Do you want to adopt? Foster? International? Infant? Private? CPS/DES? There are many options, and all have their strengths and weaknesses. For us, there is no perfect solution - by adopting another person's child we run many risks that cannot be controlled because it's not our genes, our health, our environment, our love starting the child/children out. Everyone who adopts picks a process eventually, and I wanted to share some of our thoughts and reasons. For the record, these were OUR personal preferences. I believe other people have the right to make other decisions that work for them.
The first thing that we reviewed and quickly ruled out was infant adoption of any sort. If you know us, you know that a lot of it had to do with the fact that I am dedicated sleeper. Sounds ridiculous, but it's beyond the mere desire of quality sleep (which frankly should be enough of a reason on it's own). I need 8-10 hours of sleep every night, or I become a very horrible monster. Even one night without adequate sleep can leave it's mark. Also, sadly for J, I am a very. deep. sleeper. Nothing wakes me up - not J trying to fix beeping smoke alarms in the middle of the night, not the house alarm going off, not being physically shaken and told I need to wake up because of "X" catastrophe. If someone broke in, I would sleep peacefully through the entire thing. That means in an infant situation, J would be doing ALL the heavy lifting - and as we recently learned with the smoke alarm incident, he would quickly begin to feel an overwhelmingsense of bitterness - not that I wasn't helping, but that I could sleep deeply through the chaos.
The second reason is that J is several years (8) older than I am, and so an infant adoption (with the 2-3 year typical wait) would make him almost 60 years old by the time the child graduated from high school. Love kids and all, but that's a little late to be getting your life back.
The third reason was that we both work, and we will both continue to work going forward. This made school age children (or close to it) a better choice for us.
And finally, J was a teacher for special ed kids when he got out of college, and found the process very draining for the parents. There are a variety of developmental disabilities that we believe we can support as adoptive parents, but their are others that we don't feel well equipped for - and most of those have manifested themselves by the time you get to school age. The big ones on our list are fetal alchohol syndrome, and impacts from drug dependencies.
So infant adoption was out.
Fostering was the next thing we looked into, and when we first reviewed it, the laws were set up so that the goal was ALWAYS to reconnect a child with the natural birth parents. That meant that the children could be in foster care for 5-10 years, and not be eligible for adoption, because the parent was still doing just enough to keep stringing the court system along. This was unpalatable for us for several reasons. First, J has a cousin who was fostered by his aunt and uncle since the day he was born, and yet they were never able to get legal custody of him (his birth mother committed suicide after he became an adult) and it was a very challenging situation for all parties. The other thing that we really didn't like about it was the bonding with a child and high risk for losing them. J already has a daughter he doesn't get to see the way he wants to - adding another bond/taken away situation was not something he felt like he could live through again.
(Courtesy of http://chernobyl.typepad.com/chernobyl_childrens_proje/images/2008/03/13/zhila_family.jpg)
So foster care was out.
That left us with International adoption - so we thought at the time. China was our first choice (for those of you who don't know, I've always had an affinity to China, to the point where I held my eyes stretched for hours at a time as a child convinced that if I held them long enough, I would grow beautiful epicanthic folds). We quickly learned that neither of us qualified. I have a facial scar (yes that's one of the rules) and J was previously divorced. He could requalify after we have been remarried for 5 years, but by then he'll be over 40, so then that rule will disqualify him. Bleh. I want it noted here that we both met the BMI index requirements - China has some interesting qualification rules.
J felt very strongly that we should only work with countries that are following the Hague Conventions. The idea of adopting a parent's stolen children just did not resonate with him, and the Hague Conventions were set up to prevent illegal adoptions. That limited our choices for countries of origin. Not being religious limited our choices way more than I thought it would. Not being married for 5 years left us with 5 options - Colombia, Guatemala, Estonia, Moldova (WTH is Moldova?!), and Ethiopia. At the time Guatemala was a Hague Convention country, but under suspension, so that was ruled out. Colombia made us nervous because it required being in the country for an extended period of time, and the words Colombia were linked with "drug cartel" in our minds. Between Estonia, Moldova, and Ethiopia, Ethiopia was the best choice for us. J joked about conducting sports tryouts at the orphanages, but it really had more to do with the fact that there were rumors of major palm greasing needed in the former Soviet block countries, and we wanted to be able to have a legitimate adoption, without lingering questions or guilt.
We seriously considered Ethiopia. For a while that was the route we were going with. We liked that Ethiopia was religiously diverse (1/3 christian, 1/3 muslim. 1/3 jewish - this made Sydni thrilled that she had a chance at a jewish sibling) all living in harmony. We liked the perspective of the Ethiopian people, who are proud and loving, but completely overwhelmed with caring for their children due to famine and HIV. They were also open to transracial adoption, which most other African countries are not. We have a diverse family (another post coming later to discuss) so it wasn't a problem for us to adopt a child with a different ethnicity.
The problem was cost. The average Ethiopian adoption runs about $35,000. Both of our companies have great adoption assistance programs, and $10,000 reimbursements, and there is a tax credit for adoptions for about $13,000, so we could come close to breaking even. The problem is that we don't believe in credit, so we'd need to accrue enough in our savings to hand out $35K cash and still have a savings to support the new family. It was a big amount for us, but we decided to put our noses to the grind and start putting serious money away.
That was when we learned about the new foster/adopt program in Arizona. I was introduced to a woman who had recently adopted two boys from the foster/adopt program, and everything that she told me sounded fabulous. Aparently they had changed the rules so that birth parents were given a specific amount of time to get their act in gear (depending on the age of the child between 9-18 months). If that did not happen, the parental rights were severed and the child would be a ward of the state and immediately eligible for adoption. The agencies that supported foster/adopt would only pair you with children that were eligible for adoption. Oh, and it cost $800, which was reimbursed by the agency upon successful completion of adoption. They also had many older children and sibling pairs already waiting to be placed.
(Courtesy of http://www.mesaunitedway.org/files/images/iStock_000013114851XSmall.jpg)
The foster/adopt (a.k.a CPS/DES adoption) seemed to meet all of our requirements, and allowed us to be able to make a difference right here in AZ. So that's the choice we have made.