Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Paying Expenses in a Potential Adoption Situation

Recently, I've seen paying expenses being questioned and discussed on several adoption Facebook groups.   Here's how we feel (and why):

We do not pay expenses.

(When I say expenses, I mean rent,  utility bills, car payments, cell phone bills, clothing, etc.)

First, paying expenses, no matter how you want to phrase it, is putting a "tit for tat" expectation on the situation.  "Tit for tat" is also known as "baby for money."  To me, paying expenses is baby-buying.   Or the expectation that when the prospective parents pay expenses, the end-result will be the placement of a baby.    Paying expenses isn't and cannot possibly be solely done by the prospective parents out of the kindness of their hearts/out of compassion for the mom, because there is still the "tat" (the baby) that the couple hopes to adopt.

Second, paying expenses, no matter how ethical the prospective parents are, puts pressure on the expectant mother to place her baby.   The mom may feel guilty or obligated, so she places even when she doesn't really want to or has doubts that the couple she's matched with are the right parents for her child.  

Third, paying expenses is incredibly financially risky, and in my opinion, financially irresponsible.  I have known several families who pay thousands of dollars in expenses, all non-refundable, of course, and do not end up with a placement.  Of course, the baby's mother has EVERY right not to place her child for any reason.   There are situations where the mother never intended to place or chooses to place in order to temporarily have her expenses paid.  There are also situations where the mother is genuinely intending to place.   No matter what, prospective parents take on a great financial risk by agreeing to pay expenses.  I've known couples who have lost every drop of their life savings to paying expenses.  

Okay, so you have all these issues with paying expenses, but what am I supposed to do?  Seems like every agency and attorney demands that we consider paying expenses.  This is what adoptive parents need to do these days, they proclaim.  

First, find an adoption agency, if you can, that doesn't require you to pay any expenses.  (this is what we did.)  If you deem them an ethical agency, utilize them!   This agency likely hooks expectant moms up with free resources (public housing, for example, and food stamps).   I do understand that public aid is not easy (or quick) to get.   In this case, continue to my next point...

Second, use an agency that has a pooled fund for expectant parent expenses.   Some agencies require all their waiting families to contribute a certain dollar amount to a fund used for ANY expectant parents who need it (not specific expectant parents).    But of course, make sure this is an amount you can afford and are comfortable with.  A few thousand dollars is acceptable and normal.  

Third, wait with an ethical agency/attorney, but make it clear you won't pay expenses, or if you can pay some expenses, which ones you are comfortable paying and up to what dollar amount.   This may very well mean you will wait longer, but in my opinion, a good agency or attorney won't lure in expectant mothers (to make an adoption plan) but offering to pay expenses (ahem, return to my very first point on "tit for tat").

Fourth, always act ethically, no matter what.   Make it clear to a mom you are matched with that in no way to you demand that she place her baby with you.  You are here to love and support her NO MATTER WHAT SHE DECIDES.   Pray for the mom and her circumstances.  Pray for her unborn baby.  Pray for the baby's father.  Pray that this mom has the courage to do what is best in her situation for her child.   I will not, nor will I ever, pray a mother gives her baby to me.  If and until she places, it is HER baby, HER decision, and HER right to do as she chooses.  

Overall, my feelings are this:  We are talking about human beings.  The choices we make have forever-consequences (good or bad) and outcomes.  We cannot reduce a child to a dollar amount, we shouldn't "buy" the allegiance of an expectant mother, and we certainly shouldn't use our finances to manipulate others.  Because no matter where your heart is, if you are waiting to adopt, to some degree, you are hoping for the end result of your journey to be the placement of a child.   By not paying expenses, or by greatly limiting how you pay expenses, you are choosing to truly put expectant moms and unborn babies above your own desires to become a mom or dad.

That's love.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Does Ariel Have a Mother?: Adoption Talk Link-Up

This past Sunday, I was tackling a to-do list, including prepping meals for the week, putting dishes away, and cutting coupons for my upcoming grocery store run.   As I was attempting to accomplish my tasks, my daughters plopped down in their bar stools, my oldest piping up, "Mom, does Ariel have a mother?"

