The phrase her mother used to describe adoption was “unwanted children,” but as a young Erica Jourdan listened to the explanation on the staircase of her childhood home in Rhode Island, she knew how she would become a mother one day.
“In my little 8-year-old head, I said 'I want to adopt,' and it just sat there. I didn't think anything further about it, but I never let it go,” she recalls. “To me, adoption was always the first choice.”
However, Jourdan explains that adoption can also feel like a complicated, confusing and challenging choice as well. During her 10 years recruiting and training both foster and adoptive parents for Buncombe County Child Protective Services, a quarter of the phone calls have been from people who wanted to adopt but “were just kind of lost,” she says.
“Each case, each client, each child, each birth family is unique. That's why no one can write a comprehensive book and say, 'Here's how you do it.' We have to take it one situation at a time,” Jourdan says.
To help individuals understand the adoption process and empower them with knowledge along the way, Jourdan launched her business, Adoption Options Consulting, this August. The social worker describes herself and her business as being like a “life coach for adoptive parents.”
As a mother of three adopted children herself, Jourdan emphasizes that myths about adoption still persist, including the one her mother told her when she was 8.
In foster care, adoption only happens when all other options fail and it doesn't mean these children aren't wanted, says Buncombe County Social Work Program Administrator Dawn Warren. “Our primary goal is to reunify children with their families and if they can't go home to their parents, then we're looking for relatives. While adoption is always on our radar, that is not our first path,” Warren explains.
For children who were adopted less than 24 months after entering the foster care system, the national median adoption rate is 26.8 percent, Warren reports. Since 2009, she adds, the rate in Buncombe County has consistently been higher. In fiscal year 2013, Buncombe’s adoption rate was 29.3 percent. At this time, Warren says 15 children in Buncombe County are legally cleared for adoption.
One of Jourdan's three adopted children became part of her family after being in foster care. Though good information about the adoption process can be found, wading through all of it can be overwhelming, Jourdan says.
“What most people do now is they go to the Internet, and they are just inundated,” she says. “Sorting that information and [determining] what [information] is helpful, what is terrifying but useful, what is boring but important — I can help them narrow it down.”
Michelle Reames says that was exactly what she needed. For most of her adult life, she knew she wanted to adopt an interracial child. However, as she researched online about international adoption, each query seemed less hopeful than the one before it.
“When you do get on the Internet to research other countries' rules and regulations surrounding adoption, you find, at least in my situation — I am gay and I am a female. I am single and I am almost 46 — that almost puts a big fat zero on almost any other country out there,” she says.
Then she hired Jourdan.
Reames shares, “I didn't realize how much opportunity there was domestically for me to still have an interracial child and not have those other stipulations that go along with it. So instead of being dissuaded by looking online, I actually got much more hopeful speaking to Erica about all categories” from the financial aspects to what happens after the adoption.
By this time next year, Reames hopes that she will be able to call herself a mom.
Jourdan “hasn't promised me a child but she has shown me so many opportunities that I never knew existed,” Reames says. “She's such an advocate for the child and for the adult, and that genuineness to see that connection made is there in every question she asks and every answer she gives.”
Being an adoptive parent is not limited to heterosexual wealthy couples, Jourdan notes, citing single dads, homosexual couples and lower-income families.
“There are so many people who desperately want to be a mommy or a daddy,” she says.
After the first free 30-minute phone consultation, Jourdan says each consultation costs roughly $60-$75 per hour depending on the services her clients need. She also mentions being open to negotiating a sliding scale for some clients.
“Once you have the concept that you're not stuck in one path,” Jourdan says, “there are endless possibilities.”
To learn more about Adoption Options Consulting visit www.adoptopt.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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