Adoption is a committed life-long relationship. We also understand that adoption is an emotional and complex process. Our staff members have the expertise, experience and commitment to help you, and to be honest with you, from the beginning stages of inquiry through the entire adoption process.
The information below is intended to give you a preliminary outline about our open adoption program. Regardless if you are pregnant, or you are interested in adopting a child, you are invited to click here at any time to take the next step in the inquiry process by filling out our preliminary adoption application.
Eligibility requirements for the Catholic Charities Open Adoption Program are consistent with the values of the Diocese of Dodge City, sensitive to the unique needs of birthfamilies and their children, and necessitate a genuine comfortableness with our open adoption philosophy.
The process for prospective parents consists of (1) information gathering, (2) intake, (3) assessment, (4) education and preparation, (5) waiting, (6) placement, and (7) post-placement support.
1. Information Gathering
Adoption is a much more complicated subject than most people realize. As couples approach the prospect of adoption, there are many questions to answer and decisions to make. Are we really ready for adoption? What form of adoption do we prefer? International? Special Needs? Infant? Closed? Open? Where do we begin?
Good decision making requires good information gathering. Therefore, our first concern is to give you as much information as early and as inexpensively as possible. We know that you cannot afford to put a lot of time and money into a prospect that does not really fit your style and your goals.
The next step is to attend a free orientation meeting which is attended by all the families who have expressed interest in the program. The meeting will give you an overview our our philosophy, policies, and practices. Interested families continue on with another series of four education workshops that provide the latest information on adoption issues. Here, we provide an honest appraisal of open adoption so that you can consider both its strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, we review topics such as: Facing our Fears, Talking with Our Children about Adoption, and Lifelong Issues of Adoption. You'll also have a chance to listen to an Adoption Triad Panel where adoptive parents, birthparents and their children are present to share their stories about the open adoption journey.
It is our sincere hope that after absorbing all of this information, families will be able to make sound decisions about pursuing an open adoption.
Unfortunately, there are more prospective families than there are infants needing adoption. Since we try to serve birthparents to the best of our ability, we carefully screen and admit those families that we believe are the most suitable candidates to us. Doing this in an efficient, thorough and equitable manner is a challenge, but we believe it is our most responsible course of action, and we are committed to this standard of practice.
The usual intake process calls for each couple to meet with one of our adoption staff members. The adoption staff member will do a family genogram (build a family tree) and interview the family on many different topics. Catholic Social Service Staff will then review all information and determine which families we will admit to the program. Families are notified about whether they have been admitted or not as quickly as possible. Families who are not admitted are welcome to try again.
3. Assessment -
The pre-placement assessment, or homestudy, involves four sessions between the couple and an adoption staff member. Basic issues such as motivation, marriage, family life, parenting style, and attitudes toward adoption are addressed. Couples prepare worksheets on these subjects and then discuss them with the Adoption Staff Member. At the same time, the agency will check for criminal or child abuse incident and contact the persons listed as personal references. Reports substantiating the good health of all members of the prospective adoptive family must be received from their physicians.
Once we have gathered this information, we make a formal decision to approve or disapprove a family for adoption. We reserve the right to rescind the "approved for placement" status at any time for good cause.
4. Preparation and Education -
Once we have approved a family for placement, they are eligible to be chosen by a birthfamily. In the open-adoption system, the birthfamily almost always chooses the adoptive parents. They determine which family is the most appropriate for the child and they reach their conclusions by reviewing portfolios of information, which the families have prepared about themselves. The portfolios include a letter, photos and a few informational forms. Click here to view the portfolios of some of our waiting Families.
With their evaluation behind them, prospective adoptive families can relax and begin to make preparations to welcome a child into their home. Given the sense of excitement and anticipation families' feel at this point, it is an ideal time for prospective families to convene as a group and learn from each other. The twin goals in this phase are preparation and support. Families are given a chance to meet with adoptees and birthparents to understand adoption from different perspectives. Monthly support groups are encouraged. It is our hope that support meetings are rotated through the homes of the various families which allows for a more relaxed and festive support for each other. Many enduring friendships result from this rich time of sharing between families. In addition to this support, informational workshops will be available at no additional cost to the prospective adoptive families.
