{Honestly} guest post: The Truth About Domestic Adoption

Never Say Never: The Truth About Domestic Adoption

By Anne Winfrey


Cold Storage

Somewhere, deep in my memory, I have a (rather large) file I try to keep buried within the cobwebs of my brain. That file is called, “Things I Believed to be True at One Time in My Life”. I keep it hidden, and don’t access it unless I have to, unless another adjacent memory somehow opens it. Otherwise, I think it’s best to keep it under wraps.

It’s embarrassing, the things I used to think. Tragic, really.

Some examples of things I believed to be true at one time in my life:

“Hairspray + curling iron = the coolest bangs in the world”

“I can lose weight if I eat only meat”

“I would be a good stay-at-home-mom” (This was a pre-kid thought, by the way.)

“Bill Clinton cannot tell a lie”

“Baby birds touched by humans are rejected by their mothers” (I recently found out this isn’t true! Mind blown.)

And one more:

“Domestic adoption is too hard, too scary, and I will never go there”

Never Say Never

Sometimes the things we believe to be the truths of life are really only a reflection of what we think we have been told. I was under the impression that domestic adoption was a road full of potholes, land mines and roadblocks. It was a trail I thought I would never travel. Boy, was I wrong.

Our son was born on March 13, 2008. And we were there to greet him in all his 6 pound, 10 ounce glory. He was a beautiful sight. We were brought to our knees with gratefulness for his birthmother who had entrusted this tiny life to two inexperienced and freaked out people. We were suddenly parents through domestic adoption. How did that happen?!?

It almost didn’t. We almost let our fears, and the many falsehoods about domestic adoption, keep us from this miracle we call Miles.

Here are some myths that nearly kept us from pursuing domestic adoption:

The wait will be endless.

As far as I can tell, the myth of the endless wait seems to be mostly untrue. We waited only days. Our story is a bit unusual, yes, but not entirely unheard of. I can point to many examples of friends who have also adopted domestically who have had relatively short waits (a few weeks to a few months, in most cases). The cold, hard truth is that if you are open to race and gender your wait will be decreased significantly. Applying to more than one agency can also help increase your chances of a faster match (our agency encouraged this). The wait doesn’t have to be endless if you set yourself up for success.

It is too expensive.

We originally planned on adopting from Vietnam. Had that program remained open and had we completed an international adoption, the costs would have been higher than that of our domestic adoption. Cost is a prohibitive factor for many. However, options exist to help decrease costs, including foster-to-adopt programs, sliding scales at some domestic adoption agencies, and grants through organizations such as HelpUsAdopt.org. Many employers have adoption reimbursement programs that can also be extremely helpful in offsetting costs. And don’t forget about the federal adoption tax credit (that will hopefully be brought forward for 2012 and beyond). Doing your research is key. Adoption fees don’t have to be as staggeringly high as people tend to assume they are.

The birthparents can resurface at any time and reclaim their child.

This is perhaps the biggest and most persistent myth regarding domestic adoption: The big, bad, scary birthparents. How sad that they are made to be the villains! Of course, domestic adoption does involve a certain element of risk. In some states (again, do your research, because every state has different laws) there is a small window of time in which a birthparent can change their minds and decide to parent (called a revocation period). In Utah, the state where our son was born, there is no revocation period. It is incredibly important for everyone involved to have the opportunity to ask questions and make the right decision. The agency or lawyers that you work with can help guide you through the legal portion of the process. But the truth is that post-placement revocations are extremely rare.

I have to adopt within my home state.

Not true. Period.

All birthmothers are teenage drug addicts.

 I can tell you from personal experience, and from the experiences of many other domestic adoptive parents, that this is untrue. Our son’s birthmother is our age (30-something), and drug-free. Reasons for relinquishing a child can be deep and painful, and not at all related to a teenage pregnancy or drug abuse. Not to say that can’t also be the case, because it certainly can. That sad scenario (drugs, alcohol, abuse, neglect) plays out far too often. But this is just another time when an adoption myth makes all birthparents out to be “troubled”. Unfair, to say the least. Adoption is not what you see on MTV or Lifetime. At least not in my experience.

Open adoption is too complicated.

This is yet another way birthparents are made to look like the bad guys. The myth that open adoption invites birth families to be intrusive on adoptive families is unfounded. In fact, in some cases, the opposite is true. Parents who choose to relinquish a child for adoption may be reluctant to intrude on their child’s new family. The level of post-placement contact should be discussed in detail, and should be a large part of the adoption plan on both sides. There are several options: closed (less common, but still to be found in some cases), semi-open (communication through a third-party such as an agency, sending letters and pictures is common) and open (visits, full contact). It’s not hard to find many adoptive parents, myself included, who believe that birthparent contact can be a positive experience (that is a topic for an entire post, or book, on its own!). It’s up to the birth and adoptive parents to decide what level of contact they feel most comfortable with.

 “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela

Fighting pernicious rumors about domestic adoption feels like an uphill battle. But there is a real need to set the record straight because these untruths have serious and lasting consequences: birthparents who receive poor information might make a decision they regret later, potential adoptive parents might be scared away by the horror stories and overlook an opportunity, and adoptees may get the message that their “real” parents are out there waiting to take them back. These are devastating, yet preventable, scenarios.

