By Kelly Robinson, Army Spouse
Last summer, we brought home seven pounds, eleven ounces of peaceful perfection. Hadley is the best gift we have ever received and the answer to years of prayer. She is a beautiful combination of her birth parents, a baby sister, and an Army brat. I want to share our story with you and perhaps dispel the myths that surround military adoption.
Adoption is not illegal for military families, nor is it impossible. It is challenging, expensive, and absolutely worth it.
Our adoption journey began when we were dating during an initial conversation between two love-struck teenagers. We decided back then that it was a matter of when and never if. After marriage, the babies did not come easily. Our battle with infertility was hard-fought, but resulted in twin girls born in May 2008. Trying again led to more heartbreak. We knew the timing was right to begin the adoption process after my husband came home from a deployment and had orders which would keep him around for a while.
We hired an adoption consultant (a matchmaker between hopeful adoptive families and birth mothers) because several adoption agencies had been very unfriendly to our military lifestyle. My husband’s job was “too scary” and our lifestyle “unpredictable.” We had been told that we would not be a priority because we have biological children. Our consultant was fabulous, however, negating the discouragement from the agencies and sharing the truth that every adoption and birth mother is unique. In fact, some birth mothers prefer parents with children–guaranteed siblings!
Pursuing a domestic adoption gave us the opportunity to move along quickly — international adoptions, on average, can take between 18-24 months. Also, the necessity of several trips abroad and fixed court dates where both parents need to be present seemed too challenging for our family situation. (Side note: we have several active duty friends who have completed international adoptions! It can be done!) Adopting through foster care is something we considered as well, but domestic adoption seemed to be the better fit for us.
For any adoption, a home study must be completed. Our home study was extremely informative. A social worker walked us through the process, brought adoption related literature for us to read, and asked us a million questions to clear us to adopt. All of our financial information was shared, our childhoods revisited, and parenting ideology discussed. Our information was kept confidential, only to be revealed to the agencies involved, and later the judge who finalized our adoption. We had our backgrounds checked through FBI databases that showed no criminal histories and we were fingerprinted. Carbon monoxide monitors were checked and safety experts ensured our fire extinguishers were in working order. It was a lengthy and tedious process that took a month to complete, but I’m glad we put together a safe, healthy environment.
A fun part of the process was putting together our profile book, a mixture of text and pictures that told our story, for prospective birth parents. We also included the front of our home, as well as fun pictures of things to do in our town, and pretty pictures of the twins.
At the beginning of the summer, we received an e-mail about a birth mother who was due to deliver a little girl within a month. I overnight mailed our profile book to her attorney and held my breath. My gut feeling was that she was the one. A few days later, a phone call sealed the deal and we were officially matched.
Two weeks before Hadley was born, we traveled to meet her birth mom. She and I were both so nervous, but an immediate connection made the meeting less awkward, and a unique relationship between Hadley’s birth mother and I was born. She and I texted back and forth for the duration of her pregnancy; I encouraged her and could empathize with the painful waiting of the third trimester. Finally, she was induced and we made the long trek to the hospital to be there for the birth of our precious peanut.
Looking back, those long moments in the hospital seem so surreal. The sights, smells, and anxieties feel like they belong to someone else. My husband and I were awake for 36 hours as laboring led to a c-section. What made the experience even more special: I was allowed in the operating room and was able to cut the cord. I can only hope that Hadley’s birth mom knows how much that meant to me.
During a domestic adoption, depending upon the baby’s state of birth, there is a mandatory time period before the birth mother is allowed to sign over her rights. A birth father, on the other hand can sign over his rights before the baby has been born or following the baby’s birth with the birth mother. In our case, it took a little less than 72 hours (due to an early discharge from the hospital for birth mom) to sign the papers. Those hours were excruciating. The baby had been born and was waiting in the nursery, the attorneys/agencies have been paid an exorbitant amount, and our heart was at that moment held in the hands of a selfless stranger.
My husband and I waited for an eternity as the attorneys and Hadley’s birth mom met privately. I have never been more aware of the passing of time. Finally, the attorney walked out and gave the thumbs up. My knees nearly buckled as an immense weight was lifted from my shoulders. Everything we did, all the obstacles we conquered—she was ours.
We spoke for a while with Hadley’s birth mom, but those words I wish to keep between the three of us. She is one of the most extraordinary persons I have had the privilege of meeting. After bidding her farewell, we walked into the nursery as Hadley’s parents. A few hours later, we were discharged and our new life began as parents of three; immense gratitude and appreciation in that moment brought us to tears. The adoption process left a permanent and wonderful mark.
A few months later, a final court hearing declared her forever ours as post-placement visits with the social worker declared us to be a good fit. A new birth certificate was created with our names and information. The adoption was final. That special day will always be celebrated in our family!
Our adoption is semi-open, requiring us to send updates and pictures to Hadley’s birth mom through the attorney. We have no regular contact or required visits as in an open adoption. A closed adoption would be no contact at all, which is now less common than in years past.
We speak now on adoption and share our story about the extraordinary people involved. The private moments, the reasons why adoption was chosen, are not mine to share. I can say the process is a lengthy one and without guarantee, but no beautiful reward came without a little risk.
Check the next page for Tips on Domestic Adoption for Military Families…
Tips for Domestic Adoption for Military Families
-Have a heart to heart with your spouse. It is a long process and you both have to be 100% committed. Discuss the reasons why you want to adopt and address infertility, if it applies. An adopted child will not be the biological child you have been longing for: do not adopt if you are not emotionally ready. Talk to a counselor.
-Address your finances. Most domestic adoptions cost between $20,000 to $40,000. Hold a yard sale or host a fundraising dinner. Save every penny. Cut spending wherever you can.
-Acknowledge the military timeline. Right before a deployment is not the time to start an adoption. Most agencies/attorneys feel more comfortable working with you when a deployment is not in the immediate future. Use a deployment as a way to say extra income and prepare to begin one when your partner returns.
-Research the adoption tax credit. Presently, for 2013, the adoption credit is $12,970 per child. No longer is it a check you receive, but a credit that reduces your tax liability. Any remaining amount of your credit can be carried for up to five years. It begins to apply the year your adoption is final.
-Know about the Department of Defense Adoption Reimbursement. Complete the form and send in a copy of your notarized adoption finalization. It is a convenient direct deposit a $2000 adoption reimbursement for military family adoptions and Department of Defense civilians. (DD2675 Form)
-Some civilian employers offer adoption grants as well. Speak to your human resources or finance department to see if one is available.
-Consider an adoption consultant. It will cost you a bit more, but their contacts and expertise is worth more than you pay. We cannot say enough about Gloria Hawk of Adoption Advice and Guidance–they were amazing!
-Find an agency, preferably a larger one. Be open about your military lifestyle and ask a ton of questions. How many birth mothers are they currently working with? How many adoptive families? How many placements did they make last year? A smaller agency may not be working with too many potential birth mothers.
-Have a quiet word with the chain of command. My husband’s commander was incredibly supportive during our adoption. Their conversation at the beginning of the process allowed my husband to take off quickly when our birth mom was induced. Better to be proactive in your communication than to scramble at the last minute when your birth mom is in labor.
-Research your state’s adoption requirements. Depending on where you live, you may want to work with an agency in a more adoption-friendly state. Some states require a longer waiting period for a birth mom to sign over rights. An agency can discuss this more with you at length.