The girls had been watching a childhood favorite of mine, The Little Mermaid.  And to them, it made no sense.  Why would Ariel and her many sisters have a present father but no mother?

Questions about family dynamics comes up a lot in our home.

I think part of this is positive.  We are very open in our home about all topics, not just adoption.  If our kids have a question, we answer it.   And we don't just sit around and wait for them to ask questions.  If we feel they are interested in a topic or might be wondering about something, we prompt them to ask away.   We feel the environment of openness is critical to their identity, our relationship with them, and the demonstration that there is no shame in asking questions, of wondering, of considering, of FEELING.

But part of the question asking, I believe, comes from the constant interrogations from the public about the authenticity of our family.   I know, I know.  I've heard it all.  People are "just curious" and "mean no harm."  (Ahem---the road to hell is paved with good intentions...)  But to me, no matter their intent, what matters to me is what actually comes out of their mouths and the ways in which people demand to know how REAL, how authentic, our family is.   It's disgusting to demand answers from young children.  It's disturbing when adults use their size, their authority, their age to bully children.

My children are constantly subjected to the doubts, insecurities, evaluations, and uncertainties of others.   And there isn't a lot we can do about it, considering our adoption "status" is apparent, the kids' brown skin contrasting our pink skin.    But what I hope is that with the ways we respond to others, with education and grace (and sometimes with a "that's none of your business"), that my children know they can be proud and confident by not giving parts of themselves away to those who haven't earned the trust to hold those things.

When my girls asked me about Ariel's mother, I reminded them that all children have a mother and a father, somewhere, but sometimes the children don't live with their mothers or fathers, or sometimes the mother or father dies.  I don't know where Ariel's mother is now, but she certainly has a mother.

My girls' question surrounded me with conflicting thoughts:

Losing a mother isn't easy.  And gaining a new mother doesn't eradicate the loss of the first mother.

Adoption is complicated.

Family is everything.

Motherhood is a blessing, a privileged, one of life's greatest honors and gifts.

Love doesn't conquer all, but love certainly is the foundation of greatness, of peace, and of possibility.

I know my kids will have a lifetime of questions, some of them surrounding birth, adoption, race, and parenthood.  My responses will always be full of empathy, education, and empowerment.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Mother's Day Week

Hi, Sugars!

I'm so glad your here.  I know this week can be very difficult for many.   You might be approaching Sunday with sadness, or with anxiety, or with gratitude, or with reflection.   Or, if you are like me, you are dealing with a myriad of colliding emotions.

I wanted to share a few things with you to hopefully inspire you and bring you hope.

For me, Mother's Day is a day of both celebration and sadness.  First, my kids' first mothers are always on my mind, but they are even more so in my heart-space on the kids' birthdays and on Mother's Day.  Check out my recent Huff-Post article called To the Women Who Birthed My Children.

I am ever-mindful that my motherhood came at a tremendous cost to three other women.  In the adoption community, birth/first/natural/biological mothers are often deemed selfless, heroic, and sacrificial.   I'm not really comfortable with these terms, because I feel like none of them envelop the magnitude of the loss, the giving, and the journey of adoption.  

These two quotes, in particular, sum up my thoughts on my kids' first mothers and Mother's Day:

Motherhood is my life's greatest joy and honor, but it is also bittersweet.

Because I'm very familiar with the tumultuous, challenging, and surprising journey adoption is, my friend Madeleine (mom by adoption and adoptee) and I decided that it was time for a book specifically for parents by adoption and parents-to-be (by adoption).   Our book is full of HEART messages.   We wrote the book we wished we would have had when we started our own journeys to our babies.   We pray that as our readers pour over our word, they are, well, as the title shares, encouraged.

However you choose to spend Mother's Day and no matter where you are in your journey, I pray that you are able to find peace, joy, and hope.

I'm cheering for you.