First off, the view from the conference room:
|"This is what adoption looks like." - Brian|
The first part of the morning was spent talking about how the agency does outreach and counseling to pregnant women. They were very adamant that they provide "options counseling" to pregnant women, which means they help them explore all the options available to them in the course of their pregnancy. In practice, that includes helping them choose among three options: to parent the child themselves, to have an abortion, or to place the child for adoption. Even though the agency has "adoption" in its name, adoption is actually only chosen by about 20% of the women that they counsel.
The agency's philosophy seems to really put pregnant women first here, and I like that about it. The counseling provided to women who are going through unplanned pregnancies is provided free of charge, so they are able to fully explore all avenues available to them whatever their particular financial/insurance/economic situation. As it turns out, this is where much of the fees we'll have to pay go - even though Open Adopt is a non-profit that does its own fundraising, adoptive family fees pay for much of the expectant mother outreach. And I'm glad we're working with an agency that operates this way. On the side of the pregnant women, it really seems like they'll get the attention they need to make a fully informed decision, regardless of what that decision is. And on our side, it benefits us in that very few of the expectant parents who choose adoption during their pregnancy end up changing their mind at the time of the birth, since they've been given the opportunity to look at all the options.
Next up, we got to meet some adoptive families who had worked with the agency in the past. Both families brought along their little ones (one toddler, and one who was only six months), and it was great to see a couple "success stories". It seems that at every meeting we've been too, there's always a birth mother, adoptive parent, or some other person there to provide a personal story - but that never gets old for me! In the midst of all the paperwork and process we see looming ahead, it's nice to be reminded every now and then why we're doing this.
Together, those two topics took up the entire morning session. We had a great lunch with Andrew and Angela, a couple who's traveled all the way from Milwaukee to work with OA&FS. They actually have a daughter already who's almost 3, so they're now working on their second child. It was really nice to share experiences with other people who are going through this process with us but are coming from a very different place in life. Of course, they have more work ahead of them tomorrow: since they're from out of town, they're spending another day tomorrow doing a lot of the interviews and other work that we'll have spread out over the next few weeks and months.
The afternoon mainly consisted of a session with an adoption lawyer (spelling out a lot of the legal aspects of adoption) and a further in depth explanation of all the application, interview, and homestudy work that is waiting for us before we go into the pool of waiting families. Both were really useful, if maybe a bit difficult to follow at times. The lawyer was really nice and one of the better speakers of the seminar, and did a good job of preparing us for some of the legal issues that are likely to surface for us. And while we'd heard before about what the homestudy would involve, we got a lot more detail and I feel like I know much more what to expect moving forward.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent on a number of other issues, many of which honestly weren't as memorable for me. (Maybe I was just running low on blood sugar!) We spent time talking about promoting healthy attachments to children as soon as possible after birth, transracial adoptions, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, and general child development, among other things. All of these are important topics, yes, but we just skimmed through a lot of them. According to the facilitator, by spending a little bit of time now we were satisfying the state's educational requirement for adoptive parents; but I definitely felt like we barely scratched the surface on any of them, and so we'll need to do a lot more reading on our own in the next few months!
Over the course of both days, we had three counselors from the agency facilitate the seminar at various times. There's only one more counselor out of the Seattle office, which means we've most likely met the woman who we'll be working with throughout our application and homestudy! That seems a bit weird to me, especially since we don't know which one she'll be yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
Anyway, I guess I've rambled enough now - after all the information I got today, I feel like I just needed to throw out a bit of a brain dump here. Now, I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep, and then getting on with things as soon as we can!