Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Elizabeth Falker, an adoption attorney, author of “The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption”, and an adoptive mom.
- How to adopt a baby in the US.
- There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-19,000 babies adopted in the US.
- Mostly newborn infants available through private domestic adoption.
- Where to begin when you want to adopt a baby?
- What are the steps to domestic infant adoption?
- Adoption agency or attorney?
- Adoption consultant? Adoption Facilitator?
- What do we mean by independent adoption?
- Louisa: A cousin of a friend is considering placing her baby to be born in 5 months with us. What do we need to do?
- Can you adopt a baby from another state? Do you need to choose an agency or attorney that is in your state?
- What is the adoption home study? How do you prepare? Is it always required?
- What type of questions do they ask in the home study?
- Domestic infant adoption is usually birth mother or birth parent choice? What does that mean?
- What does openness mean in infant adoption? What percentages of adoptions in the US are open? Who decides?
- How to prepare an adoptive parent profile. Used to be called “Dear Birth Mother Letter.” Creating a Family has lots of resources including a video, tip sheets, audio interviews with experts, info on what type of pictures work best, etc. on how to prepare an adoptive parent profile.
- How much information about the adoptive parents is shared with the expectant woman or couple?
- Will information on medical issues of adoptive parents, medications, financing, past criminal history be shared with the expectant parents?
- What happens after you submit your adoptive parent profile?
- What is the matching process like?
- What increases your chances of an expectant mom choosing you to adopt her child? (openness to race, gender, prenatal exposure, mental illness, and money)
- Do you usually meet the expectant mother in person?
- What if the mom lives in another state?
- Expectant mother expenses
- Keep in mind that a match does not mean that the baby is yours.
- Failed adoption matches. Failed Adoption Matches: How Common? How Costly? How to Survive
- What are some warning signs that a match may fail or that the mother may change her mind?
- What is the hospital experience like? Can adoptive parents be at the hospital? In the delivery room?
- How much time does the birth mother have to change her mind?
- Is it possible for the birth mother to get the child back once the adoptive family takes the baby home?
- When is the adoption final?
- After the baby is in your home what is the process to make the adoption final?
- What happens if the birth mother is not able to identify the birth father?
- How much does it cost to adopt a baby in the US?
- How long does it take to do a domestic infant adoption?
- What factor influence how long you will have to wait?
[00:01:35] Do you have to use an adoption agency or can you also use an adoption attorney and what’s the difference between the two.
[00:01:44] Well everything in the United States unfortunately is sort of determined by state law. And that’s something I think you and I you know are going to talk about in greater detail in a few minute but whether or not you use an attorney or an agency is going to be dependent on where you live. Some states require that residents in their state use an agent. The others permit you to use either an agency or an attorney. So the first place you sort of need to start is knowing whether you live in an agency state or whether you can use either or both.
[00:02:16] Yes. And so. OK. So if you are so you need to find out whether you can use. How would somebody find that out. I mean they’re just thinking about adopting. How do they know if they are in an agency state in the tourney’s state or they can use both.
[00:02:32] I have a resource list in the back of my book but you can usually google it. You can say in Connecticut you know Connecticut adoption and you should be able to find a link or a resource to something you know especially in the Connecticut state Web site about whether or not agencies are required Connecticut is to the best of my recollection and agencies state. So residents in Connecticut have to have an agency involved in their adoption. So my recommendation would be to google it or you can always call an attorney in the state you know who handles family matters or adoption and ask them you know to what extent they’re required to use an agency. Sometimes all you need is the agency for the home study and then you can work with an attorney. But again speaking to a professional in this state would be a good place to start. If you can’t find the information on a Web site somewhere.
[00:03:20] And another term that we sometimes hear kicked about or terms I should say is adoption consultant and an adoption facilitators. Let’s separate those and let’s start with facilitator what is an adoption facilitator and adoption facilitators somebody who actually goes out and finds a birth parent for you and makes the match.
[00:03:41] So they you pay them and they go out and they find your birth parents or birth mother and they put the match together for you. It is illegal in many states to do that to use a facilitator. So you need to be very careful about the professionals that you work with and who you’re paying for what services and make sure you understand what somebody is doing for you in connection with the matching process to be able to identify whether you’re working with somebody who might be deemed a facilitator as opposed to a consultant who doesn’t make them match for you but does help you throughout the process. Kind
[00:04:17] of is a guide. And let me before we get much further. This is the world of adoption can be a linguistic landmine. So let’s get some some of our terms straightened out at the beginning in the certainly the last 10 years or whatever. We’ve had a shift between in the past. If a woman is considering a pregnant woman is considering adoption. Technically she is not a birth mom at that point we call her an expectant mom in the past in the past it was different people called a woman who was considering placing her child for adoption. It was pretty typical to call her a birth mom at that stage from for a lot of ethical reasons. We’ve made decisions that in fact that that was coercive to him and also made assumptions because she’s only considering it at that point. So we just from the terminology standpoint we refer to a woman who is considering adoption who is pregnant as the expected mom once she has placed the child. She is generally called a birth mom or a birth mom or something along those lines. OK. So I consult the as you said a facilitator is you’re actually searching for and matching prospective adoptive parents with expectant parents or expecting moms a consultant is is more of a general guide and is usually working with adoption agencies or adoption attorneys. Do I have that right Liz.
[00:05:52] That’s correct. That’s absolutely correct yes.
[00:05:55] Both paperwork. So keep that in mind both are services with which you pay. Another term we hear is independent adoption or private adoptions. So let’s clear up what do those terms mean. Let’s start with private that’s kind of a more of a general term.
[00:06:12] Go ahead a private adoption. I mean honestly I think of the two terms as as somewhat synonymous and don’t have a different perspective. I would love to hear it. An independent adoption I guess as opposed to a private adoption might be one where the prospective adoptive parents and the expectant mom find each other independent of any professional. And then would use an attorney’s office for example to have a private placement adoption. I think that would be the best way that I could actually differentiate between the two terms. A private placement or private adoption is usually conducted through an attorney’s office and not an agency and to the extent that there might be some independence in that matching process. I would characterize an independent adoption as one in which the adoptive prospective adoptive parents and the expectant parents come together without the assistance of any kind of a professional. Does that sound about right to you Dr. Drew. Jeezy’s no different.
