Are you thinking about adopting? Have you checked out your local adoption centers? Maybe you have been working with an adoption agency, but have decided to look into adoption in Michigan. We can help. Following is a transcript from our adoption focus podcast that aired 3.12.19. Although it is entitled “Overcoming a Failed Adoption” it also points out the importance of finding a reputable agency.
You can read the transcript below, or you can listen to the podcast by clicking here.
AIR DATE: 3.12.19 Overcoming a Failed Adoption
Jennifer: Good morning, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates’ premiere talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990, and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide private adoption services throughout all of Michigan, with offices that are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and the Freeland, Mid-Michigan, Saginaw area. Anywhere in Michigan, you can find a connection to Adoption Associates.
Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it truly is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly podcast to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community, so we are very grateful to you, our listener, for being with us today. We are on a … what we are affectionately calling take two. We had a little bit of a SNAFU last week with our podcast. So, so excited to be able to offer this from the beginning, brand new to you today.
We are talking about overcoming failed adoptions. We have a very interesting story, and we’re gonna hear one couple’s experience with failed adoption. I want to go ahead and welcome to the show today Alicia. I believe you are with us.
Alicia: I am. Good morning.
Jennifer: Good morning. Thank you so much for coming back and sticking with me to do this a second time.
Jennifer: What a trooper you were last week. So, let’s … I’m really intrigued by your story, and I know that we have others that are as well, and are looking forward to hearing about your experience and your journey. I think it would be best if we could give our listeners some background information before we discuss some of the details. When did you and your husband first begin pursuing adoption?
Alicia: Ryan and I began pursuing adoption in, probably 2014, ’15. We started looking into the options, talking with different agencies, just weighing our options to see what direction we wanted to go in.
Jennifer: You did make a decision there to work with an agency that was out-of-state.
Alicia: We did. We signed up with an agency in 2016 that was located in Chicago. We chose that agency because we had heard that they had quick success rates. There wasn’t gonna be a long wait. The success rate was supposed to be super good, and the cost was not going to be outrageous. Well, that being said, it’s not the way it happened.
Jennifer: Okay, okay. And I think that you’re not unique in that experience, unfortunately. We do hear from other couples who have experienced the same thing. But nonetheless, let’s talk about what happened for you guys at that point. You’ve selected an agency out-of-state, and you are getting your home study completed. Fast forward a bit and tell our listeners what happened next.
Alicia: Okay, so we signed up in 2016. In January of 2017 … so we’d been listed for a year with this agency. January 2017, we were connected with an expectant mom who was due the beginning of February. We spent that next month just chatting with her, getting to know her, getting everything ready at home. We were preparing to take a baby home at that point. That baby, the girl, was born February 4, 2017. We were fortunate to be able to be at the hospital. I was actually able to be the first one to do skin to skin with her. We spent the entire hospital visit time with that baby in our room. After the couple days, we did take that baby home, and we began our life. We started that process, and started filing all the paperwork, then we had some SNAFUs, and about eight weeks in, the expectant mom, the birth mom, she chose to parent. She came and picked that baby up from my house, and I will never forget that night. That was a very low point in our adoption journey.
Jennifer: I can only imagine.
Alicia: The beginning of our adoption journey.
Jennifer: Right. I mean, this is, for many couples, a worst case scenario. This is the one thing-
Jennifer: If you can think about … Let anything happen but this.
Jennifer: And so, you mentioned that there were some SNAFUs. Were the SNAFUs what led to her decision, or was this really the SNAFU in and of itself?
Alicia: No, we had some issues with our background checks with the state. She kept contacting our lawyer that we had been working with, and every time she would call the lawyer, he would stop everything he was doing on our end, so all of our paperwork he’d stop, because he felt she was not gonna go through with it. And it was like, well, we hired you. She wasn’t even … He wasn’t her lawyer. We had a different lawyer hired for her. It was just a lot of red flags, looking back. If I’d seen them before, I would have done things a lot differently, unfortunately.
Jennifer: Yeah, and at the time, you were taking care of a baby-
Jennifer: And feeling frustrated about the process that was before you. So, we’ll get into some more of these details, but for the sake of helping our listeners to understand, let’s continue on, if you will, Alicia, and talk about what happened after this very difficult fall through for you and your husband.
