Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adoption Q and A

Here's my first round of questions and answers, in more-or-less the order they were asked. There will be other rounds, so feel free to ask me more questions. Maybe some of the answers I give may need clarification. Let me know.

I had a formatting issue earlier. The first question got misplaced. It's fixed now.

How do you even get started? Past the decision to adopt, I mean. Where do you look, who do you ask, how does it work? We went to a DSS (department of Social Services) seminar to start with. We found DSS a little intimidating, so we decided to research international adoptions too. A group called ACONE holds a yearly conference, so we attended that, and joined ACONE ourselves. We got a list of local adoption agencies and interviewed the agents we thought we'd like. Then we picked the agency with the programs and connections that were best for us. Lots of people help and guide you on the way. Once you sign with an agency, your agent walks you through the process step by step.

I know your daughter will be from China -- how much of the culture of her genetic heritage will you be keeping as standard? As much as we can manage. Since we're not Chinese, we have to learn everything as we go. We're learning phrases in Mandarin. We can study the art, music, and literature alongside her. We have a couple of Chinese-American friends who will hopefully spend some time with her now and then. Boston's Chinatown is a convenient daytrip away, and someday we want to travel back to China with her as tourists. It seems likely she'll come from an area where Confucianism is popular (in spite of being essentially illegal) so we'll learn what we can about it. And of course I'll learn to make dumplings.

I've been curious, but didn't want to ask because it IS a personal thing... if you don't mind answering (even if not public) what were the reasons for the decision to adopt? It is a sensitive question, but I've decided to be open about it. I've wanted to adopt ever since I was a small child. While the other kids taunted my classmates who were adopted, I went the other direction and became enamored with the prospect. (Maybe my parents explained it to me well.) I always assumed I'd have maybe one biological child and then adopt my second. But here I am in my mid-thirties with no children. I can't wait forever! Besides, I'm not picky about whose genes my child carries. I just want to be a mommy.

Will you have more children (either birth or adoption)? Could happen! I'm leaning toward 'yes' at the moment.

What are the general policies and criteria for adoptive parents and how long is the waiting list? Who's banned from the list by default? China tightened up their policies and criteria a few years ago. Then last year, something called the Hague Treaty was signed by several countries, including the USA, to regulate international adoptions and prevent problematic practices like kidnapping or record tampering. Each country's policies are still different, but they're now more similar. Parents' ages are required to be between 30 and 55, with some variation. Many countries prohibit openly gay couples and/or single parents from adopting, although some US adoption agencies will find ways around that. Many countries have specific health requirements of the parents.

Here's a blurb from our agency's website:

China will accept dossiers from couples married at least two years (or 5 years following a divorce) up to age 49 in the regular adoption program and from couples up to age 54 in the Waiting Child program. Applicants must be at least 30 years old. Prospective parents should be in good physical health and mental health, have adequate resources to care for a child, have no significant criminal history, and have a body mass index of under 40.

Many of the regulations are eased when the child has special needs.

Is it difficult to adopt from China with them having a communist government? The Communist regime does complicate the process in some small ways. But in other ways it makes things easier. China controls everything so heavyhandedly that we're not likely to encounter many unwelcome surprises. There's less risk of officials wanting bribes, of paperwork being lost, or of someone's anti-adoption opinions dragging out the process. The Hague regulations barely created a bump. China does want to control the process even more, so it's leaving less and less power in the hands of the American officials. That means our agents have less power to ease things through for us. But it's a pretty stable system at the moment.

You mentioned special needs are a possible-to-probable -- which ones are in y'alls "range"? Actually, it's definite. We chose to sign up with an agency that helps special needs children exclusively. Here's why: no child is 'easy' - they all have health emergencies and emotional struggles. Adopted children nearly always have additional issues, such as grief and bonding issues. The special needs in question are mild to moderate, and most can be repaired with simple surgery or medical treatments. The rest are not debilitating in any way. In many cases, the parents find the bonding issues or typical children's growth and development problems are more significant than the original disability.

So if we're going to experience parenting ups and downs no matter what we do, we're free to choose by other criteria. The China SN program has an average wait of less than a year. The non-special needs program averages four years. Other countries we considered are closed, or are revamping their systems to comply with Hague and their waiting times just got longer. We'll take the shorter wait, thank you!

We received a form that listed various special needs and were asked to check off which ones were acceptable to us. We okayed albinism, amniotic banding, mild heart conditions, cleft lip/palate, certain eye/vision conditions, mild spina bifida, scoliosis, and a few others I don't remember now. I wish I'd kept a copy of the list.

There's also the fact that special needs children have special needs. Have you talked with the agency, local government, Rick's job, or whoever else about tapping into whatever assistance networks you may have need for? Our agency works with a very good pediatrician in Boston who specializes in adopted kids. She supposedly has a whole network of resources, depending on our child's needs. We haven't contacted her yet, but we will when we get our match.

Our insurance will cover our child; we already checked. The school Rick teaches at would be excellent for her to go to. If she needs more support than they can give her, we may have to turn to the public school system. I'm hoping it won't come to that, because although public schools are obligated to provide special needs support, you sometimes have to fight like hell to get any. I'm fully prepared to homeschool if necessary.

Additionally, our agency has playgroups, parents' meetings, and seminars we can go to. We are also members of ACONE, the regional adoption association, which offers access to general and specialized resources.

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