A Case for Domestic, Open Adoption

Adoption isn't for everyone.

That isn't what this post is about.  You need to do what's right for your family.

When others find out that we've adopted, we get lots of questions.  Sometimes these questions come because one spouse secretly wants to adopt and is afraid to mention the idea to her partner, because people are trying to decide between international and domestic adoption, or because a couple has talked about adoption for years but has never known where to begin.  Whatever the reason, I'm going to attempt to debunk a few of the myths I've heard (and believed myself) about domestic, open adoptions.  Adoption is important, and I think that more people would do it if it wasn't so intimidating.

Myth #1:  Adoption is too expensive.

2013 July - Piper Fenrick-4757.jpg

Okay, let's be real.  Adoption through an agency is expensive.  But it's not too expensive.  Our daughter's adoption cost more than we anticipated (over $18,000), but we made it.  We aren't millionaires; our combined incomes are far less than even six figures.  Whether or not you read anything else on this point, please read the following:

If you wait until you have all of the money to adopt, you'll never do it.

 We are very blessed with supportive a family and friends who supported us tremendously, but adoptions are still possible without those things.  There are adoption tax credits, employee adoption grants, odd jobs, savings accounts, low-interest adoption loans, garage sale fundraisers, reduced trips to Starbucks, grants through adoption agencies, and other options.  Normal people (not just wealthy people) can adopt.

Throughout our adoption process, I was in tears, humbled by the grace of God and the generosity of others in helping us bring home little Piper.  We certainly found it to be true that "He can do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine."  

And in case you were wondering, our little girl is more than worth every penny.

Myth #2:  The birth mom will change her mind.

Honestly, she might.  A birth mom can change her mind and decide to parent up until the point when she terminates her rights (within a month after the baby is born in Oklahoma).  This has happened multiple times at the agency we used for our daughter's adoption.  Wouldn't you maybe consider doing the same, though?  All of a sudden, the baby that you've carried for nine months is very real and very beautiful, and it would become very easy to fall in love and very tough to put her in someone else's arms.  I constantly worried that Piper's birth mom would reverse her decision.  But at the same time, I knew that I would be okay if she did.

These birth parents aren't crazy.  They're pretty amazing people actually, and I care about Piper's birth mom so much that I genuinely wanted the best for her in that period of uncertainty.  

Adoption, like most things worth doing, is risky.  The birth mom really could change her mind.  And you really would be okay.

Myth #3:  The birth parents will try to take my child away.

IMG_0298.JPG

After birth parents have terminated their rights, they legally cannot take the child from you.  In Oklahoma, birth fathers can sign their rights away before the baby is born.  Birth mothers, as I mentioned before, must appear in court within a month of giving birth to terminate their rights.  After both of those situations have occurred, only the state can take the baby away from you, which would never happen unless they found evidence of you being abusive.  Birth parents aren't going to come knocking on your door to steal your child.  As previously mentioned, they aren't crazy.  

Myth #4:  Open adoptions are a pain and I don't want my child to be in contact with his/her birth parents.

There are varying levels of openness for domestic adoptions.  The agency that we used requires at least a semi-open agreement.  Minimum obligations are sending letters and pictures (via the agency) to the birth parents monthly for the first year, and then twice a year after that.  If you are hesitant to send letters and pictures, I urge you to consider the reasons why.  Your child will always consider you to be her parents, but the desire to know who the birth parents are is innate in every adopted child.  

You owe your child honesty.  

Put yourself in a birth parent's shoes for a moment.  If you had given birth to a baby, you would always want to know that that baby is okay.  You would probably think about him all the time and wonder how he is doing.  You would ask yourself, daily, if you had made the right decision.  

When regarding the tremendous gift that your child's birth parents gave you, doesn't it seem like a small task to update them on your child's life?  

Finally, I urge you to contemplate the caliber of people who choose to give their babies up for adoption.  While it is true that some are not excellent role models, that is not the case in most instances.  Piper's birth parents are exactly the kind of people who I want her to know.  They are selfless, brave, and generous. My husband and I are hoping that they will be involved in Piper's life as she grows.  You don't have to start off an open or semi-open agreement by giving away your phone number.  Our relationship has evolved to the point where we felt comfortable with that, but yours wouldn't necessarily have to be the same.  A healthy sense of caution about birth parents is acceptable; an irrational, judging fear is not.  

Be skeptical of your skepticism.

Myth #5:  My child's birth mom will have consumed drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy and harmed my child.

It's possible, yes.  But maybe not.  Again, there is much to be said here for being cautious as opposed to being fearful.

 At our agency, we were allowed to choose the amount of prenatal drug and alcohol exposure that we would allow for our baby.  None of the case workers made us feel guilty about our decisions or tried to force us to do anything against our beliefs because they knew that we needed to make the best choice(s) for our family.  

In the end, we decided that we had to leave Piper's health and well-being in God's hands. Prenatal drug and alcohol exposures can cause problems for babies and children; so can many other factors.

Myth #6:  An adopted child won't really feel like "ours."

We now have a biological and an adopted child, and I can honestly say that there has not been a day when Piper has felt less "ours" than Caroline does.  I can't imagine my heart being any more full of love, nor can I imagine wanting any other child in the world in her place.  She didn't have to come out of my womb for that to happen.  That's all I have to say about that.

Myth #7:  There is a greater need for international adoption than domestic adoption.

I have a hard time not getting angry about this myth.  International adoption is not "cooler," "better," or "more necessary" than adopting in the the United States.  

If you're going into adoption with the mindset that you are "rescuing" a child, I ask you to consider the thousands of children in your own state who need "rescuing" from foster care ... babies who need "rescuing" from a life of neglect ... teens who need "rescuing" from juvenile detention centers ... birth parents who need "rescuing" from the feeling of having to abort because there are no other options.

And then remember that ultimately, whatever child you bring into your family will end up rescuing you in more ways than you even realized you needed it.

I'm not trying to convince you to do something that you don't think is right for your family.  What I do know is that I believed every single one of these myths until we jumped into Piper's adoption.  Now that I'm on the other side, I can say that a domestic, open adoption is hard, frustrating, scary, unpredictable, unusual, hopeful, happy, freeing, beautiful, and worth every monetary, physical, and emotional cost.  

Adoption is joy. 

IMG_0311.JPG