Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Adoption Vs. IVF: Part 1


Ok. Grab a cup of coffee because you might be here a while.

Last year, after the second miscarriage we started looking into international adoption as the way we’d build our family. Dave and I had often talked about adoption even when we were just dating thinking that we might be too old to get pregnant. That’s why when we got pregnant with Conor so quickly, it was a surprise.

So it was even more of a surprise was how much resistance I felt within myself when we started looking into international adoption. I know that international adoption is the preferred way for most American couples these days, but it, at least at that point, was not the path that was right for us to take.

Why? Breastfeeding. A very big part of my conception of myself as a mother involves breastfeeding and the bond that Conor and I have developed through my being able to feed him with my body. It would bother me tremendously if our second child did not get a chance to bond with me in that way.

Also, I know I’m not a developmental psychologist. Nonetheless, it concerns me what could happen (or not) in the first year (or two!) or so of a child’s life before we adopted him or her. Children are incredibly resilient. But our understanding is that many international adoptions occur with children at least a year old and often, you’ll be assigned your child and then still have to wait 6 months until you can go get him/her. With the likelihood high of me causing an international incident trying to hurry the process along, It just doesn’t feel like that’s the right path for us.

So, we put adoption on hold misguidedly thinking that we were too old for domestic adoption. Then we found out we were not too old and were thrilled to hear that people “our age” could domestically adopt infants.

Yes, most domestic adoptions are with infants, and the adoptive parents often take the child home with them from the hospital and sometimes are even in the birthing room with the biological mother. WOW! An infant that would come home with us within a few days of his/her birth! And we could breastfeed!! It’s not easy, but it’s certainly possible.

Also, it was crystal clear to us early in considering a domestic adoption that the child’s ethnicity did not matter to us at all. In fact, we were quite open to what is known as “transracial” adoption as well as biracial adoption. We don’t need for our adopted child to look like us. This helps the adoption process a lot. For one thing, it also makes the process much more likely to go quickly. By saying we’re open to all healthy children, we have many more opportunities to find our child.

However, there are still issues.

First, mothers change their minds. The process for domestic adoptions is that biological mothers look through the profiles (i.e., photograph albums) of a range of prospective parents working with an agency. Then she picks the family who could be the parents of her child. The adoptive parents and the bio mom most often meet and decide to proceed with the adoption. However, the bio mom has every right in the world to change her mind. And after birth, 20 to 50% of them do. (As a statistician, it bugs me that the agencies can’t give us exact numbers. It’s an objective data point: either the adoption placement did or did not occur. How many did not occur out of the total number of adoption processes that started? Easy peasy, folks.)

Second, it takes a long time. Catholic Social Services has quoted us at least a year for a healthy non-Caucasian child and well over 2 years for a healthy Caucasian child. A Child’s Hope in NC has suggested that it’s 6-12 months for an African American or an African American biracial child and well over a year for a Caucasian, Latino, or Asian American child. Adoption consultants, charging $2500 to represent you to up to 30 or 40 agencies around the country, can shorten the time for placement with some guaranteeing placement in less than a year. But we discovered that they tend to work for the most expensive agencies, and we just don’t have that kind of money. (We’ll talk about why we have ruled out foster care adoption at this point in our search in another blog)

So that takes us to drawback number 3: Money. Before I quote numbers, remember that in the US, you can take $10000 off your taxes the year you adopt. And this is right off your taxes, so it’s essentially a refund from the government for the adoption. Catholic Social Services (CSS) charges $12,500 for any and all adoptions. That is an appealing option. A Child’s Hope charges (I think) about $13,000 for an African American adoption, $15,000 for an African-American Biracial adoption and $23,000 for everyone else. (Does that information bother you? It should.) The agencies the consultants work with start at $23,000 for African-American adoptions and go on up to at least $35K to $50K for Caucasian adoptions. There can be additional charges for the mother’s living expenses and searching for the father to give up his rights for all of the agencies except CSS.

So CSS seems like a good option, no? It certainly does to us. They are also one of the few agencies that do not make you pay half the money up front and then the other half when/if you get the baby. CSS only has you pay upon placement of the baby. The problem is that it’s just no way of knowing how long it will be until we have a child placed with us. (6 months? 2 years??)

And I haven’t even started to address that adoption causes for the children of same ethnicity adoptions (e.g., abandonment) much less transracial adoptions (e.g., identity, feelings of difference) reported by adult transracial adoptees . There are no insurmountable issues involved here. It is clear to us that we would not back away from adoption because of these issues. In fact, we want to arm ourselves and protect our child from having to deal with this.

But in any case the adoptive family needs to take many extra, important steps to make sure they don’t screw it up. I’d argue this is even more an issue when there is already a biological child in the family. (A strike against us, btw, in having a bio mom choose us)

There is humor in this, as always. The funniest thing I’ve heard is that an advantage for transracial adoptees occurs when they are teenagers and their parents start acting like parents of teenagers do all the time: embarrassing their poor children. Transracial adoptees can act like they have no idea who those old embarrassing farts are and can generally get away with it! I think that’s a hoot!

So now you know what we know about adoption and what we perceive are the big pros and cons for us.

Tomorrow, we’ll present the IVF issues.


Rachel said...

I used to work for an adoption agency, very part time, so I don't have a lot of advise or insights, but I can give you a few. I was going to tell you that you can still breastfeed, but you figured that out already.

As far as money is concerned, an agency that people often look is thier state agency. People often think that state agencies only have older children or children with disabilities, that is not always the case. If you chose to work with the state, it is usually free or minimal cost and sometimes there are other incentives such as college tuition if the child goes to a state school.

Before you chose an agency, find out how many placements they have a year and how many families they are working with. If they are working with 40 families and place only 4 or 5 babies per year, you will be waiting for a child for a long time.

You may also want to find out how they decide which profiles to show the birth mothers. At the agency I worked for, we showed the profiles 2 or 3 at a time that had been around the longest. The only exception would be if the birth mother had really strict requirements for the family (certain religion, number of children, live in city vs. country, etc.) and only the "newest" families fit the bill.

My personal experience is that a lot of birth mothers change their mind at the last minute. Although I do not have statistics, to me it seemed like the younger the birth mother, the more likely she was to change her mind.

I am sure there are many adoptive families out there willing to share their experience with you. I wish you luck!

Rachel said...

Above in the second paragraph, I meant to say "often overlook" instead of "often look"

Pickel said...

Internationally adopted children are not always incredibly resilient.

I am more than willing to share my story with you or, just head to our site. We have had a tough time but are doing it all over again because we can't imagine life without kids.

Veronica said...

Do you read the blog "This Woman's Work"? Dawn has lived this and continues to blog and consider this -- she's an amazing writer and mother whether these issues are personal to you or not -- her family includes an older bio child and a biracial adopted younger child after a struggle with secondary infertility, miscarriage, misgivings about continuing with ART, etc., etc. -- and it's an open adoption with a continuing relationship with the bio mom/1st mom.

Anonymous said...

I would advise anyone to choose IVF over adoption. Mainly because, adoption can be far more expensive than IVF. We did 3 cycles and spent $28,000 on IVF before we got pregnant. If we had done an international adoption, it would have cost $35,000 to $40,000 and would have involved a very long wait time, lots of paperwork, lots of legal hoops to jump through, and even more medical testing than is required for IVF.
Also, IVF success rates are improving all the time. Your chances are much better than they were 20-10 even 5 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I chose adoption over IVF for one very specific reason. With IVF we were not guaranteed a child. With adoption we were. It is a myth that adoption takes a long time. We completed our homestudy in April and brought home a newborn son in July. Yes, the adoption was expensive, but no more so than two or 3 IVF cycles. Remember the average percentage of successful IVG procedures remains about 30%. So you have approximately a 1 and 3 chance of getting pregnant. This goes down if there are known problems such as endometriosis, fibroids, low sperm motility, etc. So, while I appreciate and completely support someone's choice to go the IVF route, I felt compelled as the adoptive mom of two children from the U.S., to dispel some of the myths about adoption. Oh, and my adoptions are semi-open. We met the birth parents and send photos but they don't know our last name, where we live, etc.

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