adoption

Keep Calm and…

Ever since the London Olympics this summer, the “Keep Calm” posters (based upon a WWII-era propaganda poster) have been all the rage.

With a pretty simple template, everybody and their mother has their own version of the meme.  Frankly, I think the majority of them are rather stupid, but to each their own.

But as a parent who has adopted twice, this one really hits the nail on the head.

Yep. That pretty much describes the adoption process (image via: wondermentetc.com)

I’m re-posting* this from wondermentetc.com, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite adoption reads.  The author adopted a beautiful little guy from Africa and her perspective and empathy for all sides of the adoption triad (birth mother, child, adoptive family) is a standard I aspire to achieve.  Highly recommended.

*”Re-posting” being a fancy blogging term for “stealing your work, but with a citation.”

This poster really speaks to me.  Adoption can be a long, stressful, process where the only certainty is uncertainty (along with more paperwork).

For us, many of the forms we filled out felt like rude inconveniences designed to constantly remind us that the only way infertile folks like us could start a family was by jumping through a bunch of ridiculous hoops (immunization records for the cat?  Really?) and proving things (physical and mental health, job stability, financial well-being, lack of criminal record, that we were legally married, etc.) that people like OctoMom and Honey Boo-Boo’s mom never had to worry about.

Throughout the mountains of paperwork we completed, we tried to remind ourselves that the stacks of papers were a necessary evil, as the primary concern of everybody involved – us, the birth family, the adoption agency, and the numerous governmental agencies – was to ensure the child is safe, secure, and gets the best parent(s) possible.

But it sure would have been nice to reference this poster while we were going through the process.

Save the Adoption Tax Credit

Adoption can be expensive.  Very, very expensive.  I know – my wife and I have adopted two beautiful children.  While they are the two best things to ever happen to us, the agency fees, travel, and other miscellaneous costs added up to the price of a nice new car – both times.

One of the saving graces has been the adoption tax credit:  a once-per-child credit on your federal income tax to help defray some of the costs.  In 2012, the amount is $12,650, down slightly from $13,360 in 2011.  Despite the hurdles and inconveniences* of the tax credit, it is very accurate to say the credit is something that allows more families to adopt.

*For anybody opposed to this credit, it’s not like the IRS is handing out sacks of money to anybody who says they adopt.  If you try to claim this credit, you can almost guarantee yourself a “correspondence audit” from the IRS, complete with requests for all sorts of documentation.  And let’s not forget that while the tax credit is great, it still comes months AFTER the check to agency is written, the credit card bill for the two weeks travel to another state/country comes in, and all of the other expenses have been paid.

But now, the adoption tax credit is in serious jeopardy of ending – or being drastically reduced in amount and qualification requirements.  The credit amount would be slashed over 50% down to $6,000.

Equally concerning is the credit would only go to families who domestically adopted children with “special needs”.  What is “special needs”?  Well, that depends on the state and the adoption agency.  I have heard of some agencies who have classified perfectly healthy minority children as “special needs”.  I don’t know if that is to help parents qualify for the tax credit or if it is for a different reason, but it is concerning to see healthy kids labeled as special needs.

If anything, Congress should be working to make adoption MORE affordable, instead of making it more expensive.  Fortunately, Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa has introduced House Resolution 4373 – The Making Adoption Affordable Act of 2012.  This act would amend the Internal Revenue code to permanently include tax benefits for adoption, and avoid having to repeat the renewal process every few years.

I’d like to think that a bill that supports adoption, families, and can easily be considered “pro-life” would be able to get enough votes to pass.  But, given the zealousness by some congressmen to oppose anything that costs money (even something as (relatively) small as $1.2 billion per year claimed on the adoption tax credit) as well as the overall partisan nature of Congress, this bill will likely need some serious help.

This is where you come in.

I ask you to call, write, and/or email your Congressional representative* and ask him or her to support H.R. 4373 – Making Adoption Affordable Act of 2012.  That’s it.  Take three minutes out of your day to send a quick email to your Representative, letting them know that you think adoption is important and should be supported.

*If you don’t know who your representative is, you can go to www.house.gov and enter your ZIP Code in the upper right hand corner.  Click the link to find their office phone number, address, and/or email address.

To make this as easy a possible, feel free to copy and paste the letter below

Thank you!

 

 ————————————————————————————————————————-

Dear Representative,

I am writing to request your support for H.R. 4373 – Making Adoption Affordable Act of 2012.  Adoption is a wonderful way to create and enrich families.  It is also very expensive.  Adopting a U.S. born infant through an adoption agency can cost upwards of $25,000.  International adoptions are even more expensive.  Even with adoption through the foster care system, expenses are incurred which can make adoption prohibitive for families, causing needing children to go without a permanent home.

The current adoption tax credit ($12,650 in 2012) helps families to offset adoption-related expenses, and has been a tremendous benefit for the adoption community.  Unfortunately, the credit is set to expire at the end of 2012, and the future of this necessary credit is in jeopardy.  By amending the Internal Revenue code, we can ensure the high cost of adoption is not a deterrent for future adoptive families.

I urge you to support children and families graced by adoption with your support for H.R. 4373.

Respectfully,

Baby Lessons

With a newborn in the house, I have been learning a lot over the two plus weeks we’ve been together.  For example, I learned three new lessons tonight:

  1. The boy is three times more likely to spit up on me if I am wearing a black shirt.
  2. If the boy spat up on a black canvas, we could sell the resulting modern art for thousands of dollars (assuming there was a way to mask the smell).
  3. It is really tough to get the smell of spit up out of your goatee.

Failure, via Facebook

We were matched for our second domestic adoption in early September of 2011.  The situation was a little strange from the get-go:  The birth mom had three other children, one had been placed, and the baby is a full biological sibling of the two kids she is parenting.  One of the siblings, a little girl, turned 1 just two weeks before the due date.  The birth mom is single and the birth father is not in the picture – or at least financially.  She works, but was concerned that her job would not be enough to support her family.  She felt adoption was the right choice for her, her family, and her baby.

The birth mom picked us without meeting us, talking to us, or even viewing our profile.  Our agency told us that she wanted a closed adoption (not our preference), and did not want to get attached.  I think that is one of the reasons we were picked.  We live in Nebraska.  The birth mom (and our agency) is in Florida.

As part of the adoption, we agreed to pay living expenses until the baby was born (Florida law allows this).  While we weren’t super excited about paying somebody’s rent and phone bill, we knew that keeping baby (and birth mom) safe and properly nourished was a good thing.  My wife (the financial planner) completely revised our family budget to make the numbers work, so we could mail a check to the agency.

During the first few months of the match, not much changed.  We updated our homestudy, tackled another stack of papers, and kept in contact with our agency.  Unfortunately, we were not all that impressed with the case worker we were paired with.  She wasn’t very good about getting us complete information, or following up with our questions.  Often she was be short and somewhat snippy in her responses to us.  We often felt in the dark and wondered what information was out there that we didn’t know.

We knew the birth mom had “no desire” to meet or even see us in the hospital, but we wanted to be present and ready for placement as soon as possible.  Plus, our daughter has birth family in Florida that we wanted to visit.  We purchased some “cheap” flights (as cheap as it can be to fly out of Nebraska) to arrive in Florida between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  We would spend a few days with our daughter’s birth family and then meet our new little girl before waiting for the necessary paperwork to leave Florida and reenter Nebraska.

Around the end of November / early December, there started to be some mixed messages about the birth mom’s due date and the date of the planned C-section.  Originally, we were told she was due between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Later, we were told that a C-section was scheduled for January 6.  We asked our new case worker to contact the birth mom and her doctor to get the correct information so we could potentially adjust our travel arrangements.

In early December, we asked to work with a different case worker, which was a wise decision – if only for the sake of my wife’s sanity.  My wife and I called our new case worker two weeks ago and reviewed all of the information.  The case worker had talked to the birth mom and yes, she was “very firm” in her decision to place, and had said she “knows this is the right thing to do”.  The birth mom still did not want to meet or see us.  We told our case worker that we understood that, but we hoped to give the birth mom a small gift (a necklace).  A week later (last Friday), our case worker called with an update:  the C-section was scheduled for January 6, and the birth mom was now open to meeting us in the hospital at or before placement.

The last few weeks have been crazy and stressful for us.  Aside from the normal stresses of the holidays, jobs, and raising a very assertive 3-year-old, we were also preparing to be parents of a newborn for the first time (our daughter came to us at almost 7 months), and trying to get ready to travel to Florida.  I’m sure other adoptive parents can relate.

As a result of the stress my wife has not been sleeping very well.  She’ll wake up in the night (because of our daughter, me snoring, or something else) and will not be able to get back to sleep due to all of the thoughts swirling in her head.  Last night was one of those nights for her.

So she grabbed the laptop.  One of the things she did was a Facebook search for name of our birth mom.  I’m not really sure why she did that – I had done the same thing in November and she had everything blocked.  But this time, she had opened up her Wall.  So my wife started reading.  And reading.  And reading.

This morning, I woke up to my wife saying “We’re not going to get our baby.”  Trust me, that is not a good way to start your day.

My wife handed me the laptop and told me to scroll up.  I started reading the Facebook statuses posted by our birth mom.  She was getting excited for the baby to come.  She posted that she had picked out a name for the baby – (one that was not nearly as cute as the name we had chosen).  She was organizing a closet for the baby and said “walmart here I come”.  Visions of the living expenses we had been paying for months flashed in my head.

She was counting down to her due date – December 23, NOT January 6.  Yesterday she was sending her kids to her mom’s while she’s in the hospital.  Another update from last night:  “due date tomorrow”.

Shock.  Disbelief.  Sadness.  Anger.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

We called our agency and our case worker and fired off an SOS email.  When our case worker called back, she said she was sincerely blown away and “never saw it coming”.  She had been sure the birth mom was a good person and had no indication was so ever that she had decided to parent.  We talked more, but frankly, I don’t remember too much of the call.  I think we’re going into a pool for “stork calls”, and we may be placed soon with a different birth mom, but she wasn’t sure.

The day has pretty much been a fog.  We’ve started the unpleasant process of telling family, friends, and co-workers about our failed match.  My mother-in-law bawled, one of our good friends is pissed.  We have two Christmases with family this weekend and we’re afraid that both are going to be dominated with adoption talk.  It feels like we’re starting over.  Again.

I don’t know what to think.  Even though I never saw anything more than an ultrasound picture sent over a fax – which looked like a black rectangle – that rectangle was my baby girl, my [special_name_we_had_picked_out_that_I’m_not_ready_to_share_yet].  I had seriously thought about posting that black rectangle on Facebook as the first picture of my new daughter.  I’m not sure if I can give her name to another child.

I’m mad and I’m disappointed.  I wonder when (and how) we would have found out if my wife had slept soundly through the night.  Would we have gotten a heartbreaking call from our agency tonight?  Tomorrow?  On Christmas?  Or would we have flown down to Florida in two weeks expecting to introduce our daughter to her “baby stister” only to find an empty hospital bed?

I worry about the little baby girl.  If her mommy felt that she could not properly care for her and her siblings before, how are things going to be now – especially without the living expenses we’ve been paying?  Is the birth father back in the picture?  I got the impression that he’s not going to win any Father of the Year competitions.

I completely and totally respect the birth mom’s right to parent – and I will defend her ability to make that choice to the death – but I cannot shake the lone thought I focus on every time I’m filling out some 12 page form, providing some obscure piece of personal data for the homestudy, or getting my fingerprints taken to see if I am a sex offender – they do all of this because they want to make sure the baby is safe and taken care of.  But will she be?

I hate that people who know very little about adoption now have a crazy story like ours that they can tell (“Well, some people I know…”) which only taints that marvelous and magical thing that is adoption.  I love adoption.  My daughter is a miracle in every possible sense of the word, and without adoption (and a loving birth mom who for some unknown reason picked us) I would have never heard the beautiful noise that is her laughter.  Yeah, this situation is seriously f’d up.  But don’t judge adoption because….

I hate that I want to finish that last sentence with horrible, mean, and ugly words meant solely to hurt and demean a person who has hurt me.

I am trying to find the good in this ugly situation.

I am thankful that we found out the way we did – in the safety of our house.  I would be so angry if my wife would have had to take this phone call at work or while she was driving somewhere.

I am thankful we are not getting involved with this particular birth mom.  I love adoption, and I fully believe in open adoption whenever it is healthy and positive for the child.  From what we have learned, I’m not sure that would have been possible – even if she was interested in having an open relationship.  I truly believe that we will look back someday and think that we dodged a drama bullet – but that day is a ways off.

I am so amazingly thankful for our daughter.  I could go on for hours about all of the wonderful, amazing, cute, silly, and frustrating things she does.  I know that we are far from alone in having a failed match.  I also know that we are incredibly fortunate to have successfully adopted, and to have a true miracle for our daughter.  If she is all of the blessing we are meant to have, then we have been spoiled like none other.

I am thankful that my wife and I both truly believe that our first daughter was chosen especially for us, and we sincerely believe that we will be matched with the right child again.  I know that is cliché, hokey, and whatever else you want to call it, but I believe it.  And I know it can – and will – happen again.  But again, that day feels a long ways away right now.

I am thankful that we found out when we did.  My wife and I agreed that we’re going to focus our energies on our daughter to help make sure she enjoys Christmas.  There is so much joy and wonder in her little three-year-old body that it cannot help but lift us up.

Finally, I am thankful for our family and friends and especially the love, support, and prayer we are receiving from them.  I guarantee there will be times when this is the absolute last thing I want to think or talk about, but I appreciate that you care enough to ask.

*   *   *

Postscript:  As I was typing this, the birth mom posted a new status on Facebook:

“Im so happy and tired at the same time, in the recovery room watin to see baby again”

Welcome to the world, little girl.  I hope you have a good life.

