Beyond the Adoption Triad: Being the Child of an Adoptee

In the adoption community, we hear so much about the adoption triad. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, the adoption triad refers to the connection between birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee. It is beautifully illustrated in this image from http://www.birthmotherministries.org

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In the mind of many, this may be the end all be all when speaking of the effects of adoption. However, I want to speak a little about what it’s like beyond the triad, as the child of an adoptee.

My father was adopted in 1952, during the “baby scoop era” when most adoptions were not the result of choice, but rather presented as the only option to young and/or single women who became pregnant. During this time, adoptions were almost exclusively closed adoptions. As a result, my father knew nothing about his birth parents or the circumstances surrounding his birth.

I learned my dad was adopted when I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I was so surprised by the announcement that I actually told him he was lying. He, of course, then had my grandmother tell me that he was in fact adopted. I might have told her she was lying too; I don’t recall. Looking back I can’t help but wonder what that must have felt like to her: this woman who couldn’t have children of her own and, along with my grandfather, had adopted three children and raised them well. But that’s a thought for another day.

Oddly enough, by the time I found out my dad was adopted I had already announced to my parents that I wanted to adopt and they shouldn’t expect biological grandchildren from me. I’m not fully aware of what led me to that decision when I was around 5 or 6 years old, but it’s interesting how things work out. As it would happen, I found out as an adult that it would be very difficult for me to ever get pregnant, and virtually impossible without medical intervention. Again, that’s a story for another day.

When I found out my dad was adopted, I remember almost instantly saying “you mean I have another set of grandparents?! They owe me a lot of Christmas and birthday gifts!” As I aged though, the childish and superficial feelings left and I came to feel the effects of being the child of an adoptee. I found myself consumed by the thought of what his birth parents might be like. Were they kind? Did he look like them? Did I look like them? Where were they now?

In many ways, I had the same thoughts an adoptee would have. I loved my dad’s parents. Truly, you could ask anyone who has ever known me and they would tell you that my grandparents had a bigger impact of my life than my parents in many ways. I had a closer relationship with either of them than I ever did with my own mother. I loved them, wholly and truly. But that love didn’t mean I wasn’t curious about this almost mythical set of grandparents I had out there… somewhere…

That curiosity has continued as I’ve gotten older. It wasn’t long into my adulthood that I came to the stark realization that I only knew half of my medical history. My sister and I brought up the idea of our dad looking up his birth records in hopes of finding any medical history that might exist (though sadly, given the era in which he was  adopted there was no guarantee he’d find out more than a first name for either parent if he did look up his records). He refused. His response was always that he got the two most perfect parents he could have ever had, so why would he want to look up the parents who didn’t want him. It’s especially sad to think about him making this statement and knowing that being adopted in 1952 meant that his mother may have never had the choice to raise him, so his adoption didn’t necessarily even mean he wasn’t wanted.

The realities of being the daughter of an adoptee really ripped me apart when my dad died. My sister and I loved each other but we were not especially close most of our lives. Yet, after our dad died, we were suddenly each other’s only link to him. She and my nephew were the only people I would ever have as a biological link to him. It didn’t matter that I knew all of my mom’s family. Suddenly the connection to my dad was merely a thread.

I haven’t completely let go of the possibility of looking up his birth records. Now that he’s deceased it’s actually much easier to do because his consent isn’t needed. I haven’t done it yet though. Maybe it’s fear of finding nothing. Maybe it’s fear of finding out names and then finding out they are already deceased too. But the questions still run through my head: Do I look like them? Do I have aunts and uncles out there? What about cousins? Would they want to know me?

I’m not part of the adoption triad (at least, not until we adopt), and that is important to note. But I am connected to it. Adoption is still a part of who I am.

Jennifer

FAQs about Our Adoption

We’ve gotten some of the same questions over and over since starting the adoption process, and I thought it would be helpful to answer them for anyone still wondering. So, here we go!

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Q: Are you adopting a boy or a girl?

A: We don’t know because we have said we are open to either. Additionally, we have expressed an interest in adopting twins… so we could end up with both!

Q: Do you know the race of the child you’ll be adopting?

