Monday, December 27, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road – Signing Papers

Hi Everyone,

I must admit, life isn’t as bad as everyone lets on. There. I said it. LIFE has so MUCH to offer. I’ve struggled with what to write or even how to feel during this serendipitous waiting period. Yet, each day I’m reminded that life is good and sometimes it’s our “silence” that speaks more than chance. During the past few months, we’ve dug deep to rediscover the magic of adoption and matching with a birthmother. By doing so, we released negativity and purposely let go of those who didn’t support our dreams; to have a child and share our unconditional love. Besides, the honest truth is that paperwork is a necessary evil that unfortunately grays the adoption process. Yet, after each signature and “required” triplicate document, we are one day closer to a birthmother match! On Gerry’s birthday, December 17th, 2010, we signed open adoption papers with the Independent Adoption Centers! (IAC)

Now, let me be entirely open and honest with you. There are some people that are completely against our decision. In fact, some believe that gay couples aren’t able to raise well adjusted children. I have to laugh at the irony, since I’m assuming that most gay children are raised by straight people. Either way, life has its reminders that “the peanut gallery” has little to offer. Curiously though, perhaps it’s more than philosophy that drives those to judge others. Maybe those that live in fear of their own judgment, tend to streamline their concealed hate because of their inability to love outside of their ideology. Nonetheless, as we walked into the IAC office in excitement, we realized that it was the inclusiveness of open adoption, not ideology that attracted us.

During the “weekend intensive” we met a birthmother and another gay couple that went through the same open adoption process. Her experience was much like many others; an unplanned pregnancy, young and unable to care for a baby. What struck me the most was the amount of love that she had for her biological child. In her own words, “I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother and wanted to give my son a better life.” As I watched her tell her story, I found myself completely consumed with the bravery of this young woman. Where does this type of character come from? After all, society seems to demonize those who don’t follow cultural norms. There she sat with her knitted multicolor hat and scarf, holding on to her own hands. She truly was the “light” in the room.

The gay couple that adopted candidly shared their experiences as well. They explained that unfortunately there are those individuals who seek to take advantage of others looking to adopt. Their actions are driven by a false sense of security and basic financial need for instant gratification. In the end though, they may not be pregnant and/or have their unborn child in distress, due to drug use or other non-related issues. As difficult as this was to hear, it’s good to be aware of these unfortunate situations. The best advice we were given was to always direct the birthmother back to the adoption agency. This way, any monies that we provide can be accounted for. In the end, open adoption is a life time commitment, not only to our unborn child, but the birth family that he or she was born into.

We’ve been asked by many, where exactly are we in the process? Good question! Here’s my answer – We are further down the yellow brick road. I know, not exactly a clear answer. The process is long and at times, convoluted. We were told to expect to be matched in about 7 months. A typical birthmother is around 6 months pregnant. The operative word here is “typical.” Most of you know though, Gerry and I have never been “typical.” With that said, below is a step by step process which will give you a good idea of the series of events.

Before jumping down and reading more, I want to share with you some of my personal thoughts…

I believe that unconditional love is the most powerful gift you can give one another. I’ve learned that life is too short to worry what the world thinks. I’ve experienced that there are good people in the world, willing to authentically share their lives and family of choice with you. At the end of the day, I would hope that our adoption stands for kindness, compassion and a belief that nothing is more important that the love we offer each other. And, I don’t want to ever lose it.

Love, Kim & Gerry

Here is a breakdown of how it works:

1. Complete the home study. (Approved in July, 2010)

2. Sign the adoption paperwork that legally commits you to the adoption. (Signed December 17, 2010)

3. Sign additional agency paperwork/training that is related to your specific adoption. i.e.: inter-racial training, inter-racial questionnaire and client profile. The client profile is used by the agency to match you with the birthmother’s specific experiences. i.e.: drug & alcohol use, race, child disabilities, mental status, multiple births, etc. (In progress – Completed within days)

4. The adoptive parents are asked to write a birthmother letter, collect family photos, have a website and develop a four page, full color brochure. (In progress – Completed & printed within a month)

5. When a birthmother contacts the agency they are provided with a psychological and environmental prescreen, confirmed pregnancy and HIV test. (Ongoing)

6. Once the agency confirms the validity of the pregnancy, the birthmother is provided brochures that match with both the adoptive parents and birthmother‘s profile.

7. Once the birthmother is interested in the adoptive parents, she then makes contact by calling and/or emailing them. During this time, it’s important to have a strong connection with the birthmother. This is a person that is likely to stay in your family for a life time. The whole process is a lot like dating with a long term commitment.

8. Once the birthmother and adoptive family find a connection, a “match” is completed. This is where the birthmother stops viewing brochures of potential adoptive families and agrees how much contact she will have with the child. Example: one visit a year and pictures monthly.

9. The adoptive family is hopefully able to be at the hospital at the time of birth. The birthmother must sign “intension of adoption” papers before leaving the hospital. Additionally, she can ask for a 30 day hold before signing the “relinquishment papers” although most birthmothers do not.

10. If you are adopting outside of your home state, the adopted parents must stay in the state of where the child was born for about 10 days to 2 weeks. During this time, the courts are processing an ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) document which will allow the child to be given temporary custody and permission to the leave the state.

11. The final adoption papers are completed within about a year.

Note: This information is not legal advice. Please contact your attorney and/or adoption agency for details.