We don’t all drive the same cars. We don’t all live in houses that look exactly like (I hope). Your favorite meal may not be Chicken Lombardi. So, it is only natural that there are different adoption options that suit different families. Adoption is not one size fits all. In fact, if I am being brutally honest, adoption is not even for everyone. There are negative things said about both international and domestic adoption, just as there are positive things. I’ve probably heard most of it, because I work in international adoption and have adopted domestically. So the big elephant in this blog is why did someone who works in international adoption adopt domestically? I have some tangible reasons that I will share with you, and yet when it comes down to it, it is more than just that. The partial truth is that even though we thought we would ultimately adopt internationally, in the end we discovered it didn’t feel right. I remember people asking me why I chose the college that I did. My main answer was that I could picture myself there. I am a “feeler” in the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory thingy. My husband is a “Thinker.” Yet, we both ended up with the same conclusion: we were drawn to domestic adoption. Let me tell you why we chose this path. I want to stress again, that your path may be different, and there is no wrong choice.
I found out with 10 days notice that I would need to go to a foreign country for my job. I asked if my husband could come along as my assistant if we paid his way. My bosses easily agreed and we went off on the trip of a lifetime. When we reached the orphanage that we were working with, children were lined up on either side of the driveway to greet us. As we walked into the orphanage my heart melted as the director handed me a precious baby girl. I carried her around on our tour of the orphanage. I wanted to take her home. She was a healthy little girl matched with a family waiting for the final steps of their adoption that would allow them to travel to come and be united with her. Oh my heart! It was an amazing trip from start to finish. I had the opportunity to spend time with the children, understand their needs and hear their pleas for a forever family. I couldn’t help but feel obligated to find each and every one of them a family. But that is where the feeling ended, it was purely professional, for lack of a better way to put it. My social worker side fell in love with these children and I certainly left a part of my heart in that orphanage as you hear so often from people visiting a children’s home. Oddly, something didn’t feel right on the personal side. My husband and I both came to the same conclusion that while we had a heart for these amazing children, we didn’t feel like this is was the country we should adopt from. It just didn’t feel right. There is no explainable reason I can give, other than I know I can trust my gut feeling.
It was a shock to discover this, and we started to search for a more tangible reason why. So, we went back to the materials we had been requesting from domestic agencies and went over the pros and cons. When we did a side-by-side comparison, what we realized is that domestic adoption won for us hands-down. The most important thing to us was that we could get a newborn through domestic adoption. While we knew we had lost the desire to ever try for a healthy pregnancy again, (see this post: https://crownmemama.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/from-infertility-to-adoption-how-my-heart-made-the-journey/) we couldn’t let go of the desire to have a child from birth. Second to that desire, was that we also had the opportunity to get to know the birth family. We felt like the more we could know about the birth family then the more we would have to share with our son or daughter some day. There are so many teens that were adopted internationally as infants that are now searching for their birth families halfway around the world. I wanted to be able to give my child those answers if/when the questions arose.
Here are the list of the pros of domestic adoption for us:
1) We could adopt a newborn.
2) We could likely know a lot about the birth family versus in an international adoption.
3) We would likely have lower travel costs because we wouldn’t have to travel internationally.
4) We wouldn’t need immigration approval, which we imagined we would get but realized it took many steps out of the adoption process if not working with two different country’s governments.
5) We could get a newborn! I know I already said this, but ultimately this was really important to us, not just because of not wanting to miss anything, but because we would then have less challenges to face with attachment, bonding, and we could potentially be the only caregivers the child ever had. Even now as a Mama, I love being able to know that I was there for my son’s first breath and I didn’t miss a thing. After all the pain of infertility, and the fears in starting the adoption process, I treasure this thought still today. I didn’t have to miss a thing. (That doesn’t always happen in adoption, which is why again, I am thankful to my little guy’s birth mom for sharing him from the very beginning with me.)
Besides these pros there were several things we were worried about and ultimately were reasons why some choose international adoption:
1) What if the birth family changed their mind about placing their child for adoption, or about placing with us? In international adoption most children available for adoption have already had their parental rights terminated or the process to search for their birth parents has already occurred prior to the time of referral. So, families feel like this risk is much lower in international adoption.
2) What if we spent lost all of our money in the process and still had no baby? If a birth mom changed her mind with the agency we were working with for our first adoption we would lose our legal fees and the fees paid for birth mom expenses. We were concerned we wouldn’t be able to continue with the adoption process if this happened to us.
3) How would we afford adoption (domestic or international this would still be a be worry)? I’ll cover this in an upcoming post that I am really excited about…in case you don’t know it, making a dollar stretch is totally my thing! Adoption costs $25,000 to $60,000. There is no other way to slice it than to conclude that it is really expensive. We are an average American family. How on earth would we come up with this money without placing ourselves in long-term financial hardship? Don’t worry we did it, well with absolute divine intervention, and the help of many friends and family members!
If you are considering adoption I feel it is important for me to share with you that I absolutely support international adoption as well. In fact, it is my joy and privilege to be able to be a part of seeing children united with their forever families from all over the world. I love my job! Just as there are children here in the United States that need families, there are orphans and vulnerable children all over the world that need loving families. Some of you will come up with your own set of pros that all point to international adoption. I talk with families many days who have a list of reasons like this one:
International adoptive families list of pros:
1) Many say they don’t necessarily need a baby, there are plenty of older children that need a home.
2) Families don’t want to deal with the risk of a birth mom changing her mom and feel this can be avoided in international adoption.
3) Families want to help a child that wouldn’t otherwise have access to the education, medical and vocation opportunities we have in the U.S. that they don’t have being an orphan in their birth country.
4) Some families have traveled and have done mission work in countries where they are struck with the plight of the orphan.
5) Some have fallen in love with another culture and want to blend that culture with their family. (This of course can happen in domestic adoption as well.)
6) It just felt right for their family!
7)The domestic adoption process relies heavily on you being chosen by a birth family. Whereas, in international adoption your case worker or the central authority of the placing country makes that match. Some families don’t want the pressure of waiting to be picked just like we all felt when it was time to use dodge ball teams in gym class.
Shameless tangent starts here: It sickens me to see the number of international adoptions drop over and over again as (forgive me I am sounding political, I know) when I know there are children that unfortunately do not have the opportunity to come to the many families waiting for them here with open arms. Our governments are missing the point that children belong in families. So, if you are a family that would like to adopt internationally you may want to check out the CHIFF legislation that is currently being proposed to our federal government. The bottom line of CHIFF, Children in Families First, is to encourage our government to stop just trying to address the physical needs of children worldwide and to start making the need for a family a priority as well. This means taking some of the billions of dollars were spend on children and focus it toward finding kin or families to adopt them first in their country of origin and then internationally if no family there can be found. The numbers of orphans worldwide is growing as we speak, and the numbers of adoptions, even within these countries, continues to decrease.
Very quickly, I will say that I personally feel that foster care is an option that did not feel right for us either. That could be an entry in itself so I will simply say that the goal of foster care is reunification with the biological family. My personal goal was to adopt a baby, so until I am ready to just love and teach a child temporarily, then I should not do foster care. We are considering doing this when our children are grown. Your answer may be different and I hope you know that is okay with.
There is one final type of adoption we seriously considered and that is embryo adoption. There are estimated to be about 500,000 frozen embryos in storage today. Now only a small portion of those embryos have been made available for adoption at this time. This is when you would have the opportunity to have another couple’s embryo placed in your body. In most cases these are leftover embryos from a couple that did IVF successfully, but do not want to use remaining embryos they still have frozen. I would have had the opportunity to give birth to my adopted baby which is appealing because you don’t have to worry about prenatal exposure. Ultimately, this didn’t seem like a good option for us simply because of my continual pregnancy losses. Our last baby’s chromosomes were tested and showed no abnormalities. Doctors say my uterus is “perfect.” So, with no answers as to why this keeps happening to me, I am not comfortable placing more embryos in this body that just doesn’t want to stay pregnant for whatever the reason. A growing number of couples are considering embryo adoption and so maybe you want to check it out for yourself. If it works, it would be much cheaper than traditional adoption. For those with insurance coverage for embryo transfers in my experience some of those insurance companies don’t specify that the embryo has to be yours. So, the transfer may even be covered by your insurance if you are lucky enough to have infertility coverage.
I know what has been right for my family. I can’t tell you what is right for yours. But I am happy to sort through the adoption process with you and help you come to the right decision for your family. I cannot stress enough that I strongly feel that part of the reason that I experienced infertility was to share my story and help those who are still struggling to find a way to build their family. I am not embarrassed by infertility. I am sick over the fact that our society makes it such a lonely disease. Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now… So, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions.