Archive for the 'decision points' Category

Adoption Types Quiz

If you have met me and talked about adoption for more than 2 minutes, you have probably heard me say “there is no right way to adopt – only the right way for your family.” But how do you know what the right way is for your family? It’s based on a number of factors, and each family will weigh them differently. Below is a series of stories about different families (as you might guess, these are made-up stories, not real clients! You won’t catch me telling real client stories on the blog). Can you guess which type of adoption I would suggest for each one? When you’re done, click here to see the answers. If you need help getting started making the adoption-type decision yourself, contact the firm for a free Adoption Decisionmaking Toolkit.

1. Ellen and Mike
Ellen and Mike are an older couple – both in their late forties. Ellen runs a small, part-time sewing business from home while Mike works full time. They have no doubt in their minds that they want to adopt a healthy newborn, but they are flexible on other factors (race, gender, etc.). Mike describes himself as laid-back and easygoing, while Ellen is anxious and has a lot of worries about adoption.

2. Ashley and Jim
Ashley and Jim have decided to adopt after a long struggle with infertility. They both have high-powered jobs and travel a lot, so they don’t have much time to devote to the process of adoption. Because of these high-powered jobs, they have a generous adoption budget and aren’t concerned about cost. After all the infertility treatments and stress, Ashley and Jim just really want someone to handle the whole process for them.

3. Tamara and Miguel
Tamara and Miguel are a young couple, just married for a few years. They met in the Peace Corps and enjoy traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. They’re particularly interested in adopting a child from Colombia, where Miguel’s family is from, or possibly from Haiti or Ethiopia, both of which they have visited.

4. Sarah and John
Sarah and John are another young couple. John is an accountant, while Sarah is a freelance writer who really dreams of being a stay-at-home mom. Like they do with most new things that they take on, Sarah and John have done a lot of research about adoption. They are highly organized and like to be in control of situations to the extent possible. They also like to know exactly how their money is being spent.

Ready to see my answers? Click here!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Adoption Basics Seminar This Weekend!

If you are in the Northern Virginia area and considering adopting a child, don’t miss The Vaughan Firm’s free seminar, Adoption Basics, this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Leesburg, Virginia. Topics covered include:

  • Getting started with your adoption plan
  • Deciding between agency and private adoption
  • Deciding between domestic and international adoption
  • Deciding between open and closed adoption
  • Raising enough money to adopt
  • What to expect from a home study
  • …and much more!
  • As always, we will save time at the end for your questions. Hope to see you there! For more information and to register, visit the seminar website.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Should You Hire an Adoption Facilitator or Consultant?

    Every so often in my work as an adoption attorney, I run across advertising for “adoption facilitators” or “adoption consultants.” Who are these guys, and should you hire one?

    What Is An Adoption Facilitator?
    The first thing to understand about adoption facilitators and consultants is what they’re not — they are not licensed adoption agencies or attorneys. Since there is no state that licenses adoption facilitators, the services they offer vary widely. Some offer to match prospective adoptive parents with a child to adopt, some offer education on how to create an adoption profile and advertise yourself, some offer tips on how to spot a birth mother who might change her mind, some give referrals to other adoption professionals. Most provide some combination of these services.

    Check Your State Laws
    If any person offers to help you find a child to adopt in exchange for a fee, proceed with caution. In all but two states (California and Pennsylvania) it is illegal to charge money for adoption matching services. Some states don’t allow adoption facilitators at all, even if they don’t charge a fee. Even in states where facilitators are legal, there are very specific rules as to what they may do. This is not an area where you want to take your chances: Paying an adoption facilitator in a state where it is not legal to do so can delay or disrupt the finalization of your adoption. In many states, a judge may not finalize an adoption where improper money has changed hands under state laws. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a website where you can check your state’s laws about adoption, including about adoption facilitators specifically. Check it out here.

