable information to make life-changing decisions, it’s even worse. This is one of the reasons that so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) are so nefarious.

CPCs have physical locations throughout the US, and they also run websites. The pickle is, those websites are often affiliated with otherwise legitimate adoption websites. This can end up creating all sorts of confusion. It lends credibility to CPCs to be associated with trusted organizations, and that connection can lead potemalarkeyntial birthmothers to take CPC lies as truth. It helps perpetuate the all-too-common myth that folks who support adoption must be anti-choice. (The funny part there is that “choice” is the important part of “pro-choice.” That means that someone who is pro-choice supports a woman’s right to make the choice she feels is best for herself and her family–and for some women that choice is adoption.) Not to mention, it makes it very difficult for potential adoptive parents to find adoption agencies with pro-choice sensibilities.

There’s a particular website that claims to be the “#1 Registry of Adoptive Parent Profiles” that advertises widely. They seem to do a good job of getting the word out about the families who pay them a decent bit of money to be marketed to potential birthmothers. They have a very small amount of profiles of families living in our state, so if we were to pay them to promote us, I think that it would greatly increase the number of people who see our adoption page. In addition to the profiles, they have information pages on a variety of topics ranging from prenatal care to talking with friends and family about adoption. Unfortunately, this includes a page about abortion.

I’m not going to link to the site, but here’s one of the sections from the page on abortion. This list of “risks” is similar to those found in most CPC literature:

Abortion Risks:
As with any procedure, there are risks involved in getting an abortion. As mentioned earlier, in order to make an informed decision, you must understand what you’re agreeing to. When it comes to the risks of abortion, there are both physical and psychological risks to consider. Here is just a small sampling:

  • Death
  • Infection and Inflammation
  • Lacerations and Perforations
  • Higher Risk of Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer
  • Complications in Later Pregnancies: Pre-Term Labor and Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post-Abortion Syndrome
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Feelings of Loss, Guilt, Shame, and Depression

They start off strong, with “Death” being at the very top of the list of abortion risks. (Suffice it to say, there are no footnotes on their site.) In truth, a woman in the United States is far more likely to die from complications in childbirth than from a legal abortion. This article on the NIH website from 2012 shows that “The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.” This doesn’t show that childbirth is exceptionally dangerous in our country; just that legal abortion is very safe as far as medical procedures go.

An increased risk of breast and other cancers is also a common myth that anti-abortion organizations and individuals tout. In the most extensive study ever on this theoretical link, the medical records of 1.5 million women in Denmark were researched. There was no connection found between induced abortion and a higher risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society cites this study, and several others, on its website before concluding that “the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

The assertion about PTSD, depression, and negative mental health impacts similarly doesn’t survive scrutiny. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion released a report in 2008 that took into account all published literature on the subject since 1989. They found several things. One is that the majority of research done on mental health and abortion was (and most likely still is) methodologically flawed. However, “The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.” Additionally, “the prevalence of mental health problems observed among women in the United States who had a single, legal, first-trimester abortion for non- therapeutic reasons was consistent with normative rates of comparable mental health problems in the general population of women in the United States.” (Eighty-nine percent of abortions occur in the first trimester.) This study and others noted that the stigma that we as a society place on abortion, and the lack of support for women who choose abortion, can lead to negative post-abortion feelings.

awesome_scienceI won’t go through all of the points, but are you noticing a pattern here? The Guttmacher Institute has a nice fact sheet from February 2014 with even more science-based information on abortion in the United States.

Needless to say, we will not be using this company’s services. We believe that big, life decisions (and even tiny, daily decisions) are best made when a person has all of the facts and is able to weigh her or his options. However much working with a company like this one may increase our chances of adopting, it’s not worth it if they’re lying to potential birthmothers in order to coerce them into a continuing a pregnancy. We want to be matched with a birthmom who thinks adoption is fantastic and right for her, based on nothing more than her own feelings and the truth.

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Well, how did I get here?

