Sunday, June 23, 2013

FAQs from Single Women Considering Adoption

Can I just start by saying that I think it's absolutely crazy that people read this blog.  I am not an expert by any means.  I never set out to be.  I started the blog to keep my friends and family updated on my process.  (I'm pretty sure that my mom was the only one that read it for quite a while.)  I just wanted to get my feelings and thoughts out "on paper" so I could look back later.  Somewhere along the way, people started caring what I had to say.  Not tons of people but enough strangers that it puzzles me.  

I have no education related to adoption or attachment or single parenting.  I don't even really read that much about such things.  I just know what my experience has been.  And I know that I spend a lot of time thinking about things and sometimes I just have to get it out.  

I'm sure there are people that don't agree with anything I have to say.  I know that there are people out there that think they know what I will do or say in a certain situation.  (Hi to those at the anti-adoption sites that think they know me!)  I also know that I don't have all the answers and that I'm not always right.  Sometimes, I write things that I really believe.  Then, people push back and I change my mind.  I welcome intelligent dialog.  (I don't welcome bullying or mean-spirited-ness.)  I hope that the posts that I write about what I believe and think will cause others to think about what they believe---whether or not we agree!  

I've been getting emails and questions from single women who are considering adoption for quite a while now.  This week alone, I've been emailing with two women who have followed the blog.  I love this part of the process!  I didn't really know anyone in my exact situation when I was going through the process.  I love that I can be a resource to these women.  I also love the blunt posts I've written so they know it isn't all fun and games.    Just in case there are more of you out there, here are the FAQs I've been getting.  

What you wish you would have known? 
I wish I had known that mothers of small children were not exaggerating about how hard it is.  I always thought they were kind of silly when they got excited about going to Target alone or whined about not being able to go to the bathroom alone.  Sara does not leave my side.  Tonight, I was trying to put away laundry up stairs.  I put a movie in for Sara down stairs.  She wouldn't stay down there.  She followed me around with the DVD case asking to watch a movie.  Parenting is hard.  Single parenting is even harder.  

I know you can make choices for good odds that you've chosen a child who can attach over time, who can transition into school, whose medical conditions are somewhat stable but how do you get over the fear of something devastating and unexpected? Something about their behavior or health that will make it impossible for you to both parent this child and earn an income? Something that really requires a SAHP.  How do you work through that fear when you absolutely, positively must have a paying career in order to feed and clothe your new child?
Well that is a super-loaded question.  Wow.  I'm not sure I honestly thought about things that way.  I did intentionally choose a child that did not have significant medical issues.  I knew that after the process and travel, I wouldn't have sick time left for a long hospital stay.  (I also wasn't sure my child's open heart surgery was something I could survive alone.)  I have a job that has been very understanding.  (My supervisor is great and my staff have really stepped up and covered for me over the last year.)  I know that if I really, really had to, I could move back in with my parents.  (I'm sure my mom will attest to that in the comment section.)   I'm not one to think about the worst case scenario.  I am a realist but I don't sit around thinking about things like "what if my kids gets cancer."  Any child could end up in a really hard situation that required a parent to quit their job--adopted or biological.  This is where my faith comes in. I believe that God will provide for my child and I in one way or another.  

 I want to know how you deal with other kids at home when you're travelling? And when the new child/ren come home? In a 2 parent home, you can share one-on-one time with each child by having the other parent watch the rest; that's not an option when it's just you.
I don't have a great answer for this one.  Right now, I just have Sara.  I have toyed with the idea of adopting another one right away but I know that wouldn't be fair to Sara.  (I so have my eye on one, though.)  I know that I wouldn't be able to give Sara and another child the attention that they need right now.  Not until Sara is more settled and mature.  I need her to be secure in her position in this family before I introduce anyone else.  
When/if the time comes, I would take Sara with me.  I would most likely adopt from Colombia or another Latin American country again.  I would only consider a country that would allow me to take Sara with me.  I feel like that would be very important for both Sara and the potential new child.  

Which countries are ok with single mom's adopting? 
I've looked for an official list of countries and I can't find one.  This is my favorite website for current programs.  Obviously, Colombia is okay with it.  I also know that Peru, Bulgaria and China are open to single women.    

