This week, I have the pleasure of airing a segment with Jennifer Fairfax about the adoption process in Maryland. As people wait longer to have children, it seems more adults are experiencing infertility issues, and currently there are about 130,000 adoptions in the USA each year. The process can take about 2 years, and requires adoptive parents to undergo home studies, complete medicals and disclose all their finances. They need to gather testimonials from family and friends, and create albums that can be shared with birth mothers, who want to know where the child will be placed. Those that choose to go overseas, may need to make several trips– one to meet the child; the second to execute paper work; and the third trip is usually to attend a final hearing and return with the child. Some people assist with the biological mother’s medical expenses, in addition to her legal expenses. I’ve heard of cases where an international adoption can cost as much as $60,000. Needless to say, there is a huge investment of time and money in this whole endeavor.
It is amazing to think that after going through all this effort, it used to be common practice to not tell the child that s/he was adopted. Thankfully, that practice is dying out, and in Jennifer’s experience, only about 1 in 70 ask for a closed adoption now. Adoptive parents are now encouraged to share with the children pictures of their birth mothers, and many will facilitate some sort of continued access, even if just an annual call or holiday card. As we continue to expand our definition of family, I am truly heartened to hear that the process for connecting an adopted child with his/her biological parents has become easier– simply because it is normal to want to know your makers.
Personally, I got such closure last year after finally getting answers to so many questions that had haunted me my whole life about my father. Finding him does not negate the appreciation I have for what my mother did, nor does it erase the profound loss I felt for most of my life, but now that hole in my heart has been filled with love and understanding. I can’t gurantee that all adoptive children will have an outcome similar to mine, in fact it’s best if they go in with low expectations, so they can only be pleasantly surprised. Hopefully, by sharing with others how involved this process can be for a family, more people (including employers) will keep an open mind and provide support to these families as they navigate a complex sea of emotions.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.