Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Adoption Process – Part 2: Where To Start

You’ve decided to enter into the adoption process. Great! But where to start? Laws and regulations will differ depending on your country and region. I live in Manitoba, a province in Canada, so my experiences will be from our system; I would think its similar to others though.

There are three types of adoptions that you can have:

- Ward of the Province
- Private Adoption
- International

Ward of the Province
Wards of regional governments are typically managed by a child & family services branch. Children who are wards may be in foster homes or other arrangements.

Private Adoption
A private adoption occurs when a birth mother and adoptive parents arrange for an adoption to occur. In Manitoba there are strict laws that govern how this can occur to prevent any sort of inappropriate transactions (i.e. buying a baby). An adoption agency licensed to oversee adoptions is required to be part of the process. In Manitoba this organization is Adoption Options although you could also facilitate a private adoption through CFS if you wanted.

In addition to facilitating adoptions, Adoption Options also facilitates the sourcing of adoptive parents for birth mothers. I’ll have a post entirely on this process later in this series.

Children can, as we’ve seen with Angelina Jolie and Madonna, be adopted from other countries. Specific organizations facilitate these adoptions. I’m not familiar with the one locally, although I do know that there’s a large community of inter-country adoptive families in Manitoba.

Each type of adoption offers its own nuances, and depending on what you’re looking for will determine which agency you connect with. Note also that there are limitations on the number of open files you can have across organizations. For instance, in Manitoba you could have a file open with CFS for a Ward of the Province type and with Adoption Options for a Private type, but you couldn’t have two of the same type opened with both organizations.

Adopting a Ward of the Province
There is a horrible misconception about adopting from a government agency. Many people see wards of the government as problem children with various physical and mental difficulties. This is obviously wrong, although we do need to also be honest.

Wards may not have their entire family history, which is important for knowing medical conditions that could exist or appear later. Wards are probably living in foster homes, potentially multiple ones, and could have attachment issues. Wards may be older as few babies are available (at least in Manitoba).

The reason that a child enters into this system are varied, but to write them off would be a travesty. So why bother with private adoptions? Why wouldn’t people just adopt all the children from the system if they all need homes? The answer may surprise you.

The role of an organization like Child and Family Services is not to find adoptive homes for their wards; its to ensure that the children are placed in the best environment for their development. That *could* be a foster home. Also, adoptive parents may not be comfortable not knowing the medical and/or family history of a child and being prepared for what the future might hold.

Cost for adopting a ward is typically nothing as fees are absorbed by the agency.

Adopting Privately
Private adoptions happen with a birth mother agrees to place her child with adoptive parents. Open Adoptions have become the defacto norm, at least here in Manitoba. By Openness, we mean that the birth mother/parents meet the adoptive parents. The idea that the birth parents and the adoptive parents never meet or are never introduced is a dead one. Today, relationships are encouraged as is information sharing.

There is some expectation of continual contact, but those details are discussed and agreed upon between the adoptive couple and the birth mother/couple. The idea is that the more information that can be shared and available to the child as he/she grows can only help the child in their development…as well as being fair to all adults involved. I’ll talk more to this idea of openness in an upcoming post.

Costs for adoptive parents include having their homestudy completed, lawyer fees, birth mother lawyer fees, birth mother counselling, and agency adoption fees.

Adopting Internationally
Another valid option is international adoption. China and Ethiopia are two common locales for adopting a child from. As we’ll see in my upcoming post on the private adoptive process, culture and race considerations do play a role when deciding to adopt internationally.

Culture and race? Isn’t this 2009? Aren’t we past those things? Well, no. Or more to the point, YOU may be past it, but you need to consider your neighbourhood, your family, and your community in large. As parents we love our children no matter what, but let’s say you adopt a child from Ethiopia. What is the sentiment in your community to black children? What is your family’s? Are there positive black role models in your community for your child to look up to?

Regardless of how much race doesn’t matter to you, it will matter to your child when they realize that they aren’t the same color as mom and dad. This is a reality, as real for private or ward adoptions but more prominent in International.

With that said, I know personally people that have realized this challenge and have met it head on. This is not a deterrent or a reason to rule out international adoption, but it is a consideration when choosing your agency.

As with wards, you may not have a full family medical history for the child.

Cost for international can be high. In addition to the adoption and legal costs of the adoption there is also the travel costs as you will need to go to the country where your child resides.

My experience is with private adoption and the rest of the series will talk about the experiences in that process. Next up we’ll look at what happens in setting up your file with the adoption agency and creating your home study.

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