Adoption Is a Natural Fit For First-time Parents
By: Mary L. Datcher–Senior Staff Writer
Since the turn of the century, adoption agencies have become an option for married couples to add to their family and care for young children as their own. Stricter rules were put in place limiting access to records of adopted children’s biological parents.
In Illinois, the law allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health.
With the benefits of social change and the perception of what the average family should look like, a lot has changed. Straight, gay and biracial couples, as well as potential single parents, have become the new faces of utilizing adoption services.
One of the major adoption agencies in the Chicagoland area, The Cradle, has been in existence since 1920, helping to place more than 15,000 children with families.
Lisa Kauffman and her husband, Kerry were working in corporate America, commuting from downtown Chicago to their home in the western suburbs and began to think about starting a family.
“My husband and I got married in 1993. We both were sort of trying to come up in our careers and put kids on the back burner for a while. Around 1999, we started trying, but by then I was almost 30. We really got into infertility struggles issues.” She says they went to several specialists, and had failed pregnancies. At some point, they couldn’t figure out what was going on.
“We started to talk about adoption. My husband was adopted. It was kind of the original plan, whether we could have biological children or not, we wanted to grow our family through adoption as well.”
So they decided to put in an application with The Cradle late 2007. About five months later, they received a call from the agency.
“We got a couple of calls, previous to that one. They were situations that never came to fruition. A call came in March 2008 that a woman was pregnant with a little boy who was bi-racial.”
Kaufmann and her husband are white and decided to adopt a biracial child. She says it did not matter to them — although adoption parents can submit their preference to the agency.
Angela Taylor and her husband, Jason were happily married for 10 years, both successful in their careers, before they began considering adding to their family.
“We tried to have children biologically. We did fertility treatments for many years. It’s extremely stressful and extremely heartbreaking.” The couple was in their forties at the time and did consider remaining childless. “I just a got feeling one day out of the blue and I felt hopefully, God willing, if I live to be 80 or 90-years old, I would regret not being a parent.”
They decided to take the leap of faith and went through the adoption process, eventually adopting their daughter, Jordan, in 2012.
“We’re both Black, we’re both from the South Side and just wanted an African American baby. When you do apply to adopt, you can let The Cradle know what races you’re open to.”
Taylor admits, adoption can be a long, tedious and expensive process, but she was fortunate to have an employer that provided adoption assistance. The average costs can range from $15,000-$30,000.
“You have to complete a lot of paperwork and a lot of classes. The reasons are to make these kids go to a good home. As an adoptive parent, you feel like you’re under a microscope. You’re turning over financial information, you have to provide personal references and your employer. It can feel invasive.”
She says The Cradle encourages the birth mom to connect with adoptive parents and their children, she admits, like so many birth parents, they eventually reduce communication with adoptive families.
“There’s a range of what openness means, and it’s different for every family. So, there’s not necessarily a cookie-cutter process. Back in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, adoptions were very secretive. Files were sealed and you didn’t know anything.”
The Kauffmans are happy with their son, Nate and his relationship with his birth mom and older brothers and sisters. “The other reason we liked The Cradle because they really emphasize the benefits of open adoption. It may not have worked for everybody, but it’s worked pretty well for us. We have an open relationship with the birth mother, although the birth father is not in the picture. We’re happy with the relationship that we have with her.”
Not so Common in Black Familes
The Kauffmans relocated to a south suburban town, where there are great schools and more diversity in welcoming people of color — especially for their family and Nate’s healthy upbringing.
Unlike the Kauffmans, the Taylor family are part of the lower ratio of African-Americans who use legal adoption services.
Angela Taylor admits formal adoption isn’t as common among Black families.
“Many times we tend to adopt our sister’s kids or grandmothers adopt their grandkids. It’s kind of informal. It’s more familiar, so the idea of a legal form of adoption is kind of intimidating,” she said.
“There’s actually more Black and biracial babies that have African-American waiting parents for. So you see Black and mixed babies going home with white couples. A lot of times, the birth mom would come to The Cradle requesting a Black single or Black couple, there aren’t any available — there’s more white couples.”
The face of adoption has changed over the last century, and parents are taking the necessary steps to secure a comfortable and safe haven for their children. In the end, there is no question agencies such as The Cradle have provided the resources for those making the big decision to adopt.
Taylor happily says, “I tell everybody that adopting our daughter was the best decision we ever made.”
Here’s a list of various Illinois adoption agencies for people interested in adoption: