Friday, July 31, 2009

50/50 Raffle Drawing Today, and the winner is...

I had a neighbor walking her dog draw the winning ticket, and the winner is Sandra Wilson, a coworker of mine. Sandra-I will bring you your half of the raffle money on Sunday night since we're both working. Thank you to everyone who bought raffle tickets!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A decision!

Well, thank you to everyone who has been on this rollercoaster with us while we tried to make a decision. We talked to many of our friends who helped us kick around ideas, and give us input. After considering the reviews I've read regarding Bethany Christian, and the questionable behavior I saw following Catelynn's (a pregnant girl who decided to make an adoption plan for her daughter on 16 and Pregnant on MTV) delivery on the part of the social worker, I just don't have a good feeling about ethics with this agency. I know that they are located in 33 states and perhaps ours isn't the same, but so many locations in the reviews listed for this agency were questionable that it left us with a really bad taste, especially after we'd been so excited about this agency.

It was not an easy decision to make, but we truly feel that we want our future child's first family treated with respect and given time to make the right decision for them. I know that this doesn't make sense to a lot of people. Family had even questioned why it's so important to us, and when they read our blog and the quote of the SW working with Catelynn on the show, they too agreed that it was out of line. The first thing I think of is, "How would I want to be treated if I was a pregnant woman in a tough situation, who was debating parenting or making an adoption plan?" I would want to be given all of the information I could about resources available to me, etc., and be given the support I needed to make the right choice for myself and my child. If it ended up being that adoption was the right choice for us, then that's fine. But that mom has to rethink that decision again when the baby is actually born, and she needs time to be with her child and make that decision on her own. She doesn't need a social worker walking in at 5 hours after delivery and saying "Since we're 5 hours out from delivery, I was wondering if you would feel comfortable with us taking a time out from friends and family and you going ahead and dealing with Brandon and Teresa (the prospective adoptive parents), so what do you think?" Catelynn says to her that she wants to get pictures of the baby with Ty first, and the agent says to her that she'll "try to entertain and hold off Brandon and Teresa for..." and Catelynn says, "like 10 minutes." I find it to be inappropriate to give her such a short period of time with the baby, they act like it is already a done deal, and yet she hasn't signed consent to give guardianship to the agency yet or anything. I know that the aparents were sitting in the waiting room dying to see the baby, and I would be really wanting to see the baby too, but I don't want her mom to feel coerced or forced to hand her over to us to see either. I would like to think that if things are done more on the first mom's timeline, when she is as ready as one can be in a situation like that, that she will feel more confident in her decision later on. Not completely regret it as I seem to find many mom's at least on a forum that I frequent seem to. I was told by family that it's really easy to be objective now, we're not in the heat of it, and believe me, I totally know that I'll be excited and ready to see the baby ASAP, but I also stand firm on how I feel I want our possible child's mother and family treated, and that's not how I want them treated, not like the girl on that show. Not like the first parents who posted reviews about how they were treated. It's disgusting.

With Catholic Charities, I don't believe it will even be an option for us to meet a child we're matched with until the 30 days after the first family signs consent. Perhaps it is better this way for all of us. The first family will have time to really decide if they can parent, and if they think they can, we'll have a disrupted adoption and it will hurt, no doubt, we'll be so crushed, but if it happens, then it wasn't meant to be. There is a plan for us, and a child for us. We honestly believe that. Eventually when a child is placed with us, Catholic Charities encourages the first family to meet with us to give the baby to us, and they believe that it is good because we get to see their pain and love that they truly do have for their child, and they get to see that we also truly love the child and are happy to welcome them to our family. It will be painful for all of us involved, no doubt. Nothing about adoption is easy. Especially for the first families. Most of these women aren't just abandoning their children, abusing drugs, they come from stressful situations where they lack support already to begin with, or are at a place in their lives where they feel they can't provide what their child needs or deserves, and that is how they come to seek out an agency and start a plan for their child. It's done out of love. I want everyone who has an opinion about parents who relinquish their child for adoption to think about that. Put yourselves in their position and think about what that gut-wrenching feeling must be like. If you have children, you already know how hard it would be to make that decision.

