I am so very grateful for the love and support shown by friends and family in the comments when I shared my last post on Facebook. Something that became clear to me however is that I left folks with the impression that we weren’t sure which option to choose. While that is true we will have to make that decision, it isn’t going to be now.
We are choosing BOTH for now. The hard decision is when once a child is going to be placed in our home. And really it may turn out we don’t really have a choice in the matter.
Even though we have been contacted by a birth mother, the situation is about as far away from a sure thing as you can imagine. In any situation like this, nothing is final until is final. Most folks we know who have adopted traditionally get contacted by several birth mothers before one finally works out. That is something that fostering to adopt and traditional adoption have in common. That uncertainty is what makes this hard.
Make Room For Baby
Due to the size and layout of our home, we will likely only be able to go with one or the other. We only have one additional bedroom that we can legally put kids into.
This one huge difference between having “homemade kids” (I picked up this phrase from another blog recently and have adopted it [my pun loving nieces and nephews might appreciate that one]) and adopted kids is that bedrooms for adopted kids have to meet certain guidelines while rooms for homemade kids don’t. I mean, sure, if you are, making your kid sleep next to the water heater and the right folks catch wind of it, we may end up fostering them, but having space for them is not a prerequisite before they come into your home.
I’m not arguing that this isn’t a good thing, I’m just pointing out that although this is something you have to consider with homemade kids, it seems like it would be easier to deal with than with adopted kids. There are several families in our neighborhood, with houses with similar floorplans, that are able to adequately house several more kids than we would be allowed to take in.
And my real point is that since the whole “your bedroom will be under the stairs until you go away to Hogwartz” isn’t an option, we run out of space quickly.
We will soon be licensed to be foster parents for 2-3 children. This is because the bedroom we have is just a little too small for 3 (5 ft² too small – you need 40 ft² per child and we are at 115 ft²), but in the right situation we can be issued a variance. This might have if one of the children is an infant or it makes sense without being harmful to the children. The other caveat is that they all have to be the same gender if any of them are over two years old.
Traditional adoption typically gets you one child at a time. Multiple births aren’t unheard of, but you do end up paying about the same for each child, so all those costs I mentioned in my last post get doubled or tripled. I find it funny that when someone wants you to have his and/or child, it breaks the bank. When they have been removed from their biological parts, it’s basically free (to the adoptive parent(s)).
So could we do both – traditionally adopt and foster to adopt? YES! But it would require very specific circumstances and one of the things you learn quickly in adoption is that is very unlikely you will have any control over the circumstances. And regardless of how our first child or group of children come, we are still going to be foster parents. We may just have to get a bigger house first.
So Why Even Try for Traditional Adoption?
After reading what I have written in these posts so far, you might be asking yourself, “Why even try for traditional adoption? It costs more, you are likely to get fewer kids at a time, you might make it legal and them lose them, etc. etc.).
To be honest, once we started foster training I have been asking myself this periodically. And I am still not truly sure why, but we want to.
There is something incredibly appealing about knowing your child from the day they are born or pretty darn close to that. This is much more likely with traditional adoption than with foster care. But I don’t think that is all of it.
It may be vain or superficial, but the idea of a birth parent choosing us may be a factor in all of this. We have been chosen by several relatives to be the guardians of their children in their wills. This was a huge honor for us. But even so, it is still very different when a birth parent, who is caring the child at that moment, makes the decision that you should be the child’s parent. And maybe at that point it is less about being just the highest honor one can receive as much as it is about feeling like the highest honor and a greatest duty one can perform.
Plus then you get to mess them up on your own instead of dealing with how someone else messed them up. (JUST KIDDING! Well, kind of.)
A Story of Dick & Jane
I thought I would share a story of a couple I know who has done both foster and traditional adoption. I’ll call them Dick & Jane out of respect for their privacy.
Dick & Jane figured out having homemade kids was not going to happen for them pretty early in their marriage. To make a long story short (TOO LATE!) they ended up fostering to adopt their first child due to a family circumstance.
They tried traditional adoption for years afterwards. Years and years. They continued to foster as well.
When I randomly ran into them after not seeing them for years, they have six kids. In addition to their oldest, they had just adopted a sibling group of four. They also (after years of failed attempts) adopted a baby girl through traditional adoption.
With homemade babies, you get what you get. Because of genetics, you usually have a pretty good idea of what you might be getting physically, but you still don’t choose anything. At least not until we get to the point where we have genetic selection ala Gattaca. In our attempts to pay doctors to help us make a homemade baby (doctor’s office made baby?) we did have some genetic testing done. We didn’t have anything interesting, but that could help parents decide if they should try and have children if there is a risk the child may have some sort of genetic defect.