This post has nothing to do with adoption, which is fine because a good number of people aren’t looking for adoption when they wind up on this site. Here are just a few of the search terms that have led people to our blog:

  • Describing people and things (This is the #1 most searched)
  • Money fun
  • Weird science
  • 1952 heavy equipment pictures
  • Children mistreating cats
  • Your family isn’t really your type
  • 1952 sports for woman
  • Interesting way of serving mash potatoes
  • How is one hundred and eighty degrees in shortened form
  • Awesome tortoise

In an effort to keep the odd keywords coming, here’s a triumphant water bear dressed as an astronaut:

water_bear_astronaut_by_obviouslycloe-d3gjbjp

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GAL-ling Around

Who doesn’t love a terrible pun? Many people, it turns out. That’s why I’m having to restrain myself from making GAL puns these days.GALBlog

GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem, which is what our state calls volunteers who are trained and appointed by judges to be advocates for children who were abused or neglected, and are now in foster care. In some states, Guardians ad Litem are called CASAs, or Court Appointed Special Advocates. You can read all about what GAL and CASA volunteers do on the national CASA website.

As the regular readers of this blog know, our attempts at foster care adoption opened our eyes to the many challenges that children in care face and the need for more advocates of all types both inside and outside of the foster care system.  A representative from the GAL office came in to talk with our MAPP class last year and I remember thinking to myself, “These GAL folks are totally the badasses of foster care.” In a system where so much emphasis is put on the rights of biological family and there’s such a large amount of red tape to get through to make change happen, the GAL is able to advocate solely for the child in care. And, as a volunteer, a GAL isn’t beholden to the same people as a social worker or foster parent. The goal of every GAL is permanence for “their” child, whether that be reunification with the child’s birth family or adoption outside of the child’s biological family. Studies have shown that children with GAL/CASA advocates are substantially less likely to be in long-term foster care, they have a higher chance at adoption, and they get more support services while in foster care.

Seeing as a large part of our interest in adopting a child from foster care was to give a child a safe, loving, and permanent home, becoming a GAL was right up my alley! So I signed up, was interviewed, completed the training offered through our local GAL office (it’s a challenging course, but doable), and was sworn in last week, and got my first cases yesterday. If the stats on the CASA website ring true for me, I’ll be able to help get far more children in permanent homes as a GAL than if we had simply adopted. As with so many things, it’s all about figuring out where you can do the most good, then getting in and doing it!

Quick update: I got the opportunity to talk with a local reporter about being a Guardian ad Litem in hopes of bringing more volunteers to the program.

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Slow(ly) Creep(ing)

Not too long ago Rebecca posted some information on our first meeting with a prospective adoptee.  What’s been going on since then you may ask?  Well, some additional interaction with that same child (hereinafter, the “Kid”) and some slow creeping of the process.  Here’s a bit of an update as well some information of how this stuff seems to run.

As for the update, the Kid was on spring break last week so we were able to steal him away from current foster parents’ house for a day.  It was a work day so that largely meant a lot of one-on-one time between Kid and Rebecca – Putt-Putt, video games, basketball, etc.  I caught up with them for lunch and then again at the end of the business day for dinner (and some more basketball) before he had to go back home.  The day was fun and gave us an additional bit of insight into his personality (and I would presume the same for him into our lives and personalities).  The situation is still odd – there is no outward discussion of the fact that we are prospective adoptive parents.  We have been presented during both meetings as individuals who are providing respite foster care.  That said, Kid has probably started to assemble some guesses as to what is really going on given our ages, the fact that we don’t have any kids and, most importantly, the fact that Kid is smart.  Would we spend some more time with him?  Certainly!  It is just a matter now of trying to schedule that time.

Kid’s social worker is fantastic to work with and is very patient at making sure everything is a great fit for him.  In addition to our schedule being slightly odd, everyone is kinda checking along with Kid to make sure he wants to keep hanging out with us.  Forget the fact that we’re interested – we’re not the most important parties here!  All of this checking back and forth between us, Kid and everyone in Kid’s orbit (social worker and other supportive individuals like guardian ad litems) create some clear and natural delays.  It all makes sense in its own way and we’re still along for the ride.

