POSTED ON OCTOBER 27, 2010:
A Winding River of Rules and Love
Navigating the complexities of adoption
Take a stroll down Brookside, look around. There are so many strollers that they practically need their own parking lot, Purple Glaze entertains little ones in hoards and the pregnant women that bounce between Baby Bump and Cosmo's Café seem to be spontaneously appearing.
Now consider, according to an August 2003 U.S. Census report, there are more than 1.6 million adopted children under the age of 18 living in the United States. Though adoption has existed for as long as children have needed a caring home that biological parents are not able or willing to provide, it is a process that has changed significantly over the years and everyone seems to have different expectations.
Whether the goal is to adopt or to give a little one over to an adoptive family, there is more than one option available. Look for the agency, private party or avenue that best fits the needs and wants.
Every Oklahoma adoption is subject to federal and Department of Human Services criteria. For instance, the state does not allow individuals who are under the age of 21 to adopt but there is no age cap mandated by Oklahoma. By federal law, any adoptive family must be at 125% of the poverty line, so a household of 3 must make at least $22,887.
"Because there has been so much change in the adoption world, sometimes I think for families, they're playing Plinko," said Denise Schoborgr, Dillon International China program director. "Dropping the disc and watching it go through this maze of pegs, not sure where its going to ultimately rest."
Though DHS has red tape to be cut through in order to adopt, there are reasons for these regulations. The goal of each party is to find the most suitable home for a child that would not otherwise have one. While these regulations can seem impossible to navigate, there are experts that are willing to walk a family or a birth mom through the process
"In Oklahoma, there has to be a pre-placement, that means they have to be approved before they ever get the child," said Trip Swain, PLC of Swain Law Firm, "and the basic requirements of what is in the home study is set by statute."
Additionally, each agency usually sets its own criteria for adoption. Several agencies, including Catholic Charities and Crisis Pregnancy Outreach, require the adoptive family to be committed Christians. While LDS Family Services requires that the adoptive family specifically be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The common thread among each agency is that they are looking for families to love these children, not children to accessorize a family.
Dillon International provides adoption options for families looking to adopt outside the United States. Not only does this agency have to abide by the U.S. criteria but each country has specific criteria as well. While several domestic agencies might cap the age requirement at 45 and may only allow married couples to adopt, there are countries such as China that are willing to adopt out to older parents and Russia currently allows singles to explore adoption. So there is always an option out there but the required research is extensive and the individual or family must be wholeheartedly devoted to the decision.
"Because we have those multiple layers of requirements whether it's the agency, the state or the government, it can be really discouraging especially because it can be so overwhelming," Schoborgr said. "There are so many options, agencies and things to consider. Keep plugging away and trust that you will have a sense of leading about what the right path is."
As agencies explore what criteria they may set for adoptive families, they largely rely on what birth mothers visiting a specific facility are requesting. Though all the rules may look like they've been set by way of crap-shoot, there is a board or executive director that makes these decisions in hopes of providing, what they perceive to be, the best possible home.
In addition to seeking out the most viable selection of families, many agencies provide resources for birth moms that are not available outside of the agency. Most non-profit agencies provide counseling or even housing for birth moms that would otherwise not have access to such.
While domestic and international adoption come with strictly enforced agency guidelines, private party adoption is a third option to consider.
"If you're doing an adoption with a private attorney, they don't have rules like that. A private attorney wants what the parties can agree to and how they want to do it," Swain said. "Some girls want a lot of help, support and guidance and some of them don't. It comes down to personal preference."
Ultimately, the goal is to make sure these children are in safe and loving homes, whatever that might look like. At the end of the day, every human being just wants to return to a safe and comfortable living space.
"Regardless of which path a family decides on, if a child finds a family, that's the most important thing, Schoborgr said. "Ultimately, at the end of that journey a child has found a home."
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