Part 3 – Women with Disabilities: How Accessible is the Road to Motherhood?

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Bethany’s Story of Adoption

Bethany has had a fairy tale ending to a long, and often painful, journey in her quest to create her family.  Just when they had come to peace with not being able to build the family she wanted, or to have the son she had always hoped for, within weeks, her dream finally manifested. And it is “incredibly divine.”

Over a year ago, she adopted a baby boy. It was an open adoption, which has its own unique challenges. He has had no behavior issues, is highly intelligent, and she and her husband are still pinching themselves over the fate that brought them to this result. Their son is from what is called a “kinship adoption”, which means that they are biologically related.

Bethany's smiling boy with knitted hat on with father smiling down at him in home setting

Bethany’s adopted son is the apple of her husband’s eye

This story began over eighteen years ago, when Bethany, a wheelchair user, and her husband, began their personal adoption story via the “foster to adopt” program.

According to Bethany, the most in-demand adoption candidates are healthy, newborn girls, as many first time moms’ want to dress up a baby girl.

This type of adoption, to get this often idealized version of a baby, can be very lengthy and costly, even in the foster system.  “If you typed in ‘female with mild issues’ in the search program in the system (access is granted after you are approved by the State to enter into the adoption program), nothing would come up.  You may get results typing in any gender and are open to mild to moderate issues, but the hierarchy within the DCS is depending on issues, number of siblings, and age of child.”

When they went to the route of international adoption, they were strongly directed to bi-racial and special needs children, as there are so many special needs children around the world. It seemed to Bethany and her husband that healthy newborn international adoptions were not forthrightly presented.  “We were not told ‘No,’ outright, but we sensed we were strongly encouraged to look at boys with special needs that were already over a year old.  At one point it was pitched to us that of any potential adoptive parents, we would have ‘built in’ empathy and understanding for physically challenged infants, both domestic and abroad.”

Bethany pointed out that it was an interesting concept because clearly agencies weren’t thinking beyond placement and the unique challenges disabled parenting might present.  It seemed no one but she and her husband were thinking of the future where two wheelchairs, two medical cases, two family members with access issues would be central to daily life.

Bethany advises those whose intention it is to adopt internationally, not to be surprised if they did choose to go with a special needs database, that they would be placed with a child rather quickly. “We were matched for three boys right away, though decided not to pursue it, as it just seemed to move too quickly for us.”

Cost of adoption both domestic and international is another important factor to consider.  Bethany and her husband used a domestic-based agency that specialized in international adoption. The cost starts at the basic home study for $1500, and can reach upwards to $30-60,000, which may not include international travel and lodging.  However, for parents willing to adopt children with disabilities, for example, a boy from China who has Spinal Bifida, there may even be compensation for the adopting parents involved, as well as multiple fee waivers that would typically coincide with the international adoptive process.

Before Bethany began the adoption journey, she and her husband did attempt surrogacy, which unfortunately did not work out, and became too expensive to pursue further.  The cost and expense involved in surrogacy was extensive.

Ultimately, it was the “interesting double bind” within adoptive culture that led Bethany and her husband to opt out of the surrogacy path.  “When there is such a massive population of unwanted kids waiting for homes,” Bethany points out, “surrogacy is in direct competition with number of children who are parentless.”

This scenario is all too true.  Thousands of children need families and many of them, after three years or older, are increasingly less likely to find a permanent home. When they do, they frequently have issues with bonding with their Forever Families, and often experience learning difficulties due to lack of stability during their formative years.  This is why many older teens in the foster care system choose to “age out” of the system rather than try and establish permanent legal family bonds.

Additionally, on record, Bethany said that the DCS is “a defunct, broken system… a whirlpool creating its own internal problems.  They are more often than not failing to provide competent service the children stuck in the system in a healthy way.”

Bethany explained:  One prominent issue in DCS is a lack of foster care parents, coupled with poor screening and vetting process for those interested in becoming foster parents.  As a potential adoptive parent, you are required to go through classes that inspect potential parents at a microscopic level, while the adults that are foster parents require only a fraction of this oversight or screening. Children are being placed with multiple other children, often in unhealthy homes, and without care and safety.  Poorly vetted households create abuse, more trauma happens to already uprooted children or sibling groups, and the children are moved very frequently.  Each time a foster child is moved, their development is delayed by six months. A child can be moved up to four to six times with no control or input into where they are going, or given a reason as to why they may be moved. It is a steady cultural foster care story for a child to unexpectedly find out that a foster family wants them out of their home by having a social worker show up at their school with Hefty garbage bags full of their belongings, to accompany them to the new foster home. It is a daily occurrence.

