Private domestic adoption is expensive, and it’s only one of many ways to add a child to your family. Why would we choose to go the private adoption route versus foster-to-adopt, or seeking an international adoption, or trying to find a birth mother on our own?
It all depends on your reasons, and there are about as many reasons why people adopt as there are people who adopt.
For some, they’ve felt a call to it all their lives. For others, they know the need that’s out there to find homes for countless children in need of them. There are same-sex couples who can’t biologically have children. And there are single people who have always wanted children but never found the right person to start a family with, or they just want to go it alone.
For us, infertility was the main driver. And that’s a common one.
As more and more people wait until later in life to have children, more people are faced with physical and biological challenges in making and having them.
In my case, the delay wasn’t by choice. I am one of 5 children, and I have always loved coming from a big family. There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to have 7 children. (I wanted to beat my mom, and I like odd numbers, so I had to jump to 7. Makes total sense… right?)
I just didn’t meet the person I finally felt was the one I wanted to start a family with until I was in my mid-30s. And I’ve already discussed a bit about our infertility journey in an earlier post.
We actually thought we were going to head down the foster-to-adopt road. We knew a number of people who were doing it. We heard about the need, especially in places like Los Angeles County (where there are nearly 30,000 kids in the system).
But we never actually took any steps to move in that direction. We never called an FFA (Foster Family Agency) or the county to begin the process of getting certified. We continued to learn more about it, talk to people who were doing it, and hear stories about what it’s really like. But we weren’t taking any action to move the process along for ourselves.
And it wasn’t until we went to a seminar that our agency put on that I was finally able to articulate why I’d been dragging my feet on the foster route.
We heard so many stories of the work involved in fostering – the doctor appointments, therapy sessions, court dates, and parental/family visits (the latter often being supervised by the foster parents, because LA County doesn’t have the social workers or staffing to provide supervision for all those visits).
There are surprise visits from county workers, inspections of your home, trainings to attend, and certifications to maintain. I imagine at times you feel like you have no privacy whatsoever.
We heard and read the stories of heartbreak, of people who had kids for 1, 2, or even 3 years or more, only to have them reunified with biological family (which, frankly, is the goal of the foster system). In some cases, it really wasn’t in the best interest of the child to be reunified with family, but that’s the goal, even if it feels unfair to other people in the process.
We heard about kids who were born addicted to drugs or alcohol and the effect it has on them. Or the kids who came from very dysfunctional families and had behavioral issues, were malnourished or neglected, were abused.
At the end of the day, what I learned was that I couldn’t put myself through that. I had already been through the loss of two pregnancies (and would later have a third). I was facing the fact that I would not have children biologically, and I just couldn’t see putting myself at risk of loving and bonding with a foster child and having them taken away as well. I also feared for how close I might allow (or not allow) myself to get with a foster child knowing I (and they) were always at risk for being separated.
As one foster parent friend wisely put it to me, “Don’t get into fostering to adopt, get into fostering to foster.” If you look at it any other way, you are setting yourself up for heartbreak.
It was also largely going to be up to me – due to my husband’s work – to handle all of the appointments, hearings, and visits.
Again, it wasn’t until we went to that seminar put on by our agency that I was finally able to see all this.
What I realized is that I wanted something more predictable. I wanted a newborn, a baby I could I have the most influence and impact on from the very beginning. After all, we’d never done this before. We wanted the experience of starting from scratch… certainly with our first child.
And that’s what private, domestic, newborn adoption offered us. Yes, it was going to cost more. But the much greater certainty of it was worth it to us.
Sometimes I feel less than… like I failed some kid(s) in the system. Like I should have tried harder. Like I shouldn’t have made it about me and what was best for me.
The reality is I had a choice, and I had to do what’s best for me and my family. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read in adoptions groups and forums from parents who have a challenging child that they just aren’t bonding with, even years into an adoption.
I’ll admit I feared for that. Especially in adopting an older child. I didn’t want to become one of those statistics.
But the beauty of this process is that different people are in different stages of life. That means that one road that we feel isn’t right for us is the perfect road for someone else.
And no matter which path we choose, we all need the support of others, and they need support from us.