What other restrictions do they put on single mom's? 

The process is the same for single women and couples.  It might even be a little easier single and definitely cheaper.  I only had to get one birth certificate, no marriage certificate, one set of background clearances, one psych eval, etc.  Those things all add up!  Oh, and only one plane ticket! 

Are the income guidelines the same? 

The income guidelines are the same except you have one less person in the home.  So, a single woman working full time actually has to make less than a two parent family where only one parent works.  So, with Sara, there are two of us in the household so I needed to make more than $19,388.  If I was married, there would be 3 of us so we would need an income of $24,413.  I got those numbers here.  

What if you are divorced or have other children at home? Does that have any effect on adoping internationally as a single mom?

Each country has their own rules about the number of children and divorce history.  Neither of those things will disqualify you completely but they may limit the countries you can choose.  (I know that Colombia only allows one divorce.)  

When did you decide that you were "ready" to adopt? This has been the hardest question for me to answer as a single mom, so I would be interested to hear your take on it. 
For years, I have said that if I had a child with Down syndrome, I would not be sad at all.  The older I got, the more I thought that might be a reality.  I looked into domestic adoption quite a few times throughout the years.  My internet bookmarks were full of adoption listings, agencies, and information.  I had written off international adoption as being too expensive.  When I found Reece's Rainbow in December 2011, it was the answer I was looking for.  I committed in January 2012.  I had thought about it for years; I owned a home; I had worked at the same place for years; I had tried living in a foreign country; I had done almost every thing I wanted to do except be a mom.  (That's how I tend to do things.  I make a decision and act.)

I know that there are a lot of young women out there that want to adopt as soon as they turn 25.  I'm going to say something right now that you might now want to hear:  WAIT!  Live a little first.  Yes.  You can still have a life with a child but it's not the same.  Experience things.  Live!  You'll be a much better mom if you've traveled and explored and experienced as much as possible.  Make sure you've "sown your wild oats" (whatever that looks like for you) so you don't regret your decision later.  For me, that meant moving to Mexico.  It didn't work out but I'm so glad I did it before I had my child.  Now I know!  

When you first starting looking at children, did you have certain "qualifications" or "characteristics" you were searching for or did you see Sara and just know she was yours? 
I almost feel bad to answer this but I did have some criteria.  
*I was looking for a child that was at least 3 so they could be in school at least part time.  (I was quite worried about child care.)  
*I only looked at girls.  (I can teach a girl to be a woman.  I don't know how to teach a boy how to be a man.)  
*I wanted a child without heart conditions.  I knew that I wouldn't have the sick time or the stamina to deal with an open heart surgery on my own after an adoption.  
*I speak Spanish so I wanted a child from Latin America.  I have traveled and lived in LA so I wasn't worried about the travel and I thought my knowledge of Spanish would make the transition easier for both of us.  
I know that some people see pictures and just know that this is their child.  It wasn't like that for me.  I inquired about another child but she had a family about to commit to her.  (I know her family and love them!)  RR was just getting ready to post Sara and sent me her info.  I read through her file and thought that she sounded like what I was looking for but I wasn't completely convinced based just on her picture.  It took me a little while to "fall in love" with her.  (Maybe it was because she didn't look like the Latin American child I had pictured in my head?)  The more I read about her and got to know about her, the more I loved her and figured out she was perfect for me.  

As a single mom, any advice/tips on not letting the doubts/what ifs take over?
I will definitely say that I thought of all the "what ifs" probably 6 nights a week.  I thought about it when I would go to bed at night. As long as I stayed busy, I was ok. When it got quite and dark at night, I really, really doubted myself.
The biggest thing that kept me going was the fact that I had so much support. All of my friends and family were convinced I was doing the right thing. No one ever told me the things that I was thinking in my head. 
I still have the occasional day when I wonder if I have ruined my life---usually it's when I'm tired and she's crabby. I wouldn't change a thing.  My life completely and utterly changed.  That's very different from ruined.  I think the biggest encouragement to me is the fact that when I express doubts, I get so many comments from my friends that they feel the same way. Every mom has her own doubts. Every mom has days she wishes she could escape.  Those thoughts aren't exclusive to single moms or adoptive moms.  Those are mom thoughts. 