[00:07:13] I have seen it. It’s it’s an interesting thing. There are like terms of art those two independent adoptions are often thought of as where you’re working through an attorney but I also think in terms of where the expectant parents and adoptive parents have met or have connected. But without the assistance. But I’ve also heard that even if an attorney is doing the matching which is allowed in some states not allowed in others that can be referred to as an independent adoption and private adoption is kind of not really a very specific term. If you think about it because it can mean anything other than a public adoption which isn’t adoption through generally through through foster care so that you’ll see those terms but they don’t really have a great deal either one they’ll have a great deal of meaning. But we did get a question for this interview. From Louise. She said a cousin of a friend is considering placing her baby to be born in five months with us. What do we need to do. All right. Here’s an example of what you were just mentioning Liz sumed through her friend. She has been connected with an expectant mom who is considering adoption. So what would she need. What steps would she take at this point. Just roughly. Well
[00:08:33] that is an independent adoption as as you and I have just discussed because they’ve come together without the assistance of a professional. The two most important things I think Luis needs to look into now are getting home study and identifying an adoption professional in the state where she reside as well as an adoption professional in the state where the expectant mom or expectant parents reside. If it’s a different state so that everybody has legal representation and understands their rights and responsibilities as they go into the adoption planning process. So home study and adoption professionals are the two things she need to add to her checklist.
[00:09:10] And you know in this case just to simplify things she’s probably not going to need an agency. So wouldn’t it make sense for her to be guided by the professional she needs to be guided by would be to contact an adoption attorney in her state and allow that adoption attorney to recommend home study provider. And quite frankly the attorney might well be the best one to suggest an adoption attorney to represent the expectant mom and the expectant mom state.
[00:09:40] Wouldn’t that would that be a simplified kind of a simplified process for Louisa contact her ads are really finding that or finding an adoption attorney in her state and letting that adoption attorney guide the process but she does need to know that that home study is super important to get done as soon as possible so one of the first things I would recommend to Louise yet as she identifies an adoption professional to represent her would be to ask about someone or an agency to assist them with their home study process and and I have to put this plug in there I so strongly feel that expectant couples are expecting a woman who is considering adoption needs unbiased counseling and that in this type of case and the Independent Adoption scenario that would not automatically be happening.
[00:10:28] So I would recommend that we saw also bring that up when she contacts an adoption attorney in her state that that is something that she is wanting to make certain that they expect that mom receive. And again that is something that she would be paying for. But the adoption attorney should be able to facilitate them. And this is something that they often can do. All right. And one of the really important thing. I say this so often that I actually have a text expander on my computer because I type it so often. And that is you need that when we speak of adoption attorney that is a specialization within the field. It is not the same thing as a general attorney your cousin who or your brother who does corporate law are our tax law or whatever is really not qualified doesn’t know enough you need to have an attorney that specializes in adoption. Generally that is not the same thing it’s a family law attorney that is a subspecialty of that. So we have resources on the creating a family Web site under our aid to Z. You go to the Web site creating a family dot org. Hover over the word adoption click on a to z resources or you could just own the home page just click on adoption resources and it will take you to the A to Z resource page. And we have a section on adoption attorney in the page on that and you click on that. We have detailed instructions on how to find an attorney that specializes in adoption.
[00:12:06] So whenever we say adoption attorney throughout the rest of this interview I want you to remember that it’s not the same as just somebody who has gone to law school. All right. Liz can you adopt a baby from another state.
[00:12:22] Oh absolutely. In fact that’s the most common form of domestic newborn adoption is to adopt a baby from a state in which you don’t reside. I would say the vast majority of my practice my clients live in one state and the baby and the expectant parents are in another state. And it adds complexity to the adoption process when everybody lives in different states because you have two state laws with which you need to sort of familiarize yourself. And again that’s where your adoption attorney is so important and having an adoption attorney to represent the expectant parents in the state where they live. Sometimes even the adoptive parents prospective adoptive parents will have an attorney in the state where the baby will be born. Because sometimes that’s a state in which you will finalize your adoption. But there yes. It’s very common. It’s probably the most common way to adopt a baby. And it does add some complexity because you are dealing with two states laws to govern the adoption as well as something called the Interstate Compact on the placement of children or IACP which will govern the adoption in both states and the process by which the baby is brought home to the state where the prospective adoptive parents reside.
[00:13:35] And keep in mind that if you were working with an agency and the agency is going to be handling getting the attorneys and handling all this process so you don’t have to if you’re working with an agency this is being handled for you from the state. So if you want to adopt should you choose an agency or an attorney that’s in your state. Or should you look outside of your site. Do you need to work with an agency in your state.
[00:14:05] If you’re if you don’t really care whether the baby is in your state that that’s going to be a question that I think comes down to the personality of the prospective adoptive parents and how much how much they want to be involved in the process because some agencies are very very hands on and do absolutely everything for you. You know you just sort of fill out paperwork for them you get your home study done and then they do just about everything including presenting a perspective. I expect parents to you for your consideration and to talk to you and get to know and decide whether it’s a good match. Other agencies will let you be more involved in the process. So deciding on an agency and where that agency is located. I think some of it has to do with how involved you want to be in your option process or how hands off you want to be in my first adoption. I was so so tired and emotionally exhausted from the infertility process that I literally just said Find me a baby. I went with an agency that did everything for us. I learned from that experience. And a second time we adopted I went with a more proactive approach that gave me some more control in the process. So that’s one factor is deciding how much control you want in the process. And when I say control I just mean activity throughout the process not you. You always have control over whether or not match with expectant parents whether you use an agency in your state or another state. I personally don’t think that’s tremendously important.
[00:15:37] Again unless you’re in a state which requires you to use an agency then it behooves you to use you know an agency for your home study at least in the state where you reside. But in terms of looking at like a full service adoption agency it’s less important they’ll have resources within your state to help you if you’re in an agency state. I think if over complicated your question Don.
