This past Tuesday, I went to my first ever meeting about adoption. It was an information night hosted by a local agency - very local to us. It's in a business park only a few minutes from our home, so that was convenient (and went in the "pro" column in our pro/con list). There were about 20 people there, and the woman I sat next to was very friendly, which was nice, especially because Mr. M couldn't come with me.
I was really impressed with the two agency workers who led the meeting. They were both very knowledgeable, were able to answer everyone's questions, and also seemed personable and easy to work with. You could tell they really cared about finding good homes for children, and helping birth parents through such a difficult time.
I had a number of questions answered, some encouraging, some...not so much. I think the biggest benefit of going to a meeting like this, other than starting to discern whether this agency would be a good fit for us, is getting to ask those very specific questions that I've been wondering about, and get an answer from a professional.
One question was: what happens if we start an adoption, but move away before we receive a placement (that's adoption-speak for "adopt a child"): this is a real possibility for us, since Mr. M will be searching for jobs all over the country next year. The answer was relieving: if we moved "out of area" (this agency works in three neighboring states), then we'd have to update our home study through a local agency, but could still receive a placement through the first agency. In other words, our progress wouldn't be totally disrupted by moving. That was a relief.
Someone else asked how much money you should plan to have before starting with an adoption, which is something I was wondering too. The answer was: you pay in sections - first the money for the home study, then a deposit to join the waiting list, then a much bigger amount once a child is placed with you. Ideally, it would be good to have all the money ready to go when you join the waiting list, since it is possible (although unlikely) to receive a placement right away. But they also said it's possible to have just the money for the home study and deposit, and have a letter from your parents (for example) promising to pay the balance if you get a placement right away. Obviously that isn't possible for everyone - it could be for us, but that isn't something we've broached with my parents. Another option is taking out a loan if you need the balance $$ right away - not ideal, but doable. So that helped to clear up some questions for me. For us, I think our preferred route would be to have the money (in cash, so to speak) for the home study, deposit, and part of the balance ready, and then when we start the home study, start fundraising, so hopefully by the time placement rolls around, we have enough. But this all seems so abstract right now.
Going to this meeting helped convince me that the agency route would be best for us (not an attorney). I really like the idea of a "complete package" - to know someone is providing counseling for the birth mother, that there's a team of experts I could turn to, and that there's post-placement support. One adoption book I read said you should figure out your "neediness scale" when considering agency/attorney options, and I think my neediness level is pretty high =) I don't think I'm up for screening birth mother calls myself, for example. I'd appreciate the professional help.
Wrapping this up...one answer I got was definitely NOT what I was hoping for...towards the end, I asked what kind of requirements there are for the kind of house/apartment you have. The answer was that you don't need to own the home (good), in our state you need to have a separate bedroom for the child after 6 months (okay), and it needs to meet basic fire safety standards. Hmmm...I had to ask a specific question afterwards about that one, because our apartment (our lovely, cozy, pleasant, spacious apartment) is a basement apartment, and two rooms - our bedroom and guest/sewing room/future nursery - are completely windowless. And I had a sinking feeling that that would not fly with the fire department...
And I was right. I asked that specific question after the meeting, and one of the agency workers emailed me the next day to say, sorry, but the fire department would probably not OK our apartment as safe.
I get it. I get needing two escape routes, and I get that we are not up to fire code in our delightfully dark bedroom. But man - HUGE bummer! Our first step for adoption now looks like this:
1. Find a new place to live.
(Have I mentioned that we live in an expensive part of the country? And that our current apartment is by far the biggest place we could get for this price? And that we just moved here at the end of June? And that I love our apartment? Like, really love it? It has a patio, it has a washer and dryer, it has a spacious kitchen, it has no windows in the bedroom which makes it nice for sleeping...oh wait, that "perk" is not as good as I thought it was...)
I had a good cry about this latest discovery that night. And then I perked up, and remembered that we're not financially ready to proceed with adoption yet anyway, and that we're both really used to moving - this is the fourth place I've lived in the last 5 years. So it's not a complete disaster.
But it's still disappointing to realize that we're basically stalled on adoption while we're here. But I'm glad I found that out now, and not after we started our home study and shelled out a big chunk of money. So thank you, efficient agency lady.
Next steps? Save money. Look into one more agency in our area (why not?). Pray. Wait. Hope. Pray some more. Try to get a child into our below-fire-code apartment the "old fashioned" way =) ha ha