Alicia: Okay, so right after that all happened, we took a little bit of time, but we asked our agency to keep showing us. In October of 2017, so almost six months later, we were presented with an expectant mom who was located in Louisiana, because the agency we had signed up for worked with states, obviously, all over the country, not just Michigan, or not just Illinois. So they connected us with an expectant mom who was due within a couple days, and we were all set. We paid some lawyer fees, we had got everything set up to head down, packed our vehicle. We were ready to go. We were just waiting for the call to say okay, it’s time.
Then that call never came. Unfortunately, I found this expected mom, this birth mom, on Facebook about a week after her due date, and realized she had had the baby and chose to parent. So, yeah that was-
Jennifer: And having to find out-
Alicia: Okay, unpack the car, and then-
Jennifer: Oh my goodness.
Jennifer: Well, at least you could say okay, unpack the car. But I mean, we know that that’s not what that was really like for you guys. To have to find that out through Facebook, too, I’m sure that played a part of the grief that you must have been experiencing, to find it out in that way.
Alicia: Absolutely. It was not easy, because she wouldn’t respond to our agency, she wouldn’t respond to our lawyer. She wouldn’t respond to anyone. To me, I had to do all the leg work. Our agency was not helpful in doing any of that. It was like, well, why do I have to do all this? You guys connected us. But again, lesson learned.
Jennifer: It was just the way that it was, yeah, for-
Jennifer: For that particular organization.
Jennifer: Okay, so now here you are with two fall throughs. I know, I can almost sense our listeners going, “Oh my gosh. What happened next? Did they stop their adoption? How did they carry on?” And so, you did carry on. Spoiler alert.
Alicia: We did.
Jennifer: For those that are listening. Go ahead and talk about what happened next for you.
Alicia: Yep, so within a couple weeks after that, another expectant mom had reached out to us via our profile on the agency’s website. We began creating a relationship with her that was probably end of November of 2017. She was supposed to be due the end of December 2017. That time frame came and went. We were still communicating. We were still talking. Then she kept changing her due date, and we were like, okay. The original due date came from the website, and we were like well, you know … I continued to love on this girl. We texted probably daily, created an amazing relationship with her, talking, and texting, and all of that.
But come to find out, come February … February 15th to be exact, February 15th, 2018, when we finally started to ask for proof of pregnancy, she sent me an ultrasound. After doing some digging, it ended up being a Google image of an ultrasound. It wasn’t even a real ultrasound. She was never even pregnant. So, yeah. So that was-
Jennifer: So here you are, faced with another reality that is not what you wanted.
Alicia: Yeah, yep. She was not even pregnant, so we’re like, okay, well now what?
Jennifer: Were you still feeling what you described from previous, in terms of support, or lack thereof, or connectedness with the agency that you were using during this phase of finding out that this was not even a true pregnancy?
Alicia: Yeah, there was definitely not support there from … I think it was even harder being that we were out-of-state. But anytime I would reach out to them, they were like, “Well, we’ve tried to reach out to her, and she’s not getting back to us.” But I just didn’t feel like they had our best interest at heart. I didn’t feel like they were really invested. They’d gotten our money. We paid them a large sum upfront. And so, they got our money. Well, what do they … you know? They didn’t have to do anything else. So, just … yeah. We definitely … And I pushed. I pushed for more support from them, and they just weren’t willing to do anything else for us.
Jennifer: I am so sorry for you guys. But that was not the end of your story and of your adoption journey.
Jennifer: So, carry on, if you will.
Alicia: Yep, so it was probably two weeks after this, because they kept showing our profile. We said, “You know what, let’s keep on. We’re gonna keep going. We wanna grow our family.” So two weeks later, we were connected with another expectant mom down in Tennessee. This was a younger girl. She was already parenting a one year old, and was about six months pregnant at this point. She was just, “I know I can’t parent another child. My boyfriend, or my ex-boyfriend just said it’s not his. So we don’t want … We want to make an adoption plan.”