A: We do not. We have no put any limitations on our adoption, meaning we are open to a child or children of any race or culture.

Q: Why did you choose domestic adoption versus international?

A: Honestly, at this point in our lives, it just made the most sense for us. While we are in a position to start a family, international adoption comes with many extra costs compared to domestic adoption. Also, Matt’s set amount of vacation time would make it nearly impossible to travel for an international adoption at this point in our lives. Finally, we really wanted to adopt a newborn and that is difficult if not impossible to do through international adoption.

Q: Do you know what state you’ll be adopting from?

A: No, but we do know we will not be adopting from New York or New Jersey (this is related to their adoption laws).

Q: How much will you be sharing once you are matched?

A: We do want to be open about our adoption process, and plan to share when we match. If we know the gender when we match, we will share that. However, we are painfully aware that “our” baby won’t be our baby until he or she is born and the mother has relinquished her rights. For that reason, and out of respect for the expectant mother who chooses us, we will not be having any kind of gender reveal party, announcing a baby name, or anything else similar until the baby is legally our child. We recognize that an expectant mother has every right to choose to parent at any point in the process, and that means there is always the chance of a failed match. A failed match, if it were to happen, does not mean we won’t adopt though. It would just mean our adoption process would be slowed down.

An Open Book to the Adoption Process

Adoption is an often mysterious process. For decades, it is has been more common for family’s to stay pretty quiet about the process all the way until the point they bring a baby home. In recent years, though, as being more open about our lives through social media has become common place, many hopeful adoptive families choose to share the whole process with their friends and family – both the ups and the downs, and everything leading up to bringing home a child.

When Matt and I began the adoption process, we knew there would be plenty of questions from our friends and family. In my case, my dad was adopted but there is no history of adoption on my mother’s side of the family. This means that naturally, much of my family only knows what others they may know who’ve adopted have chosen to share about their process. Matt’s family has a broader history with adoption but primarily international adoption, meaning we knew there would be questions regarding our process since we chose to pursue domestic adoption. The vast majority of our friends either do not yet have children, or have biological children. So part of embarking on this process included making a decision about how open we would be throughout it.

We decided quite quickly that we wanted to take an open book approach to the process. We wanted to share it all, beginning to end, regardless of what hurdles or bumps in the road we could potentially encounter. We made this decision partly because of other adoptive families who have done the same. It was the openness of those families that helped us better understand what we were getting into when the time came for us to begin our pursuit of adoption. We also chose this by considering how we would approach sharing a pregnancy. If we were able to have a child biologically, we knew we wouldn’t want to keep it to ourselves. We would want to tell everyone as soon as our pregnancy was confirmed, and we’d want to celebrate every minute of that process. Not because we were oblivious to the fact things could go wrong – we could miscarry, or find out there was something wrong with the child I was carrying that would impact his or her life forever – but because starting a family is worth celebrating!

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We have had people in our lives express concern about how eager we are about this process, and that it might be taking over our lives. To that we have consistently said, of course we are! And of course it is! If we were pregnant we wouldn’t hold back our excitement until we were going to the hospital to give birth. Likewise, in pursuing adoption we are not withholding excitement until we have a baby in our arms. Allow me to further explain why… we will be adopting a baby. It is how we have decided to grow our family. Is it possible we could match with an expectant mother, then she changes her mind and decides to parent her child instead of choosing adoption? YES! We are painfully aware of this possibility. We are also aware that the ideal situation for any baby is to be raised by their biological mother. Would there be grief on our end? Of course. Would it change the fact we are going to adopt a baby? Not for a second. Sure, it would slow down the process, but it wouldn’t at all change the fact we will grow our family through adoption. It is for this reason that we would rather share and celebrate every step of the process with our friends and family than to sit quietly in fear of all the “what if” scenarios.

So we will continue to choose joy, we will continue to choose hope, and we will continue to accept the possibilities that fear reminds us are there, but we will not let fear keep us quiet. Not for one second. We hope you will choose to celebrate with us too.

Jennifer

So, What’s a Home Study?

“So… what exactly is a home study?”

