USA Adoption Information Overload
Recently, one of my fellow bloggers gave me an amazing opportunity – she put me in touch with one of her family members who happens to live in the same city as me and has adopted from the USA twice and is in the process for a third time right now. And, to make this even better, they have used the Florida agency we are considering twice and are currently starting the process with the California agency we are considering! This means she has first hand experience with our top two agencies.
While I have not actually met this blogger in person, her family sure is amazing! (I am not linking to her blog as I want to respect her and her families privacy).
Mr. MPB could not make our meeting, so I went solo. And as it turned out her husband was also unavailable, so it was just the two of us and her two adorable children (her youngest, and evidently normally shy child, took an instant liking to me and we had a great time playing). We chatted for a full two hours – I felt bad for taking up so much of her time, but I am so thankful she opened her home and offered me so much insight! (And I should add, she has a beautiful home!)
She confirmed a lot of things I already knew, and she added a few really important pieces to the puzzle of being a Canadian adopting from the USA.
So, here’s what I know from her experience of adopting from Florida with the agency available to us:
- In Florida, you choose a race (African America; Mixed Caucasian/African America, Mixes Caucasian/Hispanic; Caucasian, etc.) and you pay more or less depending on the category you choose! I was shocked by this and completely disheartened by the idea that there is a difference depending on skin colour. But, as much as it kills me to say it, practically it makes sense when you consider the historical racist culture in the Southern USA and the availability of adoptive children from different races is related to poverty, and poverty is related to race. Ultimately, the costs are based on supply and demand.
- The cost of adoption in the USA will be more like $40,000. To think it will be less is unrealistic. And our local tax credit of about $11,000 is a one time deal in the year the adoption is finalized. So, spreading out the costs over multiple years will not help us on our tax returns. And, given the overall cost of the adoption, she suggested that I not worry about keeping receipts for the little things. (This might sound like a small details, but we/our accountant will be maximizing our tax credits to the best of our ability).
- Be very lenient with the Canadian Paperwork – say yes to every possible option – drugs, alcohol, races, etc. Again, this surprised me, but makes perfect sense once you hear the explanation. The Canadian paperwork is required before we can adopt anywhere, and it sets the stage for what we will be allowed to adopt. Once we are approved here, we will then do all the paperwork over with the specific agency in the USA. The reason for wanting to keep your options open on the Canadian paperwork is that you are legally required to stay within your selection. So, if you change your mind in the future to expand or alter your selection, you are required to completely re-do your entire Canadian application to make even the smallest of alterations which takes both time and money (i.e. if we select Caucasian and African American on the Canadian paperwork, we cannot change to add Mixed race at a later date). So, be open to anything on the Canadian paperwork, so that you can make changes if you choose to on the USA application that will actually determine who you adopt. It’s all about giving ourselves flexibility to modify our USA application in the long run if we want to.
- Once the Canadian paperwork is done, we will do very little with our local agency until the post adoption home studies are completed. The main purpose of the local agency is simply to do the home studies. This means, we need to be very confident with our choice of USA agency, as they organize the actual match.
- In Florida, if you are matched prior to the arrival of the child, you can ask for the birth mother can undergo drug and alcohol testing while pregnant, and you can have the results! This would never be allowed locally.
- The agencies will try to get you to be open to drugs and alcohol, but she recommended being as selective as you want. They were very restrictive with their selections, and there wait was less than a year for one of their children and a bit more for the other.
- They have had no problems as an interracial family in our predominantly Caucasian city. She does get questions, but they don’t bother her in the least.
- You set the limit on how much you are willing to spend on the birth mother’s care during pregnancy (i.e. $3000, $5000, $7000, $10000), and the agency handles all of it. So there are no direct requests for money between the birth mother and the adoptive family. And all items requested by the birth mother are scrutinized.
- If you experience a change of heart, you will have some additional charges to the entire process as you will lose whatever money has been spent on the birth mother and some birth mother counselling fees. But, you are placed at the top of the list for all upcoming birth parents. This means, you are typically re-placed pretty quickly with a new baby.
- Open infant adoptions in the USA are very different then here. We have already been told this, and it was nice to have it reaffirmed. In fact, they are much closer to closed then what is typical where we live. Unlike here, the birth mother/father will never know our last name or our address. In fact, they will never know our province, they will only know that we are from Canada. You can choose to have direct contact with the birth mother possibly through a unique email address or a private blog specifically for that communication, or you can choose to have your contact go through the agency.
- She has observed that African American birth mothers are most likely to change their minds about placing their child up for adoption. Evidently the African American culture is much more opposed to adoption then the Caucasian culture. I had no idea, but find this fascinating nonetheless.
- In our province in Canada you do not make an adoption book, instead you provide a few pages of photos and a letter from each adoptive parent. In the US, you make an actual album. There are companies that can do it for you (this one has been recommended to us already), or you can do it yourself. Evidently Shutterfly is an awesome option as they give a 30% discount on adoption books, and free shipping directly to the agency in the US if you phone and talk to them (I have no idea if this is still true, but it sounds pretty great). She gave me a few suggestions for the book and offered to share their book with me as we get closer to creating ours. Her book suggestions include:
- Start collecting photos ASAP.
- Do not include photos that make it obvious where you live (i.e. no shirts with university logos, no city signage, etc.).
- Include a photo in the kitchen (apparently birth mothers like to see the adoptive parents cooking?).
- Do not focus on the birth mother’s heartbreak of choosing adoption in the book, they are generally over that by the time they get to reviewing books.
- They liked the first agency they used, so much so that they adopted both their children through this agency. However, they have chosen to change agencies for their third adoption. The change was the result of two factors. First, a shorter wait time with the new agency. Second, there were some issues with their second adoption which resulted in the agency demanding additional money before they could finalize their adoption of their second child. This was unexpected, and literally occurred while they were meeting their child for the first time. This was enough to motivate them to try a new agency.
- The USA does not require an Interpol Criminal Record Check for Canadians. This is awesome, only because we just had our Criminal Record Check done last week and we forgot to request this additional element.
- She anticipates it will take 6 months to get our paperwork done and then about a year to get matched.
So, our next steps are pretty straight forward:
- finalize our USA Agency selection – this has to be finalized so that we can submit paperwork to our provincial government which is required to initiate the home study process. I will be making phone calls today and tomorrow to enable us to make a final decision.
- Attend mandatory international adoption seminar (as an added bonus, the adoptive parents who will be at the seminar to answer questions adopted from the USA – we can get direct information from them).
- Complete the initial paperwork – 59 pages of questions. (Apparently this is the easiest of all the paperwork). It’s going to be an intense and fun week in the MPB household.
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