Somewhere today in Colorado, an infant, child or teen is getting the break of a lifetime. They are being welcomed into a new family. Sometimes the family is traditional, sometimes not. But no matter what it may look like or how it grew, it is a family.
These new addition children are coming from scores of countries to settle into new lives. Or, they are Colorado kids. All are being adopted for reasons, many times personal, but also practical.
Some go to new families because birth mothers don’t want them or decided that they couldn’t or shouldn’t keep them. However they arrive, each has something they didn’t have before; someone not only willing to care for them, but love them as their own.
“I must have thought about it for a year or two before I started the process,” said Lourdes, a single mother who chose international adoption twelve years ago. What she weighed was not simply the financial commitment — the average Chinese adoption is $29,000 — but whether or not she, a never married, mid-forties professional woman, was prepared to be a mom. As she thought about “the biggest decision I would ever make,” she saw others, both married and single, doing it. “I think that’s when I made my decision.”
Her timing was fortuitous. China changed its adoption guidelines in 2007. Today, as a single woman, Lourdes no longer qualifies to adopt in China. But that’s hardly a concern for her and her daughter, who has grown into a well-adjusted, well-rounded child. Academically and artistically gifted, friendly and, by all appearances, it is a happy, confident young girl. The mother-daughter relationship is also clearly loving and affectionate. An extended family, never too busy to lend a hand, also helps.
At family gatherings, the young girl, who matter-of-factly identifies herself as Chinese-Hispanic, is loved by her relatives, but especially Lourdes’ two sisters. “They help in any way they can,” she says. “It’s reassuring. Also, if anything ever happened to me I would know that there would be someone for her.”
Even with China’s new, more restrictive adoption rules, families are still going there for their babies. But a growing number is exploring Ethiopia, Eastern Europe and Russia, Guatemala and Korea. Interestingly, today one in ten Korean-Americans is adopted. But curiously, only a handful of children a year are adopted out of Mexico. One explanation might be the country’s stringent adoption rules, which require an applicant or family to stay in country for up to six months in a trial period before granting the adoption. In 2010, U.S. citizens adopted only 50 children from Mexico.
Adoptions, not only international, but domestic are changing the face of the American family. According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which researches U.S. adoptions, 40 percent involve a child of a different race. In the U.S., nearly 70 percent of adopted children come from foster care. And a growing number of these adoptions involve single men or women or same-gender couples.
“There are many reasons why foster care adoptions are growing,” says Seth Grob, an Evergreen attorney specializing in adoption. Not only is the family structure evolving but many life-long single men or women are deciding to add on. Also, a new law in Colorado, the ‘Second Parent’ adoption bill now allows a partner in a same-sex relationship to adopt their partner’s children.” Economics also play a role in foster care adoptions.
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, in-state foster care adoptions cost nothing and most children taken in continue to get state health insurance along with monthly family subsidies. Families can also claim an adoption tax exemption of as much as $12,000.
Adoptive families must still undergo a meticulous background check and have home visits to ensure the children are placed in stable and safe environments. But despite a recent rise in foster care adoptions, there remain nearly 8,000, including many Hispanic, Colorado foster care children available for adoption.
And while there may be an economic incentive to adopt via foster care, many families still use private adoption agencies. “Last year we had 23-25 placements,” says Creative Adoptions of Wheat Ridge Business Manager Stephanie Roberts. Her agency, which has been in business for more than twenty years, places infants with Colorado families. It offers only domestic adoptions.
The children become available through a variety of ways. “It could be the result of a one-night stand or it could be a rape,” Roberts says. “It could be a 14-year-old. It could be a 45-year-old. Some are homeless. They don’t want an abortion.” The reasons for giving up a child can be simple or complex. But the desire to bring a new child into a home is not.
Agencies like Creative Adoptions are not inexpensive. A first-time adoption costs nearly $25,000. The fee covers background and fingerprint checks, four home studies and a search — when necessary — for the biological father to ensure there are no legal conflicts involving the child in the future. Creative Adoptions maintains a strict adherence to state laws.
Like all state-approved adoption agencies, Creative Adoptions tries to match the would-be parents’ desires as closely as possible. “Some families don’t want a child with certain disabilities.” Others know exactly what they want and the agency works to make it happen.
In addition to working for Creative Adoptions, Roberts and her husband also used it when adopting their own baby. A few years ago they adopted Emma, the birth child of a teenaged African-American mother. The families, through an ‘open adoption’ agreement, have maintained a relationship. Both seem satisfied with the outcome.
When the Roberts decided to bring Emma into their family, they gave it a lot of thought wondering if they could raise an African-American child. “We decided we don’t pick our friends on the basis of color of their skin,” she says. So, they brought home a two-week old baby born eleven weeks premature. Two years later they conceived their own biological child. They are a reflection of America’s new nuclear family.
More than 130,000 adoptions will take place in the U.S. this year. And, Roberts says, “every one will have a story.”