Posts tagged ‘domestic adoption’

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

mae-danielle-cancer-survivor-adopt

Me & Mae (domestic adoption at 4 mo.)

As an adoptive mama with a cancer history, I’m often asked about the adoption journey for cancer survivors. Our friend Nikki who works as an adoption social worker sat down with me many moons ago as I researched my adoption options.

That coffee date has always stuck with me as it provided great insight.

So – it’s with complete joy that I bring you some Q&As with Nikki – one of the best adoption social workers out there. (And she just so happens to be going through her own adoption process right now, too!)

Nikki’s answering some of the most commonly asked questions I hear from cancer survivors who want to adopt.

Enjoy our first post & stay tuned for more to come!

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER:  WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Meet Nikki, licensed social worker

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – August 2013

Q:  What are the types of adoption I can consider if I’ve had cancer?

A:  The only type of adoption that may be completely closed to certain cancer survivors is embryo adoption, based on what treatments they had and if those treatments rendered the individual infertile. Everything else is a possibility:  domestic adoption (both private and through the state) as well as international adoption.

Q: Are there any adoption paths/options NOT open to me as a cancer survivor?

A:  I don’t see any options that are not available on the whole. Most types of domestic adoption will be options, as will quite a few international options. Foster care, or adoption through the state, would generally yield even more flexible options.

Q:  What does a social worker look for in a couple who’s ready to adopt?

A:  Being a social worker who has written favorable home studies for cancer survivors, the thing I look for most is their oncologist’s report and supplemental medical letter. I also talk with the client for more information.

One recent example:
A prospective adoptive mom found out she had breast cancer the day I sent her the draft of the home study. A few days later she was scheduled for surgery and then had to reply to my request for her to submit changes needed to their home study. Boy, did she have a big change to submit! I did write a favorable home study; however, it was conditional based on the outcome of her surgery and treatment. As soon as the home study was done, the couple effectively went on hold. The surgery went well, treatment even better, and when she had been over one-year cancer free, she got a fantastic note from her oncologist. I did a home study update and they were placed with a baby a couple of months later. I had a lengthy note from the doctor so I was able to make the assessment that her prognosis was excellent, so I basically used that information in the home study and it went just fine.
This is clearly best case scenario, I know they can’t all be this great, but for example-sake, this was a good one.

Q:  Will having cancer impact eligibility to adopt in any way?

A:  A person who is currently undergoing cancer treatment should be 100% focused on their health and treatment and not focusing on adoption. But after cancer, and with a good prognosis, there are very few limitations for a cancer survivor.

Q:  Is there special documentation is needed for a cancer survivor to adopt?

oncologist-letter-for-adoption-homestudy

My oncologist Dr. Rosen wrote a great letter for us when we adopted Mae.

A:  Yes, the oncologist’s letter is paramount. Ideally, the letter will include:

  • what type of cancer
  • what stage it was caught
  • treatment plan
  • expected prognosis
  • percentage of recurrence (if that information is able to be stated)
  • if the physician would recommend the patient for adoptive parenting

The social worker will use this in making his/her favorable determination for adoption and may also pull quotations out of it for the home study (as home studies become legal documents.) So, getting a letter as favorable as possible is helpful.

In the above example that I gave about the gal who found out about her breast cancer on the day of the home study finalization, her doctor’s letter was so favorable that due to the early time period of catching it, aggressive surgery and treatment (double mastectomy, hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation), the percentage chance of her cancer recurrence became less than me getting breast cancer in the future. So being able to summarize that in the home study was compelling and the judge had absolutely no problem with it.

Q:  Do I need to be in remission for a certain amount of time before I can pursue adoption? How long?

A:  In talking with others about this, and after taking my own personal opinion into effect, we all believe that at least one year in remission is a good amount of time. In addition to the toll it takes on the survivor’s body, possible hormone imbalances, stress on the marriage and family, financial stress, time off work, etc., may all add up after a cancer diagnosis. One year out seems to be a good amount of time. That’s really the case in anything adoption though!

