Child Adoption: My Friend’s Story

Thinking of baby adoption?  Join my friend O’Lita and me as she tells her story of how she and her husband worked through the adoption process to bring home their beautiful little daughter.  Here is an edited transcript of our videotaped interview.

– [Katie] Hi, everybody. It’s Katie. Today, we’re gonna talk about something that I don’t know a whole lot about, but I have an amazing friend here to share, and it’s adoption. So if you’re ever wondered about adoption, what it’s like, how do you go about doing it, what does the process look like, stick with us. We’re gonna talk about it. So I’d like to introduce you to one of my very best friends. Her name is O’Lita, and she and her husband have had the wonderful pleasure of adopting an amazing little girl who I actually just got to meet today. She’s like 15 months now?

– [O’Lita] 15 months.

– Oh, my gosh, and I just got to meet her today. She’s so cute, so cute. I love her. Her name is Noah and, as I said, she’s about 15 months. They got her as soon as she was born so she’s been with them since birth. I want to talk with you, O’Lita, about the process and what you went through, honestly, I wouldn’t know and unless you engage in the process, you don’t know. I think you have a lot of wisdom that you can share with people who may be wondering about adopting. So I have some questions for you, and I guess the first one is was adoption an easy decision to make? Was it difficult? Was it easier for you than it was your husband? How did that look?

– So for Nick and I, I think the short answer is it was actually a pretty easy decision. However, it came differently than we thought it would. When we got married, we knew that we wanted to adopt. However, we thought that the adoption would come after having our own biological children, but that isn’t the plan that God had for us, clearly. We struggled with infertility for about seven years, had a lot of loss and a lot of hard times related to that, but ultimately I’ve always had a heart for adoption. As for the timing, I was ready a little bit sooner than he was. We waited for a little bit but then he was ready, and I was absolutely on-board, so we started the very scary, intimidating process of adopting our first daughter.

– Very cool. If you don’t mind sharing the story you told me, O’Lita. It was a really cute story about…was it your volleyball team? I think, when you were in high school?

– Yeah, so I was actually in college. I happen to think little black baby boys are the cutest little guys ever and my teammates would tease me a little bit, because I would see them and since I love children I would gravitate towards all kiddos. If there were any kids in the gymnasium, I was definitely there. I wanted to meet them. I wanted to talk to them. Obviously, part of my adoption heart showed up there. So they would tease me about putting, this is terrible probably to say, but tease me about putting little babies in my backpack. Like just taking them. Like “Oh, here, I’ll just take this little kiddo with me.” Even from a very early age, I actually remember being in the seventh grade, I know exactly where I was when I, myself, made the decision to adopt. So I knew I would be an adoptive mother at some point in my life and was blessed enough to find a husband that had the same heart for adoption.

– That’s so good. So I know just through what I know about what you’ve gone through, that there’s a lot of agencies and a lot of different ways to adopt a child. How did you chose an agency and how did you make the decision to go with the style of adoption that you did?

– Sure. Once you make the decision to adopt, then everything else just comes. Probably, getting started is the most intimidating part; where to go, who do I talk to, financially can I afford it, how long is the wait. There are so many things that flood your mind. How are my friends, family, and everybody else gonna take in our decision to adopt? Our family was amazing. We got very fortunate in that everybody was extremely supportive. So we started our search to finding the right agency.

I think that’s probably one of the most important things to do is find the agency that fits with you. There’s a couple of different things you can do. You can hire an attorney that specifically deals with adoption law. Sometimes that can be slightly more expensive, but your wait time can be slightly less. You could go with a traditional agency that brings in people every day and you go on a wait list, which can be pretty tough because you go into a pool with 20, 30, 50 other couples who are trying to adopt at the same time and you go at the bottom of that list. There are others that don’t work that way.

There are not so many straight-up closed adoptions anymore, but I do believe that is still an option. There is open adoption, where you bring in your birth mom and she becomes one of your family members. There’s semi-open. There are all kinds of things that you have to sift through in order to decide what to do and you really have to listen to your heart and know what you are comfortable with. Anything that you aren’t comfortable with, is okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you want a closed adoption, for whatever the reason, if you want a 100% completely open adoption, that’s okay, too. We went semi-open, and the woman who birthed Noah is an absolutely amazing lady and we love her. There is definitely a time for her in Noah’s life and we’re extremely excited about that and to see that relationship develop.

So for us, given we wanted semi-open, we ended up going with a attorney’s office that has an adoption outreach program. They are called Adopt Help, based in Sherman Oaks, California and they are amazing. I have nothing but great things to say about the way they organize their process to adopt. They’re very open, you can come in and have a consultation with them, and immediately after we spoke with one of the case workers and also their attorneys. It was immediately comfortable. We felt, “This is the place” and we never looked back and they’ve been great. When we adopt again, as we likely will, we will definitely use their services again.