So, going forward, we created a really good relationship with her. I talked to her every couple days. We made plans to meet when we got down to Tennessee. She ended up … So, fast forward, she was due in April. She had two false labor scares, so we packed the car, headed down two separate times. The first time, we got down to about Ohio, and she was like, “Oh, they’re sending me home.” Okay, well, we turned around and went back home. A couple days later, she texted and said, “Oh, I’m going in.” And we headed down. We didn’t even make it out of Michigan that night. We made it to about the border and turned right back around and came home.
Then, that night, she was like, “Oh, they changed my due date. They pushed me back a couple weeks.” So I got home, unpacked the car. I’m like okay, we’re just gonna wait. I think that Thursday, she called and said, “Head down.” And I’m like, “What do you mean head down?” She was like, “I just had the baby at home in my bathroom.” So-
Jennifer: Oh my goodness.
Alicia: I called my husband home from work. Yeah. She’s a 19 year old girl, has a baby at home in her bathroom with her one year old at home. They were home alone.
Alicia: She calls and says … So, I called my husband home. We quick packed the car, because I had unpacked it. And we headed down. So we had about an eight hour trip down to Clarksville, Tennessee. We got down there about 8:00 at night, spent the night in the hospital, spent a couple hours with that birth mom, and also the dad. Then we finally got our own room, spent the night in the hospital with that baby, loved on her, shared the news with just our closest family and friends. We woke up the next morning to her text saying, “Hey, can you meet my mom in the lobby.” We’re like, “Yeah, absolutely.” It was her mom’s birthday and she wanted to see the baby. Her mom came out and said, “She’s not going through with it. She’s changed her mind.”
Jennifer: Oh gosh.
Alicia: The dad knows the baby’s his. He’s seen her.
Alicia: So, we … yeah. We went back and we said fine. I think that was probably the angriest I was. I just said, “Whatever.” I walked out of the room. We packed our stuff in the hospital room, and went down to our car, called our lawyer, called the agency, and they’re like, “Don’t leave town. Let’s figure this out.” So we hung around in the area for that day, because it happened pretty early in the morning. By three or four o’clock that day, I’m like, you guys aren’t gonna get anywhere. You’re not gonna change this girl’s mind. I respect that. She chose to parent. So we just packed our car and headed home empty handed once more.
Jennifer: Wow. Your story is truly, truly amazing to me, and that you’re sharing it with us. I know I’ve thanked you, but I wanna do so again because I know this isn’t easy for you. But it’s just … I’m a bit speechless, to be honest with you. This is, if I’m following your timeline, that’s four fall throughs in two years.
Alicia: Yep, yep. That’s right, actually from January ’17 to April of 2018. Yep.
Jennifer: Not even two years.
Jennifer: So, yeah. I would say that this is not what we hear very often, and it is certainly every family’s truest, biggest concern going into adoption.
Alicia: Yeah, absolutely.
Jennifer: So, we’re almost there in your timeline, and things are gonna perk us up here in a minute. So go ahead, would you please, so that our listeners aren’t too terribly saddened by your story. Let’s round out what happened ultimately.
Alicia: On our way home from Tennessee, my husband and I really … we hadn’t had a trip, just the two of us, so we turned the end of that negative experience into a vacation for the two of us. We ended up going to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, and really spent some time focusing on each other, and focusing on what God’s plan for us was to continue. Did He want us to just say you know what, maybe we aren’t meant to have kids? But on the car ride home, after leaving the Ark, I emailed Tara, who had been our case worker at the Jenison office, and I said, “Okay, I think we’re ready to switch agencies.”
Our contract was almost up with our agency in Chicago, and we just felt like we needed to be somewhere that they do their due diligence and take care of the expectant moms, but also the adoptive parents. There’s a lot more support. There’s time spent with these expectant moms to make sure that this is even a path that these girls want to go down, to ensure that there isn’t all of this heartbreak. [crosstalk]
Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative), so just to-
Jennifer: Yeah, yes, yes. Thank you. And just for clarification purposes for those listeners right now, when you say you reached out to Tara, Tara is with Adoption Associates. She’s one of our fantastic case workers. You know Tara because … correct me if I’m wrong, she completed a home study for you because you are a Michigan resident, and Adoption Associates is a Michigan agency. So despite the fact that you were pursuing these potential adoption links through an out-of-state agency, you still needed a home study to be done in Michigan. Am I understanding the relationship with Tara?
Alicia: Yep, but … We had met with Tara between one of our failed adoptions earlier on, because we had considered switching agencies then. But then they had presented us with another expectant mom. So we said, “Oh, nope, maybe it’s not the time.” So we had met Tara then. We had used an agency in Grand Rapids to do our home study.
Jennifer: Okay, okay. And so-
Alicia: Not Adoption Associates.
Jennifer: Okay. So you had previously received information and had a meeting with Adoption Associates-
Alicia: With Tara, yes.
Jennifer: To learn about [inaudible]. Perfect, perfect.
Jennifer: So you reached out to Tara because now you’ve made this decision that you wanna change agencies, and you did indeed do that. Then what happened next?
Alicia: We did. We switched agencies. We started all of our paperwork in May of 2018. We went live as an active waiting family July 25th of 2018. August 25th of 2018, we received a call that an expectant mom wanted to talk to us.
Jennifer: Oh my goodness. And I’m thinking-
Jennifer: Yeah, you get that call and your excited, but are you also really conflicted having had four terrible experiences?
Alicia: Oh, yes. So guarded.
Alicia: So guarded. The nerves. We met with this expectant mom on September 6th. We met at Applebee’s in Greenville, and had a conversation with her. It was the most incredible experience because not only was she there, but the birth mom case worker. So she had someone there supporting her, who was advocating for her rights, and to help her navigate, as well. At that meeting, she gave us an ultrasound picture and said, “It’s you guys I would love to parent my child.” Our sweet Anna Grace was born December 6th of 2018.
Jennifer: Yay. Aww. I hear your emotion, Alicia.
Alicia: Yeah. She was so worth the wait.
Jennifer: Aww. [crosstalk]
Alicia: So when they say it’s worth the wait, it really is.
Jennifer: You know, I wanna ask you … You talk about, you got the call a month later after you were active with the agency. Then you met her within a week or two it sounds like. Obviously, yeah, you were guarded. But once you met her, did this feel differently than it did-
Alicia: Oh, yeah.
Jennifer: In other cases, and how so?
Alicia: 100%. There was just a sense of peace. There was a natural flow of conversations. We didn’t lack for a relationship. We saw her, we met her that day in September. We met up with her in October, her and her son that she’s parenting. Her and I went and got pedicures in November. Then we got to be at the hospital when Anna was born. I got to cut the cord. I got to stand next to her as she delivered this precious gift.
Alicia: It was definitely the most surreal experience.
Jennifer: Sure. I’m sure it was. Sure it was. So, having one fall through for any couple is extremely emotionally challenging. Some couples do their own work to make that decision whether or not to move forward, to continue, and reevaluate their plan. It sounds like you guys did that for sure. You talked about doing that then, after that fourth fall through. But I do wanna talk about the fact that you went through that four times. You really overcame not one, not two, not three, but four of these. So, maybe not an area you ever expected to be the expert on-
Jennifer: But I believe that you are. So I want to talk about the emotional implications of this for you and your husband. I mean, really brutally honestly, what was it like for you to have experienced this time and time again?
Alicia: It was not easy. It was a lot of sorting through did we do something wrong, what happened, did I say something wrong, did we just not meet … Especially when we met a couple of the expectant moms, did we not come across the way we should have? What did we do wrong? Are we meant to be parents? There’s a lot of those … and then the questions from family and friends, and the answering … Sometimes it just go to a point where we would avoid going to things because we didn’t want to have to talk about it again. We didn’t wanna have to show up empty handed to another event. Yeah.
But I think it definitely brought my husband and I closer because we had to work though it together. We were living day to day with an empty nursery. There were days that we just shut the door because we couldn’t face it. Sometimes there were days there was hope, and it was like okay, maybe this is the time. But it was definitely a rollercoaster.
Jennifer: I can see that it would have been for sure. You said to me off here at one point that you found yourself in the role of cheerleader. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Alicia: Yes, absolutely. I felt like … especially with my husband, and I love him dearly. He is amazing. But I felt like sometimes I was the one picking everyone up around me, encouraging them when they would be angry, or they would be disappointed or discouraged. I’d be like nope, you know what, we’re gonna keep moving. We’re gonna keep going, and we’re just gonna find the joy and find the reason, and see what God is gonna do through this journey. I was the one just like okay, we’re gonna do this. But there were days that I’d go home and be like okay, I’m tired. Someone needs to pick me up once in a while.