    Do Your Homework
    Say you have found an adoption facilitator or consultant who either doesn’t provide matching services or does not charge for them. Before you get out your checkbook, do a little research to see how their costs and services compare to adoption attorneys and agencies in your area. For example, some adoption facilitators offer educational materials that help you spot “red flags” that indicate that a birth mother might change her mind. However, any good adoption attorney will do the same as a standard part of his or her practice (I certainly do in my practice. See this post for a few such tips). Since you have to hire an attorney to file your adoption with the courts anyway, it’s difficult to see the value in this service. Similarly, some adoption facilitators offer to help you create and review materials that you need to find a birth mother for a private adoption (adoptive family profile, website, fliers, etc.). Again, many adoption attorneys will do the same (although you want to make sure the attorney is charging a lower rate for this service, not his or her billable hour as a lawyer!), and if you used an agency, they would do all the matching work for you. Furthermore, in the age of the Internet, it’s not difficult to learn how to make an adoption profile on your own. Other services that attorneys and agencies commonly offer are referrals to social workers for the home study, referrals to counselors for both adoptive parents and birth mothers, recommending pediatricians for adopted kids with special needs, and much more. Be sure to compare the costs and benefits of an attorney, an agency, and doing it yourself before hiring an outside consultant. The more money you can keep in your pocket, the more you will have for your child when he or she arrives!

    Examine Claims Carefully
    Some adoption consultants advertise that their clients’ adoptions go through astonishingly fast. Three months from the day they walked in the consultant’s door, they had a finalized adoption! Hang on a second. If a facilitator claims that his or her clients adopt much faster than the national average, I’d be skeptical. Ask questions about what percentage of their clients adopt that fast, and how specifically the facilitator achieved that result. Also, recall that the timing for finalization of an adoption is set by law in every state, so if the consultant claims they can speed up the legal process, it’s just not true.

    Consider Ethics
    I’m especially troubled when I see facilitators advertise that they make it as difficult as possible for a birth mother to “take your baby away from you.” While it’s natural for adoptive parents to be frightened about the possibility that their adoption might not go through, every adoption professional should be concerned about birth mothers’ rights. We are not in this field to take babies from mothers who want to keep them. Instead, a good adoption professional should be making sure that the birth mother has counseling and understands the adoption process clearly. Treating the birth parents as the enemy is not only unethical, it also leads to more adoption disruptions, not fewer.

    Have you worked with an adoption facilitator or consultant? Share your experience in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Adoption and the Extended Family

    The decision to welcome a child into your home is one of the most joyful and exciting you will ever make, and it can be terribly painful when extended family members don’t share in that joy. For a number of reasons, sometimes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives have negative ideas and feelings about adoption. If you have relatives like this, check out these six tips.

    Start talking about adoption early and often. It can be hard to talk about the adoption decision, especially if you are adopting after infertility or are feeling insecure that the adoption might not go through. However, it’s helpful for family members to have some time to get used to the idea of adoption and to talk it over with you, rather than having it presented to them after the decision has already been made.

    Provide opportunities to learn. If your family members are open-minded enough that they are willing to learn about adoption, help them out. Different people learn in different ways, so tailor your education efforts to their style of learning. If they like to read, there are many adoption books to choose from, as well as magazines like Adoptive Families. If they prefer to learn by listening, see if your local adoption agencies or adoption support groups hold events at which extended families are welcome. Introduce them to other adoptive families so they can see for themselves how beautiful adoption is and how “real” the bonds between adopted children and their parents are.

    Have a heart-to-heart If you have family members who are especially resistant to the idea of adoption, have a frank discussion about what bothers them about it. Try to stay calm and really listen to their concerns. Some common ones are worries that all adopted children have behavior problems, that you can’t love someone as much if they are not your “blood,” that they are uncomfortable with multi-racial families, that the birth mother might come to claim the child back, etc. Address these concerns as best you can by talking about the facts of adoption, and by explaining how important it is to you.

    Get them together early on. The sooner your extended family meets and interacts with your new addition, the more involved they will feel and the easier it will be to bond. Although it is very important to have some time alone together as a new nuclear family, as soon as you and your child are ready, gradually introduce your extended family. Allow them to help you with child care so that you get a break and they get a chance to bond with your child.

