By: Meika Rouda
Adoption is expensive. Even on the lower cost of the spectrum, you are paying for the homestudy, outreach to locate a birthmother, birthmother expenses, and the legal fee for finalization. You are looking at at least $10k. It is a lot of money to gamble on a process that is not regulated at all. I can’t tell you the countless stories I have heard about couples paying $20K to a facilitator for a baby, a baby that doesn’t even exist. It is outright fraud but no one is doing anything about it. Why is that?
This is how the process usually goes: When you are looking to adopt a baby, you can do the outreach yourself or with a certified agency. The wait tends to be long and by the time you pursue adoption, you have probably already waited several years during unsuccessful IVF treatments to become parents. You are vulnerable and want a child as soon as possible. Then you hear about a woman who is a facilitator and has birthmothers lined up. She needs to find homes for these babies. Voila! This is perfect. So you call the facilitator and she gives you her shpiel about the birthmother, the baby, the chance that the birthmother might change her mind but she doesn’t think she will because she seems committed to an adoption plan. So the couple signs up only to get a call a few months later to say that the birthmother decided to keep the baby or maybe that the birthmother was actually never pregnant at all. Now they are out $20K and back where they started with no baby and no birthmother and little hope.
Domestic adoption is a shady business and I mean that when I say business. It is no longer run by non-profits and churches and social service agencies, it is run by individuals, who in the best case are attorneys who can actually give you legal services as well as help you find a birthmother, but most of the time are just some average Joe who decided to go into the business. It is lucrative, $20K just to hook up a birthmom and a couple; they don’t do any of the paperwork or help you navigate the sometimes complicated relationship with the birthmother. They are like a dating service, you pay the fee, they get you a date, and what ever happens from there is up to you.
We were very lucky to get hooked up with an honest and respectable facilitator. The only way we found them was through the non-profit agency that did our homestudy. But I spoke to several facilitators before finding them. People who just felt dishonest, they felt shady even though what they were doing was helping babies and families find each other. They had no credentials, just “years” of experience working with birthmothers. They worked out of their homes and made a lot of promises. They always wanted cash upfront.
I wish that there were a better way to put couples and babies together. It is important for birthmothers to have counseling and support around their decision and even then, they may change their minds. But I feel any woman who thinks they should place their baby for adoption, probably should place their baby. There is a reason they feel that way, they aren’t ready to be parents, they aren’t stable financially or emotionally, they have too many children already. There are many reasons. And we need to make sure birthmothers have the right support to get on their feet after they make a difficult decision like placing a baby. But we also need a way to help potential adoptive parents feel like they are diving into a system that works, not a process where a random $20K price tag is acceptable just because.
Why isn’t there a certifiable group that facilitators should be a part of? Lawyers and doctors and social workers have licenses to practice, is there any reason facilitators shouldn’t? Wouldn’t birthmothers also feel better working with a certified facilitator? Maybe there is some education facilitators need to have in order to do their job instead of sticking a sign on their front door and hitting the pavement searching for pregnant teenagers. I don’t know why the government or respectable adoption groups like the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute doesn’t make this more of a priority for legislation. By protecting birthmothers, potential adoptive parents, and babies we are building happy, healthy families and forming a safe structure that normalizes and secures the process. It could also potentially bring down the cost of private adoption, making it more affordable for more families interested in adoption. I realize there will always be the case of a birthmother changing her mind, that is her right, but there is no reason a family has to be out their life savings for nothing. I hope I never hear another story about a family putting up the cash and getting taken advantage of. I like happy endings and adoption should be a happy ending for all.
By: Meika Rouda
The most difficult part of adoption for most people is waiting to be matched. For my husband and me the waiting was excruciating. I felt that once we decided to adopt, the process should be quick and easy since we had already waited so long to become parents while trying to get pregnant. Even so, we still had to wait longer that I ever thought. Matches are made in many different ways. Most often in domestic adoption, a potential adoptive family places a profile on a website that a birthmother sees and pursues. My husband and I used a lawyer who matches families with birthmothers as opposed to having the birthmother review profiles and choose. Others use ads, like in the back of the penny saver. (I have friends who received many calls doing this- it isn’t just Juno!) Or the rare instance of hearing about a baby through a friend of a friend. I even know of someone who was standing in line at Starbucks in front of a pregnant teenager and her mother. When he ordered the last bagel the pregnant girl sighed since she had her eye on the bagel. He saw she was pregnant and gave her the bagel instead. They started to talk and lo and behold, he and his wife ended up adopting her baby. Stranger things have happened.
