Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Picked an Agency, But They Haven't Picked Us Yet

Well, my hubby and I had a date last night and chatted it up. We picked Generations agency in Waco, Texas.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the attraction was for us to a particular agency, especially because our attractions have changed quite a bit from when we started this whole process.

We really love the Christian focus on this agency...as well as all the respect and love for humanity that comes from that perspective. We started our search with the priorities of speed, cost efficiency, and reliability. But as we've prayed and asked God to shape our hearts, we have seen other, beautiful priorities rise to the surface: a peaceful sense of God's perfect timing, fair division of resources, and care for the human spirit.

Well, I don't know if I'm describing this all well enough, but here's a sample of what's attracted us to Generations ("G"). I'll compare it to what we heard from some other agencies we talked to ("OA").

--OA: Reduces the incidence of disrupted (change-of-mind) adoptions by "dropping" birth mothers when they start to waiver.
--G: Reduces disruption by counseling mothers face-to-face, traveling to their homes, and not matching them with adopting couples until they feel sure and secure of their choice. Either way, the birth mothers receive full support during the pregnancy.

--OA: Charges a huge fee (understandable) but gives a discount for black babies.
--G: Keeps fees even for everyone, not giving different treatment to any race.

--OA: Tracks down the birth father
--G: Actually offers free counseling to the birth father

--OA: Requires that parents not have too bad of a criminal record, be financially stable, etc.
--G: Also requires that at least one parent work 20 hours or less per week and take at least six weeks leave after the baby is born. Require that parents attend church together and have a stable, happy marriage.

--OA: Emphasize their ability to recruit birthmothers.
--G: Emphasizes their respect for the courageous choice made by birthmothers and fathers.

--OA: Mentions the importance of keeping the child's "culture" alive through education and celebration of heritage.
--G: Mentions the importance of unconditional love and acceptance as the family's unique "culture" is built, regardless of skin color.

--OA: Asks us to call them when we're ready to sign the dotted line.
--G: Makes it clear that they will get back to us about whether or not we've been found worthy of one of their fabulous babies.

Generations just feels right for us.

Our next step is completing the "Pre-Application Form," which contains, along with basic information, such essay questions as "Please write in your own words what a genuine Christian is to you," and "In your understanding, what is a Christian family?"

After that, we mail it in with $50.00. If they like what they read, we get invited to an interview, where we pay $125.00 for the privilege. We are then invited to officially submit an application (along with another check for $125.00). Woo-hoo!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thanks to Recommendations...

Two more Texas agencies are now under our consideration: Generations in Waco and Gladney in Fort Worth. So many great agencies with a heart to place children in loving homes. It just makes my heart melt to read some of the stories....

But I digress.

We now have four agencies to pick from, since we have ruled out the one in San Antonio. They have a no-corporal-punishment clause, which we just couldn't, in good conscience, consent to signing. I can't swear never to spank, since I don't even know my child yet, and I believe that some children might benefit from loving, controlled, occasional spankings. It's not that it's such a huge deal, but I just thought it was strange that I had to sign away my right to do something that's perfectly legal.

I called the other agencies to inquire about their policies on the topic, and they all sound reasonable (thought I haven't heard yet from the one here in Austin). Most of them just ask that we have wisdom when it comes to corporal punishment, that we see it as just another tool in our toolbox of parenting, not something to use to take out our frustrations. We certainly agreed on that!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baby Names

We asked the kids for baby names for the new baby. This is what they gave us:

Our daughter: For a boy, Olten. For a girl, Rezaneena.
Our son: For a boy, Chuck. For a girl, Flower.

God bless little Rezaneena Flower.

We're Pregnant! (with anticipation)

Well, it's official. Well, no actually, it's not. We can still change our minds. And so can any birthmother who is out there. So, nothing is whatsoever official. But in my heart, it feels mostly official.

And that is this...we're going to have a baby (through adoption)!

Who on earth knows when? Some time in the next 6–36 months. Gee...not quite the predictability of a pregnancy, is it? There's no doctor telling me the size of the baby's head and the due date. Instead there's an agency giving me their average wait per couple for the past ten years.