Jennifer: Yes. Because [crosstalk]
Alicia: So I found a tribe of women that are adoptive moms, they’re waiting adoptive moms, and I think that tribe has definitely been what I needed to get through this journey, as well.
Alicia: It’s amazing where God placed the right people at the right time. Just when I was like, “There’s no way I can do this anymore,” but I can.
Jennifer: Well, that was something I wanted to ask about, too, is … Each step along the way, you mentioned it bringing you and your husband closer together, but how emotionally challenging this was. But ultimately, you never gave up. Why is that, you think?
Alicia: I think 100% our faith. I think that God has definitely lifted us and let us keep on this journey, because I think that if our journey, and I’ve said this all along, if our story and our discouragement along the way, if it can bring someone along, or just have someone else’s faith strengthened through our story, or if we can walk alongside someone through their struggle, our struggle and our disappointments have been worth it.
Jennifer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nice.
Alicia: Because we’re in it to help others. We can’t do it alone. It’s a matter of finding that village and finding people who get it, and you can walk alongside them, as well.
Jennifer: I know that you mentioned earlier in our conversation some financial implications. It sounds like this was an issue for you and Ryan as well, but each step with every emotional loss and fall through you had, you also had a financial loss.
Jennifer: We don’t have to go to depth into this, but I’d like to give you an opportunity, if you’d like, to talk a little bit more about that piece.
Alicia: Yep. Well, like I said, earlier we had a large upfront fee with our first agency, and that covered a two year contract. But each time we were connected, we had lawyer fees, we had travel fees, we had agency fees, because a lot of times when we connected out-of-state, obviously, you have to find lawyers in each of those states. So, the only one we never paid lawyer fees for was the one in Ohio, because we just had a real unsettled feeling. We had contacted a lawyer down there, but just hadn’t paid anything because we were like, you know, we just wanted to wait until we had that proof of pregnancy. But there were definitely lawyer fees with each one. There was … yeah.
Jennifer: So, do you feel … I guess I’m curious. At the beginning, did you feel that you understood the way those fees would fall into place, or that you would need to find an attorney every time you went to a different state, and that there would be separate fees involved? Was there a full understanding on your part and Ryan’s part about what that would look like financially?
Alicia: No, absolutely not. The agency was definitely not real upfront about, okay, well you’re paying this much, but you’re still gonna have all these fees in the other states, and all of these costs. No, they were definitely more forthcoming saying, “Okay, this is our flat fee, and then we’re gonna help you find a baby.” Well, it didn’t work out that way.
Jennifer: When you met with Tara and you began to make the switch to Adoption Associates, I could only imagine that this fee thing would be something that was nerveracking for you too, and that maybe you wanted to pay more attention to. So, what was your experience in that regard, in terms of understanding fees with Adoption Associates?
Alicia: They were completely upfront. It was really nice to have it laid out so we knew what we were getting into. Because we didn’t get anything back from our agency in Illinois, because they just take your money and … But with Adoption Associates, they lay everything out. They say, “Okay, this is what it’s gonna cost each step of the way.” There’s no surprise fees. There’s nothing hidden. It just was really nice to know what we were looking for, to know where we had to save, what we had coming. Our connection with Anna’s birth mom allowed us time to gather the funds that we needed and come up with, so there wasn’t any shock factor. Our family was incredibly generous in helping us reach those final funds at the end, to be able to cover all of our costs.
Jennifer: Complete understatement on my part, but I mean, your ultimate journey to Anna Grace, and to your adoption with her was obviously not easy, but I’m wondering what you discovered through this really incredible process.
Alicia: Oh, that’s hard to just choose one thing.
Jennifer: You don’t have to choose just one.
Alicia: I guess one of the biggest takeaways from this journey is, you can’t do it alone. You have to find … and I said that earlier, you have to find people who are supporting you, and who are on the same journey, and who get what you’re going through, but can support you emotionally so that you’re not alone. Because parenting is tough, but parenting through adoption is even another layer, and it’s just a real, true blessing to have those around us that support us as well as they do. We’re not alone in this.