These are all instances where matches happen, adoptions go through and families are created. But then there are the amazing people who don’t get matched after years of waiting. People who have several near placements that all end up with the birthmother changing her mind. Each time another heartbreak while being so close to parenthood. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be for people, to have so much hope and then so much sadness and disappointment. I know a woman in this same situation. She and her husband have been waiting 3 years to be matched. They are in their 30′s, successful, kind, and loving people. She is a preschool teacher. What could be more perfect?! And yet they aren’t getting matched. I have no idea why. When I asked her if they had particular criteria that might make them hard to match she said “No, they were open to sex and race and would consider other factors, smoking etc.” They are focusing on open adoption and are happy to have visits with the birthmother. It seems they are having a horrible case of bad luck.
Or maybe the right baby hasn’t appeared yet. That is what my mother would say. She believes that things happen for a reason, that fate and god have a hand in everything. I don’t necessarily believe that but when you need hope, it is comforting to think that there must be a reason for the pain and heartache. That there will be a happy ending at some point. I don’t know how to keep my friend’s spirits up, I almost feel guilty that I have two adopted children that came very easily to us. Our daughter we didn’t even expect, she was just a call from our lawyer a week before she was born with the question “How do you feel about having a baby girl?” But I believe in adoption and I know a baby will arrive for my friend. I don’t know why it is taking so long and it saddens me to know that she has had not one, not two, but more than three birthmothers change their minds at the last minute. But she is optimistic and taking it all in stride. She has strength and a positive attitude that I don’t think I could muster if I were in her situation. Meanwhile, I have been frequenting Starbucks and keeping my eyes peeled for pregnant teenagers in line. You just never know.
By: Meika Rouda
I know it sounds naive, but I never thought there would be anyone against adoption. However, my last post introduced me to a new world where people are very much adoption haters. Where birthmothers feel babies are being “taken away”, where women and babies will long for each other for the rest of their lives, where adoption is an evil business that promotes baby stealing and destroys families instead of building them. In fact the idea that families are built is repugnant.
Does this sound shocking? It did to me. When I was doing some research for a book I am working on I googled “Cost of Adoption” facts, and what came up were hundreds of sites dedicated to this anti-adoption movement. I am a believer in free speech, even when that speech is hateful and poisonous, but reading these sites and hearing what women had to say about adoption was depressing and made me angry. Most of the sites were created by birthmothers who regret placing their children. I know this is a real issue that happens; I have read the “Primal Wound” and heard many women confess that they maybe gave up babies without thinking of the long term repercussions. But I also know it is unusual in this day and age for a woman to place a baby for adoption without really thinking about it. Without realizing there are factors in their current situation that will make being a mother difficult. Perhaps it is health or finances or lack of emotional support but being a mother is not an easy job and it is a job that lasts a lifetime. In an age where abortion is legal, women have many choices about parenting. I believe very firmly in the right to choose. And if you give birth and place your baby, there is a good reason you are doing it.
In my instance as an adopted person, my birthmother wasn’t ready to be a mother; she wanted to finish college. I respect that and am grateful to her for placing me in a family where I am loved and cared for and feel a deep sense of identity. She did the right thing for me. What would my life have been like if she had decided to keep me? I will never know but I do know it would have been a harder life, with a single mom who was working and in school. Is it better to be in your natural family even if your parents resent you? No. And I am confident that at some point of my young birthmother’s life she would have resented me. I would have stopped her from experiencing her early adult years, I would have been a burden for her.
This is the case for my daughter’s birthmom as well who was young, who loved her baby, and wanted the best for her. I remember a conversation my husband and I had with our daughter’s birthparents, in their hospital room after the birth. The birthfather said to me, “Raising a baby would be fine, we can handle that. It is later in life, when she is older, that we don’t think we are prepared. We haven’t finished school, we don’t have jobs, even with our families helping us we aren’t ready to be parents.” I thought this was incredibly mature for a 20-year-old to say to me. They had thought this out and wanted to do what was best for everyone involved.
My son’s birthmother was single, already had three other children, two of whom she didn’t have custody of, and was just getting clean from an addiction to pain killers. Adoption was a relief for her. She definitely couldn’t raise this baby and was grateful to us for adopting him.
So for the adoption haters out there, know that there are other stories, and my hope is that you come to peace with the decisions you made and learn to forgive yourself. I guarantee the babies you placed will forgive you if that is what you are looking for. And if you are adopted and long for your birthmother, go find her. Hopefully that will fill the void you claim adoption has created in you. But I think the only one who can heal you is you.