Saturday, December 5, 2015

18 months? Time to put hats on cats.

Today marks 18 months in the pool.  It also marks the day when we're finally getting around to making our yearly holiday cards.  While we're a bit behind, that didn't mean I didn't have fun doing it.  I drug out an old "elf" outfit from when Dominic was a newborn and tried to work out some photo magic with our cats, Alex and Sybil.


In addition to feeling time pass by as we hit the 18 month mark in the waiting pool, time also seems to be passing by on the work front too. After several years (six!) of being in leadership positions with my company's young professionals group, I have now stepped back to let others take the reins.  Moving to an advisor (past president) position definitely has me feeling that my life is transitioning into a new phase.  There were a ton of things I will continue to be proud of from my work with the YPG the past few years, but now I'm starting to consider what is next on the horizon.  In a way, it's an odd place to be as I'm beginning to shift away from the "young" part of my career while I have always envisioned myself as having kids during that "young" stage of life.

Quite some time ago, I had it set in my mind that an age difference of 2 years was ideal between Dominic and a little brother or sister.  As I'm feeling less young and Dominic will now be at least 3 years older than a sibling, managing the wait is getting to be a bit tougher.

Looking back on the past 18 months, now is a good time for a brief set of updates in relation to our experience with round two of our adoption process:

Pool Entry - June 5, 2015
Current Wait - 18 months
Average Wait (Per OA&FS Annual Report) - 15 months

Total Families in the Waiting Pool - 83
Families Waiting Over 18 Months - 32 (39%)
Families Waiting Less than 18 Months - 50 (60%)

Families Entering the Pool After June 5, 2015 - 77
Families Chosen Between June 5, 2015 and Today - 27

Screening Emails Since June 5, 2015 - 12

In general, there won't continue to be any major updates to share for a few months unless if we chosen by a birth family.  However, we will have to renew our homestudy and many other items in less than 6 months (late Spring 2016).  If time continues to tick by, we will share a post on what that means. (Hint: It's more money, more time, and more paperwork.)

In the meantime, Happy Holidays!  I hope you all find some time to enjoy some fun distractions while keeping in the holiday dressing up your pets in ridiculous outfits.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Near Miss

Whether you're actively waiting in a pool to be picked for an adoption or you know people that are, that means that you have likely found yourself at one point asking/answering the question "Have you heard anything new?"

After being in the waiting pool for over 17 months, our highlights of that period have been limited to responding to the occasional screening email, updating our materials, and getting a new counselor.  Effectively, we didn't have any updates that got us any closer to an adoption than we were on Day 1 in the waiting pool.  On Monday, we had a case where that changed, albeit briefly.  That day, we got a high priority phone call for a screening.  In this case, it was for a last minute placement which meant we had to call back with our answer in less than 2 hours.

Just like all other screenings, saying yes to the situation only meant that our profile would be presented.  However, the unique situation with receiving a phone call from a counselor about a case where a baby girl had already been born was much more real (in comparison to the typical screening email).  Andy and I talked through the situation and said "yes" to being presented.

When I called the counselor back to say "yes," I also learned that a relatively small number of families were being contacted.  Being the engineer I am, the situation made it even more of a realistic possibility that we could be selected within hours out of a small group of adoptive families.

After months of waiting, it was tough not to daydream about the possibility of being chosen.  I found myself filling out a FMLA form for work, looking forward to spending time with a newly expanded family, and trying to pick out favorite baby girl names off our list despite telling myself that the odds of being chosen were still well under a 50-50 chance.  The sheer change in perspective from waiting indefinitely to possibly being chosen in mere hours or minutes was transformative.  Unfortunately, it was only temporary.

By the end of Monday, Andy and I had not gotten "the call."  We assumed that we were not chosen.  Tuesday morning, the counselor that had originally contacted us was very kind to follow up by email.  This sort of follow up rarely happens for screenings, and it was helpful for us to have some level of closure to know that another family was chosen.

