In Southeast Alaska there are resources to help those with the process of adoption or becoming foster parents such as the Alaska Center for Resource Families. The training coordinator for ACRF in Juneau, Michelle Rodgers said, "There are always children in need of adoption in the area, especially teenagers."
Families thinking of adopting must have certain qualifications including, a strong commitment to the child and they must go through a 6-month trial of living with the child before they can even apply for a Home study, which takes place for another 3 months. "Even after all this it doesn't necessarily all go through," said Rodgers.
Many things must be assessed before the process can continue. The adoptive party must also be able to support the child financially as well as support them as a family. The families are assessed with questions composed of about 20 pages worth of questions. "It basically asks them their entire life story," said Rodgers, "and if the child is native or a nationality other than the adoptive parents we need to know how the parents plan to keep them connected to their native culture. Our main goal is to unify the child with the parent/s."
Courtesy Photo Darla Madden and Karen Wood with their daughter Willa NianFan Madden-Wood
Adoptive and foster parents must also go through CORE training. This needs to be taken within the first year of becoming foster or adoptive parents. Then 15 hours of training a year for an adoptive couple and 10 hours a year for a single adoptive parent. CORE training touches on subjects including, the affects of abuse and neglect on children, substance abuse, attachment related issues, social workers and intake/ investigations, and transitions to and from homes. The next CORE training will be at the end of January 2008 in which they will have one day open to anyone who is interested in adoption. After going through orientations, CORE training, and completing an adoption home study, the prospective families can be listed on OCS adoption exchange or North West Adoption exchange.
Then the placement of a child might take place, leading up to the actual adoption day. This entire process can take up to well over a year. Every situation is different.
A Juneau Family who has gone through a private adoption attorney is currently in the process of adopting. "This is not a conventional adoption" the adoptive father said who's name he wished to keep confidential, "In this case the mother approached us about adopting the child."
"I think we have enjoyed parenting and often thought we could handle more, but didn't want to actually have more of our own," said the father of one son already. When asked how this new addition to his family has affected them he said, "It made me sit down and figure out what's important and what's not. It's very scary in a situation like this, you can do everything right and still have problems," the man said and also added, "Its interesting that you always wonder about attachment, but I think all of us have been surprised in that by the time we got home with the new baby it was ours. I was surprised how attached we were instantly."
The joy of bringing in a new member to the family has graced Karen Wood and her partner Darla Madden as well. "There are so many children in the world that need good homes and good families," Karen Wood said.
In 2001 they traveled to south-central China in the area of Guangxi for several weeks to meet their daughter Willa, 10 months old at the time. She came from an orphanage in a tiny village called Pingan. There were 8 other families there as well getting kids there from the orphanage. "It was a life changing experience," said Wood.
The process of their international adoption took over a year and a half. Because of certain laws in China it can take up to three years now.
"It's a lengthy process, there's bureaucracy and lots of paperwork. Don't focus on the waiting, time goes a lot quicker if you don't focus on other stuff while you are waiting," said Wood. "But once you have that child in your arms, you forget how long you've waited and it's the most amazing thing. It's a wonderful way to build a family."
Wood touched on the subject of adopting a child of a different nationality mentioning, "The hardest part about adoptions is there is that sense of loss as well. There is a loss of identity and its hard knowing she will go through struggles with this throughout her life, I don't like thinking about that. There are mixed feelings about taking her from her country, we try to present her with Chinese culture as much as possible and try to incorporate it into her life. But the best thing about it was the gift we were given and being able to share our lives together. It feels like we are meant to be her parents and that's the best."