Howard Magazine - Page 44 - The changing face of Adoption (3)

Howard Magazine
- Page 44
The changing face of Adoption (3)
expensive (because of the travel).

It was a surprise when our agency called to tell us we were matched with our son, Grant, the day he was born in Tampa, Fla.

Immediately, we were swept up in an overwhelming whirlwind of activity and emotion, including a lot of excitement and joy and a little trepidation. Would we be good parents? Would we do the right things for him?

The next day, we flew to Tampa and spent time with his birth mom in the hospital. We’re glad that we could bring home photos of her. We send letters and photos to her twice a year.

Our younger son, Ben, was born in Miami. We were matched with him six weeks before he was born, so we knew the expected due date. We felt more prepared and knew what to bring with us.

We arrived at the hospital a few hours after he was born, but the social worker at the hospital would not let us see him for two more days. It’s unclear why, but, regardless, that was very hard. Imagine how happy we were to finally hug him, feed him a bottle, and stare into his sweet face.

Both times we adopted, we had to stay in Florida until Maryland and Florida officials approved the legal paperwork. The two states shared and reviewed information to ensure the placement was safe and legal. It took 10 days the first time and three days the second.

A judge in Florida finalized the adoptions several months later, after our agency did more home visits. We celebrated with burgers and fries.

The hurdles we faced are not unique; the other routes to adoption — international adoption and domestic adoption through foster care — involve sometimes-complex processes, too.

In international adoptions, each country has different rules about who can adopt. Some require adopting parents to meet a certain age range, marital status, health status or other criteria. The countries with the highest number of adoptions by Americans last year were China, Ethiopia, Ukraine, South Korea, India, and Haiti, according to the U.S. State Department. Most of the children adopted internationally are 1 or 2 years old at the time of placement and have been orphaned or abandoned.

Originally, the Stoners applied to adopt a child from Vietnam. Shortly after the Stoners submitted their paperwork and money, the United States and Vietnam ended their agreement to permit adoptions due to concerns about corruption. (Six years later, U.S. adoptions from Vietnam commenced again.) After the adoptions from Vietnam stopped, Karen Stoner said they took a break for about three months without going further. Then they learned more about adopting from Korea and started to purse that avenue.

“We knew it would come, and it would happen,” she said.

In domestic adoptions through foster care, state laws vary, but parents in Maryland can be single, married or part of a same-sex couple. The children can be any age, but usually are not infants — they’ve been placed with a foster family due to abuse or neglect.

Adopting through foster care is free. In contrast, you pay fees for legal and social services when you work through an agency in a domestic infant adoption or international adoption.

“Adoption can be expensive, and it can be onerous, but it doesn’t have to be,” Goldwater said. “It has a spectrum of costs. It’s important for people to do their homework and learn about the spectrum of possibility in adoption and find what works for them.”

Agencies often offer a sliding scale of fees, based on income. After an adoption is finalized, the family can receive a one-time tax credit of $13,570. Some employers offer an adoption benefit (a one-time payment to subsidize adoption costs).

Our savings over the years, combined with the tax credit and an adoption benefit from my employer at the time, helped us complete our family.

Most adoption agencies offer counseling and support groups for families dealing with questions and concerns as the adopted child grows up. The Center for Adoption Support, with headquarters in Burtonsville, also offers adoption counseling education.

For my family, the emotional adoption journey was remarkably similar to what many moms and dads experience with a typical labor and delivery: so much joy, along with a bit of worry and the awesome responsibility of caring for a tiny child. Everything was new and a bit chaotic, but still wonderful to be growing our family.