[00:16:04] No I mean it’s no it wasn’t over complicated I was going to say however that one of the things to keep in mind the agency or the professional that you are working with is going to guide you through this. It is. It is it. It’s not up to you to figure all of it out. It’s up to your agency or your attorney or your professional who you’re working with just to kind of simplify things and this will be a segue into our next discussion which was on the home study and that is you will have if you use an agency or an attorney in another state you will have a home study agency in your state because it requires home visits and things like that. But your agency or attorney will help you find a home so the agencies not up to you generally to do that. In fact many of them will require that they have some input on who you use because they want to make certain that you know that somebody they approve of a another kind of easy answer or something and consideration when deciding whether to sign up with an agency or an attorney in your state is to find out if the agency let’s say you’re you know you’re looking for an agency you’re considering they just say in Florida make certain that that agency does not require face to face training. Most do not but some do. And that’s something you want to know about if they’re going to require you to. I think more and more that’s not happening people can connect through Skype or other or other means.
[00:17:43] But that is something that you you want to ask. And also some people prefer the face to face. They just you know given their personality for something this important they don’t want to rely on you know telephone calls. Even the even video calls that it’s not something it’s too important to him. So they want to sit down face to face. All right so now let’s move in. I’ve alluded to the home study. Why don’t you tell us what the home study is and if it’s always required.
[00:18:14] It is always required. I am not aware of any situation in which a prospective adoptive parent can elect not to have a home study. So it’s something we all have to do as adoptive parents. And it’s something that stresses us all out. And I think to a certain extent unnecessarily it is a process by which a social worker comes into your home meets with you and your partner or your husband or your wife and talks to you about your reasons for adoption your parenting styles to the extent that you might have sort of specific ideas about parenting your background your finances. They will usually meet with you together as well as individually. They’ll tour your house or your apartment. It is not necessary to have a baby’s room all set up. It’s not necessary to have your house or apartment immaculate. It doesn’t really matter how big or how small your house is. The idea is for the social worker to get a sense of who you and your husband or your partner or wife are and whether or not you’re going to provide a safe and loving home for a child. And I think that’s the emphasis that you’re going to provide a safe or loving home for a child because that also if you think about it provides tremendous reassurance to an expectant parent who’s thinking about making an adoption plan.
[00:19:35] If they know that you had this home study process done and then an independent social workers come in and spoken to you and kind of signed off that you guys are going to be safe and loving parents or a safe and loving single parent that provides tremendous reassurance going forward in the process knowing that there’s been that third party in there. But it is mandated pretty much across the board and it is a process that everyone finds stressful but isn’t necessarily as stressful when the social workers with you as you might expect.
[00:20:05] What type of background checks are required.
[00:20:09] Usually federal and state criminal background checks are conducted it will depend a little bit on whether you’re an attorney or an agency but usually you’ll go either to your local police precinct or to an L1 enrollment center or to an FBI channel or just throw out some terms and you’ll be fingerprinted and they’ll run a state and federal background check. Usually in every jurisdiction in which you’ve lived for the last 15 years or so and then that will have to be updated if you don’t receive placement of a baby within a certain period of time. The FBI channeler or L-1 enrollment center or the local police will have to run that background check on you again as well as you know your home study may need to be updated while you’re waiting for your baby to come home. Depending on how long you’re waiting. And then there are also just to add one little additional feature in their post placement home studies or supervisions reports that have to be filed. But you’ll the the background check is something that’s done both at the state and federal level. And then there are specific entities that can do that for you and your adoption professional will direct you to the appropriate one for your specific situation.
[00:21:19] What if you have something in your past that you’re not particularly proud of that will show up on your background check. What should you do them. You know what.
[00:21:29] You know going in. Yeah. My rule of thumb is disclose disclose disclose. It is easier for your social worker and your adoption professional to deal with something when they know what it is. It is very hard for us to go back and try and fix something that surprised us if we can be proactive and help address something that’s in your background. Usually it’s never a problem. I mean there I’m certain there are circumstances out there that something might be problematic depending on what it is but I you know I have clients who’ve had no arrests for DUI who’ve had mental illness issues in their past who’ve had drug addiction in the past. You know variety of things that happen to people life. Life is complicated and messy and prospective adoptive parents do not have to be perfect. But disclose it. Tell your social worker tell your adoption professional because they want to be able to deal with that ahead of time and not have to go back and try and address something that will become an even larger issue if it’s if it’s dealt with later as opposed to earlier to some extent.
[00:22:37] Yeah it does. So we say that the domestic infant adoption is now birth mother or birth parent choice. What does that mean.
[00:22:51] Ultimately at the end of the day a birth mother has the right to parent her child to choose to parent her child or to choose to place the child with an adoptive family. It’s a choice. And when you’re working with a prospective or expectant parent you don’t know until they actually sign the paperwork that’s needed for the adoption process whether or not they’re going to place their baby with you or choose to parent. It’s an incredibly stressful process. But at the end of the day even if you decided to work with a prospective birth expectant parents or parents because I don’t like to leave the dad in the expectant dads off of this because there are a lot of expectant dads involved in this process it’s not just expectant moms. It’s their choice. And so you’ve decided to work with them. You go through that pregnancy with them are part of the pregnancy with them. You might meet might establish a relationship you might text you might talk on the phone but in most states it’s not until after the baby is born that a legally binding decision can be made about whether that baby is going to be placed with you. And so that’s why the ultimate decision comes down to the expectant parents about whether or not the baby is going to be placed for adoption or whether they will choose to parent.
[00:24:09] You know in the past it was always reminds me a little bit of the agency or the attorney was kind of like Oz in The Wizard of Oz behind the behind the wall or behind the curtain. He was. They were matching the expected family with the adoptive family. But nowadays the adoptive family prepares generally now called the adoptive parent profile used to be called a Dear Birthmother letter. But I think that most agencies and attorneys have shifted away from that now. So it’s called some variation of adoptive parent profile and the expected couple then reviews these profiles. And this is how it usually happens. It’s not required that this happened if an expected couple chooses not to do that. They certainly wouldn’t be forced to. But the expected couple looks through the parent profiles and selects a couple perhaps as one but usually more than one of the families that they would like to meet and see if they form a relationship with. And that puts. I mean that’s a stressful thing and that puts a lot of pressure on on doing that adoptive parent profile.