– Yeah, I remember you saying that they did a really good job and you felt honored in the process. Can you explain in general terms what the process looked like after you went in and had your consultation and figured all that out? How did that go?

– Sure. So one of the things that is slightly different with the attorney’s office is we were able to get things moving a little bit quicker than in a traditional agency. Now, I want to preface, that it might have been just the agencies that we were looking at. So, please, do your research, interview a lot of different agencies, because there are lots of different ways that you can do this. But of the few that we were looking at, Adopt Help was our clear winner. Their lead times were slightly quicker. We were very fortunate, this does not happen for everybody, but our process went very, very quickly. Which was also very intimidating and scary, that it went as quickly as it did.

We came in, we met with the attorney, and basically the way their process worked was you paid a lump sum upfront which started the outreach program. So you have a case worker, you have people on the phone who are constantly fielding calls from women who are having babies and contemplating giving their babies up for adoption. Once the birth mom gets so far along in her pregnancy, they generally wait until at least midway into the second trimester before they match you with a family. So all of that is kind of working immediately when you start with Adopt Help. And as a side thing that you are doing, as the couple or the person looking to adopt, is you are working with a state agency to get your home basically inspected, making sure things are child-proofed, that you know, that you’re…

– It’s safe. You don’t have a pack of rabid dogs.

– Exactly! That pools are enclosed. They also do a pretty deep dive into your personal relationship, which I think we weren’t expecting. They ask a lot about you and your significant other’s relationship. So how long you’ve been together? Some of those questions can get pretty personal and it’s really interesting. That was something we certainly weren’t expecting. You have a one-on-one interview and then you have an interview together, on top of this home inspection, and that takes some time. It took us probably two months, if I’m remembering correctly, just to completely finish the full cycle to be approved and okayed to adopt a baby.

So that was going on and we actually, due to the nature of the way Adopt Help worked, we were matched with a birth mom before we were fully approved. That created a little bit of “Okay, we have to definitely make sure we are approved before we can go any further.” We did and it ended up working out great. Within a few months of coming in, paying our first fee, we were matched and had a baby on the way. There were a few other idiosyncrasies within the process as far as the financial aspect goes because you can pay in installments and once you get matched, then you end up having to pay a lump sum. Every agency works out that a little differently.

What I would advise adoptive parents to do is make sure you fully understand the way that system works before going into it so you’re not surprised when they start calling you for the financial contribution that you have set. Just make sure that you fully understand that because every agency is slightly different. The other thing I guess that I’ll note is really anybody can adopt. I remember Nick and I both being very worried that financially we wouldn’t be able to do it. But there are any number of things that you can do this day and age that will allow you to get the finances in order to adopt. If finance is one of the reasons that keeps you from wanting to adopt or makes you fearful, don’t let it be because it wouldn’t matter how much money you spend, it’s 100% worth it. And you can find it, there’s ways to find it.

– Good, I agree. Are there any highs or lows that you want to share about the process?

– There are a ton. When you decide to adopt, everybody tells you it’s an emotional roller coaster. So you go in knowing that, sort of, but it’s just the craziest ride you will ever be on prior to having the kid in your home. Just the start of it is pretty crazy. Another thing you have to be aware of is that adoption don’t always work out, that sometimes these moms, who are amazing and great, will change their minds. And that’s okay. It’s gotta be very tough to give up a baby. But it happens and you get so vested in them and their soon-to-be baby and soon-to-be your baby, that that can be a pretty tough pill to swallow.

We had a failed adoption attempt. We matched in August. The baby was going to be due in November. We went all the way cross-country to pick up this little girl and her mother changed her mind. And it’s devastating. It’s very, very sad. But, oddly enough, there was a sense of peace through all of that craziness that was ever-present. And it really was that she was not our baby, she was intended to stay with her mom. Within two weeks, we were then matched with Noah’s birth mom, who was…I got a call at work saying, “Hey, we’ve got a baby.”

– I remember that call.

– “She’s due in…She’s having her in two hours.”

– “She’s in labor.”

– “Can you get there?” And we were like, “Yes, absolutely, on our way.” It happened in the blink of an eye, two weeks later we got our daughter. And she is very much our daughter. She fit in perfectly. I can’t imagine not having her in our lives. So with the failed attempt, which was definitely a low, you get the high of getting your baby. Then there are many more before that, just trying to navigate through getting approved for your home, the waiting. Then we get matched and things are going maybe a little weird, like we’re worried that maybe she’s gonna change her mind. All of these things are very normal and you’ve just got to roll with the punches because adoption agencies will always tell you, “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.'” You really have to remember that because you will get a baby.

