Thank goodness for people like heymama member Jackie Cohen. Her honesty is refreshing, and her candid account of her journey to starting a family is helpful to say the least. We first chatted with Jackie late last year about her process From Infertility to Family, but with a major fundraiser for HelpUsAdopt.org, an organization that she is hugely involved with on the horizon, we wanted to find out precisely how she got the whole process started. If you are curious about adoption but don’t know the first thing about it, Jackie has gathered some helpful advice that will get you started. Read on…
For most, the process of adoption starts well before they actually decide to adopt, they just don’t know it yet. I didn’t. From my experience, the journey to motherhood and subsequent process of adoption, actually started with my struggle to have a baby. I think most people envision getting pregnant and carrying their own baby, and even if you struggle to conceive, with today’s technology there are so many options available to assist with fertility, that everyone assumes, “I can totally make a baby!” The reality is however, regardless of budget, or desire to conceive, sometimes, as badly as you might want it, there aren’t enough drugs or money to help you have a baby.
Without my fertility struggles however, I don’t think I would have adopted and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I love that I have become a voice for adoption, and am filled with a passion to share my story to help others build their families in the same way. Unfortunately, there are still some fears and stigmas attached to the process, and I hope that my experience can help. My little girl turned out to be an angel and there are others out there too. Here are the steps I took to get the process started:
- Find an Adoption Attorney. I did a private adoption, which is managed through a lawyer. He/she will outline everything you need to know about domestic adoption. There is a lot of paperwork to prepare and each family applying to adopt has to be cleared by the state, finger printed, and interviewed by a social worker. They will guide you through the forms to fill out, books to read, papers to write and home visits to conduct.
- The Birth Mother. What I learned during this process, is that Birth Mother (BM) generally picks a family based on what they believe is the perfect family that she (or they, if the birth dad is involved) can’t provide for the child. So, being single, and Jewish, could potentially work against me. I was lucky, it didn’t.
- Communication. I also learned that the means of communication is old school. You
place ads in local papers in the classifieds, that says you are seeking a baby and direct people to contact you through a phone number that goes to a voicemail where they can reach you. Imagine that? I spent $13,000 on $40 ads. You do the math. I placed a lot of ads simultaneously in newspapers across the country, also referred to as an advertising blitz. Others opt to space out the charges and spend $1k-$2k a month, but I had already been trying to have a family for 2.5 years and was desperate to start.
- Use a Consultant. My lawyer advised that I work with an adoption consultant to place the Want Ads. They advised me of where to place the ads, based on demographics specifically lending themselves to adoption friendly states and statistics (generally lower income and religious
who don’t believe in abortion).
- Market Yourself. During this process, you are also creating your “book”. In it, you’ll include your story, how you like to spend your time and things that make you and your family unique. You should include plenty of pictures that illustrate how fabulous you are – because, you are!
- Woo the Birth Mother. Once you get “the call” and a potential birth mom feels a connection, let her get to know you and put her at ease. You don’t need to orchestrate grand gestures, I sent the BM sunflowers, to brighten her day. After the BM chooses you, you “date” for a little while. You are nice to each other, text and call each other, share pictures, stories and often go on doctors visits together. For me, my story is a bit unusual and crazy because my adoption happened in just eight days (!), so my dating period was very short.
At the end of the day, it’s good to remember that these young women are often in crises, and they are confused, so anything you can do to show you are committed is welcome. It’s also important to realize that every story is different. I had the amazing blessing of being there for the birth of my daughter. I love that detail, and I feel fortunate to have it, but I know I would be just as attached to Julia if I didn’t get to experience her birth. My daughter is my daughter. She is the love of my life. It sounds cliché, but she is my inspiration and muse, and I think that’s the greatest myth of all about adoption. People often wonder whether they can love a child that they didn’t give birth to. When I saw Julia come into this world, she took my breath away. Bottom line, you can, and will, love a child you didn’t give birth to.
Currently, I sit on the board of HelpUsAdopt.org, a wonderful organization that promotes, and supports adoption, by awarding life-changing grants to families so they can bring their children home. The cost of adoption is around $40k-$60k ,which is usually on top of the amount that a family has already spent on fertility. Since it’s launch in 2007, Helpusadopt.org has awarded over $1.7 million dollars in grants and helped to build 189 families. Helpusadopt.org remains the nation’s only adoption grant organization that doesn’t charge an application fee, awards life-changing grants (up to $15,000) and does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. All you need to do is visit helpusadopt.org/apply, where you can download the application (this section of the site also has detailed information regarding the application process, deadlines, and FAQs).
Take it from me, if you want to have a family, adoption is a wonderful way to make your dreams come true. Mine did.