Traditional adoption is pretty similar. I’m not sure the choices available here make it any easier though. Do you have to adopt a baby when you find out they have a disease that will end their lives prematurely? Or have developmental problems? Or anything you may not want to have to deal with?
Foster care offers the most choice. It may seem callous, but in some respects foster care can be like shopping for children. Often times when children aren’t able to be adopted by their foster parents and biological parents’ rights have been severed, they get listed on adoption exchanges as ready to adopt. These sites are setup just like shopping sites. You can search by age, race, gender, state, and the size of a sibling group. The sad truth is that most of these children have very special needs, are Native American and require adoption by someone with a tribe affiliation, or are older. They are hard to place.
But even if you don’t foster to adopt through an exchange, you are asked to share preferences that case workers can use as the are looking to place children.
These preferences are only general guidelines. Even if you put you want to take in 0-5 year olds, if a case worker has a 6 year old that might be a good fit, they may still ask the child can be placed with you.
Filling out these preferences was hard for us. Some things were easier. Race? Whatever you’ve got! Gender? Either will be fine, but we have a slight preference to girls (I think this stems from both of us only having one sister each and that my little brother wasn’t a girl like 5 year old me had really wanted). But other things were harder. What if they have a history of hurting other children? What if they are sexually reactive at a far too young age? What if they have a history of hurting animals? These kinds of preferences had a scale – would accept, may consider, and would not accept.
Checking would not accept for anything is hard. In your head it goes something like this.
“Hey Mr. and Mrs. don’t have kids but really want them – don’t you want any kid you could possibly get?”
“Here’s one. He murdered his last family and sent a dozen priests packing after attempted exorcisms.”
“Uh… ya know… maybe not that one.”
“You terrible, horrible people! How dare you turn away a child in need! A pox on you and since you can’t have kids, that ends up being a pox on all generations to come!”
I am so thankful in the foster training they were candid about this. It basically comes down to doing what is best for the child. If you know you are going to flip your lid if a child talks back to you, you aren’t doing them any favors by accepting a placement to a sassy child. Nobody’s perfect and understanding our imperfections may just help prevent traumatizing a child more than they already probably are. It really is okay to say no. Sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do.
And even with these preferences in place, a foster parent never has to accept a placement if he or she doesn’t want to.
With homemade kids, you name them what you want. You can name them Zaphod Beeblebrox in most places without any problems. People are capable of doing all sort of crazy things to their children just by naming them.
Traditional infant adoption is again pretty similar (maybe that is another part of the appeal?). I think thoughtful adoptive parents consider the birth parents’ ideas or history when selecting the name. If the adoption is of an older child, it is more like fostering to adopt.
With fostering to adopt, the child’s name is likely a part of their identity. Adoptive parents can choose to change a child’s name for a number of reasons. If they do for any other reason than to protect the child from some aspect of their life before being placed, I would hope they do so with the child’s consent – maybe they have to if they are a certain age. I’m not very knowledgeable on the details of it.
Personally, I don’t see us wanting to change a child’s name unless there is some obvious reason. You know, if their birth parents had named them Zaphod Beeblebrox. We’d still call him Zaphod, of course, but Beeblebrox is pretty hard to spell.
Where We Are
We are waiting for our foster licensing to be complete. We are waiting to hear back from the birth mother. We recently renewed our adoption home study as well. Technically we are waiting for that to be done, but it is pretty far fetched that anything would go wrong there.
We are preparing what we can. We have a pile of loan offers just in case we need a quick influx of cash while we continue to save up.
We are talking to a lot of people about adoption. Everyone is very supportive.
I started going into a subject I have been trying to write about for several years, but never feel like I have the right words for it. I still don’t think I do, but as I wrote it, I realized that it should be its own post and not a footnote at the end of an already too long post.
So I will end with this. Thank you, thank you all so much. Keep thinking about us, praying for us, and loving us.
Addendum About the Picture
In our travels we have been to a few wax museums. Evidently, I like to find humorous poses with the wax figures and make Lookin’ To Be a Mommy take my picture. This one was in Hollywood. Right after taking the picture I noticed that an Asian couple had found it very entertaining, as the gentleman was laughing uncontrollably. I quickly figured out that English was not their first language when he told me, “You do… good job!”
I don’t know if the caption or the picture really fits the post, but I wanted to include a funny picture. I hope it made you smile.