[00:25:19] Do any thoughts on that list for for calming the jitters of oh my gosh do I have to how do I present on paper yes it’s good that it’s creating a very special album that describes who you are as a prospective family. You don’t need to go overboard they don’t need to be you know 50 pages. They don’t necessarily need to be hardcover although it’s certainly very easy to do it on Shutterfly to have a hardcover album created. There are professionals out there that can help you with the process where you can do it yourself if you’re crafty. But it’s it’s it’s a look into who you and your family are. Provides sort of a visual reference as somebody is getting to know you. And I also like to look at them as keepsakes their keepsakes not only for the expectant parents after the adoption has gone through they have this book to remind them of why they made the decision to place their baby with the adoptive parents but there are also keepsakes for your child as your child grows up. You know I’ve taken out our adoptive parent profiles and shown you know this is this is where we were coming from. This is what we were. This is who we were. This is why we wanted you. This is what we wanted to show a perspective you know expectant parent who we were and what was going on in our lives and what was important to us.
[00:26:40] And I my my son keeps a copy of his you know his parent profile our parent profile in his room as you know sort of along with his the pictures on his wall and stuff like that. That’s sort of an aspect of the parent profile that some people don’t really think about is how it might actually work into your adoption story with your child. But it just look at it as an album that you’re creating to help somebody understand who you are and they don’t need to be super slick. Of course you know there is some competition out there so there are some adoption professionals that will have standards or recommendations of how you go about preparing your adoptive parent profile. Some people put it on desk. Some people have their adoptive parent profile also on a Web site. But the bottom line is to look at this as a way to express and show who you are to an expectant parent.
[00:27:35] And creating a family has lots of resources to help you with this. We have a video we have tipsheet on what to include. We have audio interviews with experts on how to do it. Information on what type of pictures work best etc.. So we’ve got all that at our Web site creating a family dot org. The easiest way is just to go in there to the search box and type parent profile and get more information than you want them on how to on how to do that.
[00:28:07] And you know I actually just jerking I actually add one component to this. A lot of adoptive parents prospective adoptive parents don’t realize that there is a component to this where they’re marketing themselves. And it’s an awful way of looking at it. But this really is you know it is marketing yourself on some level and it seems somewhat distasteful and some people balk at balk at having the parent profile prepared by a professional because it seems like you’re just getting way too commercial about it. That’s sort of why I I try to emphasize to my clients or to the people that I talked to about adoption that take take the emphasis off the marketing and and put the emphasis on showing someone who you are. I just wanted to add that I didn’t get that in earlier and I apologize for interrupting you.
[00:29:01] No no. It’s a really good point because the last thing you want to do is be thinking about this as a commercial process. You are adding a child to your family. And yet there is a certain amount of marketing and it is a distasteful word for most of us when we’re thinking about how to are thinking about adding a child to our family. How much information about the adoptive parents is shared with the expected mom or the couple.
[00:29:28] That’s going to depend on the type of adoption that you’re thinking about entering into. That’ll depend somewhat on the agency or the adoption professional that you’re working with and it will depend on what the prospective adoptive parents you know sort of needs and wants are. My philosophy is you start with first names and perhaps the state in which you live. And then you expand that as needed based on the type of adoption the expectant parents might want to have. Whether it’s you know completely open or partially open or closed. How much contact you have with them how comfortable you are with them. But start with less is more. You certainly need to share your first names. You might want to share the state or region you know from which you come to two. Sorry I keep saying birth parent and you’re right Don is not politically correct it’s not accurate. It’s expectant parents and then take it from there. It’s easier to control the flow of information when you start slowly and let things sort of grow organically as your relationship grows. It’s very hard to take information back once it’s out there. But I would again defer to your adoption professional you know on how you’re going to go about setting those parameters.
[00:30:47] We got a question from the crewmembers Ron Bell. I have certain health issues that wall they are well controlled might make someone not to have a doctor’s letter saying that I am capable of parenting. Will the birth mother which remains as expectant mom be told about my health condition.
[00:31:07] I think it’s only fair to tell an expectant parents about the medical condition because she needs to make a fully informed decision about where she’s placing her baby. You know if you think about it from your perspective would you want something for somebody to withhold that kind of information from you. The right expectant parent it’s not going to matter for the right match for the right. You know for the right expectant family they’re not going to care what kind of medical condition you have or disability. I’ve worked with clients who are paralyzed. I’ve worked with clients who are deaf. It doesn’t matter to the right expectant parent that’s not a big deal. But what is important is giving them the information that they need to make an informed decision and withholding something like that undermines trust in the process. And it undermines it undermines the foundation of the adoption. Somebody could come back and say hey I didn’t have all the facts here. I didn’t I didn’t make an informed decision.
[00:32:08] This isn’t right yeah and keep in mind too that the expectant parents have the right to ask specific questions as well. And so and as you say you’re forming a relationship and often a life long relationship with these people and so the element of trust and openness which leads us into the concept of open adoption. The vast majority of domestic infant adoptions in the United States have some degree of openness. Now I have hard to find really good statistics on that partly because no one’s keeping the statistics. The second reason is that there’s not a one single definition of what we mean by openness. You know how open is open the kind of the rough and these are really not even well utilize the across the board. But we have semi open which generally means contact our communication through a an intermediary the adoption agency or the adoption attorney or it can be through setting up things such as a Facebook private Facebook group or something like that. And then we have a fully open which means that the parties the expectant parents and the adoptive parents decide between them what they are comfortable with and it can go anywhere from you know letters and pictures to meeting meeting up once a year to you know getting together at the park or once a month. So any of these it’s up to the openness as it is a term that the the parties the expectant parents and the adoptive parents work together to define what’s going to work for them. But I think it’s safe to say that we’re certainly seeing a movement towards more openness. Are you saying that as well.
[00:34:05] I am. And to be frank it is since I started my adoption practice in 2004 I have only worked on one truly closed adoption and it was virtually impossible to make that happen. In fact at the end of the day information was inadvertently shared with the birth mom after placement that she never wanted to know or to have. It’s very hard to do truly closed adoptions unless you’re working with an agency and they’re very rare. Most expectant parents would like some information and some contact with the family that they’re considering placing their baby. But you’re absolutely right that the term open is misunderstood poorly defined and almost impossible to define. It’s going to come down to what the prospective adoptive parents are comfortable with and what the expectant parents are comfortable with how well they get along. My my philosophy is be open to open and then let the degree of openness that you’ll ultimately have with your expectant parents who hopefully will become the birth parents evolve naturally and over time based on you know the relationship that you have. You can start with cards pictures and letters through an intermediary like you said you could have those cards pictures and letters sent directly. A lot of that’s just going to come down to what what the expected parents are comfortable with what you’re comfortable with but being open to open makes things much easier in this process than than having clearly defined limits.