Despite the pleasure of getting to know the other families in the group, this time of waiting is usually the most difficult phase of the adoption experience. It is difficult because families no longer have a sense of making progress toward their goal. It is common for families to have ambivalent feelings when they learn that a birthparent has chosen another family. They are happy for that family, but they also wonder why they were not the ones chosen. It is important for all of us to work together to make the time of anticipation meaningful and constructive.
Families are welcome to contact us "just to stay in touch." Many families will make small improvements in their portfolios during this time. This gives them a sense of action in what otherwise is a largely passive portion of the process. It is a challenge for families to establish and maintain an effective state of readiness. On one hand, we advise people to presume that they will not be chosen for several years and to live their usual lifestyle. On the other hand, we suggest people be ready at an hour's notice to go to the hospital to meet their baby and his or her birthparents. As difficult as this balancing act sounds, most people handle it very gracefully.
6. Placement -
The waiting phase ends when families receive "the call" notifying them that they have been chosen. Usually, this call is made by the birthparent, and, needless to say, creates quite a stir.
The next step is usually meeting with the birthparents. The meeting can take place at any convenient location. Under usual circumstances, the adoption staff member is there to serve as "ice breaker" and to make sure pertinent issues are covered. Families generally go into the meeting (likened to a blind date) with trepidation, and come out of it relaxed and relieved. If for some reason the meeting goes poorly (an extremely rare event in our experience), and an incompatibility between birth and adoptive families emerges, the process would be stopped and the experience analyzed. If the birthparent still desired adoption, she would return to the selection phase of her experience and choose again.
If the initial meeting is positive, we schedule a "Vision Merging" session. At that meeting among many other things, plans are made for how the two families will interact during the remainder of the pregnancy and how the hospital experience will work. Most plans call for the prospective adoptive family to be involved at the hospital, and it is an exciting opportunity for the family to start their relationship with the baby.
Under Kansas Law, birthparents cannot voluntarily relinquish their parental rights for 12 hours after the birth. It is the belief of Catholic Social Service that this is not enough time for birth parents to be certain of their decision. "Cradle Care" is offered to the birthparents if they feel they need more time to make their decision. Since the signing of a Voluntary Relinquishment in front of a District Judge is Irrevocable in the State of Kansas, the birthparents must be very clear about their decision prior to signing the relinquishment papers. This is a precarious time for the prospective adoptive family. It is at this time that they are at greatest emotional risk, for the birthparents may change their minds for any reason and decide to parent their child. This is more than a theoretical possibility: it does happen.
Our usual procedure is to give the birthparents as much time as they need before going before the District Judge. Following the relinquishments, the child is placed with the adoptive family. There may be times when a "Legal-Risk" placement can occur. This is when only one parent has relinquished their parental rights. It is at this time that the family contacts their attorneys to proceed to adoption finalization.
The adoption staff member will prepare necessary court documents and send them to the family's attorney. The adoptive parents will sign the "petition to adopt" and a hearing will be set after thirty days. The adoption is then finalized and the Decree of Adoption is issued. The child is legally part of the family. The child's name is changed and a supplemental birth certificate is issued by Vital Statistics. A six-month supervisory period will follow. The adoption staff member will visit with the family on at least two occasions to address any question or concerns.
7. Post-Placement Support
Even though the adoption is complete, we hope our relationship with you will continue and that you will stay in touch! Some of our reasons for wanting to continue the relationship are selfish. To begin with, we need your feedback so that we can continually improve our program. Through this extraordinary experience, you get to know us pretty well, and you can help us make our program better. Furthermore, as the persons who are living the open adoption experience, you have much to teach us as your family grows and as you encounter a variety of situations. We also need your continuing interest and support. Sometimes we come across puzzling circumstances and we like to call on our "alumni" for advice. Occasionally we ask our veterans to help us in the never-ending project of describing the program to the general public.
We like to think we can be helpful to you as well. If ever you run into a confusing situation related to adoption, we are a good place to look for information. We can do some troubleshooting if necessary. We also publish newsletters, and every once in awhile, we organize special events to bring together the open-adoption community and to renew old friendships.