This is a question Matt and I have been getting A LOT since starting the process two weeks ago, and note that I used the word “process,” because that’s exactly what it is – a process. For people who’ve never been through it, there is a misconception that “home study” just refers to a social worker visiting your home. That’s part of it, yes, but it involves SO much more.

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The home study process takes an average of eight to twelve weeks to complete, and the actual home visit(s) don’t even come until the very end. Before the visits comes a mountain of paperwork. One must get multiple background checks from different agencies (you probably cannot fully grasp how disconnected our different systems are in America if you haven’t had to do this). You need a doctor to sign off that you are healthy, and while that might sound like the easiest part of the process, if you have any diagnoses – even mild anxiety – or take daily meds for even the slightest condition, you need your doctor to attest that none of that will affect your ability to parent. And then there’s the family history. You have to talk about the kind of childhood you had, your relationship with each parent, state the personal history of every full, half, or step-sibling – regardless of whether they are a part of your life – and more. There’s also the hand-full of references from both family members and friends, residential histories, and pre-selecting guardians for your future child or children.

This part of the process can cause a great deal of stress and worry for any prospective parent, but for couples entering the adoption process after suffering infertility or pregnancy loss it can bring up a lot of bitterness as well. I don’t think it is lost on anyone – prospective adoptive parent or the friend who plans to remain childless – that those who can have biological children will likely never undergo the kind of scrutiny that comes with the home study process.

Once the paperwork is complete, a social worker will schedule one or two visits (depending on agency and the state in which the couple is adopting) to the home. During these visits they will interview the prospective parents based on all that paperwork they submitted. There will also be a home inspection to check for basic child-proofing such as outlet covers, fire alarms and extinguishers, chemicals and medications placed out of reach, and that there are no obvious hazards in the home. Once the visits are complete, the social worker will compile a document stating all that they learned about the couple and whether their home study has been approved. Only once you have an approved home study can you become active with an adoption agency.

And that, my friends, is a brief overview of what the home study entails.

Jennifer

 

Our Roadmap to Adoption

So many of my friends and family know I have wanted to adopt for much of my life. It made me so happy to find out my now-husband had an equal passion for adoption when we met. Given that many who know us were aware of this mutual desire before we were married, we’ve been asked a lot since March if we have started the process, etc. so I decided it was time to formally fill you all in.

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This image from Adopt-Connect does a great job of laying out the general process, but in regards to our individual process there would be an added step between “evaluate” and “home study” – finding an adoption consultant. While consultants are not required for the process, I know many people who’ve used them to help make the process less intimidating and for the education they offer regarding grants, fundraising, and interest-free loans available to adoptive families. We are currently preparing to cross “find an adoption consultant” off our list and move onto the home study!

Now that I’ve explained what our process will look like, I want to address some more specifics about adopting and our desires to adopt:
1. For us, this was never a “second choice” or backup plan! While there are many people who do make the choice to pursue every possibility for having a biological child before choosing adoption, that wasn’t our choice. I have known since early adulthood that the odds of me having a biological child without medical assistance were slim, and while this was a difficult thing for me to accept initially I have gotten to a place where I don’t feel the grief of infertility often (if ever). While we would be overjoyed to have a biological child without intervention, we would rather spend the money we could spend attempting IVF to give a loving home to a child who needs one.
2. Fundraising doesn’t wait until you are matched!! Consulting agencies present your adoption profile to every adoption agency they work with to give families the best chance at the speediest process possible. For this reason, waiting until you are matched to fundraise would put you WAY behind. We will be pursuing grants along with considering interest-free loans for adoption, but we will likely do some fundraising to supplement what we are saving for this process. Many families start fundraising as soon as their home study is complete, because once that is done you are “ready” to adopt at any time. We will likely do the same.
3. Lastly, there are rumors out there that there are too many families wanting to adopt domestically and not enough children up for adoption to meet the demand. The truth is there are many, many, MANY babies who need to be adopted – there just aren’t many caucasian babies who are also free of prenatal drug exposure or history of mental illness available for adoption. Lucky for us, we don’t require that the baby we adopt look just like us!

I hope this has given you some insight both on our process and adoption in general. You can expect more adoption related posts in the future as we continue with the process and once we have completed our adoption.

Jennifer