[00:35:37] And the other component that a lot of adoptive parents prospective adoptive parents are are concerned about is and I understand this as one if there’s something threatening to the idea of meeting your child’s biological parents on a regular basis or even periodically you know you are your child’s parents they are your children’s biological family. That you know the difference between being a biological parent and being a parent is huge but when you’re going into the process you don’t necessarily understand that being a parent is is you know waking up in the middle of the night with your baby and when when he or she has the fever and changing diapers and going to the dentist and the pediatrician and all of the love and caring that you provide it’s very you know adoption focuses on the fact that that parenting isn’t necessarily something that’s connected to biology right. But the idea of meeting the biological connection is very very threatening to some people was threatening to me. That meeting on a regular basis at the park is also very rare. So just as a closed adoption is very very rare. The relationships between expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents that end up being with regular contact or having regular contact are just as rare. I think as truly closed adoptions it’s somewhere in the middle that most adoptions you know sort of wind up having you know some contact but not frequently. And the other aspect of this that a lot of people don’t understand going into the says you might start off with some degree of contact and then over time you know the expectant parents birth parents at that point go on with their lives and they grow and they need less contact or want less contact with the adoptive parent. So what starts off being one relationship may evolve into something completely different.
[00:37:30] The only thing I caution there is I don’t want people adoptive parents to go into it thinking oh well she’s asking for three meetings or a forum for meetings or every couple of months meeting up she’s going to change her mind so I will say yes. So she will choose me because one of the saddest things and one of the most frustrating things I see is when adoptive parents for no really good reason change the degree of openness that was promised. And that’s just that’s wrong. I mean there come times where you might have to do that. But those times are really rare so you can’t make the assumption and the other person that we’ve not discussed in the whole degree of openness openness is the child. The reason that we’ve moved to open adoptions is because there’s a great deal of research that supports that openness is better for children. But some of the interesting things about this research there’s Minnesota Texas adoption project TARP adoption research project that’s been ongoing now for gosh since the 1980s so many years and some of the fascinating what they they went into it with the hypothesis that open adoption was going to be the best for the birth parents. That’s that’s why you would you would go into openness. And then second to better for the children. And then third better for the adoptive parents what they actually have found out and that the research is ongoing they make a report every X number of years because they’re continuing to follow the same families and that these are initial ones are now in their 20s. The children that were adopted are in their 20s.
[00:39:07] And what they found is that the of the triad triad meaning the adoptive parents the birth parents and the child the three members of the adoption constellation. What they found is that the greatest benefit and the greatest satisfaction with openness was the adoptive parents less so for the birth parents in the sense that the idea was that it was going to take away all pain and that’s why not that the researchers thought that but you know that doesn’t happen but anywhere. I like what you said which is be open to open. And more importantly be open to learning what open is. And because education is power and that takes away some of the fear and so get in there learn what it means and read stories about others who are navigating openness with it with success for all parties. One of the ways to do that is go to our Web site creating a family. That’s our home page. Click on adoption resources and click on the aid as a resources. We have an entire section of the site with lots and lots and lots of resources on open. So let me so be open to open and be open to being educated about what open is at hand.
[00:40:27] If I if I can interrupt you for one thing you made a very important point earlier about maintaining the degree of openness that you promised initially. We haven’t talked about the fact that there are post adoption agreements or contracts that are often entered into between the adoptive parents and the birth parent there. Whether they’re enforceable against the adoptive parents or the birth parents. It depends on state law. Agencies often require them. So that’s another component. You know when you’re going to a reader something you need to find out. Are you going to be signing a contract that actually you know stipulates for certain types or minimum degrees of contact over time because a lot of people don’t understand that you know as part of the adoption process you are going to commit to something that may be legally binding.
[00:41:16] And you know what. Even I agree with you and that is your right. But even if it isn’t legally binding it is morally binding because it is morally binding.
[00:41:24] Yeah I mean it should be anyway. I mean a couple or a woman has made a choice. Probably the most important decision of her life based on something that you have said so you owe it to her to know what it is that you’re willing to do and don’t agree to more of it. But as you said at the very very beginning of this discussion most adoptive families that I work with don’t understand openness in their mind they’re thinking coparenting and they’re feeling threatened and frightened and even if they’re not acknowledging that that’s the driving motivator of the emotions there. And what I find that is if they learn more about openness than their fear decreases and the other thing that I’ve noticed is that very often in this matching process we haven’t talked about this but very often in the matching process the expected parents have studied the profiles. Then there is actually a meeting between the expectant parents or the expected mom and the adoptive parents. So you want to be meeting this person and you’re going to be forming a relationship in what we are. It’s not not always required sometimes it’s just the phone meeting and sometimes nothing but usually there is either a phone or an in person meeting. And what often happens is that person is no longer and I’m using air quotes here. Other you get to know this person and that often helps dissipate the fear or that’s what I have often seen. Have you seen the same in your practice live.
[00:42:59] Oh absolutely. I think once that initial contact is made whether it’s it’s me you know by phone or in person. And I I recommend as often as somebody is comfortable with that are to my clients who are comfortable with that I encourage that meeting face to face meeting. It’s not always appropriate but whenever it is I encourage it. Because once you have that sort of tangible and tactile experience with an expectant parent or they expect that parent has that with the prospective adoptive parents the relationship the fear that goes away and the trust starts to build on and also it sort of solidifies the decision for both parties that this is somebody that they want to make an adoption plan with. It really is you know that phone call or the meeting face to face whichever it is is is a really critical component to making sure that we’re not being sure but to alleviating a lot of the fear that goes on in this process or that exists in this process.
[00:44:01] What increases in adoptive families chances of an expectant mom choosing them or an expectant couple choosing them to parent her child to adopt her child. What have you seen that increases your odds of being chosen.
[00:44:17] In my experience it’s flexibility it’s flexibility and the expectant parents background. It’s flexibility in the idea of openness it’s flexibility across the board. It’s taking the open to open concept into what a a an expectant parents background is what their medical and socio economic and emotional background is not having rigid constructs of what is and is not acceptable. That my clients that that tend to and my friends who have adopted who have very rigid formulaic approaches have a much harder time finding an expected parent to work with than those who are willing to consider a variety of different backgrounds and situations.