Moving forward again, this doesn't really change anything.  We are still one adoptive family among many others waiting to be chosen to parent a child.  However, for a short time, we were able to experience clear optimism, excitement, and hope.  These sorts of feelings remind us just how much we've invested into having a second child and how much we still hope for that to someday happen.

Monday, October 12, 2015

OA&FS Annual Report

Every fall, our adoption agency releases their annual report which gives a great rundown of all the activities over the past year, stories of successful open adoptions, lists of volunteers and contributors, and also a summary of statistics.

If any of you are interested in taking a look, here is where they have it available online.

While I like the background and stories, I've got a mindset that has me skimming to the end to see the numbers.  Those numbers hold a lot of interesting pieces of information for us as we're waiting to be chosen.  Here are some key data points which compare the most recent fiscal year (July 2014 to June 2015) to the previous year:

Overall, there aren't too many differences of note.  The average wait time is 15 months which ticked up slightly.  (This is based solely on the adoptive families chosen during each 12 month period.)  If Andy and I were chosen today, we would just be slightly above the average as we are over 16 months in.

There are a few other fun numbers in here which can at least partially relate to the numbers from our last post showing statistics on selections from the waiting pool for all families joining after us in the window from June 5, 2014 to June 5, 2015.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 457 - Stats of the Pool

Happy Labor Day Weekend everyone!  I've been eagerly looking forward to a slightly longer weekend away from work, college football, and the impending availability of pumpkin spice flavoring.

Aside from all of these things, I have also been tinkering with data on the OA&FS waiting pool for the past several weeks.  It's been a while since we've had an update on the statistics, so a holiday weekend seems like a great time to put this together and try to come up with some relevant conclusions based on everything we have on hand!

How Has the Waiting Pool Changed Since We Joined?
Back on June 5th of 2014, we joined the waiting pool.  After joining the pool, more families entered.  Over time, some of those families were selected to by birth families while others like us continued to remain in the pool.

This table shows how families continued to enter the pool after we did.  By the end of 2014, 30 adoptive families had entered the pool.  As of today, 68 families have entered the pool since we did.  Of those 68 families, 23 left the pool and 45 still remain in the pool like us.

Building on the table, this chart provides a clearer visual.  The gray bars show the increasing number of families entering the pool over time.  Green and blue lines show the split between families leaving the pool and remaining in the pool over time.  One interesting thing to note is how the green and blue lines cross.  This illustrates how the majority of families entering the pool between June 5th and Dec 31st have already left the pool (green).  

Composition of the Waiting Pool
Given that the waiting pool is quite sizable, it is interesting to break it down into more manageable groups.  One of the easier metrics to track is orientation.
The chart above shows how the composition of the pool at each of the dates previously used above specific to families entering the waiting pool after we did on June 5, 2014.  The immediate takeaways show three interesting facts:

  1. There have been very few lesbian families entering the pool since we entered.  While this is odd on the surface, it may just be a coincidence of timing.
  2. The proportion of straight families in the pool has consistently risen over time (7%)
  3. The proportion of gay families has shifted slightly and dropped up to 6%.

Rate of Selection
The data above on orientation is mainly surface level.  Digging a step deeper, we have enough information to clearly depict the rate at which each group is being "selected."  Here, I am using the term "selected" as these adoptive families may be selected by birth families or leave the pool due to personal circumstances without being chosen.

Tracking the rate of selection, there are two clear trends.  One is that straight couples typically accounted for 86-91% of the selected families.  The other is that gay couples accounted for the remaining 9-14%.  

Why were the lesbian and single rates 0%?  Of the 68 families entering the pool after us, only 3 are lesbian/single which lowers the odds of selection and makes it difficult to establish any trends.