Jennifer: Absolutely, absolutely. What would your message be to a perspective adoptive couple that may be listening right now, that is either really scared of this whole fall through thing, or maybe has experienced a fall through already themselves? What message do you have to those people, and maybe to those who are just saying, “I don’t even think I can do adoption because this piece is just too scary for us.”
Alicia: It’s super scary, but really, you can do it. If this is the path that you’re choosing, you’re on that path for a reason. It’s not … You may be in that expectant mom’s life for a reason at that time. Looking back over our journey, I know that there was a reason, with our first one, that we had that baby home for eight weeks. There was a reason that we were connected with that expectant mom in Tennessee. I think our encouragement of her allowed her the opportunity to parent. As much as it hurts us, there’s obviously a purpose for that, and it’s worth it. It’s so cliché to say that it’s worth wait.
When you meet that expectant mom, and you hold that baby that’s meant to be yours, you just know. There’s a complete sense of peace. Yes, you will hold your breath until those papers are signed, but once that baby is in your arms, nothing else matters. That pain, those scars are still there from each fall through, but the pain diminishes, and it’s easier to talk about, and it’s easier to put a smile on your face every day and just keep moving.
Jennifer: Wow. Your story is just so powerful, I think, Alicia, and so unique and amazing. There’s so much here. We’ve talked about emotional implications. We’ve talked about financial implications. We’ve talked about procedural stuff with the agency. I would say that if you could pick your top couple of things that, in retrospect, you now know are really important when it comes to selecting an agency, or choosing an adoption provider, what message would that be?
Alicia: I think the biggest things that we’ve learned, that you need to find an agency who’s going to do their due diligence to make sure that these expectant moms are taken care of, to make sure there’s post-placement care for these expectant moms. I think … yeah, I think those are the biggest things because in the end, it’s not really about us adoptive parents, because without those expectant parents, we wouldn’t be adoptive parents.
Jennifer: Nice. Yes. You’re absolutely right.
Alicia: Right? You know?
Jennifer: Every piece of this is important. Support to a family such as yours, and support to the birth mom, and really caring about all the participants in an adoption we think is very, very important.
Jennifer: Alicia, I can’t thank you enough. I appreciate you so much for your patience with the techy stuff, and then walking us through what a very emotional time in your life to where you are now. So just tell us a little bit about Anna Grace and your family. For those of you that are listening, we will have a picture of Anna Grace and her mom and dad on our Facebook page later today. But what do you wanna tell us about your beautiful little girl before we go?
Alicia: It is amazing. She grows so fast. When they say they grow fast, oh my goodness. She’s just three months old. She comes to work with me every day, which is so much fun because I can go peek in on her anytime I want.
Alicia: It is just the most amazing thing. Last night I was in the bathroom and I could hear my husband out reading bible stories to her. To know that that’s happening in my living room is just … oh, it just warms my heart every day. We have an amazing relationship with Anna’s birth mom. We are so proud of her and her decision. But she’s also become part of our family. We didn’t adopt just to get a baby. We adopted because we knew we’d gain an extended family, and we’ve gained that and we are so blessed by all of that.
Jennifer: Your story is just fantastically wrought with every emotion that there could possibly be. I’m so grateful to you for being here today, and looking forward to sharing your information on Facebook so that our listeners can take a glimpse, as well, at your beautiful family. Thank you very much for today.
Alicia: Absolutely. I’m glad I could be here.
Jennifer: For those of you that are listening, if you’re interested in learning more about Adoption Associates, or asking us some questions about our domestic adoption program, we would be happy to hear from you at 800-677-2367. You can also connect with Adoption Associates through our website, AdoptionAssociates.net. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you can reach us, as well. We will be continuing our adoption focus programming every other Tuesday. Please continue to look for posts on Facebook about upcoming episodes. Any ideas that you have about a topic you’d like to hear in the future, we’d be happy to hear that, as well.
Thank you again, Alicia.
Alicia: Absolutely. Thanks, Jennifer.
Jennifer: For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope you all have a great day. Bye bye.