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Changing the Perception on Making a Family
Changing the Perception on Making a Family
What used to be seen as a shrouded, closed-door arrangement between a birth mother and a benevolent adoptive couple, is now a rather open and multifarious program that meets the needs of mother and baby, while filling a space in an adoptive family’s life.
Caroline is the manager of Waypoint’s Agency Adoption program, for which she’s served for 31 years. Her team places an average of two to four newborns a year, as well as offering an array of adoption services to adoptive parents, birthparents and adoptees.
Caroline started working with Waypoint (then Child and Family Services) through the New Hampshire Task Force on Child Abuse. After two years working as a program coordinator in another program, she knew she belonged at Waypoint and went in search of a position that had more permanence.
“I would talk to the adoption director, Judy Barnes, quite a bit at the time. I realized it was my dream job, so I applied and when I got it, I could not believe that I could get paid to help people become a family,” she said.
She thought she just landed a job with the happiest work, and for the most part, it is, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.
“It’s both humbling and an honor to be part of bringing two families together in the best interest of a baby.” Caroline says, “This huge responsibility is never lost on me. I can’t think of a more important job in the world.”
Caroline and her staff are a part of the entire adoption process and by the time placement days come, she knows the adoptive families really well. She knows all of their hopes, worries and the highs and lows they’ve experienced through the process. Although she gives the adoptive families realistic expectations, it’s a challenge for Caroline not to share those hopes and feel those lows.
She also gets to watch the relationship between the birth mother and the adoptive parents grow, and it’s even more special when both families are there for placement.
“It’s a really emotional and wonderful day. There’s never a dry eye in the room,” Caroline said.
Something that isn’t widely considered about the adoption process, however, is the person losing a child. Although the birth mother is making a well-informed decision, it’s still extremely difficult for someone to part with their baby.
“These are young people making the best decision for their baby, who they love,” Caroline said.
Adoptive parents go through a lot as well. Adoptive parents can’t help but get excited at the idea of taking home a baby, but not all adoptions go smoothly.
That’s why counseling for both birth mothers and adoptive parents is so important. Before placement occurs, Caroline and her staff prepare adoptive parents for legal risk, a circumstance when a baby is placed with their adoptive family in their homes prior to the birthparents legally surrendering their parental rights. This can lead to a potential situation in which a birthmother changes their minds about the adoption and decides to parent their child. In this circumstance, adoptive parents understand this risk but feel it is worth it to have their potential baby with them from the first possible moment they can.
“A mother keeping her baby is something to be celebrated, but it’s also another huge loss for the adoptive parents and the grief they go through all over again,” Caroline said about the added sadness and loss legal risk has on adoptive parents who previously had an inability to conceive, followed by failed adoption attempts.
As well as the emotional toll, there is also a significant cost to the adoptive parents as well. The average cost of newborn agency adoptions across the US starts at around $40,000. At Waypoint, however, they work to make adoptive services as affordable as possible. Starting with the policy that adoptive parents do not pay any agency fees until they’ve been legally placed with a child.
For adoptions by relatives, they are usually already guardians of the child before coming to the decision to make that child a permanent part of their household. Adopting a relative’s child is not something they’ve usually planned for and they often don’t realize the expenses involved in adopting a child.
Whether a child is adopted by an aunt, uncle or grandparent, it’s almost always a happy and open adoption. To support this type of adoption case, Waypoint applied and is currently receiving grant funding to relieve relatives of the outstanding costs of the adoption homestudy for relatives.
After placement days, Caroline and her team work with the families through the legal process of adoption and then for six months after for transition.
“As long our office is here, we’re here. We’re the oldest adoption agency in the state, we’ve had people in their 60s and 70s asking us for information on their adoption,” Caroline said.” The children I’ve placed over my 30 years, I’m proud to say I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of them. We’ve shared in all of the triumphs of their life and the tragedies. If we’re able to offer help then certainly we’re going to do that.”
The Agency Adoption program is offering virtual video consultations at no cost. For further information on the work Caroline and the team do, visit our Adoption and Birthparent Services webpage. To support programs like this, you can give to Waypoint here. Interested in becoming a Changemaker like Caroline? Join our team.
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