We social workers like to see a year after a life-changing event regardless of if the event is happy, sad, or scary, so this is no different. Some international countries will have additional requirements, such as needing someone to be 5-years in remission, and some agencies have their own requirements, others of them 3-years in remission, but that is all on a case-by-case basis.

Q:  What are some good resources for cancer survivors to look into when researching adoption adoptions?

A:  I think just talking with social workers and adoption agencies about the possibilities for adoption is a great place to start. We can help with some of the basic information and research anything that is unknown. Things are so conditional when it comes to this topic, nothing is black and white, and talking with someone is a great idea for gathering accurate information specific to your case.

For example, I would be a lot more inclined to approve a family similar to the one I’ve been referencing here throughout, rather than someone who just had the one breast removed, no hysterectomy, and tested positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.

Additionally, no two adoption agencies or social workers are going to react the same way, too. I’m more on the cautious side, but I also place a lot of emphasis on the oncologist’s letter. Whereas, someone who has never worked with a cancer survivor before, and has some negative family history (e.g., mom died two years ago from cancer), might not be as willing to consider the prospect.

FertileAction.org has a helpful resource page for cancer survivors. I also recommend calling an adoption consulting agency to talk to experts about your particular case. Consulting agencies network with a lot of adoption agencies and are advocates for those wanting to adopt. They can steer you clear from agencies that are not flexible when it comes to cancer survivors adopting and point you toward agencies who are more friendly toward the issue. A great group who would love to be an adoption resource for cancer survivors is Christian Adoption Consultants.

BOTTOM LINE:

It’s Danielle again —

So as you can see, Nikki is a WEALTH of knowledge and there is HOPE for the cancer survivor who wants to adopt!

Stay tuned – we’ll have Nikki’s advice specifically for cancer survivors who want to internationally adopt and domestic adoption for cancer survivors coming up.

And – if you have a question for us, please leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future post!

-danielle

August 22, 2013 at 6:18 am 7 comments

Help Needed: The Adoption Tax Credit

When you adopt, there’s this “little” thing called the Adoption Tax Credit. Let’s just say the tax season after your adoption is final, it’s your best friend. Unfortunately many adoptions do not come free (there ARE some routes where costs are minimal) … however in the case of our domestic adoption of a little gal outside of the foster care system – it took a little capital to have it all go through.

The Adoption Tax Credit allowed us to claim up to a certain amount of dollars on our tax return and receive a nice refund around tax time. It’s a one-time credit you can claim in addition to claiming a dependent. And while it doesn’t cover all the adoption expenses for some, it’s certainly a very nice chunk of change that comes back for anyone who’s adopted a child.

save-adoption-tax-credit

Help Keep the Adoption Tax Credit

Unfortunately, this tax credit isn’t a permanent feature in our Congressional system, and it happens to be up for review and is set to expire if we don’t take action. It needs our help.

If you have a few minutes, can you help write your representative and ask them to sponsor & support the bill? (It’s easier than standing in a Chick-fil-A line or making signs to protest, right?)

Our adoption agency, American Adoptions, has made this very simple. Follow the steps below. I just did it and it took less than five minutes. Help stand up for adoption and keep the tax credit in place!

If Congress does not act, the tax credit will expire on December 31, 2012.

Action: Contact your Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. You can reach your Representative by calling the U.S. Capitol Operator at 202.225.3121 and asking for your Representative’s office. You can find your representative by going to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and entering your zip code in the box provided.

I opted to send an email to my representative once I found his page.

Message: Here are some good things to include in your message:

  • I am a constituent in your district and the adoption tax credit is important to me. (It matters to me because…)
  • I urge the Representative to become a co-sponsor of The Making Adoption Affordable Act, H.R. 4373.
  • If Congress does not act – the credit as we now know it – will expire in December 2012.
  • H.R. 4373 is bipartisan, and it supports all types of adoptions (domestic private, foster care, and international adoptions).
  • This tax credit has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families.
  • Thank you for your support of H.R. 4373.

