MARENGO, Ill. — Renee Siegfort broke the news to her three teenagers on Mother's Day last year: She was pregnant.
She really wanted the baby. Her kids did, too. Her on-again, off-again boyfriend of three years did not.
"I talked to God a lot, asking what does this mean. What am I supposed to do?" she recalls. She was working long hours as an office manager at a chiropractic firm and just making ends meet. She would need to take on a new expense: child care.
"We live simply," says Renee, 36, looking around the living room of her three-bedroom town home. "There wasn't much more we could simplify in our lives." As much as she wanted the baby, she says, "I didn't want to hurt my children."
So after giving birth Dec. 30, she nursed Josephine Olivia Renee for six days. She then did something she would not have imagined nine months earlier: She gave her child to another family.
Renee says placing Joie (pronounced "Joey") for adoption was the most difficult thing she's ever done, but she has no regrets.
"I've never been more at peace in my life," she says. "Joie deserved better."
As parents struggle to raise children in a weak economy, a half-dozen large adoption agencies are reporting that more women with unplanned pregnancies are considering placing their babies for adoption rather than keeping them.
Many of these women are in their 20s and already have at least one child, says Joan Jaeger of The Cradle, the Chicago-area agency that placed Joie. She says 30% more women are inquiring about placing a child for adoption than a year ago.
"The economy has made them take a second look at adoption," says Scott Mars of American Adoptions, a private agency in Overland Park, Kan. In the past year, he's seen a 10% to 12% increase in women inquiring about placing a child for adoption and a 7% to 10% increase in actual placements, as strong demand for healthy infants continues to outstrip the supply.
"We've seen a dramatic increase in girls calling us from the hospital," says Joseph Sica of Adoption By Shepherd Care, an agency in Hollywood, Fla. He says they expect to get help to raise their children, so they wait, but after they give birth and no help arrives, they call. He had 14 such adoptions in 2008, up from 11 in 2007 and four in 2006.
"Finances are one of the major reasons women feel compelled to place their children for adoption," says Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research group.
Finances are also prompting more women to question pregnancy and to inquire about abortion. One in 10 married women say they are delaying pregnancy because of the economy, according to a Gallup Organization survey this month.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook," says Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation, which represents abortion providers. She says calls to her group's hotline have nearly tripled in the past year, many from women whose families have lost jobs.
Renee says she's "pro-choice" but didn't choose abortion because she felt better about adoption, especially after finding Meredith and Ryan Sheriff. The first time she met the adoptive parents, they talked for four hours." It just felt right."
Their rapport is obvious as they meet at a Starbucks a week before Mother's Day, hugging and chatting like old friends. Renee brings flowers and cards. She holds Joie with one arm and gently touches Meredith's hand with the other. Their mothers have come along, too.
Sharon Smietanski says she's grateful to Renee for bringing joy back to her daughter Meredith's life. A year ago, she says, Meredith was in despair because she had lost a child, stillborn at 39 weeks of pregnancy. She calls the adoption the "most unselfish act any woman can do."
Renee's busy world
On a Friday evening in Renee's town 70 miles northwest of Chicago, Katelyn, 13, answers the door. Calvin, 18, is playing guitar and hanging out with a friend. Brittany, 17, is chatting at the kitchen table. In the corner are two boxes of diapers for Joie, and on the refrigerator are pictures of Joie and the teens.
"At first the adoption was kind of weird. Why don't we just keep her," says Brittany, a junior who plans on college. She says they talked about what to do. "Now it seems like a normal thing."
"We all wanted her. Everyone loves a baby," says Calvin, a graduating high school senior who is joining the Army Reserve. He says family finances made adoption a "smart choice."
Renee says she's always struggled financially to raise her children. She was pregnant her senior year of high school. She and her ex-husband, who lives in the same town and shares custody of the kids, worked varying shifts at Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart. After they divorced eight years ago, Renee went back to school. She's two classes away from an associate degree in applied science.
Renee says that even after the birth father "stepped aside" and she learned she was carrying twins, she thought she could do it on her own. She then went to the hospital because of complications — tests showed only one fetus was still developing — and the bill made her realize just how costly a baby would be. She didn't have health insurance.
She works more than 50 hours a week and earns nearly $50,000 a year, but she says she was counting on monthly bonuses to cover baby expenses. "I was banking on money that wasn't guaranteed."
So Renee decided she needed a "better plan — plan B." She contacted The Cradle, which handled her aunt's adoption of two babies decades ago.
The agency directed her to a state health program that covers pregnant women. She and her kids combed through profiles of 115 couples until they picked Meredith, 32, a high school guidance counselor, and Ryan, 33, a high school chemistry teacher. They became Facebook friends and e-mailed often.
Renee invited them to Joie's birth. Meredith was nervous about being on a maternity ward again, but she couldn't stay away. When she and Ryan stepped off the hospital elevator, Katelyn and Brittany were waiting to tell them Joie had just been born.
A joyous crowd snapped pictures, Renee recalls. "It was just the way it was meant to happen."
Adoption's new openness
The bond between the two families reflects a trend toward openness in adoption. In up to 90% of domestic infant adoptions, Pertman says, adoptive parents maintain some contact with birth parents.
"It's considered best practice," he says, because most women want to know what happens to the child and the child wants to know family history.
Pertman says he recently flew to Florida with his daughter so she could spend time with her birth family. He says their relationship is similar to that of in-laws or stepfamilies. "Instead of marrying into a family," he says, "you adopt into one."
Adoptive parents are often wary at first of contact with the birth family but later appreciate its benefit for the child, says Jaeger at The Cradle. She says birth mothers may find contact difficult.
"It's not easy to have an open adoption," says Courtney Lewis, who placed a baby boy for adoption 11 years ago when she was in college. She says she was upset when her son was 4 and his adoptive parents divorced. "Maybe if it had been a closed adoption, it wouldn't hurt as bad."
Chuck Johnson recalls "awkward moments" with the biological grandparents of his adoptive son. He says the grandmother wanted to visit on Christmas Eve. He agreed instead to a Dec. 26 visit.
"We knew they loved him," says Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council For Adoption, an advocacy group. "We shared that love."
He says adoption was far more common decades ago, when single women often were sent away to give birth and never saw their babies again.
Before 1973, when abortion became legal, one in 10 never-married women who gave birth placed the child for adoption, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Among white women, it was one in five. That number has plummeted. In a 2002 survey, the latest available, the center found only 1% of such women relinquished her baby.
Johnson says the percentage of women who place a child for adoption is low because single parenthood is widely accepted and abortion is legal.
Meredith's dream arrives
About 75 miles southeast of Renee's apartment is Meredith and Ryan's four-bedroom home in New Lenox, Ill. Tulips and daffodils are planted in the backyard in memory of Addie, the baby they lost.
When they had trouble getting pregnant after Addie, they turned to adoption. Ryan wanted to adopt domestically, so they would get full medical information about the child. Meredith preferred an international adoption to avoid contact with a birth mom. The international wait was long, though, so they took out a home-equity loan and signed with The Cradle, which charges $29,900.
Within a few months, Renee chose them. Meredith says she feared getting too attached in case Renee changed her mind after the baby was born.
She kept wondering, "How is Renee going to look at that baby and hand her away?" About 20% to 30% of birth moms have a change of heart, Jaeger says.
They agreed to meet at least once a season. So far, they're doing more. Meredith invited Renee and her family to Joie's baptism. She's also driven to Renee's office so Renee could show off Joie to co-workers.
She and Ryan chose Joie's first name and wanted "Renee" as the middle name. They kept it but made "Olivia" the second name, because Brittany and Katelyn called her that during the pregnancy. "It's never been awkward," Meredith says about their relationship. She says co-workers find it "weird" and ask, "Why do you talk to her (Renee) so much? … People don't get that it's not threatening."
She says she knows what it's like to lose a child. "I don't ever want Renee to wonder how Joie is doing." She's kept Renee's e-mails, including the one wishing her well on her first day back to work after maternity leave. She's put together a scrapbook of their correspondence and pictures.
"I can't wait for Joie to get old enough to understand all of this," Meredith says. "I'm so excited to tell her her story."
Source: USA TODAY | 19.05. 2009
- Children of the Recession: Economy Sending Children Into Foster Care
We all know the economy is bad, but for some, its effects have gotten so bad they've been forced to give up their children--people who have lost jobs and aren't taking care of kids.
NewsChannel 7 learned, Upstate counties are dealing with a flood of foster kids, as the sour economy hits communities hard. One local area--seeing more than double the amount of children needing a good home--than one year ago.
- 129.000 enfants américains sont actuellement en attente d'adoption.
- Le nombre d'enfants étrangers adoptés par les Américains chute fortement.