I have been meaning to update about last week's information meeting. The meeting provided an overview of the domestic infant adoption process through Bethany Christian Services. This agency was recommended to us by someone John use to work with who is hoping to adopt through them. I must say I was so nervous about the meeting. How crazy is it that I was worried about my outfit? As if the social worker would take one look at me, decide she didn't like what I was wearing, and reject us outright.
When we got to the church where the meeting was held, we received a handout outlining the steps in the process and the fees. I actually started tearing up as I read over it. The whole thing just seemed so overwhelming. So here is a run down of what we learned:
Total cost: $18,000 - up from $15,000
Step 1: Submit formal application, statement of belief, and $100 application fee.
Step 2: Screening interview - need to bring list of addresses for last 7 years, driver's license, and $900 administrative fee. Sign contract.
Receive packet (90 day time frame from screening interview - I am slightly confused about exactly when we receive this, but I think it is at some point after the screening interview). This packet includes all the paperwork we have to put together. Here is a list:
Certified documents (birth certificates, marriage license)
Child protective services clearances (residential history last 7 years)
CSE (child support) clearances
Motor vehicle records
Fire department (has to come to your house)
Health department (also has to come to your house)
Medical clearances (physicals, drug screen, HIV test, tuberculosis test)
References (1 pastoral, 1 work, 3 personal - one of whom must be available to be interviewed in person at our house)
Questionnaires detailing familial/social history
Open adoption checklist
Special needs checklist
Step 3: Complete and turn in all paperwork and go to 21 hours of training. Unfortunately, this training is already full for the fall and so we would have to wait until next March/April to attend.
Step 4: Interviews (1 with me, 1 with John, 1 with both of us, and 1 with our personal reference) and home visit. They will not do this until after you complete the training and submit all paperwork and clearances. Pay $600 home visit fee.
Step 5: Wait (on average 2 years from approval date).
Step 6: Placement, pay $16,400 placement fee.
Step 7: Supervisory visits, 3 over 6 month period.
Step 8: Finalize adoption. Pay $600 finalization fee. We would also need to hire our own lawyer at this point to represent us.
We also learned a little more about the laws in Maryland as far as the process for legally terminating the birth parents' rights. The birth mother and father have 30 days from signing to change their minds for any reason. If the birth father does not sign at the same time as the birth mother, it could take even longer because the court will not terminate their rights until both have signed. Bethany will provide interim care for the child during this time period if you are not comfortable taking the child and risking having to bring them back.
Overall, I was disappointed by the information I learned at Bethany's meeting. The 30 days to revoke consent kind of freaks me out, but of course this is not within Bethany's control. However, the time frame, which bothers me even more, is within Bethany's control. Essentially, we would be looking at a year before we even got approval and then approximately 2 years from there for placement. This seems like a ridiculously long time to me. I had anticipated getting approval by December. So where does this leave us now? Though the meeting wasn't everything I had hoped it would be, meaning we came away knowing this was how we should precede, it provided a first step in learning about the domestic adoption process in Maryland. I have to confess that prior to this meeting, I had done little research. I spent the night after the meeting glued to my computer researching adoption. Prior to doing this, I didn't even know the difference between agency versus independent adoption. As far as the independent route, I also learned that Maryland does not allow a lawyer to act as a facilitator between the birth parents and adoptive parents. They must connect with each first and then go to the lawyer. The lawyer can not put them together as they can in some other states. Wouldn't it be nice if the adoption laws in our country were uniform from state to state? I also looked up some other agencies, but I haven't contacted any of them yet. I guess this is where we are at right now. I need to learn about some of these other agencies as well as the independent adoption process. If you have adopted or are in the process of adopting, I would love to hear from you. If you would be willing to leave me a comment or send me an email, I would love to learn as much as you are willing to share about your adoption process - agency versus independent, domestic versus international, cost, time frame, etc. I would also love to hear any advice you would have for someone just starting this process. We have not ruled out international adoption, which is why I would also be interested in hearing from those who have gone this route. The higher cost and longer time frame are the main reasons we are hesitant to pursue this option. If you have adopted in the DC metropolitan area, and especially if you have adopted in MD, I would love to hear specific recommendations for agencies/lawyers.