Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Writing the letter

I've had various parts of our profile written for a while now, but the "Dear Birthparent/Expectand Parent" letter has been tough for some reason.  I've written and re-written it a time or ten.  Matt has reviewed it.  A friend has reviewed it.  I've appreciated the input, but it still just doesn't feel complete.  These are words that a woman is going to read during one of the hardest times in her life.  These 500-700 words on a piece of paper are supposed to let a woman know that she can trust us to raise her child.  I rest in the faith that no matter what words I write, God already knows who will be a part of our family.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why we chose our agency:

When we were in "research phase," one of the hardest things was deciding on an agency.  It is incredibly difficult to find reviews for agencies online and I'm not really sure why.  Most forums do not allow discussion of agencies on their boards.  I understand that because these free forums rely on the advertising dollars of agencies who wouldn't appreciate negative reviews posted all over the forums.  I don't rely on any advertising dollars, so I'll give you my honest opinion. ;)

I had several agencies on my short list and I went through the pros and cons of each.  I drove myself crazy for about two months.  I contacted several agencies and some took up to two weeks to get back to me.  Craziness.  Then I showed DH my pro/con lists and he quickly said it was obvious.  We chose American Adoptions. 

So, why did we choose them?

  1. Reputation
    1. While it was difficult to find reviews online, I have met people and received e-mails from people.  I have only heard one negative thing about this agency in all of those reviews, and I will discuss that in more detail in the "cons" section.  
  2. Limited Financial Risk (BIG ONE!)
    1. There is the real possibility in any domestic adoption that the birthmother will choose to parent.  Statistically about 20% of American Adoptions matches are disrupted. 
    2. One of our biggest fears with a disrupted match is the loss of money and the resulting inability to financially pursue another adoption.
    3. American Adoptions really calmed our fears about that loss of money with their Limited Financial Risk Policy.
    4. Basically if our match is disrupted, we will not lose any of our agency or match fees.  They will be rolled into our next adoption match.  Now, if we chose to not pursue another adoption, then we would lose that money. 
    5. We are covered up to the first $5000 of legal fees and we would lose anything above and beyond that.  Typically the legal fees will not be over $5000 before TPR is signed (termination of parental rights).
    6. You do lose any travel expenses.
  3. Quick response time
    1. As I stated earlier, some agencies took way too long to respond to our questions.  In my opinion anyway. . . 
    2. With American Adoptions, we have always received a response within an hour or less.  E-mail is my preferred method of communication, but we can always get someone on the phone as well.
    3. I (like most moms who are new to adoption I assume) have a lot of questions and I like being able to get a quick answer.
  4. National scope
    1. This can be a pro and a con depending on how you look at it.  I'll discuss the pros here.
    2. Having a national scope really shortens your wait time.  The agency works with expectant moms through the nation, so you essentially have more possibility of being chosen because there are more moms looking at your profile.
  5. Location
    1. For us, the agency is close enough that we can go to meet with them if we so desire.  Ironically, we haven't actually gone to the agency.
    2. Our proximity to the agency also means that we were able to do our homestudy through them and not worry about making sure all of our paperwork was exactly what the agency needed.  Their social worker already knows exactly what the agency needed.  However, they can help you make sure your homestudy social worker does all of the right things even if you are located farther from the agency.
  6. Expectant Mother/Birthmother Support
    1. This was very important to me.  I wanted to be sure that the birthmother doesn't feel like she was used and discarded.  I want her to feel like she was supported and given her options and felt loved through the process.
    2. American Adoptions provides 24-hour support to the birthmothers and post-adoption support as well.
    3. The expectant mother is also assigned a support person throughout the process who advocates for her.
  7. Budget
    1. American Adoptions gives you the option to name your budget.  They have a suggested range for their Traditional and Agency-Assisted programs, but you get the final say in how much money you are comfortable allotting to your adoption budget.  
  8. Gender Specificity
    1. Many agencies do not allow this.  While we chose not to be gender specific, this is an important thing for some people, so I thought I would put it here.  It does require an additional fee of $3000 for additional advertising costs
  9. Profile
    1. They make our profile for us so we don't have to try to make it on our own.
    2. All of the profiles look uniform, so you aren't being chosen by an expectant mother based on your scrapbooking skills or lack thereof.  
  10. Large size of agency