If you want to learn more about the adoption tax credit, visit http://adoptiontaxcredit.org/. You can also like the Save the Adoption Tax Credit mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdoptionTaxCredit.

August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

January 9 – Pre-Church Meeting | Mae’s Adoption Journey

So although we hadn’t really dumped much expectation into the meeting at church, there were definitely some butterflies fluttering in my stomach as we got ready and headed that way. I didn’t want to care. I didn’t want to hope. Yet something in me was curious about this little gal. And don’t we all deep down wish that something crazy magical like this would happen to us?

We finally got to church. Mike had worship practice. And then we slipped away to meet Scott & Patti in the hotel lobby. Our church meets at the Hilton Garden Inn, so it’s never easy to find a super secret spot to meet, unless you want to rent a hotel room or something like that. So – we opted for the hotel lobby which was across the building from the conference room where we set up for church. This way we could meet privately. This was top-secret stuff.

As good friends, the four of us rolled up chairs to a round glass-top table and made it seem as though we were about to undergo a serious business transaction. I tried to control myself and not swing around in the chairs too much; I love a chair that rolls. But the conversation at hand called for seriousness and maturity. So, I tried to sit still as we opened up the somewhat awkward yet life-changing conversation.

Opening Conversations About a Baby

The conversation went smoothly as Scott & Patti explained to us the situation. Their friend was helping raise his niece. She was about 3-4 months old. He had come to the point that he was considering adoption for her. It was early in the process for him, and he still wasn’t completely sold – but definitely considering it. We immediately had come to their minds. And in the event he wanted to move forward with adoption for her, they were checking to see if we’d be interested.

Why This Fit the Burgesses

So much about this situation made them think of us. Mostly, we were already in the adoption process and desiring a domestic adoption. Our home study was complete. We were about ready to go active. Plus, the baby was biracial, and that was something we had requested in our adoption papers. They knew that she had been well cared for, and that she came from a good family. Plus, they knew her family would be looking for a good couple to raise her.

Why It Might Not Fit the Burgesses

While Scott & Patti felt like so many things fit, they made sure to present the situation carefully. They weren’t sure this was exactly what we were looking for, and we could tell the last thing they wanted to do was push it on us. But, also not wanting the opportunity to pass us by, they went ahead and mentioned it. Everything about it was awfully close to home – come to find out she was living only 10 minutes away from us. She wasn’t a brand new baby – she was already 3-4 months old. And, this would be more of an open adoption than we had planned for since we’d need to all work together to make this happen.

Um… Sure, We’d Go For It

After Scott & Patti explained the details, I looked to Mike to respond and lead the way. I’d felt like God had made it clear to me to let Mike guide this process all along, and so I wanted him to respond. I was all for pursuing it and seeing what God had up his sleeve. But I needed Mike to be, too. This was still such an up-in-the-air, hypothetical situation. She wasn’t definitely up for adoption yet. The big decision to find her a family hadn’t been made. But, the issue at hand was for us to decide to get involved, despite the lack of finality. What if … she was to be adopted … would we be interested? Not exactly the easiest decision – especially since we thought we had a plan for what our adoption was to look like. Did we really want to derail the process for a far-out opportunity? An opportunity like others that had already fallen through?

Despite the discomfort with the “what ifs,” and our desire to guard our hearts, we didn’t feel any red flags. Even as much as some of the scenarios didn’t match what we had in mind, something about it felt right. Sure, she lived in Lee’s Summit – but we knew our child would come from one of the 50 states – Missouri included. She wasn’t a “brand new” baby – yet months earlier I’d begun to feel like I wasn’t sure I was ready for an infant from the hospital. And while the open adoption scared us a bit, having friends like Scott & Patti vouch for everyone involved gave us much peace.

So, with that, we gave Scott the OK to mention us to his friend if he decided that adoption would be best for his niece. We weren’t really sure what to expect, nor if this would really all happen. A large part of us doubted it, yet there were small slivers of hope that this might actually be it.

