Private Adoption is messy, hard, emotional, but so worth it!

My husband and I started on our adoption journey by fostering to adopt. After a few placements that all led back to parent reunification, which is usually the goal, we decided that we would explore private adoption. We googled, read, researched, and interviewed over 10 agencies before picking one. The one we chose was open to us living in any state and allowed us to have placement in most any state in the U.S. So, we contacted a Home Study Specialist who conducted our home study for us. This home study was not as intrusive as the one we had done for foster to adopt, but rather more about our current situation, including family history, social connections, employment, financial situation, etc. They visited a total of three times and gathered 5 references, then did an all-inclusive write up of who we were as individuals and as a couple. Once the home study was approved, it was sent to our agency. Then, we moved on to creating our family profile, which was used to present to an Expectant Mother (EM), in which she would decide whether or not she would “choose us”. Our profile ended up being approximately 12-15 pages, which included a very thorough explanation of us, including lots of pictures.

Finally, the fees were due before going any further. Note: Some agencies require the entire amount ($20,000-$30,000) due up front, and other agencies have their fees due in increments depending on which step you are on. In this case, we paid all our fees up front, before being able to become an active family. (I would advise one to NOT work with an agency that requires all their fees up front, because in lieu of a “failed” adoption you lose the money that is paid. We did fundraisers to come up with the fee amount). We held multiple yard sales, t-shirts sales, raffles, puzzles, restaurant nights, a spaghetti dinner, and asked people to donate towards our adoption. We partnered with an organization that matched our funds for a short while, as well as another organization that allowed the donations to be tax deductible for our givers. We also received two grants from foundations that offered them. It was a lot of paperwork and time, but worth it in the end.

After about 9 months, we finally became active with our agency, which meant we were eligible to be presented to Expectant Mothers in which our preferences matched. (You can indicate your preferences of race, hair color, drug/alcohol exposure, openness of post placement communication, etc.) We were presented to a few EMs over the first few months, but were never chosen. We went three years without being chosen.

In year four, we ended up matching with someone through a family friend connection. We met the EM (13 years old) for lunch and she “chose” us when she was 3 months pregnant. She then decided she wanted to parent so we continued on our journey. We were then contacted by our friend two months after the baby was born and she had decided she still wanted us to parent the baby boy. We excitedly said YES and took placement of him when he was 53 days old. There were many attorney appointments to be completed and lots of paper work and money paid in the following two weeks, but the Birth Mother (BM) signed her Parental Rights to us and we had our court hearing three months later, which is when the name officially changes and a new birth certificate is issued (with our names on it). In all, we paid approximately $8,200 for this placement.

We had another connection made with a potential EM just 8 months later. We met with her and she “chose” us and she wanted to use an agency for meeting and to discuss the plan. We paid the fees and had the necessary meetings. The EM scheduled her birthing date, and I was present for the baby’s birth. I was there for the baby girl’s firsts. We named her and stayed in the hospital with the baby, until she was released. We brought her home to our house. We received a call on day 6 that the BM decided to parent the baby girl. So, the baby girl left our family that day. It was heartbreaking, and we did lose money, which is part of the risk. We took some time to heal our hearts and settle in as a family of three.

Then, two years later we decided to dive back in the process. This time we committed ourselves to a self-match situation, which meant we worked to solicit ourselves via social media, our website, pass along cards, and word of mouth. This meant there were very low upfront fees. We paid to have our profile book made, website made, and other advertising avenues funded (a total of about $2500). We had several EMs contact us and conversations with EMs, but none ended up being a good fit. After 18 months, we had a friend contact us with an EM she knew that was interested in talking to us. So, we met her for lunch and gave her the contacts for an attorney if she was interested. After 2 weeks, she ended up contacting an attorney and we started the process and paperwork. We met her for lunch two more times before her due date. The attorneys completed the paperwork and we were ready for the baby to be born. We had a hospital plan in place, which allowed the hospital to know what the arrangement was for us to have interaction with the baby. She gave birth on her due date to a healthy baby boy. We went and as agreed upon, we met him 14 hours after he was born. Then, we came back the next day and got to love on him again for a while. Due to his high jaundice numbers, he wasn’t able to go home until day 3. We were contacted that he was able to be discharged on day 3. So, we went to the hospital and were able to bring him home. We had to wait for the 72 hour period to pass before she could sign the official Parental Rights papers, when he would officially be our son. It was an emotional time, but she did sign and he became our son. Our court hearing date was scheduled for 3 months later, and he officially had our name and a birth certificate with our names on it. We have an open adoption with his BM, where we share pictures and updates and occasional scheduled visits.

Our 12 year adoption journey has been exhausting at times, and very emotional. There were times I/we wanted to give up and say it’s not worth it to proceed further. The hardest part for us was, the waiting and the feeling of “we weren’t good enough to be chosen to be parents” by so many Expectant Mothers. We have spent close to $50,000 on the adoptions total. We’ve had yearly home study updates for 12 years, each time costing $1,200. The constant questions from people of when, what, being told you know you’re going to get pregnant just when this happens, were emotionally hard, but one thing we always had to keep focused on was that we knew it was our journey and what God had planned for our family. So, even on the hard days and the uncertainty of how we were going to pay the fee, we kept trusting and had hope!

I would tell someone who is curious about private adoption, to make sure you and your significant other are on the same page before starting. It is a hard journey and you will need each other to get through the hard and to celebrate the good with! Also, ask questions and reach out to fellow adoptive parents for support. I found that people don’t fully understand the emotions and the feelings of the adoption journey unless they have experienced it. The biggest decision to get started is whether you want to work with an agency or you want to self-match using attorneys. Both ways will get you there, it is just a matter of what route you want to take and how much of the work you want to do to get there. Private adoption is messy, hard, emotional, but so worth it!

Michelle Lloyd

Foster/adoptive Mother

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