A specific question I had during my last home study was about the child care plan. While I have sufficient income for a babysitter, after school program, etc...I was wondering about the logistics of arranging care for a special needs child and how easy/or not this is in reality?
This was definitely one of my biggest concerns going in.  I had no idea how to arrange day care for any child.  I looked into some day cares around my house a little bit before committing.  (Mostly checked out websites and reviews.)  The day care issues was one of the reasons that I was only looking into children at least 3 years old.  Then I knew they would be in school at least half of the day.
I don't really have a good answer to this question because I have been very blessed with child care.  I have a friend who is a former special education teacher who now stays home with her own sons.  She came to my house and OFFERED to watch Sara about a week after I committed to adopt her.  We live in the same suburb so the bus picks Sara up at her house for school and everything.  It's the perfect situation.  I even have another former special ed teacher who lives in the same town and does back-up babysitting when the regular sitter can't.
I know that not everyone has this situation.  I would suggest looking into family or friends.  I don't know how welcoming day care centers are to children with special needs.  There are also respite situations available to families of children with special needs but that won't cover day-to-day care.

I am wondering how people responded to your decision to adopt?  How did you deal with the negative comments? 

I started by sharing my idea with other moms who had adopted and other single moms.  I wanted to get their perspectives.  They all said it was incredibly hard but worth it.  I then talked to my closest friends and family.  Other than one person, they were all very positive.  (That one person seems to have come around now.)  I honestly thought they would all say I was crazy and then I would let the idea go.  It kind of freaked me out that they didn't think I was crazy.  I then went "public."  I got one nasty anonymous blog comment and I worked through the other persons's concerns.  

I have 3 brothers that are adopted---2 have special needs.  I'm a sped teacher.  I've worked in Mexico with kids with SN.  While I thought I was crazy, everyone else seemed to think it was natural.  I would suggest you talk to those closest to you.  If they all respond negatively, it might not be the right time for you or you might want to reconsider.  If everyone around you is supportive, that might be a sign to move forward.  

Did you do a lot of fundraising? 
I worked summer school last year which allowed me to earn some extra income and I had some savings.  I paid about $10,000 out of my pocket.  I fund raised about $10k.  I did auctions, give aways, yard sales, different sales, everything.  I had a fund raiser going constantly for almost a year.  I'm sure people were sick of me but no one ever said they were.  I also got about 10K in grants.  There is something about my story that compelled people.  I don't know if it's the sped teacher thing, the single thing, the adopted brothers with SN, the Spanish thing.  Not sure but I ended up receiving some very generous grants.  I would greatly encourage you to apply for every one you find.  

How do you let go of the guilt of knowing your child may never have a father? I wonder if I didn't adopt my yet unknown son would a two parent family come along and adopt him? And then he'd have a daddy.   Of course I haven't given up on marriage at all so that's still a possibility. And obviously a mommy is better than an orphanage or mental institution.  When you see kids with their dads do you feel a little bit sad for Sara? 
That's a pretty loaded and personal question.  I'll probably just scratch the surface of this one.  
Like the questioner, I haven't completely given up on the idea of marriage.  I would love for Sara to have an amazing father.  I would love for her to grow up in a stable, two-parent family.  Isn't that what everyone wants for their child?  Unfortunately, we live in a very imperfect world.  (If it was perfect, we wouldn't need adoption at all.)  A lot of children these days don't grow up in two-parent families.  A lot of children grow up with parents that are uninvolved in their lives.  I agree that a mom is better than an orphanage but I think it's more than that.  Sara may only have one parent but she has one parent that is completely devoted to her.  I'd say that's better than two mediocre parents any day!  
(And, if I'm being completely honest, I hated Father's Day this year.  We got to celebrate with my dad but it did highlight what Sara doesn't have.)  

Would you or are you considering adopting again? 
I would consider adopting again.  I definitely have my eye on another little one but I wouldn't start anything until I know Sara is settled.  I don't think it would be fair to start another process or bring another one home until she is ready.  I know there are a lot more children that need homes but I have committed to care for and raise this one and that needs to be my first priority.  Maybe in another year or two....

I know you teach, but what do you do on the days you have to be at school and Sara doesn't (basically what kind of day to day support system do you have)?