I wanted to let you know we'd made a decision and what's been weighing on our minds as we've given this so much thought in the last week or so. We've prayed, and thought, and I've cried. It's a stressful decision, but we feel we've made the right one at this point. Thank you to everyone for your support. You have no idea how much it means to all of us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Where we are right now...

Many of you know that we met with Bethany Christian Services last Thursday. I hadn't posted yet for a reason. My reason is this, I haven't the slightest idea how we can choose between Bethany Christian and Catholic Charities. There is a slight difference in cost, there are slight differences in the way they operate. I have emailed the social worker who ran the meeting with Bethany Christian the other night, and she is on vacation, so I am waiting for the answers to some questions that we forgot to ask. We really need the answers to make a final decision. I decided to post to update you on what we know right now.

We met with the domestic SW (social worker) Sally last Thursday evening. It seems to me from things that she said that she is the only SW for domestic adoptions at the Maryland Bethany office, but I may be wrong about this. She told us that Bethany has two full-time people at the Maryland office, one of them being the director, the other being the expectant parent's SW. Sally works about 30 hours a week, but assures us that phone calls and emails are answered within 48 hours, I can handle that. Catholic Charities on the other hand told us that all of their SW's are salaried and on staff (as opposed to Adoptions Together where they were all contracted out). The only reason I mention this point is because timeliness in getting back to us when it's really important absolutely matters (especially since we all know I am not known for my patience).

I believe that Catholic Charities asks for 3 references, as well as employer references. Bethany Christian asks for 4 references, an employer reference, and a pastoral reference. One of our references (not employer or pastoral) they must be able to meet and interview when they come out to interview us at our house. I emailed to ask if this reference needs to be someone other than a relative (I think Catholic Charities won't let us use any family members as references). I asked about the pastoral reference as the church we belong to is so large that no doubt, our priest doesn't know us from anyone else. I've spoken with our priest on the phone, but I imagine with such a large congregation he really wouldn't remember me. I was curious how this would be dealt with. Sally said she would send him a letter asking him to meet with us and get to know us so that he would be able to provide a reference. We're looking for a new church right now anyway, so this may not even be an issue if we find the right church for us. Bethany Christian also requires us to sign a Statement of Faith to be accepted into their program, and we have read this. We had to ask the other night if it would be a problem that while we are a married man and woman, we have some family that are have a different lifestyle and that we support that. We were not willing to sign their Statement of Faith if they felt that it would be a conflict of interest. We just feel that God made all of us, and if that is how he made us, then that is how it is, and we still love them and that wouldn't change. She assured us that we were fine where the Statement of Faith is concerned.

Last year Bethany Christian (in MD) placed 17 children, their average is 20 per year. This year so far they have placed 14. 48% were caucasian, 48% african american, 4% others (they consider biracial to be AA and another ethnicity). Catholic Charities last year placed 10 or 11 children, and in the last 3 years has placed 28 children, 13 of which were caucasian, 11 were AA, and 4 were biracial. Bethany Christian is also willing to put our profile online (or we can do a youtube video-Archie likes this, I do NOT!) so it may be shown in all of the 33 states in which they have an office, Catholic Charities has other offices, but generally doesn't send your profile out to other locations.

As far as disrupted adoptions (failed placements where the first mom decides to parent) are concerned, Catholic Charities told us last year that they didn't have any. If we did have a disrupted adoption, we would not lose any money with them. This is so important I don't know how I forgot to ask the other night with Bethany Christian, but I did, so it is yet another thing I have emailed Sally about.

