For 31 Days I blogged about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here. On the weekends during this series I invited guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Hanna is sharing her practical preparation for adoption.
How did you take your first step towards adoption? We researched. Holy cow did we research. We looked into international adoption versus domestic adoption. We went on the State Department’s website to look into what countries were available to us for adoption. We called adoption agencies to talk about our options. We spoke with friends who had adopted their children. We spoke with Kenny’s parents about their adoptions. By the time we had made a decision to go with an international adoption from Korea, I thought I knew everything there was to know about it (insert eye roll here). In truth, you will never know everything you need to know. Things change. New laws are made. There are always special circumstances. You just have to be prepared to flexible and patient. But, having a strong foundation of knowledge is huge. You need to know why you are making a decision to adopt domestically or internationally; or why you chose China over Kazakhstan; or why you decided on an infant over a toddler. Not only will your friends, family and even strangers ask you this, but so will your child. No decision is a wrong decision, but each one should be made with intention.
What was required of you in preparing to adopt? Ugh. What wasn’t required would be a shorter answer. With our first adoption, we had to get one home study prior to the adoption and three home studies post placement. There were state forms, federal forms, agency forms, medical forms. They needed copies of our marriage license, birth certificates, social security cards, passports and other things I can’t even remember. We had to get health physicals (Korea required that we not be obese among the many other medical requirements). Our pets had to be up to date on vaccines and assessments. We needed criminal background checks. We had to certify our employment and have letters from our supervisors basically recommending us as adoptive parents.
Honestly, I think some of the things we had to do should be required of all parents; things like taking a seminar about raising children how you plan on disciplining your child. One really wonderful thing we did was attend an adoption seminar at our agency’s campus to prepare us for interracial adoption. Things that I hadn’t really even thought about were brought to light: from now on, our family would be a walking billboard for adoption. Strangers will want to talk to us about adoption. Sometimes they will ask us completely inappropriate questions in front of our child and we have to think about how we will respond. We were told that people will come up to us and ask “how much did your child cost?” or “is that your real child?” I didn’t believe that people would actually do that, but it’s true. In talking with a fellow classmate of mine after we had adopted Evan, she said to me “I just don’t think I would love an adopted child as much as my own child.”
But some of the things we had to do were just plain insulting. One of the things that bothered me the most occurred during our second adoption. As I have previously said, we decided to go with a national agency, but that meant that we still had to use a local agency for our home study. This was a faith-based agency and it was clear that they wanted us to comply with their standards of faith. At one of our first home study, the social worker sat Kenny and I down next to each other and gave us a test. We were not allowed to talk or look at each other’s paper. The questions were things like, “is there pornography in the house?” “Does your spouse drink alcohol?” “How much does your spouse drink?” “Has your spouse ever used drugs?” It felt like a set up. Like we were presumed to be bad people. I hated it. On top of that, they gave us “homework” which consisted of 20 pages of questions about our history. They actually thought it was appropriate to ask if I was sexually promiscuous in high school. And that wasn’t all. They wanted us to tell them what our own sex life was like now. I remember screaming at the form and using a lot of four letter words about how ludicrous I thought it was. But we were trapped. We had to play by their rules if we wanted to complete the adoption. To this day, it baffles me why there isn’t a state funded home study agency available to every adoptive couple.
How did you emotionally prepare for adoption? Kenny and I talked a lot about what our expectations were for our adoption. And it was a rollercoaster. We got our visa approval to bring our son home from Korea right before Christmas one year. Kenny got it in the mail and thought it would be fun to wrap up the approval and put it under the tree. I remember opening it and thinking, “Oh my God! I have to pack!!” I cried with excitement and relief. In reality, we still had four more months of waiting until Korea gave us approval to bring Evan home. We didn’t travel until April. Taking things one day at a time and knowing that there will be an endpoint was huge for me. But the most important thing was communicating with Kenny. He knew exactly what I was going through and could relate to all my frustrations and worries.
How did you practically prepare for adoption? Well, first and foremost, we saved money. It was helpful that our adoptions took some time in the sense that we didn’t have to borrow money because we were able to save so much. As we went along, I slowly prepared for the baby. I would by a crib one month and then a couple months later I would buy a baby monitor. I would only allow myself one item and it seemed to help me feel like the adoption was still moving along. We did a lot of research about travel and tried to have a blueprint of where we were going to stay and how we were going to get to Korea and Kansas.
How were you intentional preparing for adoption? Again, we had to make a lot of decisions in the adoption process. And each one opened another discussion between Kenny and me. I think that our adoptions have made us a much stronger couple because they forced us to be excellent communicators. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses an are able to rely on each other to accomplish a shared goal.