I get so many emails and facebook messages regarding questions surrounding adoption. I figured it would be great to write a little how to adopt post to show you all just how easy it is to adopt a child and change a life forever. Adoption is for everyone -- we as Christians are all called to take care of Orphans. For some of us, it means taking in a child and calling them our own. For others it means being a temporary home and walking children through crisis until their home is once again safe or a forever home is found. And for others it means supporting those who do these things. Obviously not just anyone can adopt a medically complex kid -- but there are so many kids right here in the USA needing a home both with medical needs and without.
I think we as a culture, especially a Christian culture, often look to far to find our place to make a difference. After all, sometimes the people in greatest need are within arms reach. Adoption is beautiful and a God thing no matter where in the world the child is from but please don't write off those children in our own area. We assume that these kids are taken good care of since they live within a society of wealth -- think again. I'm not going to give details about our adopted kids pasts, because after all it's not my story to tell, but once our eyes have seen, we can never again pretend those problems don't happen right here in our very own first world nation.
After Gavin's death we knew we wanted more kids. We wanted to give other kids the same amazing life that our son Gavin was able to have. At some point in February of 2010 our world was rocked -- someone told us that Adoption in the USA is free. Did you hear that? There is little to no cost to adopt a child within the children and youth welfare system. Adam and I wanted to adopt a child even before we started making babies of our own, but pretty much wrote it off as we really are your typical middle class one income family. When we found out that this really could be possibility, we quickly wanted to learn more.
I did a little online search for local adoption agencies. Understand that there is a difference between private adoption agencies (pregnant birth mothers looking for adoptive parents for their unborn child) and foster care/adoption agencies. Although we did not do foster care, our agency that we picked does both, since these kids all are in the same system. Once we found an agency we were invited for an informational meeting -- basically we watched a really bad VHS from the 80's explaining the types of kids we may encounter -- hurting kids who had suffered all kids of abuse and neglect. We were given a paper to fill out, if we weren't scared away by the VHS, to sign up for a training class to start the process of becoming adoptive parents.
Our training class met once a week for 12 weeks. It basically trained us on the entire foster care system. At this point it was explained that there are three basic types of placements. The first is foster care, which most people understand. This is a temporary home until the child can either be reunited with the family or parental rights are terminated and another family can be found -- of course sometimes the foster parent then has the option to adopt the child, but that's not the original plan. The second type is called legal risk adoption. This is for families wanting to adopt younger kids under the age of three. This can be a bit tricky to fully understand but basically is when the legal and foster care system suspects that the children's parent's parental rights will soon be terminated but haven't yet. For example, as birth mom who has 10 kids all of which have been taken away and placed up for adoption and birth mom is now pregnant again and ready to deliver. Mostly likely that baby will need a new family but it hasn't happened yet and if you accept the child there is always the risk that parental rights will not be terminated and the child will go back home.
The last form is straight adoption. This is what we did. We technically would have done legal risk but because of our previous loss we didn't want to set Madison up for another loss. It would have been devastating to bring a child home then have that child leave us. For our season, that was not the best option for us. The kids who are ready to straight adopt have no parents -- no parental rights. They are either in a foster home or more institutional setting. These are the kids that the system has deemed high risk -- sadly they may never find a home, age out of the system and live their entire lives with the idea that they were never wanted or sought after -- ever. My heart hurts just typing that out. It's a cruel reality that somehow the Church has chosen to ignore. These kids are hurting, often come with more scars than any adult would ever be able to endure. Our little ones are also put into this category. Kids with medical issues are very hard to find homes for. Sure, lots of people fall in love with their photo and think they want to take them home, but the fact is that these kids need specialized care and the families willing and able to provide that care are few.
Once we finished our training our home study began. This was weekly visits made by our adoption worker to our home where our entire life was explored. Our house was inspected -- trust me you don't need to have a nice or huge home. We basically just talked about everything -- everything. After about 3 months our home study was complete and we were officially approved as adoptive parents. After we were approved our matching began. This is where our situation is very different from the average placement. It can take a long time to be matched with a child who is under 3, but for us, since we were willing to pretty much take any child, we were kinda unofficially matched with Angela before our home study was even officially complete. We interviewed at Philadelphia Department of Human Services and were told on the spot that they would like us to become Angela's mommie and daddy. You can read more about Angela's adoption story here -- but for us it was very fast and very easy. We were matched with Angela in November and we brought her home for good on December 10th, 2010. Jayden was a little different but still very untypical -- very easy.
Adoption takes at least six months to finalize. During those first six months the child is not legally yours -- you care for him or her as if they were your own but technically you do not yet hold legal custody, this is why we have to censor Jayden's handsome face. At the six month mark you will go to court and state in front of the judge that you swear to "love and care for this new child as if born unto you." This was probably the most amazing part of adoption and can be compared to the moment a mother gives birth to her baby -- so cool. At the end of your short little time in court the judge declares the child legally yours and in a few months you get a new birth certificate listing you name as the parents, as if you gave birth.
For some children, like ours, we receive a monthly stipend to help care for them and prepare for their future. I never really like to tell people this, as I would never want anyone to think it's about money -- and let me tell you it's not a whole lot, but it does help. These kids are very expensive and if our government currently wants to help out -- we'll take the help. At age 18 the support will end and we need to be prepared to make sure they are well taken care of. After adoption is finalized you also qualify for a nice tax credit. I'm saying these things so that people will realize just how many supports are available to make adoption work.
I say it all the time -- adoption is amazing. I encourage you to explore what is right for you. Bringing a child home may not be for you but supporting those who do is essential. For more information on US adoption visit www.adoptuskids.org