    1. While some people may look at this as a negative thing, this gives us confidence in the agency and their abilities to do what they say.
    2. Having 300-400 matches a year means that they have this process down and they understand the possible scenarios we may encounter.
  11. Shorter Wait for Match
    1. Due to the national scope and size of the agency, wait times are usually shorter.
    2. For the Agency Assisted program (African American), we were told that the typical wait for match is 1-4 months.  Now, this is no guarantee and the wait time is affected by a variety of factors.  We know many couples who were matched incredibly quickly (one family was matched just 3.5 hours after going active) and we are prepared for whatever may happen.
  12. Adoptive Parent support
    1. We were assigned an adoption specialist whom we can ask our questions.  It gives us a personal touch in a larger agency.
  13. Non-Profit Status
    1. We did not want to work with a for-profit agency
  14. BBB Rating
    1. They got an A+
  15. . . . (I feel like I am forgetting some things, so I may come back and add more when I remember.)
  1. National Scope
    1. In contrast to using a local agency that only works in your state:
      1. You will most likely have to travel outside of your state and stay there for up to two weeks (or more) while you wait for ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)
        1. This was not something we really understood when we chose domestic adoption, so I'll go into a little detail here.
        2. Each state has their own laws in regard to ICPC and you can drive yourself crazy trying to research each state.  So, we plan to wait for a match and then research the state the birthmom is in.
        3. Basically, the state that the baby is born in has to approve you and then your home state has to approve you before you can take the baby out of the state he/she was born in.  The time varies, but during that time at least one parent has to stay in the birth state.
      2. This also means that you have to budget for travel expenses and you won't necessarily know when you need to travel.  It is highly suggested that you get the the hospital ASAP and that baby could be born at anytime.  
      3. For us, we also have to take into consideration the fact that we will most likely bring our daughter with us and we may need another family member to come along to help with her.  
  2. Discipline Policy
    1. Now, this is the one negative review I heard from someone.  
    2. Let me state first of all, that this is not a negative for us, because we don't use physical discipline in our home.
    3. American Adoptions does require you to sign a discipline policy stating that you won't use physical discipline with your child.  I realize this may be an issue for more than just the one person who told me this, so I thought I should put it here.  It is a policy in certain states (I can't remember which ones), and because American Adoptions works nationally, they choose to have all prospective adoptive parents sign it.
  3. Expense
    1. While we don't feel that American Adoptions expenses are much different than other agencies we contacted, adoption in and of itself is expensive.  
    2. Again, we like the ability to name our budget within a range.  
    3. While we know that foster-to-adopt is a much more budget-friendly way to adopt, we feel like agency adoption is more appropriate for us.  I encourage you to explore your options if the budget is a deal-breaker. 
  4. You must be open to tobacco exposure in the newborn.
    1. Statistically 75% of mothers who decide to place their baby for adoption are smokers.  So, American Adoptions requires you to be open to cigarette exposure.
    2. Exposure to other substances is up to individual families.
  5. If the expectant/birth mother you are matched with is outside of KS, American Adoptions will partner with a local agency in that state to help complete the adoption.  You have no control over which agency this might be and in our case, we would not have chosen that agency if we had the chance.
  6. (Added 10/19/2012)  We found out through some friends who also used American Adoptions that if you ask for an audit or itemized receipt (for taxes) American Adoption will give you a refund of any funds that weren't used.  I cannot believe that they don't automatically give you any of your money that was not used, but that is how they operate  So, we called them and ended up getting a little under $1500 back that wasn't used.
  7. . . . (Again, there may be some things I'm forgetting.  I'll update when/if I think of them)
 So for now, we are still waiting for our homestudy write-up.  We are still within the range that our social worker told us it would be.  We expect to get it sometime next week for review and then we will go active sometime after that.  So, all of these pros and cons are based on our experience thus far.  We obviously have not gone through the match process yet.  I'll plan to add to my review as we go along.  

Good luck with your decision!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Name Suggestion

Last week, Lexi told us that the baby could have the same name as she has, because she wants to share everything with the baby.  How sweet, right?  We had to explain to her that you don't usually give two children the same name, because it would be too confusing.  "But my name's great!"  Yes. Yes it is.  You are great.

