Ways to Make a Family Through Adoption
Mary Daughtry did not want to be a single parent. Did not. But you can’t tell as she swells with joy, catches and hugs Jayden, stopping him from scootin’ around their church in Oakland.
Jayden Nicholas is her almost-3-year-old son. She adopted him as an infant, rescuing him from a mother who couldn’t care for him. Now it’s just the two of them.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Daughtry, 45, a program assistant for the University of California Office of the President. “I have been receiving God’s blessing two-fold ever since. I’m not only changing his life, he has changed mine, and I’m glad I chose to be his mom and he loves being my son.”
Thousands of people each year have similar heart-warming stories to tell. They’ve overcome life’s familial curveballs through adoption and achieved fulfillment they’d never imagined.
Each year, thousands of children have their lives changed through adoption. Thousands of American families find their missing piece(s) by inviting in a child in need. Many more are in search of exactly that.
In 2000, more than 127,000 children were adopted by U.S. parents, according to Child Welfare Information Gateway. In 2008, the number of adoptions rose to more than 135,000, representing a 6 percent increase.
Multiple factors contribute to the escalation of adoptions, including the increasing acceptance of gay adoptive parents and the celebrity-inspired trend of international adoptions. No one connected with adoption views either as a bad thing.
“As a nation, one of our highest responsibilities is to ensure the health and well-being of our children,” President Barack Obama said in his proclamation of National Adoption Month on Nov. 1, 2011. “With generous hearts and open minds, we strive to make sure all children grow up knowing they have a family that shares with them the warmth, security, and unconditional love that will help them succeed. … The decision to adopt a child has brought profound joy and meaning into the lives of Americans across our country.”
There are multiple ways to adopt a child, accommodating the various desires and situations facing potential parents. Domestic adoptions involve children who either live in or are citizens of the United States, and these type of adoptions can be facilitated through a number of outlets.
A licensed agency — such as Heartsent Adoptions Inc. in Orinda — offers varying levels of open adoptions (which acknowledge relationship between birthparents and the adoptive family or families) and closed adoptions (which offer complete confidentiality). At a cost, the agency — through due diligence — sees the desirous parents through the entire process, from choosing a child to finalizing the adoption. They work with the birthparent(s) and the family seeking to adopt.
Prospective parents can also go through an intermediary, such as a lawyer or physician or adoption facilitator. Or in the case of Nicholas DeRenzi, a future aunt.
After his pregnant mother came to America from Mexico, she made plans to give him up for adoption with hopes of giving him a better life. But the parents set up for him wound up getting pregnant and backing out.
But the midwife who would be delivering DeRenzi at the clinic in Selma had a brother. He and his wife had difficulties having their own child and were considering adoption. A couple of phone calls later, DeRenzi had a new destination, a new family, a new future.
“If I hadn’t been adopted,” says DeRenzi, now 20 and living a middle-class life in Livermore, “I’d probably be living in Central California, working at the age of 16, just getting by. I probably wouldn’t have had a father at all. I always think things could be a lot worse for me. It could’ve been bad. I could possibly be in Mexico or dead.”
The likes of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have popularized another option, international adoptions, which involve caring for a child whose citizenship residence is outside the United States. The two have adopted three children, one each from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam.
In 2011, according to the U.S. Department of State, there were 9,320 inter-country adoptions. Nearly half of those were children from China and Ethiopia. California had more international adoptions (676) than any other state. Half of these adoptions cost less than $27,000, but some got as high as $64,000.
There is a contingent that pushes for adopters to look domestically. Certainly, many children in America need a home and a family. Organizations such as AdoptUSKids raise awareness and facilitate adoptions for children in the public child welfare system — foster children.
The foster adoption involves providing homes for children in the foster care system. Currently in the United States, according to Adoptive Families magazine, more than 400,000 children are in foster care. Of those, some 115,000 are eligible and waiting for adoption.
Daughtry went through that process. Jayden’s birth mother battled mental health and drug issues. Because his mother was nable to care for him, Jayden — like so many other children — entered foster care. But — unlike so many other children — Jayden’s path was smooth and simple.
“My adoption experience was very easy due to Jayden’s bio-family wanting me to take him as my own,” Daughtry says. “That made me feel relieved to have her approval. I fostered him for a year before the adoption was complete. It was a easy process for me.”
The relative adoption process is similar to Daughtry’s in that it is can be a much smoother process.
Adopting a child with family ties or with a prior connection negates the searching and matching part of the process. Placement with relatives is often the first option considered by workers in foster care when children cannot safely remain in the home of their parents or cannot be reunified with them.
Whichever route is chosen, many just implore prospective parents to adopt. Whether it’s saving a baby from a bad situation in America, changing the life of a child abroad or stepping in to help a family member, child advocates celebrate any time a child is given a home. The President among them.
“Adoption has become a part of many Americans’ lives and has contributed to the character of our nation. As parents and as family members, it is our task to do all we can to give our children the very best. In caring for our youth and putting them before ourselves, we make a lasting investment not only in their future, but also in the prosperity and strength of our nation in the years to come. … Let us recommit to ensuring every child is given the sustaining love of family, the assurance of a permanent home, and the supportive upbringing they deserve.”
Heads Up on the Process
You Need to Know This
You’d have a hard time finding an adoptive parent who regrets adopting. The fulfillment of adding a child to your family perhaps cannot be overstated.
“Adoption is one of the most rewarding experiences,” says Val Free, executive director of Heartsent Adoptions Inc. “Children are a gift from God. We receive them with open arms and love them as much as we can. They in turn offer us their innocence, their desire to learn, their need to be protected and taught, loved and taught. We all grow from the experience”
But what won’t be hard to find is an adoptive parent who wishes they knew a few more things heading into the process. Some agencies are good at making sure you’re prepared. Still, the adoption process is multifaceted, occasionally tedious and even uncomfortable.
As a heads up, here are some things you should know about going in.
One of the most uncomfortable parts about the adoption process is the home study. In order for your family profile to be created, you must answer a ton of personal questions in an interview — finances, family history, relationship details and more. And, yes, someone will have to examine your home. Be up front about challenges (financial, legal, health, etc.) and past blemishes. It’s only fair for the child, and a good caseworker will find out anyway. The good news is, when the home study is completed, the process is all but done.
Adoption can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the agency and the services. Even for those going the foster care or relative adoption route, some expenses will be incurred — like approved fingerprints and baby essentials such as car seat and crib, to name a few. Some financial assistance is available. Federal and state assistance is available, in addition to tax relief. Some employers even offer types of assistance, such as a paid time off to deal with process.
Once everything is completed, you’ll be ready to see the judge and make it official. This momentous occasion is a great time for celebration. Invite family. Take pictures. Have cake. Days like these won’t happen again.
Breaking the News
At some point your child is going to find out he or she is adopted. The best way, experts agree, is from you. According to Parenting.com, parents should talk about adoption with the child(ren) early, regularly and positively to set a good tone for later on. The website recommends using the word “adoption” often to prevent it from becoming taboo, sharing stories related to adoption, creating a memory book, paying attention to the child’s inquiries and being patient while your child grasps the concept over the years.
The benefits of spending nine months with the child before his or her birth may be taken for granted until you adopt a child. With the child comes a lot of changes and adjustments for which parents are always ready. It can be difficult, especially when the placement is sudden. Consider preparing for the rough waters ahead through books and parental classes. Joining a support group of adoptive parents is also an option.
It is practically inevitable that the adopted child will want to connect with his or her biological family at some point. Whether it is meeting their birth parents, getting to know siblings or connecting with distant relatives, it is going to come up.