This is the fourteenth installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.
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We live in a country where adoption is not that common, and domestic adoption is usually of children who have been in foster care – it is free to the adopters, but carries all the risks many people will be aware of, and it is very rare to adopt young infants either through this route or through overseas adoption – the usual age range is 12 months to 3 years or older. Both take quite a long time. We are nonetheless currently veering towards foster adoption.
However, I am a US citizen (though my husband is not, and is not a permanent resident either) and we are due to spend a bit less than a year in the US very shortly. I am wondering in a very, very unformed way what would be the prospects of domestic adoption for us if we were to start immediately once we arrived in the US. We could spend longer if we were matched with a child as we have a generous adoption leave allowance, but I’m not sure what the chances are of going through the approval process in the time we have (8 months), getting a match in that time, actually being legally eligible for US domestic adoption if we aren’t permanently resident even though I’m a citizen, as I gather the rules have recently changed us getting a match at all.
To give you an idea of where we are coming from: We are both professionals, and I work in a very child-centered field. I’m just over 40 and my husband is about 10 years older, we have led what we regard as principled lives, and are liberal politically. We aren’t planning to become full time stay-at-home parents (but as I mentioned we get very generous adoption leave, and part-time work is also an option), we could certainly give a child a very varied set of experiences (especially regarding travel, obviously) and we would be very open to the idea of open adoption (all domestic adoption in our home country is either open or semi-open), including returning to the US to visit birth parents. We’d also be open to the idea of adopting a mixed-race child (we are white).
We will be living in the state I last lived in, and where I think open adoption is the most common kind. We would be renting though we own our own home where we normally live. From reading potential adoptive parents profiles, we are not typical in a number of ways. But perhaps that is good (she says, hopefully)? I’m at the stage where I’m just rolling this idea round in my head, really, so perhaps some good hard common sense would be best for me!
I'm unfortunately going to have to pee in your cheerios and come at you with some...well, it's not common sense insomuch as its things you need to consider. There are huge logistical hoops that US residents (who are not on a time line) need to jump through in order to pursue domestic adoption including finding a slot with an agency, collecting paperwork, fingerprinting, letters of reference, completing a home study, house inspection. Some of those tasks are within your control (if you want to put your nose to the grindstone, you can choose how long it takes you to fill out the forms) and others are not. If you cannot be fit in for several weeks for your home study, you have lost several weeks from the back end (the waiting period) of your process. So, with eight months, you're looking at a tight squeeze even with a best-case scenario.
Domestic adoption takes (on average) between a year and a year-and-a-half. Most domestic adoptions take place within a two year period. Average is the operative word. There are people who match a few weeks after getting in the books. There are others who take a lot longer.
But think about it this way: someone who is dating and wants to get married can do a few things to speed along the process. They can put themselves out there, untangle themselves from dead-end prospects early on, and aggressively pursue set-ups. But they can't do anything to ensure that they can get married within a time frame. I'm sure someone could do a study and say that people who aggressively pursue marriage on average get married within two years of beginning the marriage process, but think back to when you were single: was it truly within your control when marriage occurred? It felt for me, at least, like statistics be damned. I had no clue whether or not I'd get married and I can't imagine the pressure I would have felt if I had a time frame where I needed it to happen.
Which is actually the part that worries me most--the emotional journey you'll put yourself through having an end date (however loose) in place. If you put yourself through all of that work and it doesn't happen, will you be able to go home without a child and several thousand dollars poorer?
If the answer is that you could walk away with peace of heart at least knowing you tried, I can give you three pieces of advice. There are probably going to be those who will write in the comment section below about how this arrangement isn't fair to expectant parents (and I have to be frank, taking a child immediately and permanently out-of-country goes against part of the philosophy of open adoption) or to the child, but my concern with this question is you, the question-asker. Therefore, I am only addressing your side of things.
(1) Be absolutely honest and clear when conversing with expectant parents what your limitations are in terms of open adoption. They need to know where you live in order to have their own peace of heart with the decision. Don't make any promises that you can't keep.
(2) Expand your search to national rather than keeping in-state. This means you must be willing to travel at a moments notice and you will possibly need to remain in the state where the baby is born until you are cleared by a court and given permission to take the child out of state. It's one more hoop, but a national search is going to move faster statistically over an in-state search.
(3) Start the process from home right now, working with a US agency and perhaps securing an adoption attorney for the state where you'll be living. They are going to know the laws that apply not only to all US adoptions but to laws specific to each state. Yes, it will add another cost to the process, but an attorney can guide you through choices in the interest of time. There are specialized attorneys working in the field of adoption and ART (Elizabeth Swire Falker, for example, works out of NY and her practice in family law specifically covers adoption, donor gamete contracts, etc) and I'd search for one by state and then check credentials (please do this--there are a lot of people working within adoption who are not kosher and you want an ethical adoption).
Sending a lot of luck for the journey. I don't know how feasible it would be to move back to the US for a few years right now rather than just a few months. If that were the case, it would change some of the information above and take a lot of the pressure off the process. In the end, you want to love your life and bring a baby into it rather than have a baby be the element bringing peace to your life (in other words, a child should be the cherry on top and not the dish holding the ice cream...um...and in this analogy, the ice cream is you). Therefore, if your happy life is back in your current home, I would never recommend moving because a dish full of ice cream is still sweet. But if "home" is simply your marriage and you want a new adventure together, moving to a new place could open a lot of doors in the pursuit of the cherry on top.
No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely. I would love to hear from anyone who has pursued domestic adoption and the time frame you faced with the process.
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