In 1983, after many years of failed attempts at a pregnancy, we were eager to build our family through adoption. At that time, we were deemed ineligible for domestic adoptions and international adoptions were closed to us, either because of our different religious upbringings or our age (one of us was over 40).
After a short time of feeling defeated, we started pursuing other options. We heard of a program that helped birth mothers engage with potential adoptive families directly. This system of adoption became known as “identified adoption.” The amount of openness was determined by the adoptive parent(s) and the birth parents. Each adoption was unique.
Basically, we would provide the medical and financial support to the birth mother during the pregnancy. After the birth, the birth mother might allow us to adopt her baby. She was under no obligation to us and was free to change her mind at any time. Formal adoption papers were signed in compliance with the state the birth mother lived in, always after the birth.
To initiate this plan, a home study, legal oversight, and counseling needed to be done. The birth mother needed to understand all the options available to her. She needed to have counseling provided at our expense to be sure she was not being forced into giving up her baby and was aware of her options.
After much anxiety and time, we had the great fortune of locating a birth mother in a small town in Nebraska. Her goals were to find a stable and financially secure professional couple that lived out of state. She was adamant that her infant go directly into the arms of the adoptive couple. She did not want foster care for any amount of time. She was 16 and had denied being pregnant until her last trimester. Once we made contact with her, we had eight weeks until her due date.
Remember, this is 1983, in the earliest days of identified adoptions. At that time, traditional adoptions were done by an agency where a family completed a home study and the agency approved you to adopt a child. Then the agency “found” you a child and they made the match. Adoptive parents waited for an agency call that a baby had been born and would be placed with them.
With our identified adoption, we had made the match and had identified a birth mother ourselves. Now we needed an agency to come in at the end and approve us. We were turned away by every agency we applied to. Some agencies didn’t understand identified adoption and wouldn’t even talk to us.
The due date grew closer. At last, one phone call led us to JF&CS. The man we spoke with listened, asked questions, and called the Adoption Resources program attorney. As far as we knew they had not done this before.
The director called back. They would represent us and help us bring our long awaited child home.
Ten years of seeking, yearning, crying, and disappointment looked like it might be coming to a close. We began the JF&CS home study process. We hurriedly got legal background checks, fingerprints, and character references. We began rearranging our home, painting, and shopping for a car seat.
The social worker assigned to do our home study had a calm confidence and walked us through all the steps. The lawyers made sure we fulfilled all the legal requirements.
On November 30, 1983, our son David was born, healthy and beautiful. On December 5, 1983 we flew back to Boston with him and were greeted by friends and relatives carrying signs and balloons.
Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.
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