[00:45:06] A BINGO. I couldn’t agree with you more in the things that we see that tripped people up the most. Our race child gender of the child prenatal exposure both alcohol and drugs mental illness and the birth families history of expectant families history. And you know sadly money because the reality is if you have more money you are open to more adoption situations you can afford to travel travel if you choose a birth mom in another state. You will have to travel that increases your cost. We’re going to get ready to talk in just a minute about birth mom expenses which affects expectant mom expenses. And so the ability to be able to pay more and apply to more than one agency it’s allowed an agency contractor or the attorney contract you know exposing or hiring a consultant. All of those things cost money and so if you have more of it sadly I think that that matters one way or the other. Let’s talk just a little about I mentioned it and that is paying for expectant mom expenses. That is something that increases the cost of domestic adoptions. So let’s talk about that. Are you allowed to pay and expectant moms expenses and if so what. How much is there any limit.
[00:46:43] What are you paying for you are allowed to pay expectant moms expenses. But it depends on state law. So it’s a very hard question to answer without knowing what state your expectant mom or expectant parents reside in which state they reside in New York for example allows reasonable pregnancy related expenses for the 60 days leading up to delivery and 30 days following delivery. Other states don’t permit any expenses to be paid even medical expenses. I tell people to expect that you’re going to need to support an expectant parent to some degree. But what that support looks like is going to come down to you know the parameters in a state in which she lives budgeting ahead of time can be very helpful. So you know that you have X amount that you can afford to spend and then if you wind up in a situation where a birth mother needs you know six months of expensive support and you don’t have the financial ability to do that. You know it’s it’s an it’s an easier decision for you because you’ve set your budget ahead of time but that’s that also feeds into the flexibility component of it of needing to be flexible. I can’t ever project how much someone is going to wind up having to pay for expenses. You need to plan on having expenses because most states do permit it. But that degree of that is so hard to gauge ahead of time.
[00:48:07] You know and some of the things that factor in there is when in her pregnancy you are matched. And there are certain agencies and obviously this is the ticket to extreme if you are matched in her first pregnancy which we would hope nobody would do. No agency or an attorney would match that early. But if you were you would have eight months worth of expenses. And that’s going to be more than if you were matched in her eighth month when you have 1 month worth of expenses. That’s one that’s one factor. The other factor is certainly with agencies adoption agencies. There’s a great deal of variation as to how they handle expected parent expenses. There are some agencies becoming fewer. I will add although this used to be the norm I think it is. I actually don’t know whether it’s the norm anymore but some agencies still and I will say some attorneys who I know of at least one who takes this approach and that is the adoptive parents are not expected to pay the individual expenses of the expectant mother that they are matched with. That comes out of a common pool that all parents adoptive parents pay into. So that is that that tends to even out and the cost would be known upfront. So that is an option for families who know that they need to limit or can’t accept the risk. What about medical expenses. Because now that’s that’s a huge unknown what if if our adoptive parents expected to pay for the hospital expenses of the of the Marman. And if so what if she has a c section.
[00:49:49] How is all that worked out.
[00:49:52] Well one one hopes that you can as an expectant mom doesn’t have insurance that you can enroll her in Medicaid. And you know depending on her her financial background or her financial situation if she you know being pregnant is is usually a qualifying factor for receiving Medicaid assistance and then. And Medicaid would then pay for the expenses and of course if she if she places with you you have not incurred tremendous you know medical expenses. And if she doesn’t if she doesn’t place she she continues to have insurance for herself and the baby. So it’s a positive to look into that. I have many clients however who have no medical insurance. You then have to negotiate with the obstetrician’s office and with the hospital directly for South pay arrangement. A lot of obstetricians have plans in place that discount their their their fees for adoption situations. Understanding that these are expenses that the expectant or adoptive parents rather prospective adoptive parents are going to have to incur. And so they discounted in consideration for the fact that this is an out-of-pocket expense. And hospitals do tend to be very accommodating. I had an adoption myself where I wound up with a huge hospital bill and we were able to negotiate with hospital. And then there are agencies which address all of that for you and you don’t I think you mentioned earlier Don it comes out of a comment. Also you don’t even have to worry about the medical expenses. But again is just going to come down to whether or not the expectant mom has insurance.
[00:51:31] Whether you can get her on Medicaid or whether it winds up being a South pay and the obstetrician in hospital will agree to discount it. And there’s also the federal adoption tax credit which Don you may know more about this than I do right now. And whether that still exists under the new tax regulations but you know the medical expenses are a qualifying expense that you can you can then deduct can help and help just for some of the costs.
[00:51:55] Right. And from the standpoint of prospective adoptive parent who’s just beginning and thinking all of this in their head is now exploding. You can unexploded your head because the reality is your adoption professional is going to help walk you through all this. But it is it does. It is helpful for you to know that this is a question you need to ask of your adoption professional when you sit down with your meeting with your agency adoption agency for adoption attorney you need to say what are the expectations on birth mother expenses are expecting mom expenses. How high can they go and be upfront and say we cannot afford more than X and so that influences what expectant moms are shown your profile because you don’t have to have all the answers. What you do need to know is that it’s an unknown that you need to define and with your adoption professional going in. All right. One of the things that you mentioned before is the concept of no one in no state that I know of. Is it legal for an expectant woman to relinquish her parental rights until after birth and then each state has laws that will differ as to how long she has to wait before she is able to relinquish parental rights. So what that means is that when you are matched with an adult with an expectant mom she is making a promise that this is what she is considering. But she is not actually relinquishing her rights and the baby is not yours until after the birth which means that the a fair number of matches adoption matches fall apart.
[00:53:49] They disrupt after the baby is born because it’s one thing in theory to think that OK I’m going to place this child for adoption but once the pregnancy is over and you are staring at a baby it’s another thing entirely. So let’s talk a little about failed adoption matches and before we go let me before I open this up to Liz let me say that creating a family. We did a deep dive on two failed adoption matches we ran two surveys of our extensive community. Two years apart we interviewed adoption agencies and adoption attorneys as well as a number of families and we created a guide to this. And I I cannot recommend it enough it’s called the failed failed the name of the guide failed adoption matches. How common how costly and how they survive it is. You can find it on our Web site just by typing in failed adoption match’s it is free. I I strongly recommend that question but Liz a failed adoption match can certainly add to the cost of an adoption as well as both the financial cost and the emotional cost. I think it would be fair to say I don’t know if they are increasing. I think they’ve always been there but but people can certainly lose money because the expenses that you have paid as well as depending on the agency the attorney the money that you have spent to the agency that all that money might be lost that’s you.
[00:55:29] And it’s I’ve been through it. My heart goes out to anyone that has that that goes through this process. One caveat to all of this is a failed placement. Those expenses are are part of the tax credit or have been in the past. So you know just because the baby doesn’t come home or it doesn’t mean you can’t apply for the federal adoption tax credit you need to speak to a tax professional about that. But typically it’s not just successful adoptions that qualify for the tax credit. That is it.
[00:56:00] It’s very hard. I like to tell my friends my my clients and my colleagues that it’s been my experience that the least committed expectant moms can go to placement and the most committed expectant mom can choose to parent. So it’s very hard to gauge when that’s going to happen to someone and to the extent that it is. There are some flags. Usually you know you can sort of take a step back emotionally but you can’t take that step back financially once you’ve committed to the adoption plan and you’re helping support her whatever that means. You know you can’t guard your heart but you can’t guard your pocketbook because you’ve made a commitment to help her and she could still choose to place the baby for adoption. So financially that there’s a big risk with that emotionally of course it’s devastating when it happens. I actually have discovered that it happens less frequently than I would have thought but it does certainly happen. And it’s and it’s awful and it does. But there’s just no way around it it can happen. It does happen. You need to be prepared that it might happen. And just having the back of your head that you can guard your heart but you can’t guard your pocketbook on this one and I don’t mean to be flip. I really don’t because I know there.
[00:57:16] No no you aren’t being flip you’re being real. Because that’s the truth. A question we get a lot is can the adoptive how young is our new newborn and how healthy. Whom do most adoptive parents have the baby placed in their arms in the typical domestic infant adoption in my practice it’s usually at or shortly after birth.
[00:57:45] It’s that adoptive parents are not present at delivery. They’ll be at the hospital after delivery and the baby will often be discharged to the adoptive parents or to an adoption professional who will then give the baby directly to the adoptive parents in the hospital lobby or at the car sometimes just a couple of weeks after birth. If there has been any legal complications and the baby goes into some form of transitional care while those legal issues are being resolved there will be a couple of weeks. But in my experience it’s at or near birth.
[00:58:17] And the expectant mom is the one who usually makes the decision not usually I think always as to whether or not she wants the adoptive family to be at the hospital or even in the delivery room. Those are choices that she makes and and some to say yes I would like the adoptive parent in the living room and others say no this is not my private time and I and I don’t want to do that. How much time. At this point it’s a birth mom because she’s already given birth. How much time does a mother have to change her mind after the after the birth after she has already said yes I’m going through with the adoption plan and signed on the dotted line.
[00:58:59] Well it’s a question of state law. And it’s very hard. It’s a very hard issue for many prospective adoptive parents to sort of wrap their brain around. Some states she can sign you know 40 birth birth mom at this point in time 48 hours after delivery and surrender or relinquishment documents whatever term you want to use for those papers by which she elects to terminate her parental rights are binding immediately other states she’s got 72 hours or even 30 days before she can sign them. It’s sort of it’s a two step process. How many hours after delivery have to have to occur if any before she can sign those papers.
[00:59:40] And then how many hours or days weeks after she signs those papers do they become irrevocable or or irrevocable depending on how you pronounce that word. In some states when she signs them they’re irrevocably in the other states. There are a couple of weeks before there are vocable or you have to go before a judge. So going into this is a prospective adoptive parent I think you need to have sort of an understanding that there may be a couple of days or even weeks before you know that that baby is that the birth mom can’t choose to parent after you’ve taken the baby home. That’s a legal risk window. Don do you know that term. Yes. It’s yeah it’s a period of time after which your birth mother has signed her relinquishment or surrender papers before which the adoption is or her parental rights are effectively terminated in which there’s a legal risk to placing the baby with the adoptive parents.
[01:00:32] That’s why I mentioned transitional care earlier and it depends on state law. Some states have no revocation period for what she signs the surrender papers their surrender papers are final and she is not allowed to change her mind. But other states have different varying none of them go to extensive but this is a question to be asked of your adoption professional and it’s one that’s fair to ask at the very beginning because it depends on the state where the baby is born and if you if the baby is born they that has a large revocation period. It’s within your rights to say I don’t want to be matched with. I don’t think I could live through that. I don’t want to be matched.
[01:01:16] So that’s something that that the choice that the adoptive family can just leave and brief we can put on do we have a second to expand briefly. OK. Within a state there actually can be two different standards apply to that revocation period based on whether you’re working with an attorney or an agency in New York for example a birth mother can sign her or her extra judicial consent to the termination of her parental rights at any time after birth. If she’s working or if the adoptive parents are working with an attorney it’s 45 days before that those parental rights are irrevocably with an agency it’s 30 days. This standard also for what happens if a birth mother chooses to parent during those 30 or 45 days is different in New York than it might be in another state. Where should the birth mother choose to parent within that time period the baby automatically goes back to the birth mom and there’s virtually nothing that prospective adoptive parents can do. Whereas in other states it becomes the best interest analysis or best interest and or should the adoptive parents want to try and and contest the birth mom decision. So this is a really complicated question and one that it’s imperative for prospective adoptive parents to sit down with their adoption professional and understand what all the nuances are in the various states in which they are considering an adoption plan.
[01:02:37] So OK then that begs the question When is the adoption final. Is there a period of time that the birth parents cannot change their mind that baby is yours forever.
[01:02:50] Yes. Once one of those kids and papers are irrevocably so say let’s talk about New York law. Forty five days you were working with an attorney. It’s 45 days after she signed them. She that’s she’s done her parental rights are terminated without notice to her. But they adoptions still won’t be finalized for another six months or more. There is a petition for adoption that needs to be filed with the state court. The family court and you have to wait for a hearing. There’s a post placement home study that has to be conducted at least one and then the adoption is finalized. And at that point in time where you’ll get the birth certificate with your names as the prospective adoptive or adoptive parents on it and the birth parents names will be taken off. So that is just about Hosier adoption is yet usually six to nine months depends on the state. But just because her parental rights have been terminated and that baby is legally yours you still have that sort of waiting period to get the birth certificate that for the hearing to finalize the hearing to finalize is just sort of pro forma. It’s a legal step in the process. What’s really critical is the period of time at which parental rights are terminated.