Can we make any broader statements on the rate of selection?  Based on this data, I would say yes.  Above, we established that straight couples were being selected at an 86-91% rate.  Meanwhile, the chart on waiting pool composition shows that straight couples routinely account for 65-72% of the waiting pool.  This means that straight couples are being selected at a rate higher.  Conversely, gay couples are chosen by adoptive couples at a lower rate.

What Does This All Mean?
To date, we can establish that it is likely we will have a longer wait in the adoption pool because we are gay parents.  This was something we were told by OA&FS our first time around and it makes sense as some birth families may feel more comfortable choosing what they view as a normal family for their child.  While this difference in rate of selection between straight and LGBT families may be narrowing, I think we can say that it still exists.

Also, we can note that our wait time is higher than our immediate peers who joined the pool right after us.  Between June 5, 2014 and Sept 5, 2014, a total of 17 families entered the pool.  Only 6 of those families now remain (35%).

Looking Ahead
Soon, OA&FS will be releasing their yearly report which reviews the past year spanning from July 2014 to June 2015.  We'll be looking forward to seeing if their data aligns with ours and to see if they note any expected trends in wait times, locations of birth families, etc.  On the adoption front, we just received the monthly bulletin on Friday highlighting.  Over the past month, two families entered adoption planning and three families welcomed new children into their lives.  Very exciting to see great news for others as it's a great reminder to us as well that anything can happen at any time.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 436 - Life in the Pool

Today marks the 436th day in the waiting pool for us.  Since our last post in July about updating some of our adoption materials, there have been some general items in life that have kept us busy as well as some things that have kept our waiting status at the forefront.

OA&FS Contract
In mid-July, we got a notice that we needed to update our contract with the agency.  It was a necessity and a reminder that the paperwork never ends.

Speaking of Paperwork...
On July 7th, we got a notice that we needed to fill out new DSHS forms, have new fingerprints taken for FBI background checks, and also get our doctor checks renewed.  While the forms were easy, getting new fingerprints done and doctor checks renewed required setting up specific meetings for each of us.  If we don't get picked soon, it's going to start feeling like we're filling out an endless stream of TPS reports!

Screening Emails
I last gave a rundown of these on our One-Year Pool-versary post.  At that time, we had received 8 screening emails.  Since then, we have received 2 additional screening emails.  While we can't share details, I can say that one came in on a workday near 3:30pm and an answer was needed by 5:00pm!  The other screening email luckily wasn't quite as urgent.  In the end, we opted to have our profile presented to one out of the two.  I'll admit that I did get my hopes up on the one we said yes to as I'm getting more and more anxious as time goes on.

In mid-July, I got thrust into a new role at work that has me doing far more management and coordination tasks on a high profile project rather than being in a position to do the design work.  It's been rather hectic representing an entire design team on a design-build project for a local light rail job, but I am managing to learn a fair amount.  Even with the opportunity to develop and learn, I'll be happy when the construction on this project begins to ramp down and I can take on a role with reduced responsibility and stress.

On the plus side, we did get in a brief family vacation to start out this month.  For the first time since Dominic was a couple of months old, we took a real road trip!  

It was exciting to get beyond our local area and go down to the Oregon coast to see someplace new.  Dominic loved playing with seagulls on the beach and visiting a number of state parks on the drives.  

He also got a memorable experience from a t-rex at a store in Lincoln City which both enthralled him and scared the crap out of him.  It was one that was setup with a motion sensor and would roar and move its head up and down anytime someone entered or left the store.  Just getting this photo took a lot of convincing!

We also stopped at the Tillamook Factory and had some fantastic cheese!  Dominic tried several cheeses, had his own grilled cheese sandwich, and we picked up a nice mug with a cow on it to bring home.  

I'll admit it was a nice bonus that I got to stuff my own face with cheese too  :)

OA&FS Picnic
Earlier today, we went to our agency's yearly picnic.  It was a nice event to bring together families and local OA&FS staff.  There was also a face painter and about 10-15 bunnies to pet and cuddle with which Dominic really enjoyed.  While I didn't get nearly as much time as I would have liked to chat with the other families, it was still a good experience to see so many people together.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Materials!

