Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Noelle's Story Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

After a sudden unexpected opening on the waiting list at our adoption agency, I wasn't sure whether to take it or not. It seemed too soon. Justin, however, didn't think twice and said if there was an opening we should take it. Who knows how long it would take to get on the list again?

So we filled out the application and sent the check. We were officially one the list. Time to update our homestudy. We plodded through it, filling out a paper here or there. Booking our FBI background checks. Making doctor's appointments. But I didn't feel the same kind of urgency I felt the first time around. With Jocelyn, we had our homestudy done in five weeks. Second time around, we took close to five months. I just wasn't in a hurry and didn't feel like I needed to rush. On a few occasions my caseworker had to nag me to make progress. How many times does that happen?

While we were homestudy ready in November and had an online profile set up, I still hadn't completed my parent profile - a little "scrapbook" of info about us that the potential birth parent(s) review to help them choose an adoptive couple. I was slowly working on it. Once in December, my caseworker asked where we were on it. She had someone she wanted to show it too. I emailed her a PDF. I was grateful that my caseworker was still thinking of us and trying to find us a match even though we were lagging. She could have easily passed us by. I'm telling you, A New Beginning is a really great agency.

Even though we still had things to do with the agency, I was pushing forward with personal finding efforts. About half of all adoptions happen without an agency and I thought that maybe my next adoption would be a private adoption just due to the odds. I blogged about it, talked about it on Facebook, and made pass-along cards.

The second week of January, I got a Facebook message from a high school friend named Nicole that I hadn't had a ton of contact with since my days as Hillcrest Knight ten and a half years ago. In her message, she said that she knew I was hoping to adopt because I had talked about it on Facebook and her brother-in-law is an adoption attorney and facilitates a lot of adoptions and had some upcoming situations but not enough families and asked around if anyone knew of families hoping to adopt. She instantly thought of us and asked if she could share our information with him.



Along with my permission, I gave Nicole my adoption blog address and my phone number. A couple of days later, on January 13, a lawyer out of Arizona named Paul Petersen called me to explain how he facilitates adoption and ask if we were interested in possibly using him as an adoption resource. He told us he exclusively works with Marshallese adoptions because he speaks the language and we would have to be on board with a beautiful island baby. We didn't see any harm in having Mr. Petersen on our side as well as our agency and told him to go ahead and show us off if he had the chance.

I didn't think much of my connection with Mr. Petersen at all. I did write something about it on an adoptive moms Facebook group I am part of and learned that two women I knew in my childhood had also listed with this lawyer. One woman had adopted elsewhere but one had a successful adoption with Mr. Petersen. I was curious to talk to her and ask her about her experience. I really wanted to make sure everything was ethical and upright. This woman was HARD to track down. Who doesn't have a blog or a Facebook account these days?

On February 1, I attended a baby shower of a coworker. It was the first baby shower in a LOOOOOOONG time that I thoroughly enjoyed. Seriously...every second of it. That is a HUGE accomplishment for an infertile woman! :) A coworker/friend named Kristen asked me how adoption stuff was going. I told her about the lawyer and the possibility of adopting a Marshallese baby. Kristen swooned at the thought--beautiful brown skin, exotic black eyes.

my gift for the baby shower (okay, not the most relevant picture, but I felt this post needed another image)

When I got home from that baby shower and checked my email, I saw I had a message from Mr. Petersen. The subject of the email was "Placement Opportunity." WHA?????

Based on our blog, a birth mother had chosen us to adopt her baby, due June 19. How thrilling. It just seemed unreal. The email was very business-like and unemotional. It was very different from getting a phone call from an enthusiastic caseworker who could answer my every question on the spot. I reread the email a dozen times to make sure I was understanding correctly.

Justin and I were thrilled, but we had reservations too. We hadn't talked to anyone that had gone through the adoption process with Mr. Petersen. We wanted to make sure everything was ethical and right. And maybe it was a little sappy, but we had a hard time parting ways with our beloved agency and the same caseworkers that helped us build our family through adoption Jocelyn.

I did as much online research as I could. I searched for information about Marshall Island adoptions and what I found scared me. Accusations of child trafficking, coercion, and misunderstandings abounded in these stories. Because of a compact the US has with the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Marshallese people can travel to the US easily without a visa. And RMI adoptions are not governed by the Hague Convention, which means there are no ethical or legal standards for the adoptions. Many of the stories I read told of desperate families in poverty with very little understanding of the American concept of adoption being flown to the US to deliver a child, relinquish rights, then sent back home never to see their child again and not really knowing what had happened. Most of these accounts happened in the early 2000's. But I was terrified to be involved in such a scheme.

I remember breaking down during a phone call with my sister, saying that I wanted a baby so bad, and it would make sense to accept the baby no matter what and provide it a good home. Doesn't the end justify the means? Doesn't a dog born in a puppy mill also deserve a good home, even if puppy mills are unethical? (Not that I am comparing adoption to a puppy mill, but it was the best comparison we could come up with.) Should the child suffer because of a corrupt institution?

It tore my heart out, but I said no. I knew I could not be part of something like that. I knew that when my child asked about her adoption story, I needed to be proud to tell it. I needed to tell her that she was where she belonged - not where she ended up due to coercion and corruption.

But I still didn't know exactly how Mr. Petersen's adoptions worked. I emailed him with a slew of questions needing to know EVERY. LITTLE. DETAIL I needed to make my decision. And I was desperate to talk to the girl I knew as a child who had adopted through Paul. Doing an internet search, I saw a very recent obituary for her mother, who had just passed. The funeral was still to come. I admit, I kind of considered crashing that funeral just to talk to her.

I was a mess. I wanted to be excited but I couldn't go into this situation blindly. I knew that educating myself could reveal things I didn't want to know, but I refused to remain ignorant. I prayed so hard, but felt lost. I was torn up inside, desperate for answers, desperate for peace.

To be continued...


rochelle said...

Wow-you have me hanging on for the next part even though I know how it ends!! You have such a talent for writing. I really would love to get a hold of you. We are considering another adoption and I would love to chat with you or get your attorneys contact info. My email is srkjar04@msn.com Thanks so much for your blog!! I love it!

Anonymous said...

As far as I can make out, there is only one agency licensed to do adoptions in the Marshall Islands and that is the LSSMN - a Minnesota based agency. Apparently, there is a pilot program in place. All Marshall Island adoptions are OPEN adoptions as this is along the lines of the Polynesian type of adoption.



In regards to Paul Peterson, I found this:


You did the right thing. Well done for doing research. If you want more information re legal and above board Marshall Islands adoption, I would contact these people:



Anonymous said...

Is there any way to private message you?

Sacrifices of Joy said...

Hi! I found your blog after searching for Marshall Island Adoptions on Google. We are in the process of adoption, but had a lady tell us about her son adopting from Arkansas but that the birth parents were from the Marshall Islands. I would love more info if you are able. I tried to google the lawyer you mentioned but could not find a phone number. Any info you can pass along would be greatly appreciated!
alphaomegabooks at aol. com


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