Monday, October 28, 2013

How Long Are Adoptees Going to Have to Keep Paying for Our Adoptions?

I'm 47 years old.

I was adopted as an infant, in a closed domestic adoption.

This year I have paid more adoption-related expenses than ever in my history.

I have never lived with a sense of entitlement. I am the type of person who has worked extremely hard all my life, having no problem paying for anything I decide to do. 

My frustration with all that I've paid for adoption is that I never decided to be adopted.

Photo Credit: bfishadow, Flickr

This is not where I want to spend my hard-earned money.

And yet I am required to keep paying.

I pay with my history, with my finances, and so much more.

Paying for Therapy

I was in therapy for eight months, from February through September 2013, with post-adoption issues.

That's a lot of swiping of my debit card.

Professional counseling should be a mandate for adoption agencies to provide for everyone in the adoption triad. In order for an adoption agency to remain licensed and in operation, the provision of lifetime counseling should be a requirement. With the BILLIONS of dollars they are bringing in, this is a legitimate request, particularly if indeed they claim to do what is in the best interest of the child.

One idea that comes to mind is a network formed by adoption agencies to provide post-adoption services across the country. (How many adult adoptees still live in the same city or state where they were adopted?) Many agencies say they exist to help create families. Surely they are interested in creating healthy families, right? 

Another idea would be a subsidized government program for adoptees who need counseling outside the state in which their adoption closed. The government assists with resources, incentives and subsidy for adoption, and it would be nice for some of those dollars to actually go to ADOPTEES. (Much if not most of these are currently for adoptive parents.)

Paying With My History

Following the death of my natural mother this past summer, I've had a lot of doctor's appointments in an effort to be pro-active with my health. Since she died from cancer at a relatively young age, this was recommended by those who treated her cancer. So far I have met with my primary doctor and two specialists.

When meeting with my gynecologist, I informed him know that not only did my mother pass away, but she refused to tell me who my father is. Although certain of his identity, she refused to tell me. I was hoping, among other things, to have some answers about my paternal health history. At every doctor visit when they ask about my maternal and paternal medical history, I still have to write, 'I don't know, I'm adopted" to all the paternal questions. 

Photo Credit: Lucidio Studio, Flickr

I was unprepared for my GYN's response to the news that my mother took my paternal information to the grave. I'm used to doctors being a bit more stoic. The look on his face was like he had just heard something tragic. And, in reality -- he had.

Standing up, he pushed the stool on rollers aside, placed a hand on my shoulder and in a voice of compassion said, "I'm so sorry, Deanna. So very sorry. What your mother chose to do is not right, and it most certainly does affect your health in a profound way. Your paternal side does matter, even when it comes to breast cancer. And, I'm going to recommend that we conduct some tests. It won't tell us everything, but it will tell us something, which is better than nothing."

He went on to explain to me about two different kinds of tests that would reveal genetic risk factors.

Paying for Tests

One test was priced at $250, and he predicted my insurance would cover it, based on his experience with other patients who had  also tested.

The other test is in the neighborhood of $2,500, and is definitely not covered by insurance. He did say that sometimes depending on the reasons for the tests, the testing company will work with a patient and lower the price. He knows patients who have been tested for $700 instead of $2,500 if they could give a compelling enough reason.

I wonder...will they consider what adoptees go through to be compelling enough?

Since the GYN thought my insurance would cover the lower-priced test, that is what we started with. Before he conducted the test, his assistant came back into the room with a clipboard and paper and pen. I asked, "What is this?" and she said, "It's just your guarantee that if Humana doesn't pay the $250, you will."

I signed it, wishing that if Humana declines, I could send the bill to the Children's Home Society of Virginia -- my adoption agency. Since they didn't get correct information about my birth father when it was available, or release my file to me, I'm thinking it would only be reasonable for them to pick up the tab on this.

If our original parents or adoption agencies aren't going to tell us information vital to our health and wellness, and possibly our survival...should we really have to pay for it?

As my fellow Lost Daughters sister, Lynn Grubb, says: "We shouldn't have to pay for our adoption with our histories."

Paying for DNA

DNA testing is another adoption-related thing I would have paid for this past year, had three amazing friends not stepped up to the plate (without me asking any of them) and said: "Deanna, I want to pay for your DNA tests."

Yes, I was grateful and overwhelmed.

To date I have completed DNA testing with three companies, Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, and Ancestry,  although my paternal history has not been revealed yet, I prayerfully await answers.  

Paying for non-identifying information

Some agencies like the one that handled my adoption actually charge an adoptee for their non-identifying information. Mine charges $175 for non-identifying and $500 for search/reunion.

I did both years ago, and after the first attempt with the agency was unsuccessful, paid for the second on my own.  My husband and I had a combined salary of $21,000 at the time and two small children, yet we paid the price for search and reunion. I reference this only to reveal how important it was to us, to make this sacrifice even though we sometimes struggled for bare necessities.

With the trauma and significant loss present in every adoption, is it really necessary for adoptees to go through further loss in having to pay for what is rightfully ours in the first place?

Again, adoption is a multi-billion dollar industry, capable of absorbing this cost, if nothing else by adding it onto the adoption fees. (What a concept, adding fees that will actually help the ADOPTEE.)  If it's all about helping a child, then put the dollars toward what will help that child who will one day become an adult and still have adoption-related needs.

The Bottom Line

Regarding our emotional well being, if  decisions made for adoptees cause us psychological or physical harm, should we have to keep picking up the tab?

What would it be like if all of us start forwarding any expense related to our adoptions to our adoption agencies?

Answering the Critics

Those who disagree will undoubtedly say, "Stop whining. You don't have to pay for any of this. Just go without." 

I cannot avoid paying with my history, or paying emotionally. Those things are a given. On a financial level, I could refuse to do any of this. I could avoid medical testing or therapy. But on some levels, that may be a devastating choice for me and for those around me. My husband, children, co-workers, friends and church members I serve as pastor would suffer greatly if I did not take the necessary steps for my physical and emotional well-being.

Adoptees struggle at times with the feeling that we aren't worth it, or that these things aren't  important.  There are times we are chastised about simply being grateful to be alive or adopted. This mentality makes it hard for adoptees to stand up for ourselves. We typically don't want to rock the boat, create problems or deal with confrontations.

The truth is that not only is it appropriate to take proper care of ourselves -- it's imperative.

Adoption took everything from me before my life ever really got started.

And then as life went on it just kept requiring me to pay, and pay, and pay.

How much longer?