Editor’s Pick
APRIL 2, 2012 9:22PM

Buying Babies

Rate: 15 Flag

              Does the word “buy” offend you? Then don’t adopt, because you would be offended often. Adoption, at its core, is a business transaction. It shouldn’t be, but it is. You will pay for lawyers, counselors, doctors, and legal assistants. You will pay for the homestudy, paperwork, fingerprinting, licenses, travel expenses, filing costs, courtroom costs, and postage. You might also pay for background checks, a private detective (if you’re smart), psychologists, psychiatrists, the birthmother’s housing expenses during pregnancy and six weeks after, a mediator, and a breast pump. (She didn’t like the one the hospital had.)

              In my case, I also bought a lot of new shoes and a lot of Chardonnay. My husband spent a ton on detective novels and golf. Don’t underestimate the cost of these coping mechanisms. Over the two or three years that it typically takes to adopt, you will need all of your little crutches.

For adoption crushes you. It bleeds you. You will be interrogated about everything – and I do mean everything. Our caseworker asked about our sex life, including how many times a week we had intercourse, and if we practiced “normal” behaviors. He also asked about our religious beliefs and political views. We were quizzed on our feelings about race and ethnicity, as we indicated on every form that we weren’t just interested in adopting a “white, American-born” child.

              I will absolutely never forget the time a caseworker asked a group of us sitting in a foster parenting class, “How would you feel if your child marries a black person, and in a few generations, your entire family tree is black?” Looking back on that now, I wish I had gotten up and walked out. I wish I had pursued getting her fired. But I was desperate for a baby. I stayed and just quietly decided that one day, one day, I would write about her asinine question and ridicule her for it.

              Adoption forces you to squelch many a comment, many a tirade, and many an injustice. You are splayed open, and your life is dissected by the adoption agency, legal system, and birthparents. You are judged and evaluated and often found lacking.

              I will never forget one time when the caseworker came over for a “surprise” visit, and I had just come out of the shower. I hadn’t put on a bra since it was evening, and the caseworker actually asked if my husband and I would walk about in states of “undress” in front of children. She raised her eyebrows at me, and I flushed deep red.

Shame and embarrassment were part and parcel of the process.  I vividly remember the close scrutiny of our bank statements. The state requires a year’s worth of statements to be filed with the agency, and we borrowed money from my parents so that our balance never went below $1000.  I literally held my breath when the agency’s director combed through those statements. Was one grand enough?

I remember cleaning the house constantly, preparing for the caseworker’s visits, and feeling so inadequate that we didn’t have a bigger tv, a leather couch, or a modern playset in the backyard. My husband and I argued endlessly over whether to buy that playset. He wanted to wait until we got a child. I thought it would help convince the caseworker and the birthparents that we were ready for a child.

I agonized over the portfolio of pictures and text that would go to prospective birthparents. I spent hours going through pictures, looking for just the right ones that would show us as young and fun, but also mature and reliable. I scrutinized those photos so closely; I remember feeling bad that I hadn’t worn my retainer more. Would a birthparent see my crooked bottom teeth and think we wouldn’t buy braces for their child?

And what do you write, really, what do you say to convince a woman and man to give you their child? “Please, please pick me? I’m a good person, really I am. Can I have your baby?”

Am I embellishing this? Not one bit. In fact, I don’t think that I am describing the invasion that is adoption, well enough. The adoption process is gut-clenching and soul wrenching. To think that other people could “get” a baby by simply having sex, was downright hilarious to me. Sometimes.

 The state got to sift through our lives for three years before they “granted” us a child. I had never before and most certainly never since, felt so vulnerable. For there is no guarantee that you will be “chosen.” I know of many couples who gave up after a few years of this madness. Many of my friends who adopted one child would love to have another one, but they simply cannot afford – or endure – the process again.

I am sure that you would like me to end this by saying, “But it was all worth it, now that I am Johnny’s and Jill’s  mother.” And of course, it is. But really, does it have to be this way? Must adoptive parents be so humiliated by the process time and time again? Must we be exposed so publicly? Must our lives be scrubbed so raw?

I call for change. I cry for change. I am writing this for change.

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Kristina, this is so well written, it is difficult to read. I had no idea what adoptive parents go through. I hope things change too. ~r
That was the part of the process that so astounded me - the scrutiny - adoption isn't for wimps - you write this so well.
Your "birthing" process was much more difficult than mine, and I'm glad you didn't give up. I had heard the adoption process was tough, but had no idea!
May the many blessings of parenthood provide salve for your wounds, even as you create the change that's clearly needed!
When adopting from Romania, it cost about $30,000 just to get him here, along with airfair and hotel. Then came the Dr. bills and therapy b/c he was nearly 3, it took almost a year, but then again he was from another country about to be instiutionalized.

