So What Do We Do When Our Adoption Agency Suddenly Closes?

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This was not the next update I thought I’d be sharing in this infertility/adoption journey I’ve been on with Mike. As I wrote in my April 2020 blog update (for National Infertility Awareness Month), Mike and I had decided, after six years of infertility and many failed attempts at getting pregnant (including three failed IUI procedures), that we would, for various reasons, go down the route of adoption instead of trying IVF (at least, at first). That’s what we had been in the process of doing for just about a year. 

If this is the first time you’re reading about our infertility, I recommend you start at this blog post!

We (foolishly?) felt that adoption was a bit more of a “guarantee” for the significant investment compared to IVF (which also costs a significant amount of money for just a *chance* to conceive). We always knew that we may end up being on the adoption waiting list for years (the average wait is about three years, though there are certainly cases where applicants get selected much sooner and of course we felt maybe that would be the case for us too). But at least, we thought, let’s get on the wait list and then from there, see how it goes.

We had talked about trying IVF after we had successfully adopted a child but never in our thought process for adoption, did we ever, ever, think that the adoption agency could close. 

Which is exactly what has happened.  

On May 26, 2020, the adoption agency we had been going through our application process with, Adoption by Choice, Alberta’s longest-running and first licensed adoption agency in the province (operating for more than 30 years, something we felt really good about it and a reason why we selected them as the agency to go with), emailed applicants—Albertans who so desperately wanted to have children—to let them know that the agency was shutting down (and with it, for many, their dreams of growing their family). 

Adoption by Choice closure
Excerpt from the email we received of our adoption agency's sudden closure.

The email of ABC’s shut down came literally less than an hour before Mike and I were scheduled to have our third virtual adoption Home Study interview (virtual due to the pandemic), and it completely blindsided not only us but the lovely social worker who had been assigned to our file.

The adoption process typically goes: attend a workshop, submit an application, complete Home Study interviews, make a profile book, and then get on the active wait list before a birth parent can browse your profile and potentially choose you. So we were nearly there!

We were actually super excited about how our profile book was looking (we had paid a talented graphic designer friend to help lay it out for us and seriously, it looked so good!!!), as couples are encouraged to start working on their books before actually getting to that stage of the process because it often ends up taking longer to complete than you might expect. We felt like we were sort of halfway to the adoption finish line, where at least we could start to potentially be shown to birth parents placing their babies for adoption. 

But then this happened. 

The email said the agency was closing because “the need for services to birth parents who are making an adoption plan has declined.”

Essentially (according to them), in Alberta today, there aren’t enough people placing babies for adoption for the amount of people who want to adopt, and the number of agencies that currently exist (four, now three with this one closing). This is disheartening news, to say the least. 

Now since the email there have been disputes from the other agencies about how viable adoption as an industry is in the province today. “We’re still healthy” the other agencies have said, however it was understood (and we were informed of this during our adoption workshop) that adoption numbers in general have trended downwards over the years. You can view that positively, in that more birth parents are feeling confident and comfortable with raising a child or raising a child on their own, or whatever the cases may be that might lead someone to adoption in the first place. But that’s also very sad news for the many, many, people who want so very badly to be parents, but cannot, and hope to by entering the adoption system.

Our reaction to the news, after the initial shock, was: of course this would happen to us.

Of course the adoption agency we chose would close. Of course there aren’t enough babies for the number of people who want them but can’t have them. Of course we had spent nearly the last year (after trying to conceive unsuccessfully for five years before that) going down this route that has now ended abruptly.

Now, as we hadn’t actually gotten on the wait list yet, we knew we were in a slightly better position than many other families working with the agency. We cannot even begin to imagine how those who have already completed their applications, who have already paid significantly more money (each phase of the process requires a payment), and many who have been waiting on the list (some, waiting for years) felt with this abrupt, unexpected and frankly, upsetting news of the agencies closure. The agency closure affected about 90 waiting or in-the-process of their application families. Heartbreaking. 

Because our Home Study was incomplete and we hadn’t actually gotten on the wait list yet, we were able to get a partial refund back from the agency. But no refunds for our application or workshop fees.

And for those who had already completed everything and were waiting on the list—no refunds at all.

We’re talking about a loss of $10,000 (at least), plus time—years for many—not to mention devastating impact on your mental health. Truly upsetting news. We were actually quite fortunate that we hadn’t been further along in the process.

It also didn’t help that it was discovered after the agency shut down announcement, that the former head of the adoption agency is currently facing an unrelated criminal fraud charge (cool, cool, cool, cool). 

Nothing in life is fair. 

In my last blog post update, I had talked about how it feels like with more time that passes where we don’t have a child we so desperately want, we inch closer and closer to the notion of having come to terms with the fact that children may not be in the cards for us. That this type of family won’t happen for us. You know, that Double Income No Kids life. That can’t be all bad. 

You can imagine though then, how news like this pushes you further in that direction (still a depressing direction but certainly not a *bad* one). 

Many families affected have at this point switched over or are in the process of switching over to the remaining adoption agencies in the province—essentially having to start over (including starting over on $ fees), and being placed behind existing applicants on the waiting lists for those agencies (understandably, otherwise that’s not fair to the existing applicants of those other agencies). I’ve even heard some of the other agencies have stopped accepting applicants for now because there’s been such an influx from the closed agency. Many families (who lost much more than we did, and have been on the wait list), have also come together to launch a lawsuit against the agency. 

Mike and I will not be transferring over to another adoption agency. At least, not at this time. 

To us, if adoption has been deemed no longer viable at this agency, how could adding an influx of hopeful parents to another agency, in the same province, with in theory the same pool of potential birth parents (not very many), be any better? Throw in the fact that you’re essentially starting over scratch, in both time, fees, and place on the adoption list, it just seemed too much—for us.

