February 7, 2012
As we exited the freeway and made the needed turns to reach our destination, I have to admit that I was a little nervous. We were about to walk into an office building, introduce ourselves to someone we had never met, and request permission to start the needed steps to become parents to a newborn baby we didn’t conceive, nor have any idea where they would be coming from, or to whom they would be born.
The Birds & The Bees This Wasn’t…
For most people in this world, we were taught by someone in our lives about how babies are born and families are made. What we were about to do was nowhere near how my understanding of that story ever went. We arrived at the Bethany center in Modesto, California and here, situated next to a park on a residential street, was a beautiful two building complex that looked no different from any of the homes on the street in our hometown. One of the buildings is a residential support center for expectant mothers, while the other serves as a business office and education center.
Welcome to Bethany
As we walked into the front lobby, we were introduced to the center’s Administrative Assistant, a bubbly personality who immediately put us at ease. After getting us signed in, she walked us into the conference room, where this evening’s orientation would take place and we took our seats around a large square table that could seat 8. A few minutes later, another couple arrived, and some momentarily awkward, but ultimately friendly chit-chat filled in the minutes until the session began.
Our orientation leader came in, a woman who immediately presented genuine warmth and passion for what she did, introduced herself, and proceeded to dial into a conference bridge for a third couple joining the session remotely. We were provided Powerpoint slides to take notes and to have an overview of the material we would be covering this evening and she promptly got us started at 5pm.
Though both Natalie and I were excited about the prospect of attending this orientation, we were still investigating our options for adoption, and really didn’t know if Bethany would be a fit. Just to attend this session, we had to download and review about a dozen pages of information and complete an online application just to request a spot at the table! Very quickly though, we learned that these steps are critical to ensure not only the true interest of prospective adoptive couples, but to also meet a substantial number of state and local requirements as Bethany is a licensed State of California organization that supports the Department of Social Services.
We All Share Aspects Of The Same Story – The Desire for Parenthood
Our session leader began the orientation with her story, one of the adoption of her own son through this very Center, and eased all of us of any feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and concern. Then, we each got a chance to share our own stories, who we were, why we were considering adoption, and why we were considering Bethany. It was probably the first time most of us had publicly spoken to people we didn’t know about the challenges leading up to the choice of adoption (infertility, loss of a child, etc.) and found the process surprisingly beneficial. It was funny, in the minutes leading up to this point, I had cautiously eyed the other couples as potential “competition” for the privilege of adopting a child, and yet that immediately melted away, leaving us all as partners and supporters of each of our own individual journeys, realizing that we all shared so many common obstacles along the way to parenthood.
Bethany Northern California Covers A Lot of Territory
By this time, we had 3 couples around the table and one couple joining by phone. One couple was from the central valley, we were from the east bay, one couple was from the Sierra Foothills, and the remote couple was joining from San Francisco. We learned that the Northern California branch of Bethany was just one of more than 100 locations, supporting 30 states, and in service to adoptive families and birthparents for nearly 70 years. The Modesto office (with satellite locations in Pleasant Hill and Fresno) supports 33 California counties and has placed over 900 children since 1981.
As the evening continued, we learned that the approach used by Bethany is one of “child-centric” adoption, where the child is always at the top of the priority chain, and that all aspects of the process are designed to keep the focus right there. To that end, Bethany’s Modesto location offers Bethany House, (the residential building on the site) that provides a place to live as well as support services and counseling to expectant mothers that need it. In addition to the ongoing counseling provided to birthparents and adoptive parents, as a licensed Social Services Agency, Bethany performs the Home Study and Assessment requirements as well as supports community education and interim care for infants, should that need ever arise.
What It Will Take To Become A Prospective Adoptive Parent
As we learned more about domestic infant adoption, we learned that Bethany Northern California on average will support approximately 30-40 placements per year. In 2011, there were 28 placements, including 2 sets of twins. In order to meet the state’s requirements to proceed with domestic infant adoption, it was important to learn that we had a lot of work ahead of us, including:
>> Education (In-Person and Online)
>> Formal Application, Multiple Questionnaires, and Lots of Paperwork (more on that soon!)
>> Fingerprints & References
>> Joint and Individual Interviews
>> A Home Visit and Required Home Checklist
>> Approval and Certification
And this was just to reach the point of submitting your eligibility for a prospective adoption match! Everyone in the room had the deer in headlights look on their face and we took a short break to slowly let it all sink in.
Legal Concerns and Questions
Following the break, we were walked through the steps of selection and matching of prospective parents and birthparents making an adoption plan. We also reviewed all of the legal steps involved with placement. One of the most critical questions raised was that of “Can the birthparents come back in six months and request the child back?” This was addressed and answered, identifying that California’s voluntary relinquishment adoption (the process used by Bethany) is one of the most secure in the state. Because Bethany is licensed by the State’s Department of Social Services, this also ensures that all state processes and rules are followed to minimize any chance of a negative outcome.
Introduction to “Open Adoption” (Much More To Come)
The session reviewed the concept and the benefits of “Open Adoption”, what it means, and how to understand its impact in our decision making process. (This will get its own post soon, so we can fully address all that Open Adoption means to us and how it relates to our story.) Finally, we reviewed information on costs, tax implications, and next steps of the adoption process, should we choose to proceed with Bethany.
A Great First Session
It was a lot of information in a relatively short time frame. Our orientation leader was fantastic, sharing personal stories, a lot of helpful information, and responding to each and every question, no matter how simple or complex the request might have been. It was pretty clear that we had found an agency with the best interest of the child, the birthparents, and the prospective adoptive parents, along with the right balance of support services, counseling, and direction to ensure a positive outcome.
Sometimes the Timeline Is Not Entirely Within Your Control
With all of the paperwork, education, etc., we know it could be weeks or even months before we would be able to proceed just to the next step of the adoption process. Little did we know that weeks and months would turn into little more than a 3 day wait…
To Be Continued…