My then husband and I had to have home visits, but never unannounced, thank goodness. Doesn't it kill you to think of all these parents who shouldn't be parents, acording to the standards we had to go through? All they had to do was have sex, like you said, frustrating. Why didn't they have to go through the gamut of tests, interviews, spending habits, wine consumption, religious beliefs? If this were the case I wonder if there would be any children at all, we know there wouldn't. Great post that I could relate to and glad you were chosen to be a parent....you must be an amazing person if you passed all that.
I'm sorry you had to go through this. I think adoption is a wrenching process for all triad members. I was adopted, so I know what it was like for me, as well as for my adoptive mother and birthmother. There's a lot of loss involved, often of one's dignity.
Kristina,
This brings tears to my eyes. I have done many adoption home studies and pre and post placement reports. I'm a Clinical Social Worker and now live in Asia. I did not know this is how people were treated and how the adoptive parents felt. I have had the amzing opportunity to spend time with the adoptive families after they went through the process. One client who I only did a small piece of work for adopted a daughter who went to preschool with mine. She is one of the loveliest people I've ever met and a role model in the community in Tokyo where she lived. I have felt blessed to spend time with adoptive parents and have been through the emotional roller coaster of the entire process with my clients. The caseworkers you're referring to don't sound educated or kind and are acting out of accordance with masters in social work code of ethics. Caseworkers are often NOT professional social workers but those with a four year degree who have too many cases and all of their work is signed off on by a "real" social worker.
My clients, the parents who are adopting, they are some of the most amazingly strong and divine people I've ever met. I vividly remember one woman cleaning up the Cheerios her son spilled on the floor with such nonchalance and lightness as she balanced the needs of four children alone. Another client had to resume work immediately after adopting and was so thoughtful and detail oriented when seeking out daycares for his son.

I'm so sorry to hear about your experiences. Sensitivity is a learned behavior and those who have not developed it inherently do not belong in the field of adoption.

Your Sincerely,

Andrea B. Wainer, Clinical Social Worker, LSCW-R
Un-fortunately, this only serves to further prove that the Federal Government is purposely creating disabled children and selecting which family type will be allowed to procreate and move on to the next level of development as each child gets weeded out in the public school system it is very easy for these "social workers" to spot the troubled child and being told it is their duty to report it ... I had my child illegally taken from me while he was in the fourth grade. I had just completed 7 years as a single mom at Rivier College in Nashua, N.H. I gave up the possibility of having a professional paying job because I chose to fight tooth and nail to regain custody. I loved my child (obviously more than money because in 1995 when I earned my B.F. A degree the Governments official acknowledgement of our countries economy had not yet happened ... I could have gained meaningful employment with enough money to be self sufficient - without having to resort to blackmail or otherwise keep a bad marriage alive "for the sake of the child" ... really ? I did everything the corrupt NH Family Court told me I had to. In the end, I was lucky because it was my child's biological father who returned custody, but the damage had already been done. The entire eXperience has taught me much and I have heard many true stories .... In physch terms it is a GAME called, "you and he/she fight" and in many cases the weakness in a family gets exposed then eXploited when one or more family members refuse to acknowledge their own role in the "cycle of abuse/neglect". Abuse/neglect is generational and the Federal Government has been funding the CPS - Child Protective Service under Title IV, which means that the American Federal Government has been perpetchuating (excuse the mis-spell I have been rendered disabled for real NOT A PRETENDER the buying and selling of select babies for many generations. This heinous CRIME needs to be stopped.
Thanks so much for writing this! I only half-jokingly refer to our adoption experience as "buying the babies" --- our youngest is now 7 and we're only now beginning to financially recover from the expense.

I've spoken loud and often to other people about the gamut we had to run, with my final comment being this: "That 14-yr-old can go home with her newborn from the hospital without anyone ever checking up on the baby's well-being or the child-mother's fitness. But we had to endure the most invasive examinations just to be considered as adoptive parents -- not to mention the monthly visits, status reports, etc., after we took placement.

And here's the other thing --- we were a lesbian couple, so that microscope was set to the highest level.
Oh my goodness. This sounds like a nightmare. Now I'm not sure I still want to adopt, although we are willing to take an older child, not necessarily a baby.
We adopted our now 22-yr-old when he was 5 wks old. It was a remarkably smooth (and wholly legal) interstate-compact process. I think we were all very fortunate contrasted to what some experience. r.
Such a horrible experience! As an adoption worker, though, I must tell you that the questions about race are neccessary. Sometimes a family is so idealistic about adoption that they do not consider how their child will be received by extended family or people in their town or at school. One must consider long term effects on the child because many of them experience painful identity issues after a trans-racial adoption. Imagine yourself as a two-year old suddenly placed with a family in a city in Uganda where no one looks like you, they use different products for their hair and skin, and their society's idea of beauty is the EXACT opposite of what you see when you look in the mirror. Just something to consider. And one more thing....the agency that handled your adoption should be ashamed of themselves for their indifference toward your feelings. The process is intrusive, but there's a right way and wrong way to do everything.
Although I appreciate your honest account on what the adoption process has caused you, I'm afraid I can't feel empathetic. Do you think you deserve a baby more than a baby deserves a guaranteed safe, healthy, and loving home? I've heard far too many stories of adoptees ending up in unsuitable and abusive homes than to sympathize with a parent who is fortunate enough to be able to 'buy a baby', as you say. No child deserves that gamble. And for those children, I hope that you see how fortunate you are and truly hope that your child/children are just as fortunate.
I completely empathize with your view and appreciate your honesty. Too many people choose to sugarcoat this subject. My husband and I investigated adoption and were dismayed and turned off by "the process." Our hearts had already been broken following repeated cycles of hope and despair caused by unsuccessful infertility treatments.

In addition to all of the things you've mentioned, we found that given that the vast majority of adoptions in the U.S. are "open" we might also find that we'd be adopting more than a child as there's the potential for the child's biological family to come and go into our lives -- complicating relationships further. We also talked to more than a few adoptive parents who faced a biological mother who changed her mind after delivery breaking their hearts once again. Like you, we concluded that if those who conceived had to prove their fitness for parenting, the vast majority would never pass the first round of screening. Thanks for telling it like it is.
Hi Kristina, As both a mother through adoption and as an adoption facilitator..I can really appreciate your "journey". I have worked in both foster care and private adoption....favoring private adoption. Your recall is right on..We do need change, but because we are working with people and emotions..there will never be enough change to make everyone satisfied.

Lisa Sweet
Sweet Beginnings Adoptions
I am sorry that your adoption professionals were not professional! Adoptive families should shop around for placing agencies that provide quality services & get a reference from another family who has adopted and was satisfied with their adoption agency and the process.

The loops that adoptive families have to jump through were created because the process is about the child & taking every precaution to ensure that only the most qualified families adopt. Not every family that wants to adopt is qualified or has the best motive. Families need adoption education before they adopt so that they can make fully informed decisions (but it does need to be provided by qualified persons).

As someone that provides adoption services at an adoption agency I agree the homestudy process can be improved: enhanced education, better support, etc., but if I were placing a child for adoption I would want to know that every i had been dotted and every t crossed. I would want to be confident that the family that was going to raise my child would actually be providing everything I desired for my child that I could not provide.

If someone providing a service for you does not provide it in a professional way report them to their supervisor, licensing board, state licensing authority, etc. The worker will either have to reform after being taught the correct way to provide the service or they will loose their right to provide that service.

Thank You for sharing your point of view. It helps us who work in adoption with adoptive families, birth families and adoptees.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kristina. I really hope your cries are heard by the right people. The people who can make the change.
I am also an adoptive parent. I (we) tried, many years ago, for a year to adopt domestically. It never happened and at one point my wife abruptly and unexpectedly got pregnant. So that process ended at that point. However, my son was born very early with cerebral palsy and we wanted a second child, but didn't dare go through the birth process again, so we adopted, this time internationally. The scrutiny isn't quite as hairy as for domestic but it's still pretty severe. You get the caseworker visits.

And then you think:

And all your average sixteen year old girl needs to do to get here is get knocked up. No background checks, no scrutiny, nothing.

Man, this is hard. Aside from the scrutiny, there are just so many hoops, though for international adoption some of the hoops are different.

Well, when you get to the end, there's one thing that no one can ever question:

Your kid was wanted.
Trust me that the process of child adoption is very frustrating for both parents and caseworkers, there are a lot of paperwork needed to be done and this is very extenuating. One of my child`s friend from preschool in Thornton CO is adopted and his parents had to wait four years till they got the final result, imagine how stressful it was for them. With all this bureaucracy the adoption process is taking too long and people become very stressed, if there would be a way to make this faster a lot of people would have a different opinion about adopting a baby.