It is 18 hours later and I still feel a little tongue tied over our phone interview with the Agency in City B. I was never 100% on board with them based on the literature they provide and their website, but everywhere I looked I saw glowing reviews for them. So I added them to our short list of agencies to interview.
This was an...interesting experience. If I had not done so much research and soul searching ahead of time, and if we hadn't already interviewed 2 other agencies, our reactions might have been different. But as it was, there was red flag after red flag and M cut the call short with a slashing gesture across his throat. When M voices an opinion, you know its important.
First off, I asked about expectant mother counseling. The woman, let's call her Marge, went on a brief soapbox about how no agency should be telling us that they "counsel the birth mother" because an adoption agency has a vested interest in getting the woman to place her baby. I'm thinking "Okaaaay, on one hand I see what you are saying and on the other hand No, a good agency with good social workers will still counsel a woman about *all* her options, including parenting, even though they have a 'vested interest'". Then she went on to make the blanket statement that "Birth mothers don't want counseling, they come to us for the support services we can offer." Okay, Marge, tell me about the support services you offer - none of which includes advising her of the services available should she choose to parent.
Then I asked about their adoption education classes. I had already read on the website that their education is just internet courses, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing some in-person aspect of it. Nope, Marge informed me that they "used to sporadically host in-person classes" but its just a bunch of online resources now. You send in your paperwork, do the home-study - the online courses make the whole process so much faster. Yeah....because faster is important...not, say, thorough education...
The final straw for both M and I was when I asked about Birth Mother expenses. In our state it is legal for a birth mother to request up to $3K in living expenses once she is matched with a family. I had read a lot about this on the internet and how some people feel it creates an ethical and moral gray area: Does this money compel the mothers to place out of a sense of debt or guilt? Is it made perfectly clear that this money is not some twisted *payment* for their baby? You can see how things might get dicey. The other two agencies made us feel much more at ease about the birth mother expenses because it is not immediately dispensed as one lump sum to a woman whether she brings up a need or not. The agency handles the money and if a birth mother mentions expenses she needs help covering (generally food, rent, cell phone, etc.) then the agency will use the money to provide her gift cards or they will direct pay bills for her. Almost never do they just hand cash over to a woman - again, because of the moral/ethical grey area. And they might not need the full $3K, they only use what is asked for. Well, Marge informs us that it is written in their info brochure that you provide $1000 to the birth mother up front when matched and that the remaining $2K is provided to her after placement...So, you know, she can feel free to walk away thinking that we just fucking *bought* her *baby*! Talk about incentivising placement! Yikes!
I was alarmed at the way Marge glossed over the needs of the birth mother. More alarming was the fact she said they are in need of adoptive families - that they currently have 2 expectant mothers for every 1 waiting family. Como what? Is it because the process is quick for them too? No need to soul search about what is the best decision for your baby; just come to us and in the end you get $3000 cash for your trouble? Is it because, without counseling, they fail to weed out the expectant mothers who are more likely to parent - thus leaving a match to fall through only once the baby is born? O_O
Obviously, there are many people (adoptive parents) who are perfectly happy with the way this agency runs. It gets straight to the point - fill out your paperwork, do homestudy, pay money, get baby - quickly. But a *faster* adoption process doesn't make it a *better* adoption process. Had we not educated ourselves ahead of time, this agency might have sounded really good, because how can you turn down an easier, faster adoption? I am so thankful that we already knew what we wanted out of an agency and an adoption, that we were clear on what was important to us.
So, oddly enough, a decision that I thought would be gut-wrenchingly difficult to make became quite easy. We felt the most comfortable with the Agency in City A and we feel confident about moving forward with them. I am printing the initial paperwork from their website today for M and I to go over on the holiday weekend.
We're going to adopt!!