[01:04:01] And what happens if the expectant mom or birth mom it’s after the fact is not able or willing to identify the birth father. So let’s say she doesn’t know who the birth father is. So how do you get both parents have the right both the mom and dad have the right to contest and say No I don’t I don’t agree to an adoption. So what do you what do you do if you don’t know who the birth father is.
[01:04:27] Most states have procedures by which you attempt to notify an unknown birth father through notice and publication. So if let’s say are prospective birth fathers but Shida or expectant fathers but she doesn’t know which one it is you might serve all of them with notice of the pending adoption if she truly has no idea who it is. Most states require that you publish a notice in the newspaper describing some of the circumstances surrounding the adoption so that a putative father is what they’re called can step forward. There’s also something called a putative father registry which you have to you have to notify the putative father registry of the of the pending adoption and an expectant father who thinks there may be an adoption plan in process has to catch up with the putative father registries and there’s usually a letter that issued by the putative father registry that you know 30 days have transpired or gone by and no putative father has stepped forward.
[01:05:25] But again this is a question to ask your adoption professional and you will you will be notified you will understand that this is a risk because once you’re matched you will know whether or not the father has consented to is also on board with the idea of adoption. So you know then that that’s a risk that you’re taking. If there is another identified birth father right now and identified birth father Don.
[01:05:49] Just one quick question of birth fathers or expectant dads can usually terminate their parental rights pre birth date. So it’s a huge distinction. I don’t know whether it’s really fair in the greater context doesn’t it adoption professional to allow one expectant parents to terminate their parental rights earlier than another. But in most states it’s legal for the expectant father to terminate his parental rights pre birth when the birth mother can’t do it until after the baby’s born.
[01:06:15] That’s a good. I’m glad you made that distinction. Good point. All right. Now to the pardon the pun. 64 million dollar question and that is how much does it cost to adopt a baby in the United States. I’m going to rattle off some numbers and then we could talk about. The myths. I’m going to give you a range. But somehow the range for adopting a baby via an adoption agency can be anywhere from like thirty eight to forty five thousand dollars. The average for adopting from an attorney is a little less it’s anywhere from you know probably 25 to 30 5000. As far as how long people wait about 64 percent somewhere. Now I’m not going to give exact let’s just say around in between 60 and 70 percent of people who are trying to adopt a baby are matched within the first year. And then you know between upwards of 85 percent are matched within two years. So that just gives you a feel that’s a range of course. So the last thing I want us to talk about though is what are the factors that influence how much you pay and how long you wait. I think that let me just simplify it because for how much you pay some of the big ones are what you’re expected to be paying and a lot of that is what time you were in the pregnancy or match and birth mom or expectant mom expenses. Anything else that significant changes.
[01:07:58] Oh and whether or not you’re in state or out of state because you will generally have travel certain will have travel to go pick up the baby and then you have living expenses while you wait for the interstate compact CPC to be completed. So there’s that. So depending on where the baby is will also increase. Anything else you could think of.
[01:08:16] Before we talk about the factors that influence how long you wait anything that significantly affects affects cost that I’ve missed I think choosing an agency sometimes helps establish the cost parameters because many agencies have sort of a flat fee and you pay X amount and then you don’t need to worry about birth mother expenses or excuse me expectant mother expenses. So if you’re really tight on money or really only have a set amount to spend sometimes in agency adoption give you a greater degree of assurance that you’re not going to go over a certain certain budget. You need to talk to the agency to make sure that that’s correct and there aren’t any hidden expenses that come after the fact. I’ve got attorneys bell or something like that. But working privately with an attorney may give you the option of having a slightly less expensive adoption at the end of the day with a private adoption. You never know what your expenses will be because you don’t know what your situation is going to be or how many situations you have to work through before you actually take home a baby. So I think that the only the only caveat that I would add to what you are saying is sometimes agencies give you a more finite sense of what your budget could be. Stand working with an attorney but their attorney may be able to help you bring in a lower ultimate cost. Dan working with an agency but there are always you know there are always exceptions to both situations. OK
[01:09:43] actually that’s a great summary. Now we’ve talked about how long most families have to wait. The average being for a match the average being somewhere between 60 to 70 percent are matched within the first year. And somewhere into the mid 80s four families are met within two years. What influences how long families generally have to wait.
[01:10:11] The openness and flexibility that we discussed earlier are that are what effects how long you have to wait. Or you might wait I tell clients if you want a blonde haired blue eyed baby boy from Oklahoma that’s fine. We’ll work on getting a blonde hair blue eyed baby boy from Oklahoma. You’re going to wait because there aren’t a whole lot of blond hair blue eyed baby boys that we know of before they’re born. You know we can’t guarantee whether baby’s going to be born with blond hair blue eyes. And in Oklahoma. So it’s going to be a wait to find something that specific. Whereas if you’re open to you know multigrain or you know a different state gender it’ll it’ll be a faster process because there are more situations out there that you can consider and then to open it open adoption that we discussed also will be a big factor in how long you wait depending on you know what a particular expectant parent needs in an adoption plan a more flexible or open you are on that point the more situations you can be considered for for you both.
[01:11:15] Thank you so much Elizabeth. Flyer Focker for being with us today to talk about this topic of domestic infant adoption how to adopt a baby in the United States. Let me remind everybody that the information we gave today is General and to have understand how it applies to your specific situation you need to talk with your adoption professional and let me remind everybody that this show would not exist without the generous support of our partners who believe in our mission of providing unbiased accurate information to pre and post adoption adoptive families. Two of our great partners are Vista Del Mar they are a licensed accredited non-profit adoption agency with over 65 years of experience helping to create families and they have three adoption programs for private infant program which is what we’ve been talking about today. They have an international program and they also have an adoption through foster care program and we also have adoptions from the heart. They have helped build over 6000 families since 1985 through domestic infant adoption. They work with people all across the United States and they are licensed in New Jersey New York Delaware Virginia and Connecticut. For those of you who want more information about Liz. She goes by the book lawyer. So her Web site is easy for you to remember it’s Storck lawyer dot com. It’s both easy to remember and quite cute. So if you want more information about lose you can get it at Storck lawyer dot com. Thank you so much for listening and being with us today. And I will see you next week.