Picking Our Agency, Part 3: Open Adoption & Family Services
As soon as we left the meeting with OA&FS, both Brian and I knew that it was time to make a decision. We had been telling ourselves to wait to decide on anything until we'd gone to info sessions for both agencies; now that we'd been to both, the time had come.
Open Adopt's session ended at 8:30pm, so it was still relatively early. I knew that if we went home it would be easy to be distracted by any number of things and procrastinate the decision, so I suggested we go to the nearby Caffe Ladro instead. Once there, I decreed that we had to make a decision between the two agencies before leaving.
In true Brian/Andy fashion, neither one of us wanted to state our preference without first knowing what the other wanted. (This makes going out to dinner a huge production: "Where do you want to go eat?" is always followed by "I don't care, where do you want to go eat?") After some initial back and forth, though, Brian indicated that he liked Open Adopt better than Amara, mainly because with Open Adopt we would be guaranteed an infant placement. Surprisingly (to me, at least), Brian seemed pretty solid in this decision, despite his initial equivocation.
Open Adopt and Amara are similar agencies in many ways, and so I tried to focus on what made them different. Both agencies facilitate infant adoptions, but Amara only does so after the prospective adoptive families are already in their foster-to-adopt program. Because of that, the majority of Amara's adoption placements end up coming from the foster system, not from their relinquished infant program. The other major difference is financial. The cost for an infant placement with either agency is roughly comparable; for foster placements, however, the fees are significantly less.
So, it's time for a little tangent here. Brian and I very much want to adopt an infant, especially as our first child. We've never been parents before, obviously, and we want to experience parenting in the fullest way that we possibly can. And like any new parents, we want to have a happy and healthy baby. Is that selfish? Probably. But who wouldn't want that for their child?
Children in the foster system are there for a reason: abuse and/or neglect must be significant enough for the state to begin termination of the birth parents' rights. That is not a low bar. Many children in this system have significant issues to work through. Additionally, due to the time it takes for the state to go through all the available options before removing children, foster children are often significantly older than infants or toddlers by the time they are "legally free" (that's agency/legal speak for "available to be adopted").
It's very easy in this process to want to save the world. There are many children languishing in foster care who need permanent homes. By saying that we want to adopt an infant whose birth parents voluntarily decided to place their child for adoption, it feels like we're rejecting those children who are in foster care. And I guess when it comes down to it, we are. There's a weird amount of guilt associated with stating that so baldly. I have to keep reminding myself that our goal here is to create our own family, not to singlehandedly rescue all of Washington state's foster children, and that it's okay for us to have that goal. I have a feeling that this tension is going to be a recurring theme for me.
Anyway, back to our agency decision. As you can probably guess from that sidebar, I was coming down on the side of Open Adopt as well. Going with Open Adopt would ensure that we were placed with an infant, and at the end of the day the financial difference is well worth it to us. Brian got there a little faster than I did, but in the end we separately came to that same conclusion.
So, what next? Now that we had decided to work with Open Adopt, we knew that the first step in their intake process is for us to attend their Pre-Adoption Seminar. Just that evening at their informational session, we learned that they hold the seminar monthly in Portland, but only once every two months in Seattle; and the next seminar in Seattle only had one spot left!
|Signing up for the Pre-Adoption Seminar|
(I have to laugh at how anxious Brian got about getting that last spot. The next morning, when they hadn't called him back by 9am, he was already on the phone again to make sure they had got our message! They had. Brian's normally the more relaxed and easy-going out of the two of us, so this was fun for me to watch.)
I was nervous going into Caffe Ladro, but once we made the actual decision I got a little giddy. I went up to the counter to get coffee and a croissant, and the conversation went like this:
Barista: So how's your evening going?He was very nice and seemed genuinely happy for us -- just probably didn't expect that news at 9:00pm on a Tuesday from a total stranger!
Andy: Great, we're adopting a baby!
Barista: Oh! Umm... congratulations?
Anyway, now we're signed up and ready to go with Open Adoption & Family Services! Our next step with them of course is to go to their seminar, which is at the end of February. We've been warned that the home study following the seminar will require tons of paperwork, and I wish we could get started early. Since that's not possible, I'll be filling my time reading whatever I can get my hands on regarding adoption, open adoption, parenting, and the like.