Thursday, January 29, 2009

Choices, choices, choices.

We got home pretty late Saturday night after day of non-stop movement. My eyes were heavy and I was already feeling anxious about getting some sleep before another early day on Sunday. But that feeling evaporated when Andrew pulled a large thick envelope out of the mailbox. "Is that our acceptance package?!" I said as I snatched it away from him and tore it open. Indeed it was: two more thick stacks of papers to sign and several smaller packets of information on each of the agencies that we have the option of sending profiles to through WACAP. Sleep was off the table for a while. Somewhere in these papers was our next step towards meeting our son or daughter!

Paperwork is never fun. Adoption paperwork is no different. But looking through the various agencies that we can choose to have our profile sent to brought up all sorts of new questions for us, as well as bringing back - again - many old ones around the ethics of adoption, of transracial adoption and the various means available to get us to our desired end of building a transracial family. I'll tell you right now that I don't have answers to those questions, nor do I expect to. But it's good to keep them alive, regardless. Not that currently we have choice.

Money is a big one, of course. We're running on a limited amount of personal funds, propped up by a generous family, and adoption isn't cheap. In some ways this makes it easier. For instance we looked at the prices associated with international adoption and knew immediately that we couldn't swing it. This dismissed us from the responsibility of making that choice based on other factors, and having to really figure out what we felt about the more complicated issues that surround international adoption. Whew. Thanks money! I think I was hoping that money would come along and make things simpler for us with this new decision too, about which agencies of the 15-20 we had to choose from to send our information to. I knew that some of them would be out of our price range, and indeed they were. But most weren't. As we flipped through the information, however, we ran into two main things that pricked at our sensibilities. First- the direct relationship between race and adoption costs. One agency's placement fee for a full african american baby is $5000 less than a baby who is half black and half white. Their form has the adoptive parent fill out exactly how much African American they are willing to adopt, down to 25%. It was creepy.

I know that they do this not because those babies are "cheaper." Adoption isn't selling babies. There are just a lot of costs involved, legitimate costs. The agency is being honest about which babies are harder to place, and taking hits to provide financial incentives for those children. I get it. But it still freaks me out. What does it feel like for people applying to adopt to look at that and make the decision to ante up the extra five grand? What does it say about our country that so many people who adopt care so very much about the race of their child? We ended up not choosing that agency, at least not right now. I want to be able to be up front with our child about all the details of his or her adoption, and I don't know how I'd feel explaining that he or she came at a discount.

Then there was the Christian agency that required a "statement of faith." Initially I thought, no problem! I'm a Christian, I have a statement of faith! Heck, I've been writing various drafts of my spiritual autobiography for the past two years in my discernment towards priesthood, and now again as I apply to seminary. I hate to brag, but I'm pretty awesome at my statement of faith. But Andrew didn't like it.

"Why do they need that?" He asked. "I don't know if I want to submit my personal beliefs to be judged, even if they would pass."

And the more I thought about it, the more I felt like he was right. Could I look my kid in the face someday and say that we built our family with a group of people who would have rejected a potential loving parent because they don't agree with that person's religion, marital status, or sexuality? Maybe I could. But I don't know that I'd want to. I understand other people making that choice, and have no judgement for it. But it is not who we are, or reflective of values that we want to build our family on.

"Man," I said late that night, sitting in bed surrounded by paperwork. "This is tricky. I don't want to shut us out of the opportunity to get a baby as soon as possible, but I also want to be very intentional about the choices we make right now." I moved the Georgia agency from the maybe to the no pile, and picked up the yes pile to flip through it one more time. Maybe we could work with the one from New Jersey. "After all, we are potentially going to have some sort of relationship with this agency for the rest of our lives. Plus, we want to have a relationship with our baby's birth family, and if they are expecting their child to be placed in a super dogmatic religious home we'd be fooling ourselves to think they'd pick us, so maybe it doesn't matter. Am I over thinking this??" I looked to my husband for a response.

"mmgreph." He responded wisely from deep under the covers. Moving with the careful slowness of someone who has already given himself up to sleep he reached across me and tenderly turned out the light.

"So," I said to the darkness, Andrew's breathing already slowing down, "that's a yes then?"


  1. It will be ok... God will provide.
    Unfortunately, there are more black babies in this country than there are people to adopt them :-( We found fees to be considerably lower too. Once the adoption universe found out we were only looking for a black male child, we got calls from ALL OVER! I tell you, it was weird. There is a stigma in the black community about adoption, especially if the adoptive parents are white. God blessed us though...we have OPEN adoptions. Perhaps our communication with our birthmoms and their extended universes will open other doors for everyone involved?
    Feel free to email me at: mrsfan8403 at hotmail dot com

  2. One thing is, no matter what the values of the adoption agency you go with are, I'm certain the child has no control over which one they've ended up at. I mean, it's not like the baby's selecting a certain agency thinking, "oooh, I like these close-minded policies... I'll go through this agency." So really, I think what matters more is how you raise them, and the policies of the agency will have little to do with it in the long run.

    By the way, I really enjoy your writing style, Alissa. You're a gem! :-)

  3. Thanks lady!!

    And that's true. There's no difference in the quality of baby with different agencies, at least not qualities that we really care about. It's more about the feeling of being intimately involved with someone we may not agree with - for some situations it's okay. But it is harder to figure out where the lines are when it's the situation of building our family. It's good stuff to chew on, though. As long as it doesn't keep me awake at night!

  4. Follow your gut.
    If some of the policies make your stomach flip (even though your head can logically justify it), don't go with them.

    You are right. There will come a day when there will be some 'splainin' to do and you want to make 100% sure you are comfortable with the choices you made.