Thursday, July 26, 2012

Screenings, Screenings, and More Screenings!

Brian wrote a bit last week about getting our first screening call, and some of the thought that went into it. Well, since then we've got two more screenings; for those keeping count, that's 3 screenings in just the first 2 weeks of being in the waiting pool!

That's a lot more screening than I expected, to be honest! To put it in perspective, we only are contacted with a screening call or e-mail in cases where the placement is "difficult" for some reason. In the one Brian wrote about last week, for example, the birthmother and the baby both tested positive for narcotics. For all other situations where there aren't any factors needing special attention, our profile will get shown to the birth family without our explicit knowledge.

If I'm remembering the statistics correctly, less than half of birthmothers at OA&FS use drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. And "moderate" or "mild" usage generally doesn't trigger a screening call; most of the time only "severe" usage does. Which means I expected only a small percentage of the birth family situations would warrant a screening call to us before our profile is shown to the birthfamily.

But 3 screenings in just 2 weeks? Either there are a *ton* of expectant mothers out there contacting our agency, or it's just been a really busy couple weeks! I guess time will tell...

Update 1, 4:32pm: And a fourth one just rolled in!

Update 2, 4:41pm: It also occurs to me that only roughly 1 out of 5 expectant mothers who work with OA&FS end up going through with an adoption plan. I'm guessing that ratio gets higher if you only look at women who go as far as getting profiles of waiting families, but it's definitely worth considering that some of these cases we're being screened for will end up with the birth family deciding to parent a child themselves.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Being Prepared for Last Minute Placements

A last minute placement is called "last minute" because...well, it is!  Rather than having months, weeks, or even just days to prepare, a last minute placement means that an adoptive family may only have hours from hearing about a baby to welcoming that same baby into their home.

After our latest screening email, being ready for a last minute placement is crucial.  We had already started putting together a list and getting things ready, but now I think we might be motivated to move a little faster!  Because you know we love lists, here are some highlights from our pre-placement to-do list that apply to a last minute placement:

 - Prep a permanent 'last minute' travel bag for us
 - Prep a 'last minute' travel bag for a baby
 - Research and buy a car seat (Done!)
 - Take parenting classes (Scheduled!)
 - Create a photo album that we can show to birthfamilies during a first meeting
 - Compile our drug & alcohol exposure research
 - Create a list of questions for "the call" and for a first-time meeting with a birthfamily
 - Pick some go-to baby names and decide on a last name

Newly arrived car seat and stroller!
From this list, we already have the absolute basic piece covered which is the car seat as we can't bring a child home from the hospital without one.  The rest are more in there to smooth out the process.  Beyond this 'last minute list,' we have plenty of other things on our overall list like finding a pediatrician, setting up insurance, getting on a daycare waiting list, prepping for a babyshower, but these will be our top priorities for the next few weeks.  Some of these things should be really fun, so be on the lookout for some exciting posts in the near future!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Last Minute Placement Opportunity

Today, Andy and I received an email at 2:15pm.  We were both having fairly busy and hectic days at work, but this completely reset our priorities.  Each of our inboxes had an email from our agency.  There was a newborn baby boy and the agency was preparing for a last minute placement.  Suddenly, preparing for a project interview with the City of Kirkland or coordinating software code changes weren't all that important.  Both of us read that email and realized that we were staring at our first screening experience.

After being in the waiting pool for 7 days, it was a reality check to realize that we could actually be chosen at any time.  Of course, we've known that and expected it, but we have also conditioned ourselves to be ready to wait two years for a placement.  Two years is a far cry from 7 days.  Not only that, our agency needed us to reply by 6:00pm.

Replying with "yes" to the agency probably wouldn't mean that we'd be coming home with a baby in the next few days.  This was a "screening" call (or e-mail), not the "you've been picked" call.  If we had said yes, then the agency would have included our profile along with other potential families that the birthmother would review, and then it would be possible that she'd pick us from among that list.