    Be clear about what you need. Even the most well-intentioned of relatives aren’t mind readers. Since most people have never adopted before, they may not know the best way to support you as you settle into your new family life. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need from them. For example, if they often use insensitive language to talk about adoption, ask them to read an article about positive adoption language, or simply explain (gently) why certain words are offensive to adoptive families. If they are calling too often during the waiting period before placement, let them know that it’s stressing you out. And when your child arrives home with you, let them know how much private time you need on your own and what they can do to help you when that time is over.
    Think about how you will talk to your child about especially difficult family members. If you have a family member who persists in using offensive adoption language or simply does not accept the idea of adoption, give some careful thought to how you will handle it. You may want to limit this relative’s contact with your child, and you certainly want to plan how to talk about it. Adopted children are especially sensitive to feelings of rejection.

    Do you have other tips that helped you get reluctant family members on board with your adoption? Share them in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Confronting the Emotions of Adoption Planning

    I recently met an pregnant mother who is making an adoption plan (not a client; just someone I met in a social setting). We got to talking about adoption, and the emotions she might expect to feel about the adoption at different times in the process. “Oh, I try not to think about the sad part,” she told me. “I just try to focus on the good parts, like how great it will be to finally meet the baby when she comes.”

    Yikes. I admit that I stumbled a bit over what to say. I am really hesitant to tell anyone who is facing such a huge decision how they should handle it. When it comes to the hardest decision of her life, who am I to tell her what to think and feel? But I also know from my years of experience representing birth mothers that refusing to think about any negative feelings is not going to lead to good things in the end. In my experience, a birth mother who is in denial about the “dark side” of adoption is either going to be blindsided by depression after the placement, or she is going to change her mind and decide to parent the child. The first is a heartbreaking outcome for the birth mother; the second is a heartbreaking outcome for the parents who were hoping to adopt the child. Both outcomes are avoidable if the expectant mother can find it in her heart to face those hard emotions and make a thorough adoption plan.

    I tell all my expectant clients that adoption planning is much more than just choosing a family for the baby. It also means planning how you are going to take care of yourself after the baby has been adopted. This includes planning for counseling, knowing which friends and family members you can lean on, and finding a support group in your area. Although every mother is different and you never know how you are going to feel until the time comes, knowing that many birth mothers feel grief, loss, and depression and that it’s okay to need help is a good first step. If you don’t end up needing the help, great. But if you do, it’s important that the help is available for you.

    In the end, I gave the expectant mom my contact information and told her that if she finds she needs counseling or a support group later, to feel free to ask me for a referral. I hope that she will call if she needs it. Post-adoption is no time to feel alone.

    If you are a birth mother, tell me what helped you prepare for adoption. I’d love to hear from you in the comments or by email at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Affording Adoption

    Cost is an ugly truth of adoption. Whether you have struggled with infertility or chose adoption out of a simple wish to help children who need families, it seems horribly unfair that adoption is so much more expensive than having biological children. Besides, when thinking about welcoming a child to your home, the last thing you want to think about is cold, hard cash.
    However, planning the financial aspects of your adoption is absolutely necessary. With the average non-foster-care adoption costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000*, most of us can’t afford not to think about money. Below are ideas for how to make adoption happen for your family.

    Please note that I don’t specifically list adopting from foster care or adopting a child with special needs in this post. While it’s true that adoptions from foster care and special-needs adoptions tend to be much less expensive, this is not a decision that should be made for financial reasons. I encourage all families to consider opening their hearts and their homes to a foster child or a child with special needs, but only after doing a careful assessment of whether you can meet that child’s needs and whether such an adoption is a good fit for your family. Without further ado, here is the list:

    Don’t forget about tax relief. One of the most important thing to remember when planning the financial side of an adoption is that you will get a significant chunk of money back in tax credit after the adoption is finalized. The federal Adoption Tax Credit for 2011 is up to $13,360 for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child. Learn more at Some states also have tax credits for adoption, so be sure to check your state’s laws.

    Ask your employer about adoption assistance. Some employers offer adoption assistance to their employees. Sometimes this assistance is eligible to be excluded from your income for tax purposes. The Dave Thomas Foundation has a free toolkit for encouraging your employer to establish an adoption-assistance program, and also keeps a list of employers who do so. Ask your employer if your company has such a program, and if not, consider asking them to create one.
    Look into grants. Some organizations, nonprofits, and agencies offer adoption grants. Some will even pay the entire adoption cost for the very few families they select. Most have very specific criteria, such as requirements about what state you live in, where you are adopting from, your religion, etc. Most also require you to show your commitment to adoption by having a completed home study. Be attentive to these criteria and the application deadlines.

