Most of you know that we have been trying to start our family for about 4 years now. Actively trying as in, well, you know, but it also included 3 years of meds, and shots, and IUIs and IVF that was all, ultimately, unsuccessful. We took a break from the treatment world in December of 2016 after our one and only attempt at IVF failed. 2017 we just...lived. I can't explain to you the emotional and physical toll infertility takes on a couple. It has been likened, by medical professionals, to the emotional toll cancer can take. And unless you've gone down either one of those roads, I can understand if you believe I'm being dramatic. Anyway, 2017 we just lived and tried to recover and recoup from what the previous three years had consisted of.
We knew our next step would be adoption (go here to catch up on that whole story), but finances and fear held us back from starting the process. Until this past week. I finally set up a meeting with a local agency and we met at 2 o'clock on a Monday afternoon.
Once we finally arrived at the correct location (there are two organizations that work together, but at two different locations. oops) we sat down with the social worker and she proceeded to tell us all about adoption.
As I've shared before, I myself am adopted. Now that doesn't make me an expert by any means on the whole process. In fact my adoption was quite different as I was the first identified adoption in the state of North Dakota. I'll share that whole story some other time. Identified adoption is when the birth parents and the adopting parents find each other 'on their own', and then go to an agency/lawyer to help sort out all the legal 'stuff'.
Anyway, being adopted doesn't make one an expert on adoption, but I feel like I have a better understanding than the 'average Joe', no pun intended (my husband's name is Joe). I've also inherited from my father the trait of researching just about everything, so I had done a lot of homework over the past year and a half about adoption. I can't say we learned a lot of info at this meeting that I hadn't already researched myself, but since we want to take you all on this journey step-by-step, I'll share what we know.
There are 5 different types of adoption:
North Dakota Infant - adoption of a newborn from ND
Identified- birth parent(s) and adopting parents find each other on their own
Interstate- child is from a different state than the one you live in
International- outside the US of A
Embryo- You adopt another couple's embryo(s) that have been created through IVF and they won't be 'using' them but still want to give them a chance at life
We already know that for this go 'round we won't be doing international or embryo adoption. We would love if an identified adoption were to fall into our laps but it's not something we can bank on. (Although you can help with that one! Feel free to share our desire to adopt to with anyone and everyone! Seriously.) So that leaves us with the decision of ND Infant or Interstate.
There's a catch, though. We can't be on the list for both. The agency we met with is realistically only placing, on average, 10 ND infants a year. There's this misconception that there's these babies all over that need to be adopted. False. Add on top of that ND is a fairly conservative state so after the few infants that aren't kept to be raised by family, there aren't many opportunities left.
What we know about ND Infant Adoption-
- Once we turn in our application along with the $500 application fee, they won't even process your paperwork for 6-12 months, you're placed on a waiting list.
- Once you start nearing the top of the list (people ahead of you have successfully adopted or some fall off the list and go elsewhere, therefore moving you up the list) you are sent an assessment packet.
-You're then required to attend an Adoption Preparation and Training Workshop which is also accompanied by a fee. These are only offered once quarterly.
-Sometime after you have completed the workshop, you are 'assessed'. Which, yup, will also cost you money...somewhere in the $3300 range. This assessment consists of individual and couple interviews with social workers, a home visit, and two-four more visits as deemed necessary.
-If you pass your assessment (read: they decide you're not crazy), you then work on preparing your selection profile. This is usually a hardcover book that shares pictures and information about you, your family, things you like to do, values, beliefs, etc. This book is what is shared with birth families who are making an adoption plan so they can find a couple that they would like to place their child with. The average wait time from assessment to placement is 1-2 years.
-If a birth family decides they like you, the agency notifies the adopting couple of all known non-identifying information about the birth family's situation. You then decide if you would like to go forward with adopting that specific child or not. If both parties decide to move forward, this is when you are considered 'matched'.
