If y’all didn’t know it yet, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month (you can find an awesome post about it on No Hands But Ours). And as a mama to a precious bug with and extra chromosome, I not only feel it my duty to share all the sweetness that is Clementine (although I kinda do that on the regular here) but I want to share about our girl and our experience with Down syndrome. And hopefully open some eyes that still view children with Down syndrome as less than: less wonderful, less wanted, less worthy.
In late July, when we traveled to Cincinnati for Clementine’s tracheal-slide surgery, Stephanie Thompson, director the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network or NDSAN, asked if she could come by and welcome Clementine to Cincinnati. We had a chance to visit for a while and eventually, of course, our conversation turned to adoption. And since she knew the ins and outs of domestic Down syndrome adoption better than anyone – and she was sitting just two feet from me – I figured I’d ask her everything I’d ever wanted to know on the subject.
And I did have some questions. You see, before Clementine was even a inkling, when we were just praying for answers to why God was laying Down syndrome on my heart, we thought He might be calling us to adopt a child with Down syndrome domestically. And, despite all the adoptive mamas I knew, I didn’t know anyone who actually had. In an effort to get some resolution, I spoke with a social worker who facilitates domestic adoptions. Her reply was that there really wasn’t a pressing need for adoptive families for children with Down syndrome here in the US. In fact, she added, there were enough families wanting to adopt these kiddos, that birth parents had a plethora of waiting families to consider – so many that most being selected were holders of advanced college degrees with no (or few) children at home yet.
Well, wow. What a relief and what joy to hear that so many were anxious to hold a little bundle with a little extra. And for us, that was the end of that. Honestly, we never really thought much about it again. Because it was then that God began leading our steps towards China again, and a little girl who was already waiting.
Suddenly, as I sat across from Stephanie while cradling this now-months-home girl in my arms, I was reminded of the social worker’s response and couldn’t resist wanting to know more. After all, right next to me was a person who would really know the answer to just about any question I could ask.
And her answers completely surprised me. So today I want to share a short Q and A, a condensed version (you’re welcome) of our conversation – in case you or someone you know is as misinformed as I was. And I am hopeful the Lord uses it to shine a light on the need for families to prayerfully consider, and then respond to the call of adoption, no matter how many chromosomes are involved.
Q: Is there a need for families to adopt children in the US with Down syndrome?
A: We are always looking for families to add to our registry, families who have a current home study that can be used in any state, for both private and public adoptions, who are immediately available to adopt. If they have that home study, they will be sent a NDSAN registration form to be added to the NDSAN registry.
The goal of the NDSAN would be to have four totally awesome, and totally diverse families in every state. At this time we have NO families in the following states:
District of Columbia
Q: Are there children available for adoption now?
A: Yes, there are children available for adoption within the US. We have children with Down syndrome in state custody who need forever families right now.
The NDSAN does not post about private situations on the website. Calls from birth families or the agencies representing them are kept confidential. But the NDSAN is consistently contacted about private situations. When we are called about a private situation, we make sure that every family who calls us is educated about Down syndrome. They are given updated and accurate information, so they can confidently make a decision to either parent or make an adoption plan.
Q: How does the process work?
A: When a birth family decides to make an adoption plan, they will tell us what they are looking for in adoptive family. We will put their parameters into the registry. That is combined with all with what all of the adoptive families are looking for in a child. The registry will kick out a report of a best fit of possible adoptive families. Those families will be contacted by the NDSAN, told in confidence of the situation, and if they are interested and with their permission, their family profile will be shown to the birth family. The birth family will review all possible families and choose a family. An agency will step in to continue the process, and the NDSAN will remain in the background as support if needed.
There is NO “wait list”. The NDSAN has a registry of families and families are chosen based on the desires of the birth family. An adoptive family could be contacted an hour after they are added to our registry; they may be contacted 6 months from being added. It depends on the desires of the birth family, and how open an adoptive family is in what they are looking for in a child.
Q: About how many adoptions does the NDSAN help facilitate in a year?
A: In 2014, we helped 44 children with Down syndrome within the US find their forever families.
Q: What kind of homestudy does a family need? How might it differ from a homestudy for an international adoption?
A: If you have a current, domestic home study that can be used for both public and private adoptions in any state (usually referred to as a “private” home study), and you are immediately available to adopt, we encourage you to register with us. When we are told about a child needing a home in the US, we will do a query in our registry to see what families would best fit the needs of that child. A report is generated and families are contacted.
If you have a home study through your county department of family services, you MUST check with your worker to see if you are permitted to use your home study for adoptions outside of their jurisdiction. If you are permitted to adopt outside of your jurisdiction, you MUST have your worker email your home study to me, with verification that it can be used in any adoption. When your home study is received, I will email you and let you know, then you can send your registration form at that time.
A domestic homestudy differs from an international homestudy in that it is approved for use within the United States, so it it written in accordance with your county, state, and national statutes; an international homestudy is written in accordance with the country from which you want to adopt.
Q: What else does a family need, besides a homestudy, to be placed in your registry?
A: A family profile, and instructions are given on what to include in the profile, such as your experience with Down syndrome, why you want to adopt a child with Ds, special needs resources in your area, etc.
Q: What are the costs involved?
A: We do not charge any fees, but there may be fees associated with the adoption process. Fees vary from $0 (public agency adoptions of children in the custody of the state typically have no or very low fees) up to a maximum of $20,000. While the range for a private adoption depends on the agency, and the services provided, they usually average somewhere around $12,000. Families can apply for state subsidies to offset some costs as well.