    Carefully weigh your options for loans and credit cards. Although “debt” is, and should be, a scary word, in truth many families take out loans or use credit cards to help finance their adoptions. The best approach is to get as low an interest rate as possible and borrow only as much as you can pay back later with your tax credit. Home equity loans, loans against your 401K, and loans from agencies and nonprofits that offer them specifically for adoption are all low-interest ideas. If you choose to use a credit card, pay close attention to the interest rate and under what circumstances the lender can change that rate. Make a specific plan for how you will pay it off.

    Consider creative fundraising ideas. Fundraising for adoption is a controversial subject — some love the idea, while others find it tacky and rude. If you decide fundraising is right for you, there are many creative options to consider. I know of adoptive families who have raised money for their adoptions using yard sales, bake sales, marathons, raffles, pay-at-the-door parties, and more. Moonlighting by using your skills to set up a side business or selling merchandise on sites like eBay or Etsy is also an idea that works for some families.

    Learn about frugal living. You don’t have to be eligible to go on the new reality show “Extreme Couponing” to benefit from frugal living strategies. Negotiating a better rate on your phone bill, car loan, insurance, and other payments can go a long way, and some families save hundreds each month by packing lunches and eating in for dinners. There are many books available on frugal lifestyle changes – check your local library.

    If you must travel for your adoption, take advantage of discounts and rewards programs. You’d be amazed what you can get just by asking. If you have to travel – especially internationally – to complete your adoption, be aware that some airlines offer discounted fares for adoption-related travel. Hotels might also be open to offering you a discounted stay if you tell them the purpose of your visit. Also, many credit cards offer great rewards programs for travel. Consider using these cards for your usual household purchases and paying the balance off each month. Finally, be aware that many travel rewards programs allow your friends and family to donate their points to you – a great way for friends to get involved if they want to help but can’t afford to donate money.
    Although affording adoption is a worry for all adopting families, I have never known any family to let money stand between them and having a child.

    Did you fund your adoption using an idea not mentioned here? Post it in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    *Figure based on a survey from Adoptive Families Magazine, 2009-10.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Committment: The Key Ingredient in Open Adoption

    Sunday’s Washington Post piece on open adoption reminded me that some of the most inspiring families I know are those who came together through open adoption. There is something beautiful about seeing people extending their definitions of family, navigating their own difficult emotions, and figuring out how to make their relationship work smoothly, all because they want the very best for the child. Beautiful as it is, it is not easy, and every family is a little bit different.

    I have become convinced that the most important factor to having a successful open adoption is commitment. Don’t just have a fling with open adoption, marry it. This is equally crucial for adoptive parents and birth parents.

    As an adoptive parent, agreeing to an open adoption and then not following through can be crushing to both the birth mother and the child. Aside from the importance of honoring your commitment to the birth mother, committing to open adoption also respects the child’s emotions and needs. Studies and stories from adult adoptees tell us that knowing about and having access to their birthmothers helps children thrive by easing feelings of rejection. Simply not knowing anything about their birth history can be exceptionally painful for kids, and often leads to wild imaginings (both fantasies and nightmares) about why they were given up or what their lives might be like if they were not placed for adoption.

    In some cases, commitment here means more than simply holding up your end of the bargain. If your child’s birth mother goes off the radar and is unreachable for a while, commitment to open adoption also means actively pursuing this relationship as best you can, which can be a difficult dance of tact and persistence. If this happens, you will also need to make big decisions about how to explain these periods of lapse to the child.

    As a birth parent, it’s essential to remember that an open adoption that includes visits is a lifelong commitment. Adopted children are especially vulnerable to feeling rejected or unwanted, and if you start by visiting once a week and then eventually get too busy or change your mind, this can have a huge psychological impact on the child. This is by no means meant to discourage you from having an open adoption with visitation! Rather, know that it’s important to honor your commitment by keeping up the schedule. If you absolutely can’t, make sure you communicate the reason clearly to the child, and try to substitute other ways to stay connected, such as telephone or Skype visits.