“You want to see a picture?”

With the agreement to move forward, Scott offered one of the biggest carrots you can give someone that’s adopting – a photo. Mike quickly shook his head no, he didn’t want to see a picture yet. There was still too much uncertainty about the whole thing, he didn’t want to get any more emotionally attached to the situation. I quickly followed Mike in saying no, but only a second later changed my mind. For me, I needed this to be more real if it indeed was happening. So I agreed and leaned over to see my first sights of a sleeping beauty.

A cute little kiddo was softly sleeping in her pack-and-play. Not sure how I should feel, I looked over and told Mike she was cute. I didn’t exactly get all gushy, but seeing her face definitely made things more real. There was a baby, she might need a family. And we’re first in line if the gun went off.

And with that, we needed to go. Church was about to start.

We still weren’t really sure what to expect. But we figured why not check it out until God closed a door.

Except after only 12 hours, we realized that God wasn’t closing doors.

Instead, He was opening them.

January 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm 3 comments

Mae Day

If you would have told me three weeks ago that I’d be putting our daughter to bed in her own room tonight, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

But that’s exactly what has just happened.

The phrase “God works in mysterious ways” just touches on the miracle that’s taken place in our lives over the past few weeks. We thought we had an idea of what our adoption journey would entail. God obviously had other plans. And we couldn’t be more delighted, excited and absolutely blessed.

Word of a precious, 4-month-old baby girl came to us three weeks ago. She needed some parents and a stable home. We were thrown for a bit; we had not signed activation papers with our agency yet and thought we’d be matched with a pregnant birth mom in another US state. We thought it would take a few months. Yet something about this baby girl intrigued us. She was older than a newborn. She was biracial. She was absolutely gorgeous. She was local. And something about this just felt so meant to be.

So a few weeks ago we started down a road that led to confirmation after confirmation that this indeed was the child that God had prepared for us. Everything worked out so smoothly, all of the what could-be complicated details were smoothed out. Doors and windows just seemed to fly open. And we agree with the many who have said, “it’s just a God thing,” as this adoption process has been very fast and nearly seamless.

So it was with great joy today that we were given temporary custody and got to bring home our little gal. Her adoption should be finalized in six months, via Missouri law. As her adoptive parents, we’ve chosen to give her the name of Mae Brooke. While the idea for her name originally stemmed from our love of music by one of “our bands,” the name has come to symbolize so much more. Mae because it’s the month we married, and it means new beginnings and family for us. Brooke because we dearly love both of our siblings, and we wanted to carry on their names with our kid(s). I pray that she can always look up to her aunt, Laura Brooke, and love and know God through the example she sets.

We are still in awe and pinching ourselves just a little bit. But we’re over the moon excited for this new chapter in our lives, and the plans God has in store. We couldn’t be more thankful to the big, loving God we serve. We’re so honored He gave us our Mae Day today.

Enjoy some pics…

January 31, 2011 at 11:50 pm 19 comments

Can a Cancer Survivor Adopt?

When Mike & I headed down this road to adoption, there were many scary unknowns. Cost, health of the child, timing – all of this was scary – but nothing was scarier to me than the impact of my health history on our opportunity to become parents.

After a quick Google search, I was somewhat discouraged. Post after post talked about how cancer survivors cannot adopt children. Countless amounts of negativity ensued online, some of my hopes got down, but thanks to my apparent low-level of trust and asking-a-lot-of-questions personality (can you tell I took a personality assessment yesterday?) we found some loopholes… err, I mean silver lining. (oh, by the way, I’m also apparently an optimist.)

Domestic vs. International Adoption and Cancer Survivors

As much as I would love to be the be-all, end-all resource for information on cancer survivor’s eligibility to adopt, unfortunately this post can only pertain to what I’ve personally gone through or researched. I hope to do an update on this after we actually go through the process and understand more.