– Yeah, I remember that phone call. You called me and said “There’s a baby. She’s in labor now.” Then you drove over and got her. That was amazing. So there’s one question that I actually probably should have asked you a little bit earlier, and that is what does it mean to get matched and how does that work? How does a mother and a family wanting to adopt get matched and is there anything that you do? How do you present yourself to help a mother decide that that’s what she wants?

– Matching is when a birth mother and/or birth father, because sometimes it isn’t just the mother, sometimes people come in as couples wanting to give the baby up for adoption which is amazing, have chosen you from all other prospective parents. With most agencies, or at least our agency, what you do is you go in and fill out a form that says “This is what we’re looking for.” You pick ethnicity, you pick sex, and again this is something where you shouldn’t be embarrassed by what your filters are. There are options to adopt special needs children. You name it and you can adopt. You just have to be very true to yourself about what you’re going to put in these filters. The reason you do that is because you don’t want to miss out on a potential birth mom, somebody who is looking for you, wanting you to care for their child. You want to make sure that you’re true to yourself so you can be true to them and do what they’re looking for you to do for their kiddo. So you fill out this form and then your agency knows “Okay, these are the adopting mothers we are going to present your baby to.”

It was very funny, Nick was very adamant about a boy, naturally. So we had agreed that we were going to send our booklet, which I will get to in just a second, to moms who knew they’re having baby boys and moms who didn’t know what they’re having. We were meant to have a girl because both of the birth moms we were working with had girls. They didn’t know the sex of the babies they were having and then we found out with the first mom it was a girl when we showed up to pick up Noah, that it was a girl. So it was quite funny and he was, of course, ecstatic, but it was just interesting that he tried to weasel his way in there and it didn’t work.

– But God was like “Nope, you guys are gonna have a girl.”

– We were meant to have a girl. So what happens is you put together a pamphlet, and every agency does them slightly different. Most of the time they’re like leaflets. They’re 12 pages of just pictures of who you are, and you write a little blurb about yourself. You can write it about your husband and him about you or vice versa. You just tell them who you are, what you intend to do, what you want to show this baby that they’re gonna entrust to you. It’s a great way for them to get to know you, see where you live and things like that. So these birth moms, I can’t even imagine having to make this kind of decision, get any number of these booklets. Our birth mom got I believe 20 booklets.

– This was Noah’s mom?

– This was Noah’s mom. So she had an interesting situation. She knew she wanted to give her baby up for adoption but she didn’t mean to wait until the last minute to choose adoptive parents, but then Noah came early. So by the time she got to the hospital, she actually hadn’t made a selection. She was doing all of her stuff with the agency to get prepped for adoption. So they sent her electronically these portfolios, these resumes, these books on these families who were waiting to get babies, and she had to make a last minute game time decision. We’re so fortunate that we were her choice. But you get these books and these birth moms choose you from what they see, what you write, what you say you want to do with your child.

As an adoptive parent, I would say do your research on what birth moms actually look at. Because it’s very different than what you think it would be and everybody’s different. I encourage you to look. There’s lots of stories now that circulate about birth moms telling why they picked somebody and so forth. It’s just very, very heartwarming and neat to see the process these women and sometimes their significant others go through in making their decision as to who they pick.

– Who they entrust their baby to.

– And it’s great. Ultimately, matching is when the birth mother chooses you.

– Okay, perfect. Well, we’re going to wrap up here pretty quick, but I wanted to ask you are there any final thoughts that you want to share about adoption with our viewers?

– I think probably one of the most amazing things about adoption is it has an interesting… We get a lot of “Oh, my gosh, you guys did such a great thing.” And we did. We love that we were able to adopt but, ultimately, Noah’s birth mom is the one that did the most amazing thing. She selflessly gave her baby to us, she entrusted us to take care of her, to provide her everything that she needs. We just want to say there are so many reasons why women give their babies up for adoption and they’re not always the reasons that you think they may be. So definitely go in with an open mind and open heart because they deserve our respect. It’s an amazing journey and an amazing thing. These women are doing great things for their children, and that’s very important to be noted.

– I love that. That’s so good. Well, I certainly know that my understanding of adoption has gone from not much to way bigger after watching you walk through this and listening to you as you did. Thank you so much for being willing to share your story. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot just in how it works and so I appreciate you sharing with us, taking the time.

That’s it for today, guys.  We’ve got a Facebook page, and we would love to have you connect with us there!   Our YouTube channel has dozens of videos about babies, mommyhood and more about families, life and love.  Join us!

For you veteran adoptive parents out there, do you have thoughts that will help others? If so….please leave them in the comments below!  There is plenty I don’t know and if you have pieces I’ve missed, let’s together help other families who are working on these things!

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