I addressed the basic child care issue above.  I do have a great support system outside of that as well.  Because I teach special education, my friends aren't intimidated by Sara's extra chromosome.  I take her almost everywhere with me.  When I have to do things like chaperone prom, I have a great network of babysitters.  

When did you go back to work?
I took off 11 weeks.  I had 7 weeks of paid sick time and then I took 4 weeks of unpaid time.  We were in Colombia for 7 1/2 weeks so I didn't have as much time at home as I would have liked.  (But we had been together 24/7 during the time in country.)  I could have taken an additional week of unpaid times but it made sense to me to go back when Spring Break was over.  The timing of the adoption was nice, though.  I went back to work for 10 weeks and now I have an 11 week summer break.  

I'd like to know how adopting has changed your social life. That might sound shallow, but I'm really thinking in terms of spending time with others as a way to take care of yourself/recharge/take a break, not in terms of partying, per say.
I think that every mother gives up the majority of her free time when she has children.  It's probably a little more intense for a single mom but not much.  Sara still naps and goes to bed early which gives me a daily "break" of sorts.  I have just now gotten to the point that I will leave her for a few hours to go out with friends.  (I think I've done it twice!)  My friends are so great with her that it isn't really a problem just to take her with.  This summer, she is in school for 3 1/2 hours in the morning.  I've gotten so much done during that time!  It seems odd to not have her with me, though.  
In some ways, Sara has increased my social life.  I was in a weird social situation before her.  I was single but not interested in going out and partying with single 22-25 year olds.  Everyone my age is married and/or has kids.  I didn't really fit in anywhere.  Now, that I officially have a Mom Card, we get invited to do things with other moms and families.  

I wonder if being a single adopting parent feels lonely sometimes - you have so much in common with other single parents and so much in common with the adoption community...but your day-to-day experience has so many differences from both groups. It must be so important to have support and community around you.

It does feel lonely some times but I think that parenting is bonding.  You just don't get it until you do it.  I have the same struggles and battles any mother of a preschooler does  Yes, Sara is adopted.  Yes, I'm a single mother.  Yes, she has a disability.  But, those things aren't as important as the fact that I am parenting a 4 year old.  I can sit and talk to a mother of a child between 2 and 5 and her kid is doing the same crazy things mine is.  
I don't really struggle with loneliness when I'm working.  I work with some amazing people that have been a huge support to me.  I struggle more when I'm not working.  I don't think I would be a very good stay-at-home mom.  I think that could be lonelier than the single mom thing.

My worry, as a single mom...where would the child(ren) go when I die.
Another loaded question.   And another question that all parents have to think about.  I had to name a guardian as part of my homestudy.  While I don't have a will, my sister has agreed to take Sara if anything would happen to me.  (I know, I know.  I need to make it legal.)  This decision is a little more stressful for children with special needs.  My sister loves Sara but doesn't really know anything about IEPs anything like that but I know she'd learn.

Lots of questions and lots of my personal opinions.  Single parenting isn't for everyone.  Adoption isn't for everyone.  Parenting a child with special needs isn't for everyone.  But, it's not impossible.  Think about it.  If you decide it's not for you, pick another single woman to support and encourage.  Find a single mom to help.  Being a single woman is hard---whether or not you are a parent.  Let's find ways to be there for each other!


  1. Great article! After reaching 40, I am giving up on trying to find the perfect man to make a baby with, and I really want a child. This answered a ton of questions for me. Thanks, and keep up the good work here!

  2. Thank you for the perspective and insight on critical questions. I am starting my path to parenthood and quite late in the "game". However, your honest feedback on the process is helpful - and saving some of my sanity.

  3. Thank you for your blog, your honesty is truly remarkable. I too am a single woman adopting an infant. She is my world. We are still at the parental termination status which is set for end of year. But its all worth it to me even though I get nervous at times.
    Anyhow, yes adoption nor parenthood is NOT for everyone. Your heart, mind and soul has to be in it for the long run.

  4. I cannot thank you enough for this post! I am 24 (2 weeks from 25) and am beginning my application process. You seem very similar to me in thought, morals,etc. It gave me peace and lifted my Faith to read your same doubts and questions that I have at this point. I will pray for you and Sara! God bless!