Today was a very exciting day!
We have known Zoe as our daughter since the moment she was placed into our arms, but legally we have been “fostering” her while she was considered a ward of our adoption agency. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process of a domestic adoption (like I was!) here’s how it works:
-Over Christmas 2011, we decided that our 2012 goal was to get on an adoption waiting list. We had known for a long time that we wanted to adopt and had been working through some financial goals to make it possible for about two years.
We had enjoyed being a family of “3” but our hearts were yearning for a child. We weren’t sure how long our adoption would take, but we knew we wanted to spend Christmas 2012 knowing that we were at least in the process. We began researching the current adoption climate and trying to decide between international adoption (my preference) and domestic adoption (what seemed to be the best given the current adoption climate.)
-We interviewed our agency in April, along with several other agencies. In May, we decided to go with a domestic adoption.
-In June, we picked an agency. If you’re interested in a post on how we chose our agency, let me know—there’s a lot to consider! At this point, David and I began assembling the mountain of paperwork that has to be completed before you can officially submit your application.
We (let’s be honest, I) also created a family profile—a scrapbook of our family that had information about us, our families, our lifestyle, our house, and our philosophy on parenting. Birthmothers are shown a number of family profiles that match the desires and preferences they have for their child’s family, and from there they either pick a family or pick families to interview. A sample photo I took for our “house” page:
-Once we had everything together, which took about 2.5 months, we were able to set up our home study.
-At the very end of September, we had our home study. This is where a social worker comes to your house and you pay them to ask you personal questions based on the biographies you have already written answering personal questions (mine was 11 pages of single spaced, size 12 font…) They also check out your home and make sure you aren’t crazy, dangerous slobs. We were quoted a 6 month to 1.5 year estimated wait after the home study was completed. HA! What a laugh!
-Once our home study was completed, we could officially submit our application and part two of our payment. Here’s where I ran into problems with our stupid family profile and had to get it printed multiple times. UGH. In Mid-October, I was having a meltdown about the family profile when…I got “the call.” I’ll have to do a separate post about this—it was an amazing day. Our agency called me at work, told me that a birthmother had chosen us, gave me some details, asked me to say yes or no (right then! without talking to David!), and told me that we had 24 hours to get our money and a signed legal agreement to them. Oh—and she was due in seven and a half weeks! It was a whirlwind, to say the least!
At this point in a domestic adoption, the prospective adoptive family assumes the financial burden for the birthmom’s living expenses. This continues until six weeks after placement. Paying for a birthmom’s living expenses does NOT ensure that she has to place the child with you—she can still choose to parent her child at any point and is ethically and legally entitled to do so—so it is a very nervewracking and emotional experience. You make a bet that she will place the baby with you and choose to prepare as if she will. We did not tell many people about her adoption because of this fact, although we obviously told our families, a few close friends here in Florida, and our workplaces so that we had support to prepare.
–In early November, we met Zoe’s birth mom and her family for lunch. She liked us and we liked her. It was still on! Over the next few weeks, we were nervous wrecks. We decorated for Christmas, unsure of whether “3” or “4” of us would be celebrating.
-Six weeks after our call, at the very beginning of December, Zoe was born. We spent time with her birthmother prior to delivery, were in the waiting room during her birthmother’s C-section, and were the second people to hold her. We spent the next few days in the hospital as guests of her birthmother, who was amazing.
–48 hours later, her birthmother signed away her parental rights. Our agency had already done investigative legwork that indicated that Zoe’s birthfather would probably not dispute the adoption. We were bringing our daughter home!
-From that day until today, we fostered Zoe. Our agency filed paperwork indicating our intent to become her legal parents, which typically takes about 90 days to be approved. In the meantime, we completed post-placement visits with a social worker and even more paperwork.
And we celebrated Christmas as a family of “4!”
And then today we bcame Zoe’s official parents! She has taken our last name, we have legal status as her parents, and her records now reflect that she is our child and that we have all of the legal responsibilities of parenting. Hooray!
Our story worked out beautifully, but as I celebrate today, I am deeply cognizant that many adoptions are painful, slow, interrupted processes and that many families who want to adopt face legal hurdles. I pray for those families and those precious children waiting to join families across the world. We are called to care for them! This song by Audio Adrenaline sums up that calling beautifully:
Little hands, shoeless feet
Lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run
When their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout Your name in victory
When we love, when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these
Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around
These are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open
If not us, who will be like Jesus
To the least of these?
(PS: If I haven’t made it clear before, I am happy to answer any questions about adoption, so feel free to ask away!)