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Bouncing back, and a little money talk

Last week was a tough one, but we’ve had some very promising conversations with social workers since then and are feeling much better about our options for adding to our family. We’re learning to take individuals’ comments in stride and keep our focus on learning as much as we can about adopting and parenting rather than getting bogged down in the details. One of our goals for this blog is to add to the positive side of the adoption discussion and, although there will be some setbacks, it’s still entirely worth it to pursue adoption.

 

In addition to calls from a social worker who saw our home study and thinks we may make a good fit for a child she’s trying to place in a permanent home (it’s nice to feel wanted!), I spoke with a representative from the agency we went through for our home study to talk about possible options with them. The latter social worker reminded me how financially feasible adoption truly is–even infant adoption. While adoption from foster care is free or very low-cost, domestic infant adoption through independent agencies can run in the $15,000-$30,000 range. Now those are big numbers! However, there is tax credit available in the US ($13,360 per child in 2011, though that can go up or down in future years), there are grants available, some agencies offer a sliding scale for their fees, and many employers offer some amount of financial reimbursement for adoption expenses.

 

It’s also easy to forget that biological children don’t come cheap. We’re paying over $200 per month for the privilege of having a maternity rider on my health insurance policy, and the hospital bills for women who give birth without excellent insurance can quickly run into the multiple-thousands of dollars. One round of IVF paid for out of pocket can be the same cost as an infant adoption through a private agency. So just looking at an adoption agency’s fee for services can be overwhelming when you don’t consider the big picture: babies can be super expensive no matter where they come from!

 

While we’re talking money, it’s an especially big pet peeve of mine when people group all forms of adoption together and write them off in a single, broad stroke by saying, “Adoption is way too expensive to even consider.” Adoption’s not for everyone and there are plenty of good reasons why folks may not want to or may not be in a good position to adopt. But to imply that every form of adoption is financially out of reach for most people is completely untrue. Again, adopting a child from foster care is, in many circumstances, absolutely free. And if that child is considered to have “special needs” (if they are slightly older, part of a sibling group adopted together, or are a child of color, for example), they often qualify for ongoing financial support and Medicaid even after they are adopted. They may even qualify for educational grants depending on their age. In these regards, adopting a child from foster care can mean that child costs less money your biological child.

 

So next time you hear someone say that any form of adoption will bankrupt a family, set ’em straight!

 

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What You See May Be The Exact Opposite Of What You Get

Yesterday Rebecca wrote about the odd things (or simply out of our norm things that we have had to get used to) that we have seen incorporated into the “short form” profiles of children on adoption photolisting websites.  While it has been odd to see the same sorts of phrasing, gender stereotyping and the like, what has been more odd and somewhat alarming is how these short form descriptions can, in some cases, gloss over or outright seemingly mischaracterize some of the children.

Before I go further, let me set up a little bit of a background.  As previously mentioned, we have collectively tried to remain open to just about as wide of a selection of different types of kids (and their stories, backgrounds, challenges, etc.) as we believe we could handle.  We only have a few very hard and fast criteria that automatically would keep us from further considering a child.  One of those is if the child has any sort of history of animal abuse.  For those of us who know us, we are very attached to our three cats.  That alone is a pretty good reason for us to rule out kids who have a history of mistreating animals, let alone some of the behaviors that animal abuse can be an indicator for.

Does this count as animal abuse?

So, that all said, our first hand introduction to how the short form descriptions may not match up with additional data about a child came a couple of weeks back.  We had made an initial query with the caseworker for an out of state child. These initial queries are little more than internal data prompts that say “hey, highest level social work assigned to this particular child, please look at our family biography and see if you think we may be a good match for this child in question.”  If the social worker feels that the family might be a good fit (and after they have checked out the family’s home study), they will send you a longer form report on the child.  As you would expect, these longer form (from what we have seen so far these documents vary from state to state and kid to kid but are typically in excess of ten pages) documents give you a *lot* more specific and particular information on the kid.