    For both birth parents and adoptive parents, staying committed to open adoption means opening your heart in ways you never considered before. Setting the boundaries of an open adoption can be especially delicate. The first issue you are likely to face is agreeing on how much contact is the right amount. This agreement might change over time as the parties get to know each other better and see how they feel about open adoption, and it might change even more as the child grows and his needs change. Know that it’s normal for disagreements or misunderstandings to arise over the long life cycle of an open adoption. A birth parent might give advice and be perceived as trying to co-parent the child, or might give the child a gift that the adoptive parents don’t feel is appropriate. The adoptive parents might inadvertently say something to offend the birth mother, or might not invite her to a family event in which she thought she should be included.

    These disagreements and misunderstandings are part of the reason why open adoption takes commitment. They are also part of why healthy open adoptions are so beautiful. Sure, it would be easier to walk away and [try to] forget that an adoption every took place between you. However, out of love for the child, for the child’s best interest, committed families keep coming back again, doing the hard work of communication and balance until they get it right.

    There are as many different scenarios in open adoption as there are families who choose it. If you have experience with open adoption, from any viewpoint, I’d love to hear about it in the comments or via email at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    When Openness Could Save a Life

    I was touched by this remarkable adoption story from the Times-Picayune. Madison Tully was born with sickle cell disease and lupus, a rare combination of autoimmune diseases. Jeff and Roxanne Tully adopted Madison through the Volunteers of America open adoption program in 1994, when open adoption was more unusual than it is today. Madison’s birth mother chose the Tullys by looking at adoptive-parent profiles, and the two families kept in touch over the years.

    In November 2009, when she was 16 years old, Madison’s lupus was diagnosed after the disease began causing her immune system to attack her organs. The disease causes terrible pain that is poorly controlled even with multiple medications. She was one of only 12 people in the world known to have both lupus and sickle cell disease. Her doctors told the Tullys that Madison’s only hope was a bone marrow transplant. In addition to the risks of the procedure, which involved completely shutting down Madison’s immune system with chemotherapy, it was also highly unlikely that they would be able to find a bone marrow donor who matched Madison. Madison’s mixed black, Hispanic, and white heritage made the pool of possible donors even smaller than usual.

    However, because of their open adoption, the Tullys knew that Madison had a full sister, Jasmin. They called and asked Jasmin’s mother to ask if 18-year-old Jasmin could be tested as a possible bone marrow donor. Jasmin didn’t hesitate to help her sister. Her response is instructive for anyone who wonders how to define family. “I didn’t even have to think about it,” she said, “I would do anything for Madison.”

    Testing showed that Jasmin was a perfect match for Madison. Madison underwent the chemotherapy, while Jasmin had a series of shots followed by several days of having stem cells extracted from her blood. The transplant took place on August 4, and Madison has passed the 100th day, marking the end of the most dangerous part of her recovery. Her pediatric hematologist describes her as “doing phenomenally well.”

    I hesitated to tell this story, because I don’t want to give the impression that medical necessity is the only – or even the best – reason to have an open adoption. Open adoption enriches families. It allows adopted kids to grow up confident, knowing their heritage and having the opportunity to ask their burning questions about why their birth parents chose adoptive placement. It respects the adopted child and the birth parents. And, yes, it also makes vital medical information available to adoptees who, at some point or another in their lives, are likely to need it. As in Madison’s case, it could even save a life.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    When Spouses Don’t Agree About Adoption

    One issue that is extremely common but very seldom talked about in adoption is when one spouse or partner is eager to adopt and the other spouse is reluctant or downright opposed. Often the divide arises after a couple struggles with infertility or who learns of a genetic disorder in their families that would make a pregnancy impossible or risky. When the couple’s vision of having biological children turns out not to be possible, often one person wants to leave it at that, while the other wants to pursue adoption. This basic divide can lead to years of frustrating arguments and can even threaten the relationship.

    Most marriage and family therapists agree that no one should ever be pressured into adopting a child against their will. Adopting a child is a profoundly life-altering decision, and forcing the reluctant partner to agree will only create problems in the marriage that will ultimately impact the child. Instead, here are a few strategies to help you and your spouse work past the impasse.

