Considering Adoption? Here’s What You Need to Know
If you are considering exploring adoption but the idea of calling an adoption agency seems terrifying, you’re not alone. Many people who adopt first found themselves in this window-shopping phase.
“Calling an agency or a social worker seems so definite and scary. What you want is information to help you decide if you are even considering doing this,” says Sandra Crane, mom of four-year-old Alex, whom she adopted from Russia two and a half years ago.
When she was considering adoption, living in Boston six years earlier, the thought of contacting an agency put fears in her mind that they’d then pressure her to move forward. The good news is that agencies never do that.
“Adoption agencies aren’t sales offices. They won’t get your email and phone number and hound you. If you call one large adoption agency in America, (such as World Association of Children and Parents in Seattle), they’ll then send you information that can help—it’s that easy. They won’t contact you again as they’re too busy and that’s just not what they do,” Sandra explains.
This information is really helpful because laws are different in each state regarding adoption and adoption leave and there are different laws for domestic adoption verses international—with each country having their own nuances.
Since Sandra was considering adopting a child as a single mom, she really wanted to have a lot of information. Some needed to come from her employer. At the time, she was working for one of the largest financial services companies in the world, but sadly, she couldn’t assume that they offered any paid leave for adopting a child. Sandra says she assumed that living in Massachusetts, a liberal state, and working for such a large company, meant she’d get some paid leave. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. This helped her in her decision to look for another job and ultimately move from Massachusetts.
Each state is different, so don’t be discouraged from one person’s story. For instance, Patti Ghezzi of Atlanta, Georgia who works for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper was given six weeks paid leave and the owner of the paper, Cox Enterprises, actually offers a $3,000 grant to parents once adoption is finalized. This however, just came about three years ago after an employee who adopted wrote a letter of complaint to management. Ghezzi is currently taking a year off with her job guaranteed upon return as well. To do this, however, a person has to be able to afford to live on one income or have a year’s salary saved up, so clearly not everyone can swing it.
Another couple in Dallas, Texas who received no paid leave managed by splitting shifts—with the mom staying home for twelve weeks of unpaid FMLA leave, and the dad staying home afterwards using his three weeks of saved vacation time. So regardless of state laws, there are ways to find some time at home with your newly adopted baby or child.
But what if you’re completely unsure?
Getting specific laws and employer information is helpful, but what if you just want reassurance that you can handle being a parent?
“At every dinner party or event I always have people coming up to me saying they’re interested in hearing my experience and that they are thinking about adopting or being a single mom too, but are not sure that they want to,” Sandra says.
If that sounds familiar, Sandra highly recommends visiting a family who has adopted a child, but not asking the family to meet you out.
“Single moms of adopted children are busy. We can’t come to you easily, but ask if you can bring some coffee over and then see the family. Just know that you might not get a lot of your questions answered with the kids running around, but you’ll get to see the family in action,” she suggests.
Most women who want to explore adoption as a single mom are afraid they won’t be able to do it all alone. For those who aren’t necessarily worried about the financial side of it, Sandra reassures that it’s all worth it.
“If you spend time thinking about all the obstacles, then you’ll never do it. But look around and you’ll see single mothers around the world who have less than you do and they figure it out. People are always afraid of that, but I’m surprised at how easily it all fell together (after adopting Alex) for me,” she explains.
Sandra found a great preschool, a terrific Russian nanny who is teaching Alex Russian, and worked out leaving the office at 5:30 p.m. nightly. She even received paid adoption leave.
While women seem more afraid of the financial issues and day-to-day management of care, men, interestingly, seem more afraid of emotional issues.
Two men admitted anonymously that they feared they wouldn’t love an adopted child as much as their own.
“It’s a genetic fear that men have. What if you just don’t love this child as much as your other child, that’s your own blood?” says one man.
Men who have adopted, such as Brian Miller, say that is just nonsense. One visit to the Miller’s household in London and anyone would quickly realize that. Brian and Linda Miller, who adopted two boys from Siberia nine years ago when they were living in Boston, are so filled with love for their boys that it’s overwhelming. January 26th, 2007 is their nine year anniversary of adopting Luc and Jacob. Each year they have an anniversary celebration where they re-read their adoption decree, sit on the blankets Linda and Brian brought with them to Siberia, light candles, hold hands and then put glitter on each others heads.
“It’s silly, wonderful, and our annual ritual, to remind us how much we love each other, how lucky we are,” giggles Linda.
So if you’re uncertain about adoption based on emotional, rather than financial fears, follow Sandra’s advice and ask to visit a family who has adopted. If you don’t know anyone, ask around at church or network with friends. Subscribe to an adoption magazine or newsletter such as Adoptive Families. Learn as much as you can before you decide.
Taking the Leap
Once you do decide to take the leap to adopt, just know that it will take a lot of time, patience, and money.
“Adoption costs range, but I’d say expect to spend up to $20,000 for domestic and up to $30,000 for international. Lawyers have to be paid. Agency workers have travel costs. It’s just the way it is,” says Sandra.
The other important thing to grasp is that you’re entering a world full of bureaucracy.
“Paperwork is very time consuming. It’s a frustrating process that feels very intrusive. You are trying to justify to strangers how you were brought up and how you would raise a child. It’s understandable, but intrusive. Think of it paralleling a pregnancy. It’s uncomfortable, the paperwork is difficult, and you have a minimum of nine months of bureaucracy, waiting, and angst,” she explains.
Another important consideration is timing. If you are thinking of changing jobs or moving homes—this isn’t the time to apply as likely, you’ll have to start the whole application process over again. Agencies must conduct home studies and they want to see your house and your child’s room and check your financial security with your employer. If one of these things changes, the whole process must start over—adding potentially another year before you adopt.
To sum it up, here are some questions to help you with this big decision or to assist you in starting the process:
- Do you have a daycare facility nearby?
- Do you have support from family?
- Do you get leave from work?
- Can you pool your vacation and sick days together to take additional time off?
- Would work allow you to leave every evening at a certain time to pick up your child from childcare or relieve a nanny?
- Can you network to find sitters or family to help with sick days or days when school is out?
- How important is having a child in your life now?
- How important is having children around you in your middle years?
- Can you and your spouse (if applicable) afford day care, the costs of adoption and sitter/nanny fees?
- Is it likely that you or your partner (if applicable) will change jobs or move soon?