Screening calls are only done when the birth situation is riskier.  (For instance, if there's high pre-natal exposure to drugs or alcohol.)  When no such factors exist, our profile is generally shown to the birthmother without our knowledge.  Additionally, even if we do get a screening call and choose to show our profile to a birthmother, we won't hear anything else from the agency about that particular case unless we get chosen.

In the end, we decided that there were a lot of factors with this case that were outside of our comfort zone.  From the limited info in the email, we knew that the baby boy weighed just over 5 lbs and tested positive for heroin and marijuana.  His birthmom also tested positive for meth.  If you've read our screening tool posts, you know that we're ok with some exposure to each of these.  What put this case outside of our comfort zone were our concerns with unknown quantities and duration of drug exposure during the pregnancy.

By nature, a last minute placement means that everything in the process is accelerated as a baby cannot sit in the hospital for days after being born.  While Andy and I would prefer to have a placement that is not last minute, we are definitely still open to one.  For us, it is important that we feel we have a chance to build a relationship with the birthfamily and have a healthy baby that has exposure levels we are comfortable with.  While our first screening email came much earlier than expected, it was great to see and we really hope that there will be a wonderful adoptive family that welcomes this little guy into their home this weekend!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Focus Shift

So, we're in the pool. Hooray! But does that mean that we're ready for a baby? Well, yes and no.

Up until now, we've been focusing a lot on getting paperwork done and getting ourselves mentally and emotionally ready for a child. And really, you can't go through the homestudy process without doing that. Obviously, there's a mountain of paperwork to be done, and even just the basic biographical data parts of that were hard enough to fill out.

But there's been a lot of careful thought and evaluation that we've had to do during this whole process as well. Starting with OA&FS's pre-adoption seminar, we did a lot of talking about why we wanted to become parents, what our family would be like, etc, etc. And that continued during the homestudy as well, especially in our interviews with Katie. She really delved into everything, from thoughts on our own experiences with our parents to how we would handle a trans-racial adoption. Lots of probing, thought-inducing conversations in there. And then let's not forget the screening tool, of course - that really brings it home with some specifics when you're considering that your child may have prenatal exposure to all sorts of scary things.

So suffice it to say that we have completed all the forms, we have had all the talks, and we feel very ready to have a baby. Except for one small thing - we don't know where we'd put it!

We've put off a bit the practical aspects of having a baby in our home. Things like, I don't know... Food? Clothing? A crib?

This was really the plan we talked about all along - we know there's likely going to be a fairly long time that we wait for a placement, and we're going to use this time to get some basic items prepared and ready. But it also seems a bit weird to know that we could (in theory) get "the call" tomorrow, and we'd be totally unprepared!

Now we don't want to go overboard, either. Neither one of us wants to set up an entire nursery, complete with crib, mobiles, plush animals, and the like, only to have it sit empty for the next four years. So we're going to try to find a nice balance in between. We know that we'll need a carseat to bring our child home from the hospital, so we've already started looking into that. We know that we'll need some basic items of clothing, diapers, and a blanket or two. We know that we'll need some formula (although I don't know how long its shelf life is, so that might have to wait). But we really only want to get the basics for now.

The most likely case is that we'll get a placement with a birthmother in her third trimester. That will give us more than enough time to really prep our home for a baby, and we'll definitely know a lot more about said baby once we've met the birth family! A last-minute placement is possible, but thankfully not as likely. And even with a last-minute placement, we'll be able to manage with the help of our friends and family.

The other major focus for us now is also largely practical: the "how" of parenting. Sure, we want a baby - but do you think either of us can actually change a diaper? Now that we've done a bunch of reading and preparation for "adoption", it's time to do the same for "parenting"! I've already been soliciting advice on good parenting resources from a number of our friends who have little ones. And we'd also like to find a parenting class to take around the Seattle area, hopefully to get a little more hands-on.

So now, we really start preparing. It's going to be a fun road ahead!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pool Entry!

We're pregnant!  Ok, it might actually be more like: We're "pregnant!" but that can't really hold back the excitement for us right now.  Earlier this afternoon, Andy and I officially entered the OA&FS Waiting Pool.  This means that we are now amongst the pool of 82 families that can be selected at any moment by a birthfamily. 

After months of paperwork, a few extra weeks of waiting, and a semi-stressful week of more waiting, this is a great day.  To cap it off, OA&FS already has us up on the website!  If you want to check out our profile online, here is our individual webpage complete with Family Introduction Letter, pictures, and a mini-interview video: Andy & Brian.

It's awesome to really see ourselves as part of the adoption community.  Now we get settled in and prepare for probably a 2 year (on average) wait in the adoption waiting pool.

I've decided that our wading waiting pool shall have a whale.  And not just any whale, a happy whale.  His name is Charley, the happy adoption waiting pool whale.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In the Pool Yet?

So the last time we talked about the waiting pool (a month ago), we were "really close" to joining all the other waiting families! And as of today, we're... still really close!

A few interesting developments have happened since last month. First and foremost, we finished our final versions of all the paperwork - no small achievement! Midway through June, we had sent in 500 paper copies of our family introduction letter to OA&FS, along with other various and sundry items they needed from us. We knew that Katie had basically completed our homestudy, and it was just awaiting review from the agency's main office in Portland.

At that point, we were assured that it'd all be done "soon". So we waited a day or two and got a bit antsy, but decided to let things be. A few days turned into a week, and that turned into two. We checked in with Katie every week or so, and eventually it wasn't just "soon": we were "next in line"! I'm not sure exactly what the difference between those two states are, but it seemed like a good step forward.

Fast forward to today: still not in the pool. So Brian checked in with Katie this morning, and that's when things got interesting. Apparently there'd been a mix-up: every time Katie had been asking the Portland office about our pool status, the folks there thought she was talking about a different couple with almost the same last names as us. That family went into the pool last week; we were somewhere in no-man's land.

This is a really frustrating development for us. On the one hand, we've actually gone very quickly through the whole homestudy process - but that's been because of the focused effort that we put into completing all the requirements. Our goal when we started the homestudy was to enter the pool by June, and that would have happened if not for the last name miscommunication. It seems like the agency's organizational skills may be lacking a bit if this sort of error can happen.

On the other hand, now that the problem's been discovered, I expect that it's going to be rectified quickly. Katie (and through her, the other folks from the agency) seem very apologetic about this mistake, and they've said we should be in the pool by Thursday. I'm kind of in the "I'll believe it when I see it" mindset about that, but at least we have a firm date to hold them to now. And really, this amounts to a delay of about 3 weeks or so; it's incredibly unlikely we would have received a placement during that time, and once we're in the pool our future likelihood of being picked won't be affected by the mishap. Given that, the only lasting damage is that our overall confidence in the agency has been diminished somewhat. How that changes over time really depends on how they react to the situation now that a problem's been uncovered.

And on a completely different level, this situation could actually be a good thing for us. Once we enter the waiting pool, we likely have months (or even years) ahead of us before we're picked by a birth family. During that whole time, everything about the "process" will be out of our control. Maybe it's good for us to experience a bit more waiting now, if only to help prepare us for all the waiting to come!

So anyway, look out for another post sometime "soon", when we might actually be in the pool!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Choosing a Car Seat & Stroller

With our time in the waiting pool nearly upon us, we'll have a lot of waiting to do!  During that time, we've decided not to buy a lot of baby items, not to throw a baby shower, and not to build an entire nursery as all of that would stress us out.  Just imagine having all of those baby things for what could be 2+ years without a baby.  However, there are some critical items that we have decided to buy before being chosen by a birthfamily.  First up is a car seat!