Matt and I have been discussing baby names though.  We haven't come to any decisions just yet, because we both have some strong opinions on this topic.  I'm concerned that we'll finally pick a name and then the expectant mother will hate it or something.  Eek!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Second Crocheted Hat

 I made this one today to coordinate with one that I made for Lexi a while ago.  I have a feeling it may be a little big for the newborn age, but I hope it fits in the Fall.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Crocheted Hat

I made a hat for the new baby.  This one is pretty gender neutral and plain, but I have some other hats already planned in my head.

Nana Shopping Begins. . .

I really think that one of my mom's favorite things in the world is garage-saling.  She love the hunting, bartering, and deal-finding.  I think she loves the chase.  Even though the true garage sale season hasn't started yet, she can still sniff out the random early garage sale.  So, when she called me yesterday to tell me about her find, I wasn't surprised.

Now, we saved our favorite clothes from when Lexi was younger and we have some gender neutral stuff (because the sonographer wasn't 100% on her gender).  I've also been gifted some gender neutral things from generous friends, and I've picked up a few things that I couldn't pass up.  So really, the new baby has enough clothing for the first 0-3 months.

My mom confirmed that this baby will indeed have clothing by buying 15 boy outfits at a garage sale yesterday.  She's quite proud of herself and her thriftiness.  She should be proud, considering she only spent $10.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Preparations. . .

Now that the homestudy visit is finished, it is time to start more serious preparations for a baby.  Our agency published a list for Preparing for the Hospital:

For Baby:
____ Disposable diapers (newborn size) and baby wipes (be sure to buy wipes for sensitive skin, as most newborn are sensitive to wipes containing fragrance, dyes or other products)
____ Bottle and nipples (you will be able to buy formula from a nearby store when you learn what is being used by the hospital)
____ Burp cloths (you can use cloth diapers or small towels)
____ Diaper bag and portable changing pad
____ Weather-appropriate clothing
____ Baby shampoo, lotion, diaper rash cream, etc. (these may also be supplied by the hospital, so you may wish to wait on these items, as well)
____ Baby blankets
­­­­­____ Onesies
____ Baby booties or socks
____ Infant carrier/car seat
____ Pacifiers
For Mom and Dad:
____ A few basic clothing items which can be easily mixed and matched)
____ Dress clothes for court (if your adoption requires a court appearance)
____ Comfortable shoes
____ Cell phone and charger (if you don’t have one, please purchase one as it will make it easier to reach you during this process)
 ____ What to Expect the First Year by Arlene Eisenberg (a good reference for first time parents when they have questions at 1 a.m. or are too embarrassed to call someone)
 ____ A place for baby to sleep while awaiting ICPC approval (pack n’ play, travel baby bed or make arrangements for the hotel to provide a crib)
____   Personal hygiene products (shampoo, shaving cream, mouthwash, deodorant, moisturizer, waterless hand-wash, etc.)
____ Snacks
____ Camera (and lots of batteries or camera charger cord)
____ Travel journal to document the experience
____ A good book
____ All travel and adoption documents!
I'll probably edit their list for us.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Homestudy Visit

Today was the much-anticipated homestudy visit.  I cleaned and cleaned even though I have heard from everyone that it doesn't really matter how clean your house is.

The social worker (SW) got here right on time and started with my interview.  Matt was grateful that he was able to watch the end of the Duke game.

The SW asked about my childhood, my family, our parenting, how I feel about the adoption process, etc.  I gave her a tour of the house.  I had worried about all the little details and the only thing she actually wanted to see was a fire extinguisher and our emergency numbers.  She wanted to know that we had exit plans in case of emergency.

My mom and sister took Lexi to a parade that we go to every year and they arrived back so that my sister could be interviewed.  I don't know what she really asked Ashley, because I stepped out of the room, but it went well apparently.

The SW also asked Lexi some questions, but Lexi won't tell me what she talked about.  So be it.

She interviewed Matt alone and the two of us together.  It is sometimes difficult to come up with answers about yourself.  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  It was ultimately no big deal though.

As she was getting ready to leave she told us that if she had any concerns she would tell us right now.  (pause)  "I have no concerns."