Fees. The nitty gritty. So there is a difference in fees. Catholic Charities is $16,500, and doesn't include our attorney's fees for filing our petition with the courts of ~$800-900, smaller fees for things like our background checks, FBI clearances, health inspector visit, fingerprinting, etc which they said weren't more than $100 each. They told us that they have a fund for the expectant mom's medical, and that if an expectant parent is a minor or has severe mental illness or handicaps that legal for them would not be included. Bethany Christian is $18,000 and doesn't include the $650 final administrative fee, ~$600-700 for an attorney to file our petition, $300 for ICPC (if we adopt in another state), or costs for serving a first father, or publishing for an absent father. It also doesn't include legal fees for the expectant parent if they are a minor or have a sever mental illness or handicap. Bethany asks you to set aside in your adoption budget money for unpaid medical (only if there is a problem with the insurance) and unpaid legal. So if we decide our adoption budget is $19,000, we could say that $500 goes to unpaid medical, and $500 to unpaid legal and if it's not needed it's not used. I didn't clarify whether the fees for things like fingerprinting, etc. were included with Bethany and thus will have to ask.

I believe Catholic Charities has 24 hours of training we must participate in, and then they have waiting families meetings montly which are required. Bethany Christian has 21 hours of training which is only offered twice a year-spring and fall, which is required to complete our homestudy. As a matter of fact, they will not do our formal interviews until it is completed.

That brings me to my next topic. The homestudy. Currently Catholic Charities' domestic program is closed. They like to keep their program small, and at last check had 18 waiting families. The predict that it will be open again in January when we were planning on starting the process officially. I haven't a clue on how many waiting families Bethany has, but it is on my list of things to ask. Both said to expect a 2 year wait. Bethany's homestudy process is a little different. Sally is making the formal application available to us in the beginning of August. Because of the training only being offered in the fall and again in the spring and not being able to complete our homestudy until the training is finished, she told us to expect to know whether we were approved about June/July. This is the same time we would be expecting to hear from Catholic Charities if we went with them and made our formal application with them in January. This can be looked at two ways. If we went with Catholic Charities it could be seen as being a shorter process. If we went with Bethany the opposite could be said, however, with starting earlier, we make sure we are in the spring training sessions and we have more time to get together paperwork and get things processed so if any glitches occur we have time to sort it out. We also get to start working on things earlier which as we said with my patience, I like better! So for some it may be a downside that Bethany's process takes longer, but for us it's not a big issue.

As you can see from my long post, there are a lot of answers we don't have at the moment. And Sally is on vacation until next week, and I think I may call and see if the director can answer some of my questions. We just feel like we can't really make a final decision until they are all answered, and if we have to make our formal app with Bethany (if we choose them) in about two weeks, I really feel like we need the answers sooner rather than later so we have time to talk about it and make a good decision.

Two other blogs I follow are doing Q and A with their readers...Do you guys have any questions for us about anything that you'd like us to entertain in another post?

Friday, July 10, 2009

An additional thought, perhaps an elaboration

So a comment that I received with regards to my last blog post referenced what went through Ginger's mind when she read the part of my last blog entry where I state "I just worry that our child will think that their life would be better if they were with their "real parents" which I think is completely normal, but will still hurt so badly. I worry that our child's first parents will feed these childish notions not necessarily on purpose but perhaps inadvertently in the process of trying to have a good relationship with our child. Kind of like trying to be their friend instead of another parent."

She posted an entry on her blog in response to what she thought about this. She is a first parent three times over, and she is parenting a child as well. She says:

"See? And in the early years (now), I think that's important - reassuring them that I know who their mom is and at the same time, reassuring their parents that I won't step on any toes if I can avoid them. I respect their role as parents. But that mean I can't take the role of a parent or authority figure. That's their role.

A friend of mine is a Big Sister with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. It's a mentorship program that gives kids in rough spots a consistent adult in their life for one on one contact. Not a parent or authority figure, but an older friend. I think being in the "Big' role is probably like a favorite trusted teacher...not a parent at all but a little more/different than a friend. I hope desperately for a relationship like that with the daughters I'm not parenting. Sometimes that means I'll listen like a friend...and other times, it will mean I'll suggest that they go to their parents. I hope they see me as someone they can come to if they feel they can't go to their parents. I hope the daughter I'm parenting has someone like that in their life because I believe strongly that every teen needs someone like that."