In the past, adoption was considered a one-time event. Today, we recognize that it is a lifelong experience, and the need to stay current never ends. Our promise to you is that we are in this together for the long haul.
A Few Words about Fees
We want to take a moment to share our thoughts on the important subject of adoption fees. We recognize that the costs of adoption are often formidable and constitute a significant challenge to most family's budgets. Many of the expenses related to adoption are not covered by insurance and come on the heels of monstrous medical expenditures. All that tends to make people rather tender on financial issues, and that is why it is important that we communicate clearly on this issue from the very beginning. Noted below are a number of factors that have some bearing on the expense of adoption:
1. Non-Profit Organization
We are convinced that the most appropriate context for the provision of adoption service is the non-profit agency. Non-profit means our services are non-commercial. Staff members receive reasonable salaries and are not motivated by the prospect of profit.
2. Charitable Support
Our pregnancy/adoption program is supported, in part, by the United Way in Dodge City, Garden City and Great Bend, by the Diocesan Stewardship Appeal and by local grant funds. All the participants in our program benefit from this support. If families are not comfortable with this support and consider it inappropriate, special provisions can be made to reimburse this support.
3. Community Accountability
We are accountable to our communities in general and our board of directors in particular. Due to the potential for unscrupulous organizations to exploit the imbalance between supply and demand in adoption, the state of Kansas adds the statutory protection of judicial review of adoption fees.
4. The Agency Context
People entering our program enter a larger system. The agency context brings advantages of respectability, continuity and stability, broader connections, supervision and support. With these advantages come the responsibilities of overhead expenses.
5. Collective Sharing
It is very tempting to all of us to simply link fees to particular services provided. While there needs to be some connection, experience suggests it is an error to take that logic too far. If a tight link between service and fee were established, the expenses of adoption would lose all predictability because some are far more complicated than others. By spreading the exceptional expenditures (travel, "unconsummated" adoptions, material aid to birth families, etc.) across the entire pool of families, no single family faces the prospect of an extraordinarily expensive adoption. The pooling of resources is one of the great benefits of working with an agency.
6. Subsequent Adoptions
Families returning to adopt additional children through the program require significantly less evaluation and preparation. This means that returning families help to keep the costs down for the first time families.
7. State and Federal Support
Over the last several years we have seen the state and federal governments step forward to assist families who are adopting. For example, click here to read about health care reform legislation that has greatly expanded and enhanced the Adoption Tax Credit for couples who want to adopt a child. The state of Kansas also offers a program for "special needs" adoptions therefore attending to the most difficult adoptive situations with tax money. The state spares agencies from having to factor very expensive adoptions into its average costs. The medical card through SRS often picks up the medical expense of many uninsured birthmothers. The state of Kansas has also mandated that insurance companies provide coverage for children who are being adopted and they provide the opportunity for adoptive families to purchase insurance for birthmothers. Some do this with no additional cost. State and federal money may be available in the event that the child you are adopting has some unforeseen special needs at birth. This opportunity is only available if the adoption is handled by an agency.
8. Post-Placement Services
Our program has some enduring obligations to the people we serve. We enjoy offering this service because, among other factors, it is the right thing to do. Importantly, we learn for the future by gathering feedback from the past. To be sure that fees do not deter our extended adoptive family from returning for assistance, these costs (with the exception of our Search and Reunion Program) are covered by current clients.
9. Commitment to Excellence
We do not want our program to be average. We have taken great strides to model it after some of the leading Open Adoption programs in the nation. We have learned from the experts in the field and have made a commitment to strive for excellence.
10. Public Awareness Expenses
Times are changing rapidly in the world of adoption, and there is ferocious competition to capture the attention of potential birthparents. It is no longer sufficient to simply offer a quality program. These days we must work hard and be proactive to bring its message to the general public. This dimension to the work brings new financial challenges.
The strength of our program is candor and commitment to the clients we serve and we want this to be evident in every aspect of the process. Certainly this applies to our handling of money. If you have question, please ask us. If you have suggestions, by all means offer them. We sincerely believe that the participation of our constituency will enhance the efficiency and quality of our services.
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