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FEATURE| Is Adoption an Option?


In January 2006, Kim and Ken Baer began their journey toward adoption through the foster care system. They went to an orientation and had signed up for the six-week MAPP class. The age range they requested was 0-5 years old. By April, they completed their Home Study, and in June, they received certification from the state. On July 11, the phone rang. It was Florida Hospital. A little girl had just been born, and they were looking for someone to foster her. Kim and Ken brought Lyla home as a foster child, and a long, legal process. Then in November 2008, the Baers got another call, this time from Winnie Palmer. And there was another little girl who needed a place to call home for a while. The Baers immediately accepted, and Laynie came to join the family. While the adoption process for Lyla was long, the process for Laynie was swift. In June 2009, the Baer girls were officially adopted by Kim and Ken. Now there’s a celebration commemorating their special day each year. “November 20 may be National Adoption Day,” laughs Kim, “but in our house, June 3 is Baer Adoption Day!”


The public adoption process is much like the private one — except that while families are waiting for a child through the private route, in public adoption, the children are waiting for families. Besides an initial application, prospective ‘rents begin by attending an orientation meeting and completing a questionnaire. At that point, you’ll attend the state-mandated Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) course, a 30-hour training. (MAPP is a free 10-week course designed to prepare you for the challenges and joys ahead.) Once you’ve completed your coursework, a case manager comes to your home to conduct a personal history interview, beginning the Home Study process. At least two times during the adoption process, the case manager will return to visit your home. During this period, background checks (for criminal history and abuse) and inspections (of your home and health) will be performed (did we mention there’d be some paperwork?). Finally, you’ll need references — of the personal and professional nature. So be sure to kiss up to those you put on the list and remind them, jokes that you’d sell your kids on eBay as a disciplinary tactic are NOT appreciated.


Once a birth mother chooses you, your wait before you get your child will depend on how far along in her pregnancy she is. After the baby is born, the mother has 48 hours to sign the papers, making your child legally yours. After that, it takes about 90 days for what is called “finalization,” meaning all the legal docs are complete, and you receive a new birth certificate stating you as your child’s parent. This birth certificate looks just like the birth certificates biological parents receive for their children.


Regardless of whether you choose public, private, domestic or international adoption, it’s crucial to continue your education well after you’ve brought your child home. Expect follow-up visits from your caseworker. Look for support groups. And don’t be surprised if you experience post-placement blues, says Wolf. After such a long journey of months and maybe even years, it’s common for an adoptive parent (much like any other parent) to experience a type of “letdown” after the pursuit is over and a new way of life begins.


some friendly advice


While each child’s journey is as unique as the child himself, experts agree on certain things. As a counselor — and a mother — Wolf says that adoptive parents tend to experience false guilt and attribute way too much to adoption. (“Would my 2-year-old be throwing this tantrum if I were her birth mother?” Um, yes!) And don’t be fooled into thinking that adopted children don’t have as close of a bond with their adoptive parents.


Of course, children are curious, so naturally an adopted child will be curious about his birth parents. Wolf urges parents not to take this personally, noting that it’s “absolutely essential” that adopted children — from a very early age — are told that they were adopted. As you explain the role adoption has had in your child’s life, Wolf says simply, “Don’t overdo it, and don’t underdo it.” While a child’s beginning is an important part of her story, Wolf reminds parents, “How you join your family doesn’t define who you are.”


We get that adoption can be a big unknown. But new parents will tell you, their world is opened, they adore their child and that fear is overshadowed. And if you think you can open your home — and your heart — then adoption may be an option for you.


28 PLAYGROUND Spring 2011 PLAYGROUND Spring 2011


KIM AND KEN BAER LYLA, 4 YEARS OLD LAYNIE, 2 YEARS OLD (adopted through foster care)


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