So we passed.  Yay!  It will take her about two weeks to type up the homestudy (she was writing the entire time she was here), and then it will be sent for approval by the agency and ourselves.  The whole process should be over in two weeks to a month.  Then we will make our profile active and we could be matched with a birth mother at anytime.

We just found out this afternoon that another couple who is using the same agency as we are was matched with a born baby 3.5 hours after going active.  3.5 hours! I had tentative plans to get together with them in a couple weeks so that we could get to know each other better.  Now they are in New York getting their baby!  I am so excited for them.

Oh- Because I realize how tedious it can be to read a blog with no pictures, here are some pictures of our clean house ready for the homestudy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pretty Rainbow

Matt and I have discussed names a bit, but we aren't settled on anything just yet.  It is a fun thing to think about while we are in the midst of preparing for the homestudy.

Lexi declared that she has the perfect name for the baby, "Pretty!"
"Yes, Pretty Rainbow."
Well, I suppose that is an idea, but I'm pretty sure my undercover hippie status would be blown out of the water.
She's really thought it through too, "If it is a girl, she will be Pretty Rainbow Girl.  If it is a boy, he can be Pretty Rainbow Boy."  Brilliant!

I told her that Pretty Rainbow might just have to be her nickname for the baby.  She's seriously in love with the idea of naming the baby Pretty Rainbow.

Now, she said all of this right before bed last night, so I thought she might just let it go.  Nope.  The first she said upon waking this morning was, "You remember what I want to name the baby right?"

"I do."
"Pretty Rainbow Girl or Boy!"

I wish. . .

I was reading a book last night, and Lexi asked me what it was about.

"It's about people who were adopted, and the people who adopted them."

She asked, "Was I adopted?"
"No, you weren't adopted.  You grew inside of me.  Remember the pictures of me when I was pregnant?"
"Oh yeah."
Then she proceeded to ask about many relatives and friends.  "Were they adopted?"
"No, they weren't adopted."
Then she said, very matter-of-factly, "I wish I was adopted."
Now, this was not said in the "I wish I had different parents way."  We have only really discussed what a blessing adoption can be with her.  So, of course she wishes she could be adopted.
I told her, "If you were adopted, then I wouldn't be here with you now.  You would have another mommy."
"No.  I wish you would adopt me."
"I didn't need to adopt you because you grew inside of me."
"OK.  Let's read a story."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Preparing for Baby

I ran to the store the other day to return some Christmas gifts.  They sat in our closet for a couple months, and with the homestudy just around the corner, I've started cleaning out closets.

After I returned the items I started browsing the baby section and I just felt this urge that I needed diapers in the house.  So, I bought some.
Now, I plan on cloth diapering at home, because we really saw the benefits when we started with our daughter.  I have some that can fit a small baby, but not enough.  I feel the urge to buy some more cloth as well.

I started thinking about all of the necessities of a newborn more this weekend.  I started searching through all of the bins in our storage area and I could not find our newborn and 0-3 month clothes.  I mentioned it to my mom and it just so happens that the box of clothing I was searching for was in her garage.  My sister borrowed them when she had her baby and left them at my mom's

I went out to her house this weekend and we pulled out all of the little clothes.  I remembered my daughter in each of them.  My mom said she was amazed at my memory of which onesie had pants and which had a skirt.   There are many little pink outfits, but there are enough yellow and green outfits to put me at ease.

I guess I just needed enough baby stuff in the house to know that a newborn won't be naked and cold if we get a call that there is a baby born.  My mom assured me that her love of shopping will continue with the next grandchild.  I can sleep soundly tonight.

A Wrong/Right Turn

Do you know those moments when you are running late and you just don't have the patience to handle a wrong turn?  Well, those are the moments that God reminds me that His path is always better than the one I was trying to trudge along on my own.  Why did I have to have the pregnancy complications I had with Lexi's birth?  I truly believe that God designed this path for us and as we listen to His still small voice, we find our true path.  This path has led us to adoption and to preparing our home and hearts for the amazing life who will find us on our adoption journey.