I am afraid that our child's first mom will not think this way. I thought about this after I wrote the entry last night, and thought perhaps the term "real parents" in my post would ruffle some feathers. Perhaps I should have phrased it "bio parents" because we would be our child's parents, as real as they come, just not biological, and that goes for any other adoptive parents. I really should have articulated, but it just wasn't coming to me last night. I totally agree with Ginger that it is important "reassuring them that I know who their mom is and at the same time, reassuring their parents that I won't step on any toes if I can avoid them. I respect their role as parents. But that mean I can't take the role of a parent or authority figure. That's their role."
I hope that our child's first family is as mature as Ginger is with regards to this. No, this is not a co-parenting relationship, but it's also not a purely friend relationship since there is the "mentoring" that comes along with it, and the need to be mature and have mutual respect for one another's relationships with our child. Thanks for posting on this Ginger!

Open Adoption Roundtable #3

So you're thinking, what is she posting about now?!?!?! Well, on the blog that I follow called Production, Not Reproduction
they basically have a discussion about open adoption. Anyone can write about it, any part of the adoption traid, whether it be a first parent (birth parent for those of you not up on your adoption language), an adoptive parent, or adoptee. I haven't been able to participate in the previous discussions since we've not adopted yet, and previous topics were about "our child's" first father (there isn't a child yet) and I hadn't the slightest clue what to ask my future self about open adoption. So I skipped it. But this week's question is one I can participate in!

For the Open Adoption Roundtable #3 the topic this week is to share our wish lists for open adoption. This is something I have thought about a lot, what I would like from "our child's" first mom, so I finally feel like I have something to say. The following are in no particular order. I have a lot to say, so I will write it out, and then at the end, just go back and hit the high points for those who don't want to read the whole thing.

In an ideal world, I would like for our relationship with the first family to exist. What I mean by this is that there are very few closed adoptions anymore, and for good reason. These adopted children need to be able to know their stories, know their histories (medical, etc.) to be able to really understand who they are. Each has a unique circumstance and story. We know that as our child gets older, they will have questions, and we want to be able to turn to their first parents and ask them to help us by being a part of that. Who better to answer the hard questions? We may know some of what happened, but we didn't experience it first hand, and our child should know that they were very much loved by their first family, that it wasn't an easy choice, but why it happened. It will tear us apart to see our child struggle with who they are, where they came from, but I honestly believe that if we have a good relationship with the first family, that as these things come up, they could really help with the answers and develop a solid relationship with their child as well. I wish that we would really get to know our child's first family, not just light, let's be careful about what we talk about kind of stuff, but some of the deeper stuff too. I'm not saying we need to know everything about their family, but to have a nice casual relationship with them would be great.

I wish that the relationship we have with our child's first family will be one of mutual respect. Whatever the family's reasons for making an adoption plan for their child, they have to be respected by us, and we want to be able to convey that respect for her to our child as they get older and we tell them about their story. We want her to have respect for us as well, particularly when our child is older and asking her questions and trying to work through their identity and figuring out their place in the world. I would like us to be able to present a united front with "our" child as much as possible. I think one of my biggest fears is that when our child is older and doesn't like something we say or do, for example, where discipline is concerned-if our child has a relationship with their first parents, that they would think living with them might be better. Now, of course, we'd never agree to let our child go live with anyone else, that's ridiculous, but the grass is always greener, and I would hope that our child's first parents would back us up instead of feeding into it. I want them to trust us to do what is best for our child, and just to back us up so that our child doesn't end up trying to play us off of one another. I want to learn to trust them to do what is right for our child as well, not to mislead our child. I want to feel like when they are older and want to spend time alone with their first family to trust that they aren't going to let anything happen to our child, and that they will still feel confident that they made the right decision to place their child with us to raise. I wish that when it comes time for the tough questions and parts of our adoption with our child, that we have the strength and grace to deal with it.