-Once baby is born, a 'legal risk placement' is often made. This means you are able to take baby home from the hospital, but that child is not yours yet in the eyes of the law. Birthparent(s) are still legally responsible for that child and, technically, that child is still theirs. A 'formal placement' does not occur until birthparent(s) legally relinquishes and terminates their parental rights in a court of law. It is only after the birth mother testifies in court that she is willingly terminating her rights, that baby can be legally yours. The timeline for this is different in every state.
-After baby is legally your child, post-placement supervision is required by ND state law for 6 months. Once a month a social worker will come meet with you to make sure everything is going well.
ND Infant adoption is significantly cheaper (roughly $19,000) but the wait time is also, on average, significantly longer (at least 2+ years).
-Upon submission of application and application fee, the process starts almost immediately.
-Assessment packet is mailed to you
-You attend the Adoption Preparation and Training Workshop
-Pay your assessment fee and submit paperwork to social worker
-Prepare profile book and birthparent letter to be sent to your chosen networking agency. A networking agency is a nationwide agency that you chose who works with birthparents and adoptive parents from all over the US.
-By using a networking agency, you are placed in front of hundreds of potential birthparents, instead of just a handful in ND
-The next steps are the same as above when a birth family chooses you.
-When the time comes, you travel to wherever the baby is being born and you must stay in that state until paperwork goes through saying you are legally allowed to bring that child home. The wait time for this is on average 1-2 weeks. If you leave without proper approval, you can be charged with human trafficking. All states in the US have an Interstate Compact (ICPC) that allows children to be adopted between states.
-Post-placement supervision is still required for 6 months after. You can choose to have that time shortened, but you would need to travel back to the state the baby was born in each month for your visit.
This is where the biggest difference lies. The time from starting to coming home with baby in your arms is SIGNIFICANTLY shorter. The networking agency we are looking at has an average wait time right now of 3-12 months. But the cost is over double. The average cost for adopting using a national networking agency is $44,000 to $48,000.
They claim you can set your own budget (HAH), but if you set it lower than $42,000 it severely reduces the exposure of your profile as less than 5% of their situations occur below that price range. You are considered highly restrictive and can expect a much longer wait time.
One of the main reasons this is so much more expensive is because these national agencies do a TON of marketing. The more people that know about them, the more matches that can be made with shorter wait times. It states right in the info we received from the networking agency that part of that large fee is an $11,000 marketing fee and $1,300 video profile development fee.
Most of these types of agencies are 'for profit' whereas many of the smaller local agencies are not.
Things that are required for either type of these adoptions:
-We must retain primary ND residence through the time we turn in our application through the end of post-placement assessment
-Applicants who are childless, have one child, or experiencing infertility will be given preference for placement
-No requirements for level of income, just that you are able to provide for the basic needs of the child
-Previous adoption fees must be paid in full before starting the process of a 2nd adoption
-Home ownership is not required
-If a pregnancy or identified adoption should occur anytime during the process, all action is suspended. If a live birth occurs or a successful adoption placement takes place, they request that the child be AT LEAST 6 months old before you start the adoption process back up. If a miscarriage or stillbirth occurs, the application is reactivated when the parties believe the time is right. Casework is provided to ensure a healthy emotional state.
So that's basically what we know. Our next step is deciding if we want to pursue ND Infant Adoption which is much cheaper but a longer wait, or to pursue an interstate adoption with a networking agency that is significantly more money but your wait time is much shorter. The trade-offs between the two seem so unfair. I feel like we're being forced to choose between significant debt or not bringing home our first child until we're at least 34.
I'd be lying if I told you the weight of this decision is almost enough to make me want to give up and crawl in a hole and cry...which I almost did last night. But this is where we're at. This is our path in life and there really is no other choice than to face it head on and press forward. We're thankful for the support that most have offered and we will need it tenfold from here on out. We hope we can be transparent through this whole process as to raise awareness and understanding of the adoption process and everything that goes into it. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, but a journey of great importance. This will literally change lives.
Feel free to ask us any questions along the way and we will answer them if we are able. You can find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/birdiebeloved or feel free to email us at email@example.com.
If you know of someone who may be looking to make an adoption plan for their child, please please PLEASE feel free to give them our email.
We will update you once we've made this first big decision!