Café Recap: Adoption

Panelists: Jackie Gordon (Adoptive Mama), Patricia Coleman (Adoptive Mama), Kirstin Magnuson (Licensed Therapist) and our moderator, Erica Wolfe. Let's start with some stories about the adoption process. Jackie always wanted a large family, but did not know that adoption would be part of her story. After an injury during her second child's birth, she was no longer able to have biological children. This led she and her husband to the decision to adopt, specifically an international adoption from China. The process for their first adoption took about three years, plus another year of post-placement check-ups and paperwork. Their second adoption was through Living Hope and The Waiting Child Program, which includes children that China considers "special needs".  Despite financial concerns, they decided to go through with a second adoption within two years of their first. Their first child was a year old when she was adopted, and their second child was four by the time they were able to bring him home. The adoption of Jackie's third child was several years later, at a time when they were not actively pursuing adoption. A friend reached out to her about an unborn child in need of adoption, so they agreed to meet the local couple. Jackie had huge reservations about an open adoption, but upon meeting the couple they decided to go through with the adoption.

Patricia has two adopted children, age 2 1/2 and six months. After trying for several years to get pregnant, Patricia and her husband began the adoption process. They wanted to adopt a baby and began researching. Their research led them to the local group Family Life Services. It took them two months to complete the paperwork, and then they began the wait. After seven months they were pursued by a couple and met them for an interview. They were soon thrilled to learn that they had been chosen by the couple to adopt their daughter. In the state of Virginia birth parents have ten days after the birth of their child to change their minds about adoption. Their daughter was put in foster care for the first days of her life, until paperwork and decisions were final. Although at first hesitant about an open adoption, Patricia is now very close to her child's biological parents and meets with them regularly. With her second adoption, they used the same agency.  After a two month wait, they were chosen to adopt a baby in the NICU in a closed adoption. In a rapid succession of events, they quickly named their daughter and were soon taking her home.

An audience member asked about how adoptive children feel in their family. Jackie's children have always known they were adopted, but not expressed any feelings of inadequacy within the family. Erica asked about how to bring new children into the family. Kirsten feels that as much information and background about the child you know, the better. Being structured and having a reliable routine can help the process go smoothly.

For those in the waiting process, Patricia recommends filling your lives and not focusing on the waiting. Another adoptive mother in the audience has found that the waiting process is the biggest test of yourself. Know that this is a growing period and that the wait will end and the reward will be more than worth it.

Things that you should not say or do to adoptive families: - "Why do you want more children?" - "Are they real siblings?" - A sense of entitlement about your child's history - Showing an interest without knowing how to express it appropriately - Pretty much any use of the term "real" - "You're taking the easy way out by adopting" - "You're going to adopt and then get pregnant" - "I want to adopt one day but I want to have my own first"

How you should ask about adoption: show a genuine interest and desire to have an actual conversation about adoption.

One of the hardest parts of adoption: paperwork. You will also field very personal questions from your case worker. Knowing that your adoption could fall through is very hard emotionally. The waiting period during the ten days after birth is excruciating.

Some final words of encouragement from our panelists: never let finances stop you. Adoption is a very expensive process but there is fundraising, grants, loans and other help available. Twenty thousand dollars is a modest estimate for adoption costs in our area.

Patricia's blog about adoption can be found here: