We'd Do It Again!

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We have adopted four children -- 14, 12, 11, and 8 when they arrived, and now 33, 25, 21, and 18 --from the foster care system, but we used a private agency, a route I would recommend to anyone considering domestic adoption.

First of all, assuming that you will be adopting a child over 4, a minority, a sibling group, or a child with special needs, adoption support will pay your agency fees and legal fees, as well as provide Medicaid coverage for the child (in our case, because I had health insurance through my job, they paid the co-pays and for a few extra things--for instance, a $1600 co-pay for braces, an extra pair of glasses annually, some extra dental benefits, counseling, and prescription drugs not necessarily covered by my insurance)at least until age 18 and in some cases longer. In addition, you can take a $10,000- tax credit per child, and the state can give you a monthly stipend for the child's special needs. You won't get rich on this by any means (coverage so we could work the summer our middle daughter was 14 cost about $4000 -- and Adoption Support couldn't pay directly because we'd patched together a bunch of "normal" activities she could participate in, with a little Medicaid Personal Care around the edges--our worker said if we wanted to check her into a nice psych hospital they could foot the bill, but it seemed a little extreme at the time--she couldn't be left unsupervised, but there were typical age appropriate activities she enjoyed and was good at, so we chose to go that route -- the subsidy didn't cover it all, but it sure helped!) but it does make a big difference in possibilities for a middle income couple like us--for instance, we were able to send our youngest daughter to horse camp for at least 4 weeks per summer, which was, we are convinced, a major part of pulling her back from the planet where she lived when she moved in and allowing her to feel in control of at least something in her life.

Using the private agency has several advantages--your SW is working for you, not trying to place a specific number of kids from a specific piece of the system. She generally has access to state SWs, can tell them what sort of child or children you're looking for, and often hears about available kids before they're ever posted--all of ours came that way--and the agency often has other resources available, like counseling, access to other services, the ability to license you for foster-adopt only, and so on.

I would recommend that anyone thinking about adoption visit/interview several agencies, find a social worker they feel good about, and work through that agency to find a child. We have found that it gives you all the resources of the state system with better service and probably faster and more appropriate placement/finalization. Our first daughter came as a foster child, was not expected to be free and wasn't adopted until she reached adulthood and had her own child: we started paperwork for our son in October, he was placed in June and finalized about 18 mos. later: we updated our home study for the last 2 girls I think around January and they came in early May-again it took about 2 years from placement to finalize.) We took our last 3 children as foster-adopt, and this is again an area where a good SW can help--ours reviewed the paperwork and assured us that she was pretty certain their parents' rights would be terminated. We were aware that this was not certain, but, because we had someone who knew the system and the judges helping us, were not too worried.

In fact, our younger daughters' birth mom agreed to relinquish after having met us and knowing that we would continue visitation--the State told her that going to court would mean having visits suspended for as long as a year while the action was pending.

We have had and do have communication of various sorts with all our children's previous families, some birth, some foster, one previous adoptive. It makes no sense to take a child who's had another family and pretend that that part of their life didn't exist, and besides, you are now related to a lot of people you may never meet. One discovery we've made is that, except where previous family members may actually be dangerous, it's a lot easier to deal with reality than a bunch of ghosts at your table. None of our children's previous parents were evil people--some were inappropriate in those things they did to the children or allowed them to see, some had drug and alcohol problems, mostly they just weren't very good at being grown-ups and taking care of themselves, so how could they possibly parent children adequately? We all get along reasonably well (better than with some of our other relatives!) now that the children are old enough to visit without our having to facilitate and schedule--not being in the middle lets us be on the same team a lot of the time. For instance, I'm not sure which mom is prouder of our youngest daughter, who's just successfully finished her first term of college and been granted regular student status. (She has trouble with tests, so she had to show that she could do the work). And our son's new baby will be grand parented by his birth mom (though she won't be allowed to baby-sit), his wife's father, stepmother, mother, and stepfather, as well as by us. Non-adoptive families have odd configurations, too.

The question always arises: would you do it again? In a minute! It hasn't always been easy, but we've certainly gotten at least as much as we've given in this exchange--in fact, we're considering adopting one more child, probably a mixed-race boy between 12 and 16--and, if we do, we'll use exactly the same route we did for the others--it has all the positives and a lot fewer pitfalls than going directly through a state agency.

Credits: Leslie Sirag

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