I can’t truthfully tell you that domestic adoption is the easiest road to take (because it isn’t). I also can’t snap my fingers to make these myths disappear. But what I can do is arm my son and those around him with some basic facts that will help to diffuse hurtful or incorrect information. And hopefully, someday, the tide will turn.

Anne Winfrey is one of my girls — a rare soul with whom I hit it off immediately, and being able to share with each other about adoption has just deepened our friendship. She’s smart, opinionated (like me) about important stuff, and a really great chapter editor. I’m so lucky to share a hometown with a beautiful mama like her. I only wish I could link to a blog so you could read more — but she doesn’t currently have one. (Maybe someday?) Love you, Anne!

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16 comments on “{Honestly} guest post: The Truth About Domestic Adoption

  1. Marci says:

    You “got” me at the hairspray+curling iron… sadly me too… very very well written and good truths! Thanks.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks, Marci! I think we were all unfortunate and unwitting victims of the “bad bangs” phase 🙂

  2. I’m going to comment on my own blog, because I have to mention the reasons I love this post. First, Anne is a real-life inspiration to me. We hadn’t really considered domestic adoption before, but after reading about the need for families open to any race, my heart turned toward it. After learning that some minority kids are considered “special needs” in some states if they’re not adopted by age 2 (the “special needs” category doesn’t apply to white children until around age 10 solely based on age), I realized how much the word needs to get out about it. Maybe domestic adoption is in our future; maybe not. But thanks to Anne, at least I know a little more of the truth about it.

    After Anne sent me a draft of this post, I wrote her back with about 10 questions of my own about domestic adoption. She gently told me that those were probably issues for another post (or a book!), but still took the time to share her experience with me.

    I love how positive this post is, especially compared to many of my other posts about being honest about the darker parts of adoption that we are afraid to share. But with domestic adoption, there are whispered fears that just have no basis in reality, and Anne does a beautiful job of shining the light of truth here, without pretense. She’s not trying to hide the hard stuff. She wants people to know the truth. And sometimes, the truth is better than you thought.

    • Anne says:

      I love you, my dear. So very much ♥ You know, we all have real-life inspirations, and mine was Shawna (see comment from her below). She opened the door to many of these truths for us, and without her we might not have had our eyes opened. So, I am just trying to pay it forward!!

      Also, just a side note, there is an unfortuate reality that at most agencies the fees associated with certain situations are based on race. The fees associated with adopting a caucasian baby are significantly higher than the fees associated with adopting an African-American baby. I didn’t mention that in my post because it’s such a huge and ugly thing–it’s so incredibly unfair that I almost can’t wrap my brain around it. I have yet to find someone who can explain to me just HOW this is ok, how this practice can still exist. It angers me to think about it. The argument I have heard, that it’s because non-caucasian babies are harder to find families for, does not sit well with me, nor does it ring true. If someone has any further thoughts on this I would be interested to hear them.

  3. Grant says:

    Thanks for writing this, hon. This is a great article about many of the preconceived myths and concerns that I also had surrounding domestic adoption. I can’t imagine a day without Miles. Thank God that we overcame the barriers, and thank God for Miles!

  4. I love this post Anne…
    Came here on Christin’s recommendation…and I can see why she likes this blog 🙂
    We’ve adopted twice domestically and I could relate to SO much in these words.

    Kim–I enjoyed your “about me” page very much as well…
    It made me so encouraged to read that both you and your husband came from families with adopted siblings…and have now also chosen to adopt 🙂
    Our kiddo-crew talks about that all the time…how they also want to adopt when they grow up (our older 3 are biological and youngest 2 adopted).
    Happy to find your blog!

    Kim–could also relate to the post about the second time around being just as difficult…

    • So glad you stopped by, Kara (and I thank Christin, who has become a fast friend). Our families sound similar! I hope you stop back and join the conversation again. I love what I learn from other adoptive mamas.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks, Kara! I’m so glad you stopped by!

  5. Shawna says:

    Kim: Thanks for encouraging Anne to write again 🙂 Glad that Anne’s mention of this post pointed me (back) to your blog!

    Anne: Fantastic post! Glad to read your writing again and, more importantly, to have been part of your journey to Miles!


    And because my 4 year old, Sophia, is sitting here and really wants me to type her name, I am: Sophia. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      As per my comment above, Shawna is our inspiration! Where would we have been without you and Soph?? I don’t even want to think about it. Thanks for stopping by to read the post!! Love ya!

  6. Anne says:

    Kim, I really enjoy your guest posts. Great perspectives and great writers. And, of course, you know I am drawn to pretty much every word you write. So keep going….love your blog.

    Anne, thank you. It is great to hear your story. Thank you for sharing. As someone who is trying to decide our next move as a family it is great to hear that some of hurdles that can feel so overwhelming might not be as bad as I have built them up to be in my mind. Thank you.

    • Anne says:

      Thank you, Anne! If you are at all interested in domestic adoption, I would encourage you to keep reading and keep your mind open to this possibility. There are many wonderful domestic adoption agencies out there who are committed to truly helping children find their forever families, but like I said in my post, you have to do your research. Best wishes to you and your family!!

  7. Jamie H says:

    Beautifully written post Anne! Gonna share it on our Facebook page!