Bethany and her husband were finally matched with a pair of sibling girls. The youngest child was a five-year-old girl who had been in the State’s care from the time that she was three months old.  The oldest was a thirteen-year-old girl.  Both girls were frequently moved, both shared the Hefty garbage bag scenario, and both struggled with trust, safety, and continuity for five years.  Each continues to deal with their past as young adults.

If you go the route of State adoption, there are fees, and the state works through foster programs in the nation.  There is a required parenting class that you must participate in, where you must take a certification class via the state. Then there is a home study, after which you are then released to look at the adoption database.  The same home study can be used with State or private agency, and it expires after six months.

As a Caucasian couple, Bethany and her husband were more than happy to consider all races and genders to begin building their family.  By keeping their profile variables quite open, they were more likely to be matched with a child or children in a short amount of time.

Another option open to Bethany and her husband would be to become foster parents, or foster-adopt parents.  But, like Katie in Part One of our series, Bethany felt that she couldn’t be in a foster-to-adopt program. “I would become way too attached too easily.  I would not want to get involved and then have the child removed – we would end up adopting them all!”

Bethany advises prospective adopters to “be clinical and decisive”.  You cannot be so desperate to be a parent that you allow the state to strong arm you in directions you would not naturally go. Too frequently you can be scared into thinking that this is all that is available [due to disability].  You need to self-advocate for what you can realistically handle. There is nothing wrong with the children who may have a disability, or are older, but you need to know what you are getting into, and be comfortable with working within those parameters.

To coin a phrase, “God works in mysterious ways – and you may find you become a parent in a most beautiful but unexpected way.”

In the end, after becoming a parent with a disability through state adoption, Bethany and her husband were blessed again through kinship adoption to a toddler son.  “It is amazing to see the contrast in both routes to parenthood,” Bethany has stated.  Overall, raising a child younger than her first children presented Bethany and her husband with new challenges and joys.  While Bethany’s son qualifies as kinship, it is much closer to the surrogacy path that Bethany and her husband first explored early in their marriage.

Bethany is pictured in her wheelchair with her son on lap and husband knelling beside her

Bethany and family: Their adopted son is a “dream manifested”

Bethany wishes all prospective parents the best of luck, and hopes that some insight can be gleaned from her experiences and this interview with Push Living.  The real take-away from this, is to know ahead of time what you want, what you’re capable of, and how willing and able you are to be extremely patient to wait for exactly the right match.  To coin a phrase, “God works in mysterious ways – and you may find you become a parent in a most beautiful but unexpected way.”  Stay open.

I told Bethany that she had so much valuable experience to share, and suggested that she should be a life coach. It so happens that that is exactly what she is currently doing in addition to her university lecturing through Hoppe Consulting (www.bethany-hoppe.com).

You can follow Bethany’s Journey in her “rollingdivalifestyle” blog, where she shares stories about life, spirituality, parenting, and sexuality.

image of womans boots with spiked heels on wheelchair footplate overlooking a sports staduim

Bethany is the ultimate “Rolling Diva” with a personal and creative website rollingdivalifestyle.com


close up image of Bethany smiling

Hoppe Consulting assists clients from all walks of life achieve success in business, society, and personally through individual private voice coaching. Hoppe Consulting offers services in career voice coaching, voice dialect coaching, voice diction training, and voice conditioning for professionals, foreign language speakers, and anyone seeking to gain confidence in social and public speaking.  Bethany A. Hoppe holds a Masters in Communication Studies and is a university lecturer of public speaking, voice and articulation, small group communication, women in leadership, communication theory in film.  Ms. Hoppe is also a voice artist, writer, and public speaker whose format is educational outreach for women with disabilities.

www.bethany-hoppe.com                 

Related Stories:

Woman-with-disabilities-how-accessible-is-the-road-to-motherhood

Road-to-motherhood-part-2

Deborah Davis

Deborah is a Speaker, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Owner of Wheelchair Lifestyle Enterprise Push Living Inc.

She was a Former Dancer, Accident Survivor (C 6-7 Spinal Cord Injury resulting in incomplete Quadriplegia 1985), College grad (BBA Finance 1991 U of Miami), with a background in Sales and Marketing and Non Profit Development and Management.

She is now embarked on new path creating a market for Disability Inclusive Stock Images with the creation of PUSHlivingPhotos.com and publishing an online enterprise: PushLiving.com. The mission is to create Inclusion for people with disabilities through stock images for advertising, marketing and editorial uses, providing accessible properties for travel, swap or purchase, publishing an online magazine for improved health and well-being, providing information and opportunities for Accessible Travel, and operating an online store with products that improve lives.

She is most passionate about building a network of people with disabilities who are empowering, supporting and creating a more inclusive world. Personally, she is a mother of two beautiful, wise and exceptionally bright young women, and residing in South Florida.

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