Our Adoption Story - Part 1: The Adoption Process
Adoption had been on our hearts since before we were married. We thought we'll get married, have some "us" time, get pregnant and have a couple bio kids, and then adopt... "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 - isn't that the truth?!?
Well 3 years after we started trying to have a family, we decided to research adoption agencies thinking we'd probably adopt internationally. I was getting a little disheartened with the stats I read about how long the process could take and how international adoptions were on the decline due to many countries shutting their doors on international adoption. It was then that we actually attended a funeral of all places and heard about Christian Adoption Services. (I'll be doing another post on what we looked for in agency coming up.)
We attended an informational meeting a week later where they talked about both international and domestic adoption. When we split up into groups to learn more about each type of adoption, Dale and I both looked at each other and knew God was leading us towards domestic adoption.
In this post, I will be sharing a little about what our journey looked like from the time we decided to pursue adoption until we became a waiting family. Follow the rest of our journey over the next couple weeks in my 7 part series on our Adoption Journey!
Disclaimer: Every agency works differently and even every family's journey within the same agency is different, so all I can do is tell you my experience - we have learned to expect the unexpected throughout this process!
The Formal Application
One thing I can guarantee regardless of what agency you use is this - there will be A TON of paperwork! Some of our paperwork included:
Criminal background checks
Employment & Financial Verifications (to make sure you can afford to raise a child)
Submitting all kinds of forms including birth and marriage certificates
7 page autobiography (more on that coming up)
Our agency made it easy because everything was done in an online portal, so they would open up checklists as we made our way through the application process - hallelujah for the internet and Adobe!
Okay, back to the autobiography... This to me was one of the most time consuming, yet growing (and quite frankly a little terrifying) parts of the process. They ask you a bunch of questions to get you thinking about your marriage, parenting, discipline, etc. to prepare you to parent an adoptive child. Y'all some of these questions were DEEP! Take a look at these doozies...
What were your parents’ expectations for you? Have you reached them? Okay, WHOA!
Describe your parent’s marriage—Who was the dominant member, how did they make their decisions, etc.? Never thought about that before...
What is the most difficult thing you have had to ever handle in life? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it? My brain hurts!
One thing about your spouse that drives you crazy is… Eeeek... Is he going to read this?!?
How does your level of interest in your sexual relationship match that of your spouse? And why is this relevant???
List 5 possible techniques for effective disciplining Ummm IDK... I've never done this before!
In all seriousness, going through these questions with my husband allowed us to talk about some things we hadn't ever really talked about before, and I do think it prepared us to be parents. Honestly, everyone should do this before they have kids - adopted or biologically! If you're going through this process right now, don't rush it!
One of things I'm so thankful for about working with CAS is that they prepared us for life after placement. Sometimes adoption seems kind of like a wedding where people focus on the matching and placement part, but not as much on life after - just like the marriage is more important part than the wedding, raising an adoptive child requires a lot more preparation than bringing home a baby. Yes, it's important to make sure you have a crib and a carseat, but focus on making sure you are bringing your baby home to a place where your marriage is stable and loving and you're ready (as you can be) to be the best parents you can be.
To prepare us, we had to go through the following training:
Read the book Adopted for Life
Take Infant CPR Class
Do 4 online trainings from Adoption Learning Partners
Attend 2 in-person training workshops with our agency
I'll do another post on some of the things I learned and how my view of adoption changed as a result of these trainings, so be on the lookout!
The Home Study
I have heard some people write off adoption entirely because of the home study saying "I don't want someone coming into my house and judging me..." That couldn't be further from our experience with the home study (again every agency and case worker is different though).
We had 3 home study visits with our case worker. The first took place in our home in order for our case worker to get a feel for our house and write a description for our home study report and obviously to make sure it was a safe place to bring home a baby. Let me just say, our house has never been as clean as it was when our case worker came to our house! Looking back, we probably went a LITTLE overboard on cleaning and preparing - they are not looking for a fully baby-proofed house or doing a white glove test. Our caseworker asked us questions like, "do you have a fire extinguisher/escape ladder/etc.?" If our answer was no, they would tell us to consider getting one, but you didn't have to show them you did in order to "pass".
SLXLMFor the 2nd and 3rd visits, we met our case worker at a church - we met with him individually for one meeting and together for our final visit. I thought he was going to ask us super deep questions (like following up on the intimacy in marriage and provoking childhood questions!), but most questions were just clarifying questions to make sure he got what he needed to write our report (like what was your father's wife's name or how long have you lived in your house?).
We had our 3 visits in the span of less than two weeks, and the whole process from our 1st visit to receiving our final home study report was about a month (way shorter and less painful than I thought it would be)!
The last thing I will say about the home study, is that they are not trying to fail you, they are trying to make sure they have all the details necessary to do their home study report for the court. Yes, if they see a major red flag, they will address it, but they want to see families progress in their journey towards adoption, so DON'T BE NERVOUS!
The Photo Book
Okay, if I'm being honest, I was the most nervous about this part. No pressure, but create a book that fully explains you and your spouse so that an expectant mom would want you to raise their child!
I used to scrapbook and I had made photo albums using Shutterfly, so I wasn't nervous about that - and deep down I knew God had already picked out our child(ren), but I still felt the pressure to make it "perfect". My husband kept reminding me that it doesn't matter - our agency told us that some birth moms may see a dog in your book and think "I used to have that kind of dog when I was little, I want to pick them!" or they could think "I hate dogs, I don't want my child to be raised in a house with a dog". So at the end of the day, I tried to be as honest as I could with who we were and include a lot of pictures of us doing what we love with the people we love and stay light on the text throughout, except for the letter to the expectant mother.
When I looked through example albums for the first time, I had a momentary freak out - all the books had pictures of the nursery! We didn't have a LXLMSnursery, and I wasn't even sure I wanted a nursery all ready and waiting before we were even a waiting family - decorating the nursery was supposed to be what kept me busy during the waiting! Our agency said expectant moms like to see where their baby would be growing up so we ended up ordering a crib and staging a wall of the nursery for the book as a compromise, and then I worked on decorating the rest of the nursery while we waited. (I'll do another blog post on the finished nursery - spoiler, it looks a little different with two cribs!)
That's a Wrap!
Once we received our finalized home study and had our book approved, we met with our agency and they told us to have a carseat and a diaper bag ready because we were officially a waiting family and could get a call any time!
(I had a million questions about the process - my husband always laughed at me because I would rapid fire questions at everyone I met who was further in the process than us. So if you got to the end of this post, you likely are considering adoption or already in the process of adoption, and I would LOVE to answer any questions you might have - shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org)