  • Get beyond “yes” vs. “no” to the underlying emotions. The decision to adopt (or not adopt) a child involves a host of incredibly strong emotions. When you talk about adoption, try to get past your basic positions and intellectual arguments and talk about the emotions behind your decision. Many partners who are opposed to adoption are feeling grief about not being able to have biological children. Others are feeling fearful for many different reasons, including fear that an adopted child might have attachment disorders or health problems, fear that their family would not accept an adopted child, fear that the adoption could fall through, or even fear that they might not be able to love a child not genetically linked to them. Meanwhile, the pro-adoption partner may be grieving the infertility in a different way, feel longing to nurture a child, or feel deceived because they had assumed their spouse would want to have children no matter what. Try to hear each other out respectfully and repeat back the essence of what the other person has said before speaking your piece.

  • Agree to learn about adoption together. One way to get past an impasse when talking about adoption is to agree to simply learn more about adoption – the good things and the bad – without trying to convince each other for one month. Read books, blogs, and websites about adoption. Talk to parents who have already adopted about their experience. Visit an adoption agency or lawyer on the clear understanding that you are there only to ask questions. If one spouse has a particular worry about adoption (attachment disorders, for example), be sure to research that, too. Whatever decision you ultimately make, it will be an informed one. After you have done your homework, it’s a perfect time to…
  • Take a break. Especially if you have gone over and over (and over) the same discussion, take a breather. Agree not to talk about adoption for a week or two.
  • Enlist the help of a good counselor. Many couples are reluctant to bring an outsider into their personal family business, but in truth an outsider is the best possible person to give you a fresh perspective on your disagreement. Counselors are trained to make sure both parties are fully heard and help couples to reach a better understanding. A counselor can also teach you ways to communicate better that you can use at home. Choose a therapist who specializes in marriage and family issues, and make sure it’s one you both agree on. If your spouse or partner won’t agree to counseling, go by yourself and leave the invitation open for them to join you.
  • Respect the reluctant partner, while acknowledging that there is no such thing as “perfectly sure.”
  • No parents, whether through adoption or birth, is ever one hundred percent sure that they are ready for parenthood. Misgivings are natural, and can seem even more overwhelming in adoption, where there are so many more hurdles to overcome and decisions to make. Listen carefully and respect the reluctant partner when talking about adoption, but know that if you are waiting until you are “perfectly sure,” there is no such thing.

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

    Decision Points: Domestic or International?

    When you decide to grow your family through adoption, one of the first decisions you must make is whether to adopt domestically or internationally. The decision about what type of adoption works best for your family is an intensely personal one, but it’s important to first have the facts. Below are 5 questions to ask yourself when deciding between domestic and international adoption, followed by 5 common fallacies about the differences between the two.

    Five Questions to Ask Yourself

    1. How prepared am I to cope with the lack of information about my child’s birth family?

    While lack of information about the child’s birth family can be a problem in domestic adoption, it is more frequent and severe in international adoption. Lack of a complete medical history, in particular, can be a serious problem in international adoption. It can be frustrating for parents and doctors alike to have no indication of the birth parents’ medical information, whether and what type of prenatal care the birth mother had, and whether the child was exposed to drugs or alcohol during the pregnancy. Locating a doctor who specializes in evaluating internationally adopted children is a good first step in preparing for your little one’s arrival.

    Being in the dark about your child’s birth family can also be a challenge as your child grows and becomes curious about his or her origins. Even fairly basic information such as the birth parents’ appearance, their likes and dislikes, and why they chose to place the child for adoption can be extremely helpful to a child who is struggling with the normal issues of identity and self-esteem that all adoptees face. Learning as much as you can about your child’s birth family, reading up on the emotional issues surrounding adoption, and consulting with a therapist who is familiar with adoption issues are all good ways to prepare to cope with the special challenges of international (or closed domestic) adoption.

