One of the requirements of my chosen adoption agency is to complete a two-day training session. Upon reviewing my blog, I found my series of posts that were reactions to what I was learning in training. So, I am using the heart of these posts here for this chapter with some edits to spare you. You can tell that I am excited about this new world of possibilities.
I have a mountain of it. I have to start that process now. One of the most vital pieces of paperwork is my profile where I indicate race, alcohol/drug exposure/genetics/financial contribution, etc. They want me to review it with my family before I sign it. So far, I have met with the child's future godparents, my dad and my grandmother. Next is my mother this afternoon here at my house. After that, I pop it in the mail.
I am agreeing to a child of any race or combination of races. I knew that I was fine with this going in but my counselor suggested that I have that talk once more with my family. In my family, we were raised to see all people as equal regardless of the color of your skin, but there are different ways to present this idea to my family. For instance, when my father carries around my nephew Ty who looks just like my brother and my Dad, he is seen instantly by the world as Grandpa. If the child is a different race, the world will take a double or triple take on our family and will not come to the instant conclusion of who is whom. I am OK with this, but I have to make sure that my family is as well.
On this profile, I also have to decide on what level of alcohol and drug exposure I am willing to embrace on the part of the birth mother. It's broken into two categories - first trimester and ongoing. For the first trimester, I am willing for the birthmother to have both alcohol and marijuana exposure - at least minimum degrees of it. The counselor finds out for me what those levels are. In most cases, this is what the birthmother is consuming before she even realizes she is pregnant. For ongoing exposure, I am only willing for the child to be exposed to alcohol - and even then, it's only a little bit. Some pregnant women are prescribed small doses of wine or beer by their doctor for medical reasons. Everything else like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines scares me to death.
Also, I am agreeing to mild genetic chances of mental and physical disabilities. Mental includes such things as depression and anxiety which runs on both sides of my family. Physical includes minor ailments like cleft palate or club feet that can be remedied through a surgery. Otherwise as a single mother, I cannot help a child with greater levels of disabilities due to my income level. Children with greater levels of disability need more parents and financial resources than I have.
Finally, I am agreeing to some financial assistance to the birth mother during the pregnancy like buying a grocery store card or paying a light bill, but otherwise, I cannot help her. I have the money to pay for the adoption and some additional costs, but I cannot invest $10,000 or more dollars into the birthmother to help her. Some couples can and will do that, but not me.
Also, no to twins (sorry Jeanette). :)
This week, I must go down to the courthouse and get my fingerprints so that I can mail them to the FBI for my criminal records. The FBI process alone can take 8-9 weeks. Also, I need my DMV records which I can luckily do online. My employer has to fill out paperwork verifying that I have a job, my doctor has to verify that I am healthy and a counselor has to verify that I am emotional fit to parent a child.
It will take me several weeks to finish the paper chase. I only wish that all parents had to go through such a process to make sure that they were ready for parenthood.
The adoption process varies based on the state that the baby is born. Whenever I asked a question about "how long" and "what if", the answer I received started with "Depends". There are so many variables that it can make your head spin. Every state has different approaches, laws and waiting periods. So I hoping that I find a birthmother in NC, but I know if it's the right fit, I am happy to journey to any state to make this happen.
Let me see if I can give you a good overview of the adoption process:
1. I complete my paperwork and it's processed by the state. This one step alone can take 3 months to complete!
2. While I am waiting for my paperwork to be processed, I create my "Dear Birthmother" letter which turns into a four-page, cardstock letter directed at the birth parents informing them about me, how I plan to raise the child and what kind of openness I am willing to do. Also, I am creating my iheartadoption website since birth mothers rely so heavily on the Internet nowadays to make decisions.
3. Once number one and number two are done, I am officially on the books. My "Dear Birthmother" letter goes out to all potential birthmothers who match my profile choices. My iheartadoption website goes live. The party starts.
4. I wait. I wait sometimes for a year or more. My counselor suggested that I try to keep my mind off things and travel, do projects around the home, have fun, do all of the things new parents can't do.
5. Birthmothers start calling my 800-number either from finding it on my website or from the agency. I could talk to many of them or just one.
6. If a birth mother chooses me, I have 24 hours to decide if I chose her. Hopefully if I felt the connection too, I have been talking to my counselor about her.
7. If we have a "match", I go to where the birthmother is to create our open adoption agreement. This can be in NC or as far away as Alaska. She can be located anywhere in the United States. During our half-day conversation mediated by a counselor, we decide on everything - what happens in the hospital, can I bring people with me, any procedures, what level of openness do we agree to, etc.
8. We wait for baby to make an appearance. In the hospital, I follow her lead. I honor her wishes to make sure that she feels supportive and not rushed. 48 hours after the baby is born, the baby and mother should be able to leave the hospital. That is when she signs over parental rights to me (depending on the state). If the state is not NC, I must stay in that state until her state is happy with my paperwork which takes either a few days or two weeks. (ICPC)
9. I go home with baby and wait the appropriate amount of time to make sure that the birthmother does not change her mind. In NC, that is 7 days. Saturday and Sunday do count as days, but the process cannot start or stop on a Saturday or Sunday. She has until midnight on the 7th day or the following Monday if the 7th day falls on a weekend to change her mind.
They are endless! A million things can go wrong and right. The agency had to introduce many of these possibilities to us to make us prepared for the process. One time on Friday while the counselor was out of the room, one of the potential adoptive fathers said, "Ok, I am officially freaked out. Anybody else?" Yes, indeed. We are about to go tightrope walking with our hopes and hearts on the line without a safety net.
What could happen?
I could find a baby in mere months and be a mother before 2011 ends. (I have to put this out there! Think positive.)
A birth mother could find me, love me but decide last minute that it's all wrong.
A birth father could refuse to sign away his parental rights. If the birth mother doesn't know who he is, she is publicly embarrassed with an ad in the newspaper stating, "Hey, did you sleep with this woman between this date and that date? If so, call us, you might be a father." That ad is public for 30 days. After that, the judge can terminate the rights without him.
A birth mother could match with me, bring the child into the world and decide as the baby lays on her chest that she can't do this. This is every adoptive mothers greatest fear.
I am an optimistic person by default. I believe in intentions and positive thinking. My goal and most difficult task will be focusing on the possibilities that lead me to a beautiful baby of my own. My greatest desire (being a parent) is now in the hands of fate. Let's just hope that I have enough good karma circulating in the universe!