Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adoptions Together

Last night we met with Adoptions Together along with some other couples, and singles in the area. Having been to one information session with another agency already, some of the things they were saying were the same as Catholic Charities, however there were some differences.

This agency has been around since 1990, so is a little younger than Catholic Charities. Last year they placed just under 50 children in their domestic infant program. This year so far, they have placed 31, and they have 56 waiting families. It sounds like a much larger program than Catholic Charities, although Adoptions Together has two offices in MD, one near DC, and one in VA. I'm not sure that the stats they were giving us were just for their Baltimore office. I should have clarified that, perhaps I will call today and ask that question. Catholic Charities has said that they prefer to have a smaller program so that they aren't accepting more families when they have some that have been waiting a long time, this is why their Domestic Infant program is currently closed, but expected to open back up soon. So far this year, Adoptions Together has placed 19 African American children, 5 caucasian, 1 hispanic, and then some biracial children. Of the 31 placed so far this year, 8 were drug or alcohol exposed. They also have two children needing placements, both are sick and in the hospital right now.

Speaking of sick and in the hospital, Archie and I have discussed a little bit more about special needs. I mentioned in an earlier post that he just wanted a healthy child, that he didn't feel prepared to handle a special needs child where I felt a little bit more comfortable. After talking this morning about what we feel we can handle, he clarified that he does not think he could handle a child with a severe mental handicap or severe physical handicap. He does not want to adopt a child who has been drug exposed. I agree with him on these points. We have agreed that we would consider a child whose medical problems could be managed, such as diabetes (although we wouldn't know this as an infant), or who has an issue which surgery could correct and the child could lead a relatively normal life. I am happy about this because I know from working in a NICU that some things while perhaps physically disfiguring like a cleft lip/cleft palate can be corrected and hardly noticeable, or a heart problem like an ASD or VSD could be corrected with heart surgery eventually. This will open up more possibilities for us with what children might be able to be placed with us.

Adoptions Together told us that most of their children come right home from the hospital which is a glaring difference with Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities almost never places children directly from the hospital, they go to interim care (kind of like foster care but through the agency) until TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) is final which in MD is 30 days after the birthparents have signed consent to relinquish. During the time that they are in the interim care with Catholic Charities, the adoptive parents are not welcome to visit the baby, and the reasoning for this is because it is still the birthmom's child. Adoptions Together believes that that is an option the adoptive and birthparents should have. So we might decide to have the child placed with us go to interim care while the child's biomom is rethinking her decision to parent, or we could decide to take a chance and bring that child home with us and begin bonding. To be honest, if the adoption was disrupted, meaning that the biomom decided to parent, it wouldn't make any difference emotionally to us whether that child was in our home or not. When you think that you've been chosen to parent, and that you're finally going to have your complete family, it's upsetting regardless of whether or not the child ever lived with you. Much like when you're trying so hard to get pregnant and you begin to make a bond in your mind with the child you hope to one day have only to not be able to get pregnant or to miscarry. The difference between interim care with Adoptions Together as opposed to Catholic Charities is that we have to pay for it because it is an option and not mandatory, and therefore not included in our agency fees.

The last major difference I noticed was that when we met with Catholic Charities and asked about any other fees that may not be included in the agency fees, we were told we'd have to pay the little fees during the homestudy like for fingerprinting, an FBI check, criminal check, state police check, etc., and then for our legal fees for an attorney to file our petition to adoption and represent us in court. Adoptions Together said that they have an online class that you can take which also provides all of the forms that you need, and information you need to submit the petition to the court, and that you can represent yourself in court because the adoption isn't contested. The birth mom has already signed over guardianship to the agency, and the agency isn't contesting the legal transfer of guardianship. This made sense to me, and if the class tells you everything you need to do, then why should we have to spend an additional $1000 for an attorney to do it. My mother fees that we should have an attorney so that everything is ironclad, but the only way a birthparent could take us to court to get the child back is by proving that there was fraud commited in placing the child in our care. That's not in our plan. So, I'm going to talk to Jana and see what she thinks given that she's in the law field and I'm definitely not!

Another difference between the two agencies is how the biomom's medical expenses are handled. Catholic Charities said that they have a fund, and that the mother's medical expenses are paid from that, we are not responsible for those expenses. With Adoptions Together you're given the option to pay $2500 which goes into their fund and that would be the extent to which you are liable, but if you elect not to pay those charges, and the mother doesn't have insurance, we could face a medical bill at a later time estimated between $6-8K.

Catholic Charities has mandatory waiting parent meetings, Adoptions Together does not. Adoptions Together does seem very supportive and helpful, as did Catholic Charities. Adoptions Together has said that the wait for an African American child is typically less than a year, while the wait for a healthy caucasian child is about 2-2.5 years, and obviously there are waiting times shorter and longer than those as well. Adoptions Together encourages waiting parents to look outside of their agency for placement meaning looking at facilitators, attorneys or agencies in other states besides DC, MD and VA. By law you cannot have your homestudy at two different agencies, but what you can do is send a draft (unnotorized and not signed) to an agency in another state, and if you are placed with a birthparent through that other agency, Adoptions Together would then place your profile on hold so you are not shown to other birth parents while you are waiting for the child to come home through the other agency.

Initially last night I really thought I might want to go with Adoptions Together over Catholic Charities because it seemed that they placed more children, and also that we had the option of interim care rather than it being a mandatory thing. To be honest, the interim care thing isn't really that big of an issue to me, I'd just love to be able to see our possible child while they are in interim care and Catholic Cbarities doesn't allow for that. But after thinking about the number of children placed with the number of waiting families, it's still about the same percentage. And the expectant mom still chooses the adoptive parents so our wait could be a month after we start being shown or 3 years. There are no guarantees about when we might be chosen, or why. It could be a very long wait. Cost-wise there isn't too much of a difference. Adoptions Together we can expect to pay $17,500 not including the $2500 for the medical fees, and Catholic Charities we can expect to pay $17500 not including the little fees for things like our fingerprinting, FBI clearance, etc. They even out where that is concerned. We feel lucky to have a pretty good support system with our families and friends, and are sure that we'll find other waiting families along the way and we will help support each other as well. So as far as whether we're leaning more towards Adoptions Together or Catholic Charities, well, Archie is still leaning more towards Catholic Charities, and as of this morning, I'm not sure that I'm leaning towards either. I wish I could combine the two agencies, then I'd go with that one! But right now I'm just not sure that I can say I prefer one over the other. I think they both have their strong points, and they both have things I don't really care for. We have time to figure it out, and it will require some discussions about what is most important to us throughout the entire journey.


  1. For me the interim care would be a big issue. That first month is *so* important to the baby. I think I would try to look on it as fostering and feel like I was going to give this baby the best start I could--whether or not it was my baby at the end of the 30 days. Just pretend it's a strange furless Greyhound. ;-)

  2. Have you considered any other agencies besides these two?

  3. Michael-That is exactly what I was thinking, trying to look at it as fostering and hope it would be ours at the end but that regardless I gave that child a great start. My mom is just concerned for Jack. I just thought we would explain it to him that we were going to take care of the baby for a little while, and then when TPR was final we would tell him that the baby was staying.

    Mcronan-We are going to meet with Bethany Christian in mid-July. Do you have any other suggestions?

  4. mcronan-That would be great. You can email me at Thanks!

  5. I"m not sure where you are located, but have you looked at Adoption STAR? We've been working with them for two years and are quite happy. You take placement directly from the hospital, and they advocate for open adoption.

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