So, today I had a perfect reminder of one of those wrong/right turns.  I had a busy schedule today.  We had church service from 9:30-11:00 and then I packed a lunch to eat while I was in route to a Children's Hospital.  My best friend is there with her youngest child who is battling a double kidney infection.  I had time to stop and get coffee for the exhausted parents, get to the hospital to visit for a little bit, get to a funeral (but miss the visitation), and go the dinner after the funeral.  As I pulled into the hospital parking garage my gas light came on, so I made a mental note to leave ten minutes early so I could get gas on my way to the funeral.  (This hospital isn't particularly in the best part of town.)

So, I took my friends their much-needed caffeine, chatted for a bit, and the baby woke up just around the time I probably should have left.  I stayed to play with her for a few minutes and left about ten minutes later than I should have.  It was worth it to hear her laugh for the first time in a few days.  I never realized how funny slinkies were.

Now I should add that I've never been to this particular hospital before and my sense of direction has never been one of my best features.  So, as I left the hospital room, my friends ask me repeatedly if I know how to get back to my car and/or the highway.  I assured them that I could figure it out.  Of course, I got lost.  I got off the elevator on the first floor and nothing looked very familiar, but surely the first floor is the correct floor to exit the hospital. Right?  So, as I wandered the halls trying to not seem lost and glancing at the time on my phone, God placed the perfect reminder for me in this flustered moment.

Obviously I had to take out my camera and snap a picture and hope that no one sees the crazy lost lady taking pictures of children's art in the hallway.  The art on the walls is all created by patients of the hospital.  So, I started to wonder what made this child make this piece of art?  Perhaps she was adopted?  I'll never know, but I'll thank God for the opportunity to see it.  I love these reminders that we are on the right path for our lives.  There was a lot of art on the walls, but this one caught my eye.  Thank you God.

As I turned another corner, a kind nurse asked me if I was lost.  I guess it was obvious.  She was actually heading to the parking garage as well, so she let me tag along.  It turns out that I got off on the wrong floor, and the correct floor is actually *G.  Go figure.  

I found my car, and I also found the highway without incident.  As I headed down the highway I decided to get gas in an area I was familiar with.  It still is not the best part of town, but I went to college there for three years and I was never once confronted by a homeless person or "questionable" person.  I had actually just discussed this with my friends.  I had no issue stopping for gas in this part of town.  

So, you can guess what happened, right?  I got to the gas station, grabbed my credit card, opened the door, and started paying for my gas.  When I turned around, there was man standing between me and my open door.  He asked for a quarter, which I did not have (on my person anyway).  He said he wanted to buy a piece of chicken.  Then he asked for a dollar.  Then he said that he just got out of the hospital and he was just trying to get to a shelter (there are shelters within walking distance of where we were).  He then said that he just needed to eat.  "Did you have that dollar?"

Of course I had a dollar, but I know full well that you never pull your wallet out in a situation like that.  I did tell him that I had some food in the car and I gave him a box of granola bars.  A conversation I had with friends just minutes before flashed through my mind.  People have asked if it is scary to be in this part of the city and my friend said, "As long as you don't 'act a fool' you have nothing to be afraid of."  Well, I don't think I 'acted a fool' and I think I tried to show the love and compassion that God calls me to show to anyone.  As I left the parking lot I said, "God Bless!"  Then I watched him approach the next car that pulled up to the gas tanks.  I can only pray that something in his life helps to turn it around.  It may just be a random stranger who pulls into the gas station.

So my wrong turns in the bad part of town may seem like nothing, but any little moment in a day can change the course of not only that day, but of a life.  I thank God for opening my eyes to things that may seem meaningless and opening my heart more than I can imagine on my own.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Homestudy Scheduled!

We finally have all of our paperwork in hand, and the homestudy is scheduled.  We have eleven days!  We were lucky that our social worker had time before my sister leaves for Spring Break.  My sister will only need to be here for about fifteen minutes of the meeting, but we are prepared for a long four-hour interrogation.

I can look around and see all of the things I need to clean.  Matt thinks I'm taking the cleaning a little too far, but he's never fully understood my neat-freakiness.

I'm also thinking about what to bake that morning?  Oh how I love the random thoughts that pop into my head during this process.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homestudy Paperwork Done!

It's official.  I got the last reference letter in the mail today and we are ready to schedule the homestudy!  I've contacted our social worker and she is checking her schedule.  I already have a running list in my head of all of the things I need to re-clean (even though I know in my head that she is not looking for the dirt on the baseboards).