Adoption Tip #1-Don't Feed the Seagulls...
My goal is to encourage you on this journey. I want to empower you to launch an adoption that is set-up for success. Most of what I write in my blog and in the pages of Tandem is about moving toward your child. But in this blog I am going to share what to avoid in the adoption process. Knowing who your friends are and are NOT in adoption is key to your success.
For four generations, our family has packed up the red wagon and beach dollies, loaded onto a barge (now a jet-powered catamaran) with 200 other beachgoers, and traveled 26 miles from the California coast to Catalina Island for a week of sun-soaked fun. The small port and quaint city of Avalon has few cars, and you can walk from one side of town to the other in less than 15 minutes. A waterfront, tiled pedestrian walkway is punctuated by fountains, an ice cream shop, boutiques and an old-fashioned taffy pull (with which I remain completely intrigued). I remember being a kid and playing Skeeball at the arcade, snorkeling in crystal-clear water with bright orange Garibaldi fish dancing in front of my facemask, and eating Grandma’s tuna fish sandwiches on the beach. Every year, it brings me great joy to take my children to this special island.
It was at Antonio’s Pizzeria, where peanuts carpet the ground and red and white checked plastic table clothes drape the outside tables, that I shared with my son a tenant of beach living. Seagulls are NOT our friends. Five-year-old Alex was about to share his pizza crust with the bold, white chested seafowl, when I sharply told him to cease and desist such blatant rule breaking. See, I had learned my lesson in 6th grade. The end-of-the year field trip was to explore the tide pools. My mom carefully packed a lunch in the brown paper bag, labeled it with my name, and Saran-Wrapped by PB & J. When we arrived at the tide-pools, I dropped my bag into the sand, next to my towel and sunscreen and headed into the tide pools where I sought slimy sea cucumbers and dainty brittle stars. When I returned, my grumbling stomach turned angry when all that was left of my lunch was a half eaten apple slice and shreds of brown paper. A seagull perched up on the rock above, and I thought I heard him laughing or echoes the scene in Nemo, “mine, mine, mine, mine.” I yelled at him, "you are NOT my friend." My dislike for seagulls grew as I grew. In high school our lunch area was an outside quad. The seagulls had been conditioned to know that when the bell rang, it was time to swoop in on the leftovers. I watched my clock carefully, and 1 minute prior to the bell, I flung the hoodie of my sweatshirt upon my head and ran for the halls. Even my best attempts at avoiding getting pooped on was insufficient. Many times I spent the first part of fourth period wiping off seagull dung with wet paper towels in the girls bathroom.
They are NOT Friends...
Just as with Alex, let me clarify how to identify who is NOT your friend in the world of adoption. These are cautionary recommendations to consider when selecting with whom to partner or to whom you pay money.
- An adoption facilitator. A facilitator is someone who matches birth parents with adoptive parents. Here is what they are NOT…a facilitator is NOT a licensed agency and is NOT a consultant and is NOT an attorney. The reason why facilitators can be enemy #1 in your adoption is because there are many states in which it is illegal-YES-illegal to adopt with the help of a facilitator. In fact over 40 of the U.S. states have laws that regulate or effect the use of facilitators. For example, I live in the state of Arizona where it is illegal to use a facilitator. Inevitably, adoption attorneys encounter couples having already hired a facilitator (thinking they were an agency or just not knowing the adoption laws in their state) and are already matched with a birth mom (& have paid fees to the facilitator). That couple then takes an enormous risk in the finalization proceeding, hoping that the judge doesn’t call them out on the illegal practices and thus threaten their adoption. The best practice to avoid such a threat to your adoption is to: know who you are paying and understand the laws in your state. Ask the question, “Are you a licensed agency through the state in which we will finalize?” Then do your research! Check out this article for more on the legalities of facilitators: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/advertising.pdf
- Agencies that require placement fees up front. Placement fees are the big ticket fee that adoption agencies charge. Recently a popular adoption agency, Independent Adoption Center, went bankrupt and many families lost $10,000-$20,000 dollars. While most agencies will charge a small application fee, look for agencies that do not require the bulk of fee payment until after you have legal placement! This provides a safety net for you to avoid financial loss if the agency goes belly-up or a birth mom has a change of mind.
- People or companies who provide services that you do not need or are excessively priced. For example, there are all kinds of profiling services with tiered pricing levels, ultra-snazzy personalized profile books to show birth moms, video services etc. All are good, but not all are necessary or effective. This was made crystal clear when I had a conversation with a AAAA attorney who shared that a .pdf profile was much more efficient than a gorgeous full color profile photo album. She explained that the key is to have information readily available that can be quickly emailed to a prospective birth mother! I’m not saying glossy photo albums are not ever helpful (I am a past Creative Memories junkie myself), but you are looking for what is most effective. Join a few Facebook support groups, ask questions, get your hands on adoption related books! Know what you need and don’t pay for what you don’t.
- People and companies who are outright scammers. In January 2017 a new, and widely publicized app called Adoptly made a debut on the adoption scene. Created off the model of online dating apps like Tinder, it was a swipe and select type of app geared toward matching prospective adoptive parents with their child. It turned out to be a hoax. Take a cautious when you hear the words “new & innovative” associated with “adoption.” Check around with other adoptive parents; ask professionals (i.e. licensed adoption professionals or AAAA lawyers) before you sink money into the latest and greatest. It might be that the tried and true approach is more effective.
Adoption Tip #2-These are your Friends...
Let’s flip this on its head now. Who ARE your friends?
- Those of us who are walking through or have traveled the adoption path. The level of support and encouragement from fellow adoptive parents always blows me away. The pay-it-forward mentality is pervasive in the adoption community.
- Those social workers who are willing to go the extra mile and tie up loose ends so that are no hiccups in your adoption paperwork.
- Those adoption professionals, who are working 24/7 to ensure your adoption is a success.
- Those AAAA attorneys, who meticulously advise, ultimately stand up in court for you, and are the first ones to shake your hand when all is said and done.
It is said in Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” We are wise to be critical of lofty promises in adoption. There will be times that you just want this to happen, like NOW. And you are wiling to sign on any dotted line to get the ball rolling. In that haste, though, you open yourself up to having your lunch eaten and hoodie pooped on.
Instead, surround yourself with those who have gone before, ask questions-lots of them-from those who are true professionals in the field. “Whoever walks with the wise, becomes wise,” Proverbs 13:20. Adoption is a faith journey that is full of the Lord’s joy and hope! Move forward, friend, with knowledge and wisdom.
And whatever you do-don’t feed the Seagulls!
Scripture for the Road
Let no one deceive you with empty words.
Whoever walks with the wise, becomes wise.
-Alison England, LMSW Author of Best-Selling Book in Adoption-Tandem: A Devotional for Adopting with God in the Lead
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