    2. How important is it to me to have a child who looks like me?

    It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself during the early stages of the decision-making process in adoption. While many adoptive parents feel strongly that they simply want a child and couldn’t care less about the child’s race or gender, others find that in their heart of hearts, they really want a child who looks like them. Many factors go into this decision, including your extended family’s attitudes towards race, your comfort level with fielding questions from strangers about your child’s relationship to you, and the community you live in. Obviously, your preferences regarding race can weigh in favor of domestic or international adoption, depending on your own racial background. What’s important is to be honest with yourself and your partner, and to do some soul searching about how open you can be to different characteristics in your adopted child.

    3. How important is it to me to be present for the birth and/or very early infancy of my child?

    This is one of the few areas where there is a very clear difference between domestic and international adoption. If you have your heart set on being present for the birth of your baby or the first few months of his life, then domestic adoption is for you. As a general rule, the youngest baby you can adopt from abroad is about four months old.

    4. How important is it to me to have some predictability to the adoption process?

    No matter what type of adoption you pursue, adoption is an emotional roller coaster. That being said, international adoption is a little bit more predictable than domestic adoption, in that there are milestones along the way so that you almost always know where you are in the adoption process. Further, because children who are eligible for adoption abroad are already classified as orphans, you don’t have to worry about when the birth parents’ rights are terminated or whether the birth mother might change her mind. There’s no doubt that this is an important factor for many parents, but do be sure that you are well prepared to cope with the challenges of international adoption, as discussed above.

    5. How much money do I have to invest in this adoption?

    Because you must travel to your adopted child’s home country at least once (and usually more than once), international adoption is more expensive than domestic adoption. According to recent polls, parents who adopted domestically generally spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on their adoptions, while international adopters mostly spent over $20,000. While it’s uncomfortable to think about adoption in monetary terms, doing a realistic assessment of your financial needs early in the adoption-planning process will reduce your stress level dramatically.

    Five Myths about International and Domestic Adoption

    MYTH 1: International adoption is faster. Polls show that domestic and international adoption take close to the same amount of time (between nine and eighteen months) between beginning the search and the arrival of your child in your home. While the experts may quibble about which is faster, it’s safe to say that time should not be a major factor in deciding which type of adoption to pursue.

    MYTH 2: I just don’t want to have to deal with my child’s birth mother, so I will go international. To be painfully honest, if you are thinking in these black-and-white terms about your future child’s birth mother, you are probably not ready to adopt. Countless interviews with adopted children of all ages show that having zero contact and zero information about their birth parents can be terribly psychologically painful. Remember that adoption is about what the child needs, not about what the parent wants. While this is not to say that no one should have a closed adoption, it’s important to educate yourself about the issues that adopted children face and to be sensitive to your child’s needs. An emotionally savvy and prepared adoptive parent is essential to the child’s healthy development in a closed adoption. An excellent resource to get you started is the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.

    MYTH 3: Domestic adoptions frequently “fall through” because the birth mother changes her mind. Although it’s true that some domestic adoptions do fall through, it’s also true that a low percentage of them do so. It is difficult to find reliable statistics about the percentage of birth mothers who change their minds before or shortly after the baby is born. Once the child is placed with the adoptive parents, however, we know that the percentage of adoptions that fall through drops to less than 1 percent. If you otherwise like the idea of domestic adoption, this fear should not necessarily be a deciding factor. Articles like this one can help you learn how to identify risk factors that indicate a birth mother who is more likely to change her mind and decide to parent her child.

    MYTH 4: Because I am single [gay, older, disabled], I have to adopt from abroad. This is just not true. Many single parents, gay couples, older parents, and people with disabilities or health conditions have successfully adopted domestically with absolutely no problems. The key is to be honest with your adoption professionals from the start, and to work with professionals who are open and accepting of who you are.

    MYTH 5: Only international adoption really makes a difference in the life of a child. While many celebrities have raised awareness about the humanitarian aspect of international adoption, the truth is that there are many children in the United States who are in need of good homes. This is especially true of older children in the foster-care system and children with disabilities. You can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child through either international or domestic adoption.

    Whatever you choose, congratulations! You are about to embark on a wonderful journey. As always, please feel free to contact me to share your story, ask a question, or make a comment. Use the Comments section or e-mail me (Evaughan at vaughanfirm dot com).

    Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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