Me and my Lucy girl (2 weeks old)
If you've decided adoption is for you you'll want to choose an agency! We adopted our son through LDS Family Services. An agency/service our church offers. In order to adopt through them, you need to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The nice thing about this agency is that it's pretty affordable as far as adoptions go since the Church helps subsidize some of the cost for members. I'm not sure of their exact current prices. I heard they may have gone up a bit, but I'm not positive. Even if they did, it's still a very affordable option. The down side with LDSFS is that there are A LOT of potential adoptive parents hoping to get chosen and a much lower number of actual placements that happen per year.
When we were in the process with Charlie's adoption our councilor told me this, "Last year the Utah agencies did about 60 placements and at that same time we had about 800-1000 adoption couples waiting. Utah does more placements then any other state." Doing the math, your odds of being chosen quickly aren't great. It can happen, and I've heard of it, but the case workers will tell you the "average" wait period there adoptive couples are experiencing at that particular time. Maybe their placement numbers have improved but I have to believe that they also have even more adoptive couples as well. We waited 2 years for from completion of paperwork to our son's birth.
We actually started out with LDSFS the second time around, completing our home study with them. (there is a $1000 non-refundable fee for this at LDSFS) Then a few months in we just really felt our next baby wouldn't come through them, and we knew we weren't willing to wait another 2 years. In the 3 or 4 months we were approved through LDSFS we didn't have any bites, so to say. Our next move was to find a private agency we wanted to work with. Someone once told me to choose one based on how the agency makes you feel. We personally visited with a couple in our area, and chose one we thought was a good fit for us. We chose Heart to Heart Adoptions if anyone is interested. We absolutely LOVED our experience with them. And you don't have to be a Utah resident to work with them! If you don't happen to have a local private agency you can work with you can talk to some on the phone in other states and choose one that way.
Here are the biggest differences we experienced with our private agency compared to LDSFS that we really liked:
1. They keep their number of adoptions to approved adoptive parent ratio about the same. 100 placements, about 100 adoptive parents (these were the numbers they gave us when we were placed with Lucy). This GREATLY improves your chances of being chosen quickly. We were approved and had Lucy within a month and 3 weeks!
2. They do a matching system which I think is key! Meaning this: the agency matches you with potential birth mothers according to your criteria. The broader your criteria, the more likely you will be presented. They let you know each time they present your profile, getting your approval. So when we were matched with Lucy's birth mother, we were among 5 other profiles that she considered (the only profiles she considered). LDS sort of does the same does the same thing, their caseworker will pull potential profiles of couples that she thinks the birth mother will like, but their birth mother's are also given access to all the profiles on the LDSFS website which I can only imagine makes choosing a family that much more difficult! In our observation, our private agency treated this process much more professionally which impressed us.
3. Our private agency generally has birth mothers wait until pretty far along in their pregnancy to choose a couple. This has it's advantages. Our agency has found a higher success rate of follow through because of this. I think LDSFS encourages this, but not always. Charlie's birth mother chose us very early in her pregnancy, which worked out well for us, but that might not always be the case.
4. With our private agency we always had a case worker working for us and our birth mother always had a case worker for her during the placement. This was a big difference between our two adoptions. I'm not saying this wouldn't be the case for you if you chose LDSFS, but it wasn't our experience. Oftentimes the case worker would work both sides. It was SO reassuring to know we had someone strictly for our needs during the tender/delicate moments.
5. Our private agency placed expectations on the communication post placement. This can be HUGE to both adoptive parent's and birth parent's stress levels. With LDSFS we were told that we needed to work out what kind of post placement communication we wanted with our birth mother. We were mostly clueless since we'd never adopted before! We didn't know what to do. We did have a general idea of what we wanted it to look like, but it was hard to navigate. Usually what we found was that birth mother's wanted way more openness then we did. With Heart to Heart they told us what they expect which meant that is what the birth mother was expecting! Everyone was on the same page from the beginning which really made it all a lot smoother! It was much more closed of a situation with Lucy's adoption, though still sort of open. I'll talk about this in a later post.
6. If you are placed in the State of Utah, you will generally sign papers 24 hours after the child is born. In any other state the placement will be subject to the laws of that state. Our son's placement also took place in Utah, but this was not the case in his adoption. Heart to Heart just made things happen seamlessly. Along these same lines, you will want to educate yourself about the laws in your state or the state in which you will be getting your baby. I know of some states where the laws just aren't favorable and it makes finalization difficult to say the least.
Both agencies will handle the legal paperwork for the actual placement. Providing a caseworker and a notary.
The down side to a private agency as opposed to LDSFS is obviously the price. It's much, much more expensive. So it's hard to say I recommend it because I know not everyone can afford it. You can have very good success with LDSFS! But if I had to give you my honest opinion based on our experience, we preferred working with a private agency.
With LDSFS the things we loved were:
1. Since our birth mother was of our same faith, we had that in common with each other. She had a much better idea of how Charlie would be raised since she knew it would be similar to her upbringing. And as a result I feel much, much closer to Charlie's birth mother then I do to our daughters. I really do value our relationship and am excited to hear and get to know what is happening in her life since we keep in touch. We had the chance to spend lots of time with her before the placement. This would have never happened with our private agency because they run things differently. We had very little time with Lucy's birth mother.
2. Since it was our first adoption and my emotions were fairly tender it was also really comforting to have case workers that shared my same faith. You may not feel this is necessary for you and that's ok, but for me it was really helpful in the transition to not having biological children to adopting. It's a big step and it can take a little bit for your mind to shift about the idea of how you are getting your babies. If you choose to go private or just need someone to talk to LDSFS offers counseling.
3. And obviously we did love how affordable it was. You can't put a price on a baby of course, but it is nice when it doesn't put you in the poor house either. Let's be honest, being infertile is expensive!
If you have more questions about the differences you can email me (email@example.com). There is more I could say but I don't want to go more into it here, mostly because I feel like this post is sort of long and boring to most! And I didn't really have the intention of making it one agency vs. another. They are both great. We just had two totally different experiences.
Mark and Charlie boy at the hospital
Moving on. Once you've chosen an agency they'll direct you in what you need to do next. They'll complete a homestudy for you and get you approved. One thing I will tell you is once you get all your paperwork completed you'll wonder why it's not a requirement for all parents to prove they are fit in order to get pregnant! But then how would we get our wonderful children!?
If you're worried about the cost of adoption I've seen a few things online that indicate there is a way you can fundraise to prepare. We've never tried it but I know it's happening. People are doing it. I bet you'd be surprise how many people would be willing to help. I googled "adoption fundraising" and found some informational sites. Don't give up! You can have a beautiful family!
I'm working on a Q and A post. I'm trying to incorporate some questions you've had into my posts and the others I'll just answer directly. If you have specific questions about the types of agencies I've mentioned or the process you can leave it in the comment section and I'll be sure to come back and answer there or like I said above, email me. Everything I've shared is from our experiences, others may have different experiences. International adoption is another option you can pursue that I don't know much about.
Next I'm going to post my children's birth stories and then I'll be moving on to birth parent relationships after that!