Today is like going shopping for that new outfit and bringing it home.  Except shopping for that new outfit took nearly 3 months, you tried on 30 different things, went to 1 store, then found out someone thought everything in that store looked horrible on you, went to 3 new stores hundreds of miles apart, and eventually got your snazzy new outfit, took it home, and waited a week before posting selfies online.  In case that was a bit vague, our online OA&FS profile has been updated!

Now what does it mean that our profile has been updated?  Really, we revised our entire library of materials that potential birthfamilies see when they are looking at adoptive families in the waiting pool.  It may not be a big deal, but it's really the biggest thing we've done since entering the waiting pool.

Item #1 - Family Introduction Letter
The Family Introduction Letter is the core of any adoptive family's profile with OA&FS.  It is your 2-minute elevator speech.  (It's a long elevator ride)  In one page, you get to introduce who you are, what your jobs are, where you live, who is in your family, your likes and dislikes, and your hopes with regards to an open adoption.

Ours hasn't changed significantly since last time, but it's a document that we still put a lot of thought into as it needs to be focused, informative, and yet personable.  Remember, we're engineers and communication is hard.  To get around that, I cheat the system.  For example, this morning I took donuts in to work just to remind people that I am awesome and they should like me.  Sadly, there isn't a similar parallel to speed up getting picked by a birthfamily...but I'd do countless trips of Top Pot if that was different!

Anyway..... when you look at our updated online profile page, this is all of the text that shows up.  OA&FS offices also now have hardcopies (hundreds) of our letter as well that is slightly different with images we built into the layout.  While we still need to work with OA&FS IT staff to make sure the bullets display properly in the online version, all of the content is now in place.

Item #2 - Photos
Admit it, when you look at anyone on anything like Facebook, the first thing you look at is their profile photo.  These photos are critical in projecting an image of who you are as an individual or as a family.  We have 2 photos in our Family Introduction Letter and 4 photos that can be viewed in our online profile page.  It's tough to choose the best photos that represent your family amongst the thousands that you can have on hand these days.  Luckily, we had it easy because even after going through all of our hundreds of photos, we still picked 3 of our 4 photos from the work of our favorite photographer  :)

Item #3 - Family Book
This was the toughest task for us to finish.  Technically we could have reused much of our old family book and just updated a few photos to show the passage of time now that Dominic is well over 2 years old.  Instead, I got overambitious and wanted the "fancy" outfit.

On the right side of our OA&FS profile page, there is a link to view our "Personalized Book".  While it displays and was printed in hardcopy through Shutterfly, we built the entire book outside of that website to provide a clean, visually impactful, and cohesive identity.  In short, I've spent way too much time with marketers at work.

I'm really proud of this though since it is completely unique from any other family book I've seen in the adoption pool and may even be more memorable.

While we want a birthfamily to choose us because they like us, it doesn't hurt to have a little professional touch that makes it easier for them to read our family book and get to know us!

 With all of this up, now what?  Well, we keep on waiting!  (Just keep waiting, just keep waiting, waiting, waiting waiting)  At some point we'll make it over to P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, but it may be a longer wait/swim until we get there.

We're nearly 13 months into the waiting pool (as of July 5th), so that means my optimistic prediction of being chosen after 13 months and adopting a baby girl will be the next prediction that passes by.  However, that means Angie is up next!  She guessed a wait of 14 months and a baby boy.  Angie, I'll have my fingers crossed that you're right.  If not, you might owe us donuts :)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 387 - A New Milestone, Culture Shifts and Celebration

This weekend marks many good things for us.  First, the major news on the Supreme Court ruling is one that we cannot simply pass by.  While those of us in the State of Washington have been able to marry for many years now (since Dominic was a mere 3 weeks old), the hard work and sacrifices of many dedicated people have brought equality to the US.  Not too long ago, it would have been unthinkable for Andy and I to be adopting children and expanding our family.  Today, families like ours are rapidly becoming...normal.  Even though that makes life a little less exciting, it's a great step forward.

This ruling also coincides well with Pride weekend here in Seattle.  While we didn't spray paint Dominic's short-lived mohawk into a rainbow (we're terrible parents!), it is great to realize that Dominic will be growing up in a world where Pride will an occasion of celebration and fun rather than a struggle for basic human rights and recognition.

Now, on to the lighter stuff as this is a blog all about our adoption!  Today marks Day 387 in the waiting pool.  It also marks the day where we've submitted updates for all of our outward facing adoption materials!

Sneak Preview - Pg 1 of our New Family Book
Back in April, we began the semi-herculean effort to update our family book, letter, and online photos from scratch.  Technically, we could just throw some things together and call it good.  However, I'm an OCD engineer and I nit pick on every single detail, sentence, layout, and photo.

As part of our process, we've had one photo shoot with our amazing friendtographer Amy, dug through literally thousands of other photos from the past few years, and then written and rewritten content over countless evenings, nights, bus rides, plane flights, and random musings in the shower.  (You know those times when you shake yourself out of your thoughts and realize you've been standing there in the shower doing nothing for 15 minutes?)  Suffice it to say, this is a big milestone and I'm thrilled to be at this point.

Pretty soon, we'll have a new update to post once OA&FS makes the content update to the website official.  Not quite the same as an announcement of being chosen, but it's still a pretty cool accomplishment given that I'm really digging our new formatting!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Managing "The Wait" - 1 Year

As of today, we have been waiting in the pool for a full year (our waiting pool-versary?).  In essence, we've spent a lot of time with Ginger.
Ginger, our "waiting" pool giraffe

Given that it's been such a long time (for us), Andy and I have adapted to manage the wait differently.  I think we have both been busy with Dominic, with work, family, friends, and various projects.  On top of all of that, it's hard to dwell too much on the wait for a 2nd child.

For me personally, I've been starting to get more and more anxious as we've neared this milestone.  Dominic is now over 2 1/2 years old and we have started the process of updating all of our adoption materials because life changes quite a bit in a year.  Also, if we are still waiting at this time next year, we will likely be updating all of our adoption materials again and redo-ing our homestudy.

Looking back at our post reviewing everyone's predictions on gender and when we would get picked, I think it's been proven that we have a lot of optimistic family and friends.  Out of 10 guesses, only 3 estimate the wait at longer than 1 year.  At present, my prediction of 13 months is currently on deck and will quickly be followed by Angie and Andy's guesses.  Everyone else....stay away from Vegas  :)

From talking to our new counselor (Alissa), the average wait may have shifted down closer to 16 months, but there are still a large number of families waiting to be chosen.  As of today, we are one of 90 families in the pool.

Speaking of the pool, the OA&FS website lists families in the order they joined the waiting pool with the families waiting the longest showing up first.  When we joined the pool a year ago today, we were the last family on the list.  Today, we are 51st on the list out of the 90 families.  As of today, 50 families have been waiting longer than 12 months and another 39 families have been waiting less 12 months.  (There have also likely been several families that joined the pool after us and have already been selected which would influence these final numbers.)

While we haven't been picked yet, we have had a recent uptick in screening emails which has kept things interesting.  After 2 early screening emails last summer, we didn't have another until January.  In total since we joined the pool, we have now had 8 screening emails.

Looking ahead, what's next for us?  Well, we still need to finalize our family book updates to reflect fresh pictures of Dominic, ourselves, and a slightly revamped presentation of our book.  I'm definitely more inclined to tinker than Andy is (sorry Andy!), but this is definitely one way I'm managing the wait and feeling like I'm still managing some level of control in the process.

Thanks to everyone that has been so supportive over the last 12 months.  As we move forward, we'll have our fingers crossed that someday soon we'll have good news to share with all of you!