But – my story involves understanding that cancer DID have an impact on the type of adoption that we pursued. We begun our journey several years ago looking into international adoption. We had our sights set on a little Ethiopian baby and had begun to weigh the pros and cons of several adoption agencies. At this point, I was cancer-free and had been so for 8 years. I didn’t think I have a problem going this route.

I was soon diagnosed with a second colon cancer – though much, much more minor than the first (only stage 1). However, to those not too familiar with the cancer circuit and how all of that works – cancer is cancer and scary and yikes! As I recovered and looked into adoption again, I realized that our chances to internationally adopt within the upcoming few years were shot, and that even if we waited for a few years, our path to adopt internationally could be negatively affected by my cancer.

Most agencies require that those diagnosed with cancer be 3-5 years cancer-free (depending on the agency.) I will say this is understandable in most cases, as we all want to make sure that the children’s adoptive parents will be as stable as possible. But we also learned that some countries, like China, do not allow anyone who’s had cancer to adopt, and others aren’t too keen on it either. Some countries will allow you to pursue the process after you’re 5 years cancer free, but could get hung up on medical tests and Hague Convention stuff.

As I began to really get down (it’s not like getting diagnosed again was some cake walk for me, either…) I did find some hope. Because we were hoping to adopt sooner than 5 years, we realized that we might have to go a different route.

Cancer Survivors Adopting Domestically

The day that I hung up with Mike from American Adoptions is one that I will never forget. As much as my chemo brain lacks remembering these days – that moment after speaking with Mike is not one of them.

I had spent the afternoon searching agency after agency, browsing through the FAQs section on websites, looking for policies on cancer survivors adopting. After finding closed-door after closed-door on the international front, I remembered that our friend Colleen had a family member who’d used American Adoptions, and raved about working with them. I had filed away Colleen’s email with their information, and quickly searched to find the web address.

When I didn’t see anything on their website about cancer, I called their home office and had the best conversation with one of their family specialists, Mike. He explained that their agency didn’t have a “cancer policy,” and that they would gladly work with me. (Side note – he was a cancer survivor himself, so he TOTALLY knew how I was feeling.) After we hung up the phone, I knew that God had just helped make what could be a very difficult and hard decision so simple. Instead of taking so much time to find an international agency and country, we were guided to look into domestic adoption instead, and work with American Adoptions.

The Home Study Process and my cancer

We didn’t rush into signing up, and I actually let about a year post-surgery go by until we applied with our adoption agency. I wanted to give myself some time to physically and emotionally heal. When we applied with our adoption agency, I was a little over one year cancer-free again.

Part of our home study process involved medical records, and getting a letter from our physicians to say that we both had normal life expectancies. Because I stay up-to-date on my lab work, CT scans, PET scans and more – my physician was more than comfortable to show that I absolutely had a normal life expectancy.

To be double-sure that cancer would cause no problems, my social worker recommended that I also get a detailed letter from my oncologist, explaining my follow-up plan and remission. My doctor wrote a glowing note about my treatment, plan for follow ups, as well as the signs that my cancer was cured. This all was for my file, and will help prove even more that I am healthy, healed, and able to parent regardless of my cancer history.

Can a Cancer Survivor Adopt?

So to answer the question – YES! As I’ve found out, even when it seems like doors are closing left and right, there’s often another path that comes open. We’ve been encouraged to find a domestic agency who didn’t even blink to hear that I was a cancer survivor. We’re excited to be going through this adoption process, and the opportunities ahead of us.

I will also say that I have not hardly touched on the options for cancer survivors to adopt internationally, nor the foster care adoption route. I honestly have not had a lot of experience with this yet. But I leave you with a few links that I have found to be encouraging if you’re in this boat, too, and looking for your possible open door…

This site explains questions to ask yourself as a survivor who wants to adopt, and international adoption options.

Fertile Hope is dedicated to helping cancer survivors begin families

A Yahoo! Discussion group about Adoption after Cancer

 

 

January 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm 4 comments


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