Hi there! It’s been a relatively quiet few months on the adoption front. I enlisted my mom as my key Sherpa, considering she’s been through this before. Of course, I take most of my mom’s advice with a grain of salt since my parents went through this almost 31 years ago.
Earlier in December, my expecting sister and her husband took a pre-baby weekend trip to Maine. My mom came up to Massachusetts for a little mother daughter time. After hearing our grand plan, my mom graciously offered to write a letter to her adoption contact Barbara, who served as the adoption agency’s program director back in 1986.
A few weeks went by and Barbara gave my mom a call. She was happy to get the update and see the pictures mom sent along to spark her memory. She moved down to Florida and passed the torch to the current program director, Pauline. The call provided a good bit of information and next steps, which brings us to the week before Christmas. Pauline called and I provided some background information on my upbringing, John and my history, etc. “You were one of the twins!”, she exclaimed. I felt myself relax immediately. Apparently, they’d hung a baby picture of my sister and me in the the old office building until they moved to their new and current office space.
I told Pauline I was aware of the 3 year marriage requirement (John and I are on 2 years and 2 months, roughly) but I wanted to get a feel for the current climate, what we could get started on prior to submitting the application, and what to expect from this whole wild and crazy journey. What I left out is my anal retentive need to plan things before I execute. My work motto, which I have scribbled on my team’s whiteboard is “Proper planning prevents poor performance” if that paints you an accurate picture.
Pauline agreed it was a little early, but was open to meeting us live since we’d be down on Long Island for the holidays. Before I knew it, the whirlwind of Christmas Eve and Christmas was over and John and I were on our way to the adoption agency. Unfortunately for John, I tend to let my tension get the best of me and I’m generally pretty curt in my response to anything. I felt like a ball of emotions on my way there, apprehensive but excited. When we arrived, Pauline led us into a small conference room whose walls were covered in pictures of adopted children, prospective parents in large groups. Seeing all of those smiling faces made the unknown seem a teeny bit less daunting.
Pauline asked some questions based on our pre-application responses. What was our living situation like? Were we aware that the vast majority of children adopted from Korea nowadays are boys. If you choose to adopt from Korea, you would need to be open to having a son. Were we willing and able to adopt children with special or medical needs?
She ran us through some high level requirements and documents we’d need to pull together for both the application submission as well as the home study. The good news is we can submit our application around April, which brings us to the 2.5 year marriage mark. However, the home study, which requires someone from a local agency to visit our home, has a hard 3 year requirement. I’ll get into what we actually need to submit as part of both at some later date. My initial read through the documents definitely left my head spinning, though the 8-10 photographs of John and me made me chuckle. I mean, we’re such natural models, it’s not weird at all to be photographed engaging in our hobbies.
The biggest difference between now vs. when my parents adopted is the travel to Korea, two trips both lasting about a week each. With that, both the administrative and financial requirements have a notable increase, with an average adoption fee for one child ranging from $38,590 to $45,290. When I disclosed that to my parents, my dad said as only my dad can, that the check he received as inheritance from his grandma was the best $8,000 he ever spent. Ninja cutting onions were right on cue for that one. I am in the incredibly fortunate position, where my work offers benefits that will reimburse $20,000 for each child. Cue those ninjas again!
Matching of children is now done when the children are approximately 9-15 months old, and they arrive home to their new families at around 17-24 months old. This is because the children have to be on a Korean national database to be adopted by the Korean domestic population for 5 months before they become eligible for overseas adoption. John and I weren’t particularly bothered by that, but I can see feeling a little sad down the road that we never experienced the true infancy stage with our kids.
Pauline suggested also to reach out to other families that are in or completed the process. She provided a few names, one of whom I head from today. She is also a Korean adoptee who recently finalized her adoption.
Happy New Year to you, too! Congrats on beginning the adoption process. My advice would be to take a deep breath, accept that the process will be long and emotional, but that it’s all worth it when you have your child in your arms. Our process was over 7 years and there were moments when I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and give up. But, our situation was a little different because we started with Colombia, and with a request to adopt two siblings. After six very long and expensive years, we withdrew. We decided to start all over again with Korea and [a different agency], and what a different process. Working with Pauline was really great and would not have gotten to where we are today without her support and determination to match us with a child, Jack. We brought Jack home in July and he turned 4 in October. He is an amazing little boy and there are moments when my husband and I look at each other and say “will the other shoe drop?” Jack is so wonderful – he makes parenting easy. I think we got very lucky with such a sweet, happy, loving little boy. He is currently sitting next to me with a 103 fever, a bad cough, and is still happy.
The process will definitely bring up some adoption issues for you, as it did for me. Again, my situation may be somewhat different because I found my birth family in 1994 and was able to see them on the two trips we made to bring Jack home. But, it still was emotional for me, especially when Jack realized we were leaving his foster family at the agency and heading to the Embassy. He screamed and cried the entire trip to the Embassy and it was extremely hard for me, too. The other time I had to maintain my composure was when he admitted to me that he missed his foster parents and asked me if it was okay for him to be sad. He looked so sad when he talked to me and I had to fight back the tears. So, I would definitely be prepared for many emotions along the way. Happy to talk more about this in person if you want.
The low parts of the process involve all the paperwork and the amount of money it takes – it sometimes feels like a racket, but it’s the adoption industry. The agencies all charge about the same, so it’s best to choose an agency that you trust and feel good about. Pauline was just terrific. The high points are when you receive your referral and start getting photos of your child. It’s so exciting and it begins to feel real.
Feel free to call me if you want to chat in greater detail. In the meantime, congrats on starting the process and best of luck to you and your husband! It’s a wonderful thing you are doing and you will be rewarded with a wonderful child!
After receiving such a warm and genuine response (within an hour of my first email I might add), I feel totally confident we will have the right support system we need. I’m a little scared of what highs and lows are coming, but I feel totally confident this is the right next step for our family and I can’t wait to share the journey.