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Choices, Choices

Couple on a hayride

I realize now that the thing I appreciate most about my marriage is the ability for one of us to stay on the ground while the other one is way up in the air, flying high on nerves and what-ifs. Thank god for my husband Dominic (left in photo above), because on the 30-minute drive to A Loving Choice adoption agency last night, there were times when I thought I was going to throw up. I’ve traveled the country speaking to young people about the coming-out process, I’ve taken a lawsuit for GLBT equality to the State Supreme Court; hell, I’ve gotten married. And none of that made me more nervous than sitting in the car for ten minutes outside the agency building before the 7 o’clock interest session last night.

Remember how I told you you’d be coming along for the ride, warts and all? Well, lucky for you, I didn’t throw up on myself, so, consider that bullet dodged for now.

We walked into A Loving Choice at 6:55 p.m., into a building which is essentially just a house. It felt odd at first, but by the end of the meeting, I understood exactly why the space is what it is. This was a general interest meeting; we were just there for information, and to hear from someone within the agency about the processes and their specific philosophies and policies. We joined four other couples, each on their own road to parenthood. They were all heterosexual, which made me feel comfortable, because like teenagers at a dance, we all had our own awkward stories, fears, and tensions. We never shared names with one another, but for two and a half hours last night, we were all on the same path, ten birds of a very common feather, flying side by side. Different origins, same destination.

Logo for A Loving Choice Adoption Associates A Loving Choice Adoption Associates, Shrewsbury, New Jersey

The meeting was led by the supervisor of casework services, Christine. She’s an adoptive mother herself, a co-founder of A Loving Choice 11 years ago, and we were immediately comfortable with her. I guess if you’ve worked with people in intense situations for as long as Christine has, you get to dispense with any façade and just focus on connecting immediately. She nailed it. She opened by suggesting we all go to multiple agencies for information meetings, because being comfortable with the agency we select is of utmost importance. Like Santa telling a customer to shop somewhere other than Macy’s, I really appreciated the candor up front. Dom and I are no-BS people and so was Christine. We’ll go to meetings with other agencies, absolutely. But I’m kind of in love with Christine and her personality, so to have someone with whom we felt immediately comfortable, in a situation as intensely personal and with the propensity for so much heartache, doesn’t go unnoticed. I know I would trust her with our family. And when weighing options on whom to select to represent our ability to parent a child, and to fight for us, trust feels like it’s crucial.

Of course we were curious about the money, absolutely. But to get to the answers on money, it’s important that we understood exactly what options would be in front of us.

The “passport to adoption,” as Christine called it, is in completing our home study. It is absolutely necessary, as is the first step. This process takes about six weeks to complete, and is as invasive and difficult as we’d envisioned it. We can’t say we were surprised. A caseworker will give us a huge questionnaire, ask us to write about ourselves, and provide lots of documents. We’ll submit to a Criminal History Record Information fingerprint background check. We’ll go through a Child Abuse Record Information background check. We’ll have meetings in our home, we’ll be interviewed together, we’ll be interviewed separately. And all of this is valid for one year. If we do not adopt within a year, we’ll need to update our home study. If you’re interested in keeping a tally at home, a home study is $950.

Once the home study process is completed, we can choose to “go into profile” with A Loving Choice. There is a $250 fee for a Profile Consultation, where we’re guided through the process of establishing our profile with the agency. After that, we pay $750 to file our profile with the agency, and an additional $250 if we’d like it listed on their website. When these steps are concluded, we’ll be off to the races. A Loving Choice will start showing our profiles to birth mothers who meet the criteria we select in our home study. If we are only interested in a Caucasian, healthy baby whose birth parents are both college-educated and have never had a glass of wine, the wait will be, shall we say, extensive. We learned that the more open we are to different situations, the shorter our wait will be, generally. Now, there are two options for how we can move forward.

If a birth mother is shown our profile by A Loving Choice, and they select us, it will be directly because of the work of the agency. The fee for an adoption via Profile Selection is $15,000, with an additional $2,500 provided for birth mother expenses. This is the highest that the birth mother expenses can get, any additional is covered by the agency. If the birth mother changes her mind about adoption, we would be refunded that money.

If, in the course of our own advertising and publicizing our adoption profile, a birth mother reaches out to us directly and indicates her interest in selecting us, we would pay $6,000 to the agency, for what’s called an Identified Adoption. However, we would be directly responsible for any and all birth mother expenses, with no ceiling on how high that can climb, and with no protection to recover that money if the birth mother changes her mind at the end of this process and chooses to parent that child herself.

On either of these roads, a baby will ultimately be born that is placed with us. There are then four visits from the adoption agency, billed at $200 each, for Post Placement Reports. And then court reports.

What’s that line in Les Misérables? Oh yes, it’s, “How it all increases, all them bits and pieces. Jesus! It’s amazing how it grows!” Yes, this.

But at last, we have an accurate picture of what a full marathon with an adoption agency will cost us. From the $2,200 home study process to the more expensive Profile Selection adoption (including birth mother expenses) at $17,500, we’re looking at a $20,000 run. It’s like that moment when you’ve been staring at one of those Magic Eye pictures, and you can finally see a dolphin coming out of the background. Yes, you can see the dolphin, but damn it if you don’t feel a little nauseous.

Knowing the money side of things now, the road ahead appears more emerald-tinted than yellow-bricked. But there’s a discernible road there. It all starts with our home study. When we file our home study paperwork, we include a check for that process, and then the agency could present us with possible matches at any point. The expected wait, we were told, is between 9 and 24 months. I get irritated when Cablevision tells me they’ll be at my house between 9 and 2, so I’m going to learn about this thing my husband tells me is called patience. An educating process, indeed. When a baby is placed with us, all of the other money is due. There are no payment plans, no financing. It’s all or it’s nothing.

I’m so grateful to A Loving Choice for making last night as comfortable and educational as it was. I really do feel that this could be the right place for us, for our family to take root.

We’ve had so many family and friends reach out since last night, offering words of encouragement, asking how things went, friends with crying babies and jobs and lives of their own. Thank you for asking us how it went, we love you all very much.

And for those of you whom we don’t know, who are cheering us on as we walk hand in hand together towards a tinier set of hands, I told you I’d keep you in this loop. Last night was easy, hard, exhilarating, terrifying, and emotional. And now last night is over, and it’s on to the next thing. And after that, the next thing, and the next and the next. Stay with us?

Birds of a feather, you know? Keep flapping with us, we’ll find our way together.

To help find your path to fatherhood through gay adoption, surrogacy or foster care check out the GWK Academy.

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