I will send pictures and letters to our child's first family, and hope that they will feel comfortable enough to have discussions with us about how often they'd like these things and feel comfortable enough to tell us when they are having a hard time dealing with the decision to place their child and want us to step back and hold off for a bit, or on the other hand, when they'd like to have more communication. I want there to be that comfort level to say, "Hey, I'm having a hard time seeing my child grow up with someone else and experience all those things they would have with me, I need a break for a bit." and for them to not feel bad for saying that. I know that there are going to be hard times for them. I have no idea what might be going through their heads, but I want them to feel like they can say that to us. I want them to feel like they can ask us for more if they want more. We may or may not be in a place where our comfort level is there, and I want them to know that we will tell them if we're not comfortable or ready for something as well.

While I'm on the topic of comfort, I'm not sure what I want yet with regards to visits. Letters and pictures are one thing. Visits are another. Sure, I know that Lifetime paints some ugly pictures when it comes to kids being taken back by their first families, it just isn't something that really happens, but I think I kind of worry that our child would want their biological parents more than us. Don't get me wrong, I want our child to know that both sides of their families love them very much, I just worry. I'm good at it. I just worry that our child will think that their life would be better if they were with their "real parents" (I was a teen once and sometimes wished my parents were someone else's-usually whichever friend was getting what I wanted or doing what I wanted to do) which I think is completely normal, but will still hurt so badly. I worry that our child's first parents will feed these childish notions not necessarily on purpose but perhaps inadvertently in the process of trying to have a good relationship with our child. Kind of like trying to be their friend instead of another parent. I don't know if any of that made sense, I'm just spilling out what is in my mind at the moment. I may have to come back and edit this later, LOL. I want there to be visits when both sides are ready for them because I do think it is important for our child to know their first family for so many reasons. I'm just not sure if the visits will be short visits or long visits, or when I'll be ready for them to be solo visits with just our child and their first family. It's a comfort thing, and I'm sure that as we develop a relationship with our child's first parents it is something that can be worked on and discussed, but I imagine at least for the beginning starting with baby steps, and short visits together. I would love to have visits for major things like birthdays and things like that once we have a solid relationship with our child's family. I think that events like that are times to show your love for one another, and we wouldn't exclude part of our family from that, nor would we our child's. I wish for understanding on the part of our child's first family as we work through this with them.

Those people who aren't up on open adoption stuff, or don't know much about it won't understand this next comment, but I honestly hope that the first mom wants contact with us. I want letters from her, or emails or whatever. I want to be able to show them to our child as they grow up and say, see, your first mom does love you and she does keep in touch and care about how you're doing. I want to have pictures of the two of them together at visits, for our child's scrapbook, for them to look at, for them to show their friends if they choose to share that they are adopted. I want there to never be a doubt in our child's mind that their first parents love them. NEVER.

Ok, so here's my summation.

-I wish to have a relationship with our child's first family. Not just a "hey, how are ya?" kind of relationship, but one where we talk on a regular basis, get to know one another really well. I want to KNOW our child's birth family, after all, if they are our child's family, they will be an extension of ours. I want a good relationship with them, with mutual respect, and good communication.

-I wish that when it comes time for the tough questions and parts of our adoption, that we have the strength and grace to deal with it. At the same time, I wish this for our child and their first family as well. I know this is asking a lot, but I hope that we can share our fears and wishes with our child's first family, and that they can do the same with us. I think it will only strengthen our relationship if we know where the other is coming from. None of this adoption stuff is easy.

-I wish for at the very least emails or letters, and pictures for our child from their first family. I WILL be providing the same for the first family from us (until our child is old enough to write letters to them on their own, and even then will still send some from our end) and just want our child to have pictures of their other family, and letters that they can read and see how the other side of their family is. I wish for visits at some point as we develop a relationship with our child's first family.

-I wish that our child will always think of us as their parents and family. I know this is a common worry among adoptive parents which you can tell in my more lengthy discussion above, I just want to always be thought of as their mom, Archie as their dad, and Jack as their brother. I want our child to know, love, respect and care about their first family, but I want them to want us when they need help or someone to talk to.

-Speaking of Jack, I wish that the fact that Jack is our biological child and the next one will be adopted to NEVER be an issue. If it does come up I pray that we can deal with it swiftly and that it will never again be an issue. I also pray that what is said doesn't cause long-term hurt and ill between the two. I want them to be as close as if they were both biological.

-I wish that our child should never be put in a position where they feel like they have justify who they are or where they came from to anyone else. I want them to feel secure in who they are, and their story. I wish that they know love from all sides, and know that they can share their story about our family with whomever they choose, but that they don't HAVE to share that story with anyone. No one is entitled to know their story, and that is theirs to share, no one else's.

-I wish our child to feel special, and not to view their adoption in a bad way, but a good way. They get to be loved by more people because of their larger family. I wish for our child to be happy and confident about who they are, and to be happy about how we became a family.

-Lastly, I wish that the older members of our family who were part of closed adoptions and didn't see anything wrong with it will come to see that open adoptions are healthier for all involved, and will support our expanding family where openness will be necessary and MANDATORY!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's new and what's not?

It's been a few days since I last posted. We were exhausted after the huge yard sale and car wash event and needed to unwind. We went to stay with some friends in Massachusetts for the July 4th weekend and had a great time. Then I realized I'd neglected my web world.

What's new? Not too much. We are going to meet with Bethany Christian next week which we are very excited about. I pray that we leave our meeting with them with more information about their agency, and a clearer picture of what's in front of us. We also pray that after our meeting with them it is relatively easy for us to decide as a family which agency will best meet our needs. I've had about 2 weeks to think about Adoptions Together and Catholic Charities a little bit more. I've really reflected over the two this last weekend while I was talking to my friend in Massachusetts. I spoke with a coworker who was only using Adoptions Together for her homestudy, and they sat on it for 3 months which held up their international adoption. My coworker eventually pulled her homestudy from them, and went with another agency called the Datz Foundation in VA. She highly recommended that agency, however, we were hoping to find one closer to home. I thought about the presentations that each agency had given. Adoptions Together was so unorganized. When we left there, we had heard a lot of the same info, but some new info of course as it's a different agency. But when we left Catholic Charities, we could tell you everything about the different countries they worked with, what the reasons were generally for the children being given up for adoption, their recommendations, what agencies they worked with for their international adoptions, etc. They were just so thorough. That's the kind of agency I want us to work with. They require waiting parents (homestudy approved waiting for placement) to go to meetings monthly. Sure, this may be an inconvenience given our work schedules, but how great to know that they have support for us, and something to keep us busy, and other families in the same place as us for us to talk to?!?!? So if we had to decide today just between the two agencies we have met with, it would have to be Catholic Charities. We just left there feeling pumped up and good about their mission and support they will provide for us. Sure they haven't placed as many children, but I have a feeling we'd have less (notice I didn't say none, I believe that adopting comes with quite a bit of it) frustration with them. We may wait longer, but getting a baby tomorrow isn't why we're here.

We are working on planning another fundraiser, but I would like to hold off on announcing it just yet as we're still working out some bugs, and trying to make sure it is doable before proceeding. I can tell you that if we go through with it, it will most likely be held this fall.

What's not new? We're still trying to sell some things on craigslist that didn't sell at the yard sale. Some things have sold, others we are going to relist and hope we will have more people interested. Some things we may try to list on ebay.

We are still selling raffle tickets for our 50/50 raffle, and hope that more people will buy some before the end of this month which is when the drawing is. If you're interested, please email us at .

We still have "Bottles of Love" available for people who are interested in saving their spare change to help contribute to our adoption fund. If you would like one, please email me and we will make sure we get it to you. Thank you to those who have saved their change and turned it back in to us. Each bottle has given us between $18 and $28 for our fund!!! Thank you!