Well, the long form data we received on this kid couldn’t have been closer to one hundred and eighty degrees away from the kid’s short form description.  Maybe we’re crazy, but if you read a description that  said “this child loves to play with the foster family’s pets” you probably wouldn’t expect to read another document that describes *multiple* incidents of animal abuse, right?  While this alone meant we wouldn’t be a good match for this particular child, there was also a lot of other material in this longer report that cut against the picture that was painted in the short form description.  Mind you, this report also made it clear just how hard of a life this kid has had – the behaviors and actions described within the report make complete sense in light of those life experiences.

The report itself, actually the first such long form report that we had received in response to any of our queries, was just a bit of a shock to us in contrast to the short form description.  We were immediately left wondering whether this sort of huge night and day discrepancy was going to be the case all of the time.  Had we made a huge mistake?  Were all the stereotypes of kids in foster care true? Rebecca was able to quickly reach out to a couple of friends who have adopted children from foster care with the question of “is this normal”?  We were able to get ourselves mentally back on track quickly once we were told by those folks that this sort of situation was *not* the norm and further had our spirits lifted once we received a long form report about a different inquired-about child later that same day with nary a mention of even frowning at a puppy (nor fire starting or choking other kids out).  This report also included plenty of very positive information about the child (while not glossing over their challenges) that weren’t touched upon at all in their short description. Whew!

The moral of the story?  Chin up, future adoptive parents!  Don’t get discouraged when you are looking through the information about available children.  Since so many of these brief reports and descriptions are written by folks who may not know the kids as well as their primary social workers, you just really have to take everything with a grain of salt.  It further demonstrates that one of your primary duties in the early stages is to obtain *all* of the information about the child that you possibly can, and to be as open about your own needs and expectations as possible with social workers.

 

 

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Fact!

Know much about foster care in the US? If not, fear not! Just strap yourself in and get ready for some fast facts:

 

  • Approximately 107,000 kids in foster care right now are ready and waiting to be adopted. These are children who are legally free for adoption–not waiting to possibly be reunited with their birth families.
  • There are all sorts of waiting children in foster care–from all races, backgrounds, ability levels, and family situations.
  • The average age of kids in foster care is 9.
  • Kids don’t come into foster care because they’re “bad.”
  • Many children come into foster care because they were abused, neglected, or abandoned by their birth families.
  • Adoption from foster care is inexpensive or free and includes tax credits and oftentimes continuing financial assistance.
  • You don’t have to be rich, married, straight, old, young, experienced parents, child-free, in perfect health, a stay-at-home parent, or own your own home in order to adopt.
  • Becoming licensed to adopt does not involve an extreme amount of time or effort.

 

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High-fives in the morning, good vibes at lunch, and humorous support all weekend long

Our morning alarm clock is set to NPR, which often notes the sponsorship of programming by the Annie E. Casey Foundation—whose work includes support for children in foster care—right around the time that we’re waking up.

 

Founder of Wendy’s Dave Thomas, who was an adoptee, started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in the ‘90s with the goal of making sure every child has a permanent and loving family. You’ve probably seen some of the Foundation’s posters in Wendy’s restaurants, or bought coupons for Frostys to give out at Halloween that help fund the Foundation’s work.

 

 

 

At home we like to listen to internet radio stations, which have PSAs rather than traditional advertisements. On weekends, they almost exclusively run PSAs for adopting shelter pets (yay!) and the “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent” ones from AdoptUSKids.org. They’re funny PSAs that remind listeners being  superparents isn’t a requirement of adopting kids from foster care.

Perfect Parent Video: Ice Cream

 

It’s nice to be reminded that although we don’t know many people personally who are currently going through the process of adopting from the US foster care system, we’re part of a community working to make kids’ lives better.

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