Parental Concerns You Probably Don’t Have

Tonight, I was out doing some grocery shopping with my daughter Jamie.  As a three-year old, she’s chock full of energy and loves to have fun.  As we were taking the groceries to the car, Jamie was riding in the cart. 

Sometimes I’ll push the cart fast, which Jamie really loves.  She’ll say “run Daddy, run!”, giggle, laugh, and shriek.  Tonight, I pushed the cart fast, and she screamed with glee.  I love making her laugh, making her happy, and doing fun and silly things with her.  I know the days where I’m her favorite person in the whole wide world won’t last forever, so I try to take advantage of them.

So I loaded the groceries in the car, and took off pushing the cart down the row of the parking lot.  We got down to the bottom of the lot, and Jamie screeched with delight followed by a stream of laughter.  I pushed her back up to the top of the parking lot, down, and back up again.  It was fun for both of us, and is a memory that I will treasure. 

I told Jamie we were going to go one more time (every time we stopped, she’d say “do it again, Daddy!” – after she stopped shrieking and giggling).  I pushed her clear down to the end, and we put the cart away.  Jamie didn’t want to get out of the cart, so I grabbed her and put her over my shoulder and carried her back to the car – with her shrieking and laughing all the way.

Whenever Jamie was screaming with glee, there was one thought that was going through my head.  Frankly, I didn’t really care if Jamie was being too loud – we were outside in a parking lot, not in a church or a store.

No, the concern I had over Jamie’s screaming was this:  Jamie is adopted and looks nothing like me.  I’m average looking – pasty white with blue eyes and straight, brown hair.  She’s  beautiful – medium complexion, radiant eyes, and dark, super curly hair. 

My concern was that some well-meaning shopper would hear a little girl’s screams, not hear the joy in her voice, and assume that I was grabbing some kid out of a parking lot.  If that had happened, it would not have been too much of a hassle – I’ve got dozens of pictures of her on my cellphone, thousands more on this computer, and I know she’d call me Daddy to anybody who asked.

While it might not have been a hassle, it definitely would have pissed me off.  Not because somebody tried to do the right thing, but because this is a situation that wouldn’t likely happen if my daughter was biological or looked more like me.

And with plans to adopt a second daughter (who will likely have a darker complexion), the odds of this happening down the road only increase – which will be a small price to pay for two beautiful daughters.

Thought of the Day – 12/7/11

I just saw a commercial for the WWF*, encouraging me to donate to their fund to protect endangered wild tigers.

*World Wildlife Fund.  The professional rasslers are now known as the WWE.

For a donation of $8 a month, I can “symbolically adopt a tiger”.  I’m quite glad they included (and emphasized) “symbolically”.

I’d hate to think that FedEx is going to be dropping a wild tiger on my doorstep.  We have way too much cinnamon and not nearly enough pepper in the house to properly adopt a wild tiger.

I probably should talk it over with the wife first, but if any of you want to “symbolically” adopt one of our cats (who are descended from the wild tigers) we would gladly accept your $8 per month.

Benefits

A friend has informed me that my former employer, Nelnet (NYSE: NNI) will be adding adoption benefits starting in January 2012.  And not just benefits – EXCELLENT adoption benefits, ones that all companies should aspire to provide for their employees:

  • Financial assistance up to $7,000 per child to help cover adoption expenses including legal & court costs, agency fees, and travel expenses.
  • Five weeks of paid leave to allow proper bonding with the adopted child.

Wow.  Very, very impressive and well above what most companies do (and no, I’m not talking about the majority of companies who do absolutely nothing*).  These are some top-notch benefits and it would not surprise me at all to see Nelnet recognized as an Adoption Friendly Workplace by the Dave Thomas Foundation.

*And seriously, what is the deal with companies who do not offer adoption benefits??  Aside from the correcting the obvious wrong of adoptive parents not getting any of (or as much of) the time off granted to biological parents, adoption benefits are an ideal thing for a company to add to their benefits package.  Why?  They are: a) not used all that often, making them b) relatively cheap to offer, but c) the company can accurately say they are family friendly.

Why am I mentioning these benefits?  Aside from giving proper and public recognition to Nelnet, I am proud to have played a role in getting these benefits added.  At the last all-company meeting, I submitted a question for the CEO asking if adoption benefits could be added.  In my question, I included links to the Dave Thomas Foundation and a couple of other articles citing what I stated above:  adoption benefits are cheap for a company to add, and the goodwill received from employees and prospective employees cannot be beat.  It was truly that simple.  And while credit should go to Nelnet for listening to their employees, the message I would like to share is this:

It is very easy to ask your employer to add or increase their adoption benefits, but that simple act can have a dramatic impact on the lives of an adoptive family and especially the adopted child.

Even if you are not planning to adopt, push your employer to add adoption benefits.  The cost is small, but the reward is great.

%d bloggers like this: