Adoption options for families

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) On any given day in Vermont, there are about 140 school-age children waiting for families to adopt them.

We've told you before about the need for fostering and adopting in Vermont as kids in state custody wait for homes of their own. But there are other avenues of adoption, with different agencies working with local families.

EJ and Stever met their daughter Makenna three years ago in a Rhode Island Hospital. The Cornwall parents in 2013 started looking at ways they could make their two-person family, three.

"We had some of those challenges that sometimes families do," said Stever.

And they felt passionately about adopting locally. That's where Friends in Adoption came in. It's a Vermont and New York-based private agency operating nationwide. Every year, the agency educates about 300 pregnant individuals about their options, from parenting to adoption.

Those intakes result in about 30 placements a year, most involving newborns and Northeastern families. The process to get there is not an easy, short or cheap one. The average cost of services through Friends in Adoption is $45,000.

"The first time we went to the get-to-know-you seminar, I think we left there and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is way overwhelming, this is not what I want to do. I'm not feeling that this is the right choice.' It took talking to those families who had done it and seeing the other side of it that made us go, 'OK, we can do this and we're strong enough to do this,'" said EJ.

EJ and Stever say an adoptive family will need that strength because there's no guarantee it will work out.

"A woman always makes her choice twice," said Patty Smith, a case manager with Friends in Adoption.

In New York, a birth mom or dad has 30 days during which they can choose to keep their child. In Vermont, they have 21 days, and Smith says that can be heartbreaking for a waiting family.

"Throughout their journey, we're there to hold their hand in whatever way they need us to do to provide the support that wait time because it can be... it can be hard," she said.

"Now, it's just the most incredible decision we've ever made and we couldn't imagine our family any other way," said EJ.

Right now there are 18 families active on the Friends of Adoption website, but 25 families are in the process to get on there. And the agency is currently working with five pregnant individuals who are exploring their options.