So since I'm literally thinking about this issue (adoption as a concept/a new baby/the piles of paperwork/the insane amount of money we're going to have to raise) all the time, I thought I'd start blogging about it! How better to further obsess and share my obsessions with the world? (My sis Bren does it quite successfully, thank you! But I won't be saving you any money on toothpaste.)

So anyway, here is where we are.

--We've decided to adopt domestically (a USA baby) rather than internationally.

--We've decided to use an adoption agency rather than a facilitator or a private lawyer.

--We've decided to use a state-wide rather than a national agency. See, agencies can be divided into national agencies (certified to work with birthmothers in multiple states) and local agencies (certified to work with birthmothers just withing their state or within a mile-defined radius of their office). Why a Texas agency rather than a national one? Well, as it turns out, Texas is the place to adopt. That's because the laws favor clean, quick adoption. There is no birthmother revocation (change-of-mind) period. And she can sign over her rights as early as 48 hours after the adoption.

As for birthfathers, they can sign over before the child is born, and if they don't show up in a month after birth, their rights are terminated automatically. (Sorry dad...gotta stay in touch!) So in the worst-case scenario, you have to wait 31 days to exhale.

But you can also state on your application that you only want to be "pitched" to birthmothers who have already had the birthfathers sign off. In that case, you've just got the 2-day period where you get to cuddle the baby in the hospital nursery, knowing that he/she might not come home with you. Then, after 48 hours and a signature, you're putting a little lovable newborn in your carseat!

After that, for six months, the state visits your home a couple times to make sure you're not psycho (we're hoping to hide it well), and your pediatrician has to give you good marks monthly (so no baby tattoos during this time). After six months, you take your little drooler to court in San Antonio so that everyone can cry while the judge bangs the gavel.

With a national agency, you might get matched with a birthmother anywhere in the country, and the laws there might be a lot tougher to swallow. The scariest stories we've heard are from states where the birthmother gets a week or two to think about it after she's signed. Then you've got a horrified couple having to give a baby back after a week of cuddling and kissing. Not so in Texas. In fact, Texas is such a popular place to adopt that lots of out-of-state couples want to adopt from here. (Some of the Texas agencies we talked to said that they were no longer accepting out-of-state adoptive couples.)

Also, with a national agency you will likely have to travel across the country at a moment's notice when the baby is born (thousands of dollars, anyone?) and live in a hotel for up to two weeks in a strange town with a baby that you might have to give back ('cause you can't leave the state until the waiting period is over). Then, you have to fly back six months later with your infant in order to do the court-date thing. Sounds messy to me.

I'd rather just drive to San Antonio, bang the gavel, and then catch the lunch crowd at Denny's.

What's the benefit of a national agency? One word: speed and efficiency. They are fasty-fast, because they have so many resources and so many birthmothers. They definitely have the best web sites. One national agency we talked to has an average wait time of four months after your homestudy is over (most local agencies quote an average of 9–12 months). Also, they are usually really well organized and able to answer your call on the first ring. Local agencies, on the other hand, will generally do their best to get back with you that day. But frankly, that's good enough for me.

--We've narrowed our search down to three agencies here in Texas. One in Dallas (Buckner), one in San Antonio (Adoption Angels), and one in Austin (Adoption Advocates). We like them all for different reasons, so we're praying and asking the Lord to guide our hearts towards whatever His will is. (We've been praying a LOT through this whole process, but this is the first major, somewhat irrevocable, decision we've had to make.) All three agencies accept birthmothers from all over Texas (which, conveniently for us, is a big ol' state). So we might end up having to fly to Corpus Christi or something, but not across the country.

--Our next step is the homestudy, which involves meeting several times with a case worker, allowing her to visit our home and make sure it's safe and comfy, and writing a check for about $1,200. But we need to pick an agency first, to make sure they approve of our homestudy person.

So there you go. We are open to any and all questions, and we'll keep you peeps posted.