Infant Car Seat
In our research about car seats, I went straight to Consumer Reports and paid for an online subscription.  I remember reading through those magazines at home as a kid.  While most of the time I only looked at them for cars, I figure they've got to be just as good for baby products like car seats, strollers, and more.  Right from the start, I learned that there are a few types of car seats.  For our case with an infant, it narrowed down to two specific types: Infant and Convertible.

An infant car seat was defined as one that will always be rear-facing in the car.  The major benefit of this type of car seat is that it can be picked up and then carried out of the car which means less disturbance to a blissfully sleeping or potentially fussy baby.  The downside is that infants don't stay infants forever and will grow out of these types of car seats.
Convertible Car Seat

The convertible car seat is not a bright red and topless Chevy Corvette.  These are known as "convertible" car seats because they are more flexible in the car.  They can start out as a rear-facing car seat and later be rotated and used as a front-facing car seat.  Some of them can accommodate toddlers up to 40 or 45 pounds giving them a longer life span than the infant car seat.  The downside is that they don't offer the portable convenience of infant car seats.

For us, we've opted for convenience during the infant years and will go with an infant style car seat.  Additionally, infant car seats can directly snap into some strollers.  Dare we say no to a direct car-to-stroller transfer?  Hell no!  So the next step was for us to look up some car seat and stroller combos.  In baby industry lingo, these are often known as "Travel Systems."  Sort of sounds like we're operating a high-tech battleship, but that is also oddly comforting...and empowering  :)

Chicco Cortina KeyFit Travel System
Looking further into Consumer Reports and collecting some input from friends on Facebook, Graco seemed to be the most commonly used brand and Chicco was a highly rated brand that one friend recommended.  For me, I was looking at factors like safety, weight, reviews, and overall cost.  In the end, I'm leaning towards Chicco's Cortina KeyFit travel system over one of the Graco systems.  It seems to be really flexible, stable/safe, and maneuverable (remember...high-tech battleship).  The immediate drawback is that it costs more than the Graco models, but I'd be willing to spend more on something that will need to last for months (and hopefully for 2 children).  Soon, Andy and I will make a store run to to see what we like the best.  It'll be important to have a car seat on-hand as we won't be able to bring a baby home from the hospital without one! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Who Wants a Baby? - July Edition

Time for the third edition of tracking the waiting pool stats!

Families Remaining in the Pool from May: 77
Families Leaving the Pool: 6 (3.7%)
New Families: 4 (4.9%)
Net Change Since May 1st:  -1, (-1.2%)
Net Change Since June 1st:  -2, (-2.4%)

Couples: 78 (96%) (+1)
Single: 3 (4%) (-1)
Heterosexual: 47 (58%) (-2)
Gay: 19 (23%) (+1)
Lesbian: 12 (15%) (--)
Single: 3 (4%)

As a first, this update includes charts to show how things have been changing over time!  Some of our major metrics have included total number of families and sexual orientation.  The total number of families has been relatively constant even though a fair amount have entered and left the pool.  Sexual orientation is one of our other major metrics because we tend to compare ourselves to other gay families more than any other type of families in the pool.  It's possible that some birthfamilies may prefer to choose non-gay families which has been in evidence as OA&FS has past statistics that the average wait time for non-heterosexual couples is a slightly longer than heterosexual couples. In our minds, we tend to think that most birthfamilies that choose gay families are either looking at every family or only at gay families.  Additionally, it's far easier to compare ourselves to 20-ish families rather than 80+  :)

Also, it's time for an overall update on our progress in addition to the waiting pool stats.  Andy and I had been expecting to enter the pool sometime in June.  Sadly, we're not in the pool yet, but we should be in there soon.  There has definitely been a lot of work done over the past 9 1/2 weeks since we wrapped up our last homestudy interview.  At this stage, we're just waiting on OA&FS to complete our homestudy report and transfer us into the pool.  We've got our fingers crossed that it will be this week, so keep an eye out for a future update!