This guest post is by Paige Knipfer, an adoptive parent.
My husband and I are adopting again, and we are waiting for baby to be born. We get a lot of questions and are happy to share as much as we can to help others understand.
I thought an article discussing the top or most frequent questions we and others get asked might help others who are going through the adoption process.
1. Where are you adopting from?
The assumption is made that we are adopting from another country when adoption does occur in the United States as well. And that is where we happen to be adopting from. Also, many people associate adoptions with a different race. It’s always interesting to me when I show a photo of my white daughter how surprised people look. Don’t hold assumptions.
2. Why did the mom give up her baby?
To which I gently say, “you mean, made an adoption plan?” This is sometimes a very personal question, but I always try to be as open as I can. I don’t want secrecy around adoption and I also want others to understand as much as they can.
The reasons for placement vary from just not wanting to parent, not being able to parent (due to a lack of financial or family support), etc.
The average woman who makes an adoption plan is in her late 20’s and not a teen (although teen pregnancy may also be a reason). Usually it’s not just one reason. It involves so many factors which makes each adoption story so incredibly different and hard to explain.
3. How much did they cost?
I would suggest changing the wording of this question to “how much does the adoption process cost.” This question is also difficult to answer because it really depends on the route of adoption, the agency you are working with, the state you are in, etc.
Every state has its own laws on expenses. Every agency has their own fees/rates. The average cost of infant adoption (not from foster care) is $35,000-$40,000. And that doesn’t include the costs of travel or lodging, if the couple needs to travel to or stay in another state during the finalization process.
4. Why does it cost so much?
Great question! Agency, lawyer, and expecting mom expenses. Some agencies are for profit and even if they are not they have overhead to pay for. They have case managers who oversee the relationship, guidance, counselling for the expecting mom and the adoptive couple.
The lawyers assist in the court hearing and legal finalization of the adoption. Each state has its own laws and some have a cap limit on expecting mom expenses.
These expenses may include housing, food, transportation, phone, etc. and are the financial responsibility of the adoptive couple. Typically, the biggest costs come from the agency.
Some couples choose independent adoption for this reason (meaning they have find an expecting mom without the help or support of an agency).
This, however, comes with its own risks, including potentially longer wait times and in some states like mine, independent adoption is illegal.
Some people follow up by asking how do waiting parents pay for it? Many couples fundraise or take out a loan. We didn’t feel it was right to ask others to help us pay these costs. We were also trying to avoid debt so we worked hard to save. This part of the process is unfortunate, but it allows us to add to our family and I cannot put a price on that.
5. Why didn’t you foster or adopt from foster care?
In our state and in many others across the country, the goal of foster care is to keep the biological family together or reunification. As an adoptive couple, we could not be licensed as foster parents because our goal was to adopt (not to be a temporary home for a child).
I also struggle in many cases where I feel the biological family is given too many chances, causing further damage to child, and impeding them from being adopted.
Many foster children (about half) are legally available for adoption. However they may have extensive emotional issues, medical concerns, or are older.
More than 23,000 children will age out of the foster care system each year. This is a route to adopt and I in no way mean to discourage this. But this is personal decision made by each couple/person.
I believe the foster and adoption system needs work, but I also explain to people I’m just trying to grow my family. We also wanted to experience parenthood from the beginning.
6. Can the mom change her mind?
Yes! At any point during an adoption match, before the baby is born and even after, she can change her mind. It varies from state to state on how long after baby is born she can decide if she wants to parent the child herself.
The range can be anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days. I should also add the adoptive couple can also do the same at any point in the process if the relationship or information is not what they were told or thought.
Once the court hearing or finalization of the adoption occurs the birth mom or family cannot change their minds. Typically the adoptive couple loses much of the money they invested in the adoption process if the birth family or mother decides to parent.
7. Are you planning to tell your children they’re adopted?
This question is an interesting one. Adoption has changed in the sense that it’s becoming more open, which is better for the adoptee).
I find this question somewhat funny and find myself wanting to sarcastically respond, “You think I expect all our friends and family to keep this a secret?”
Why would I tell everyone and then not tell my daughter? Also, not telling an adoptee is something I strongly discourage. Our child will always know she is adopted.
I also get asked how will we tell her? It won’t be this big dramatic sit down. She will grow up always knowing it. She is three and already understands as much as she can.
We tell her age-appropriate explanations of how I couldn’t carry a baby in my tummy, but her birth mom carried her and picked us to be her parents. We talk about her birth mom often because I want her to know she can always ask us questions. I also want her to always know how much her birth mother loves her.
8. Do you know the parents?
Do you mean, the birth parents? Every adoption is different in regards to whether it’s open (a relationship) or closed (no relationship).
Most adoptions today are open. The relationship may vary on how often adoptive parents talk to the birth mother/family. It may be weekly, monthly or yearly, or just during important milestone’s such as the child’s birthday.
It may include visits, Facetime conversations, photo or video updates. The relationship really depends on the parents (birth and adoptive). I’m Facebook friends with our daughter’s birth mom and we talk often and we Facetime occasionally as well.
I’ll also just add a couple of other thoughts: Adoptive parents are the “REAL” parents. If you are asking about the biological parents or birth parents, please use those words and not “real.”
I also twitch a little when people tell me that my daughter is SO LUCKY that we adopted her. I know people mean well and they don’t know what to say but I always respond back, “We are the lucky ones.”
I mention this because I immediately get defensive about my daughter’s birth mom who is an amazing woman. She is not this horrible person that we whisked our daughter from in order to “save” her.
I don’t ever feel like adoption is “lucky.” Adoption, or forming a family through adoption, comes from brokenness. My daughter will have to grow up with losing her biological mother and my daughter’s birthmother also has to live with that pain every day.
That is why I describe my daughter’s birth as the happiest and saddest day of my life. I became a mom because of her loss. It’s hard to fight misconceptions about adoption because as you can see from the above, all stories are very different. I hope that by sharing our story and insights, it will help others who are going down this challenging but rewarding path.