I know this is still the path that many hopeful parents are taking, for many it may be their only path or their last option, because other parents have maybe already tried IVF first without success before turning to adoption. Of course every family, every situation is different, so I truly hope for the best for anyone who has chosen to move over to another agency. It just didn’t feel like the right decision for us. 

Mike and I are heartbroken.

But we press on.

We’ve talked about international adoption. We’ve talked about fostering. We’ve talked about adopting a child through government care. We’ve also talked about just giving up. Our current lifestyle is in no way bad—just not exactly how we pictured it would be. We’ve considered a lot of options.

But now that we’ve had some time to consider and work through our options, we’ve decided our next step in this journey is that we will try IVF.

This is still a huge financial commitment—$10,000+ for just a chance at conceiving. The Canadian average for IVF success in a woman under the age of 35 is 44% (according to PCRM). So $10,000+ for a 44% chance of having a baby is something that we will try, but, are very unsure about, and if it fails, that will be of course be hard on us.

We know people who have tried IVF three, four, five+ times (and have heard stories of some who have tried even more than that!) The financial, physical and mental toll that takes… we can’t even begin to picture. Of course there are also stories of people who try IVF and are successful the first time. You hope that it will work for you but we also hoped that any number of the things we’ve tried in order to conceive, could work for us. And they haven’t. So at some point you just stop assuming things will go the way you think they will. 

You just don’t know what cards you will be dealt in life.

And when you’ve been repeatedly dealt very bad cards when it comes to trying to have a baby, you really aren’t that optimistic. But we will try IVF, at least once. We’re not giving up on a baby *just* yet. 

mike and linda adoption
We were feeling very hopeful and excited after attending an adoption workshop in September 2019.

With Mike’s current work schedule (that takes him out of town for long stretches of time regularly), we likely won’t be trying the IVF procedure until late 2021. That will also give us time to save up for the procedure. 

Something we did like about the adoption process was that social workers encourage applicants to make sure they aren’t putting their lives on hold as they wait for a baby. We had other big purchases planned that we are going to proceed with so as not to let these fertility issues affect living our current lives. So we will give IVF a real shot in 2021. 

I guess our simple answer to the question: So what do we do when our adoption agency suddenly closes?, is that we are buying a Tesla Model Y. lol. we had been working towards getting a Tesla for the last year (sort of in tandem to the adoption process), and now that the adoption isn’t happening, we’ve decided to put the money we would’ve used for the remaining steps of the adoption process, into our new Tesla. 

So I mean, it’s sort of like we have a new baby. lol. 

We are not ready to give up on this baby dream just yet, but I say this very honestly, we are tired.

Repeated failures and obstacles over the years have really worn us down. But we also recognize, I’m 31 (this July 2020), and Mike is 29. We’ve got a lot of life left and a lot of potential to be parents still so we aren’t quite ready to give up, just yet. It’s just hard to say what life will look like five, 10, 20 years from now. 

We never imagined having children would be this hard.

And we wish no one had to go through this much to become parents.

Truly though, especially as you go through the adoption process, and every thing you have to do, talk through, work through, come to terms with, forms you need to fill out, government checks that need to happen, important conversations you need to have with yourself, your partner and a social worker (basically couples therapy), what you need to learn and prepare for—it’s wild that on one end you have people who can just accidentally pop out a child they didn’t really want, people who are able to plan for a baby and have it exactly as they planned it to happen, or you hear just shocking, saddening, sickening stories of unfit parents. Then on the other hand, there are so many people who aren’t able to conceive for any number of reasons and either must provide so much proof that they are capable of caring for a child for even just a *chance* to be considered as parents through an adoptive process, or have to come up with so much money to try and force it to happen medically. 

It’s truly unfair.

And it’s truly exhausting. 

So what do you do when your adoption agency suddenly closes? 

This is our plan for now. 

Who knows, maybe IVF will work for us where everything else didn’t. 

I’ll also be doing a low-risk surgery this summer that might help eliminate or identify perhaps what might be the cause of our “unexplained infertility.” (more on that in another update).

If IVF doesn’t work for us, that opens up another option of surrogacy. We’ve had a lot of people suggest surrogacy for us but as our inability to conceive is deemed as “unexplained,” we weren’t looking at surrogacy unless we were sure that IVF wouldn’t work. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it will!

By the time we try IVF in late 2021, we’ll be well into our seventh year onto our eighth trying to have a baby. 

As with my previous infertility/adoption posts, I hope my next update is a happier one! 

And we truly appreciate all of your kind words and thoughts. Thank you! 

Linda Hoang Mike Brown Unexplained Infertility Alberta Adoption Journey
Beautiful photo by Becca Schultz Photography, from our six-year vow renewal in Feb 2020.

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4 Comments

  • Avatar Ann says:

    Thanks again for sharing your story Linda. I never had a problem conceiving so I do not know how you are feeling. I just want you to know I am praying that you and Mike find the joy and happiness you both deserve. Your story shows me that God has a plan for you. Whatever path you choose, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I belive dreams do come true. Stay strong. ????

  • Avatar Sarah says:

    So heartfelt. Truly. Thanks for sharing a piece of you and Mike’s story! Also can’t wait to see that Tesla!!!!

  • Avatar Gail C Jones says:

    This is so heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I truly admire your willingness to share your struggles.

  • Avatar afroedmontonian says:

    I really can’t imagine your pain and disappointment at the turn of things but I think my heart just exploded reading this. You deserve every happiness and I truly hope I can one day say to you, “welcome to the world of parenting”.

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