Adoption in Reno: You Have Options

Adoption, Reno: This is a story about an adoption I worked on with a woman from Reno, Nevada.  I work with pregnant women all over the country on their adoption plans. I’m an attorney and a birth mother and my services are absolutely free to women looking for a family to adopt their baby.  Whether they move forward with an adoption or not. If you’re in Reno, I can help.  Here’s a story about one of my Reno cases, a case I am most proud of.

Adoption Reno: the first time I knowingly met a convicted felon

Years ago, very early in my adoption career, I worked with a birth mother from Reno.  She was a convicted felon recently released from prison.  I’d never met a felon before, or at least not that I was aware of.  Reno wasn’t far, so I decided to drive the four hours to meet her.  The plan was to spend the day together, have some lunch and talk about adoption.  *Billie was a quick study, and clearly a woman of untapped potential.  She was so smart, articulate and quick to laugh.  Billie was resourceful and creative and scrappy.  She talked a lot about her two-year-old daughter *Eilish.  It was easy to see she was a devoted mother with a difficult past.

Raised in chaos, she basically raised herself

Her own mother (deceased) was a drug addict, and Billie was raised in chaos.  They moved between Reno and Atlanta with no stable place to live.  Chasing after mom’s boyfriends and the next fix.  They ended up in Reno because that’s where Granny lived.  I met Granny too, in her faded pink sweat suit in her single-wide trailer right next to the airport.  She was happy to help take care of Eilish and was a more constant support for Billie.  Billie bounced from couch to couch, living on the street or with a new boyfriend.  She’s a petite and strikingly pretty woman with a tough edge and foul mouth (which I appreciate).

Guns and drugs and courthouse metal detectors

I was super curious about the felony but wanted to be respectful.  Ultimately, I didn’t have to ask.  Billie just offered it up because she thinks it’s a funny story.  Especially in retrospect.  The short story is that she showed up at the Clark County Courthouse to file papers for a friend.  When she went through the metal detector, she forgot she had a gun in her purse and drugs in her bra.

This is when she starts laughing.  Neither the gun nor the drugs were legal, though everyone in her circle carried a gun in their purse, a matter of survival.  She had never used it, only pulled it out when she was physically threatened.  As the alarm sounded from the metal detector, Billie’s instinct was to run.  Tearing down the sidewalk, flinging the gun from her purse and the drugs from her bra, she managed to get away.  She dyed her hair and lived on the lam for a few months as she made arrangements for a friend to take care of Eilish.  Then she turned herself in.  They sent her to prison for two years.

Drive to Reno to talk about adoption

When I met her, Billie had been out for about five months, had gotten pregnant, and because she couldn’t find a job, started using drugs again.  Over and over she told me all she wanted to do was get a job and take care of Eilish.  But no one would hire her because of her record.  She was totally stuck, and the best she could do was clean houses from time to time.  This was difficult, too, because she didn’t have a car.  She started thinking about adoption.  Hard as it was to admit, she knew she couldn’t take care of another baby.  She was going to have a boy, and was very clear that she wanted to get him out of Reno.  The only thing there for him, she told me, was gangs and drugs and prison.  Adoption was his way out.

Adoptive parents will love her baby unconditionally, despite her history and drug use

Billie was worried that adoptive parents would judge her because of her background and her drug use.  She was afraid that the “best” parents wouldn’t want her baby.  I understand this fear.  Women express this to me all the time.  The good news is that she came to the right place.  I explained to her that the families I work with are all people I know well, people who don’t judge and who will love her baby as much as she does.

I reassured her that I only work with adoptive parents that I’d feel comfortable placing my own child with.  Also, they are all educated on adoption: open vs. closed adoption, drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, the importance and value of staying in contact, if a birth mother wants to.   All of them are the best possible parents (and still are!).   Turns out, it was an easy decision.  She knew which was the right family pretty immediately, and she chose well.  They love her little guy unconditionally, and they love Billie like she’s their kid too.  I know Billie is proud that he is so much like her: smart, curious, creative, and quick to laugh.

Lying about her criminal history to get a job

Not long after the adoption was finalized, Billie called to say she was applying for a job at the mall.  She had gotten clean and wanted to work at one of those art gallery co-ops where you can buy art made by local artists.  This made sense because Billie was an artist herself.  I had easily 50 photo-shopped photos on my phone that she had proudly worked on, getting them perfect.   The reason Billie called me was she wanted help with the application.  First, she wanted me to be a reference (of course I would!).

Second, she didn’t know what to do about one of the questions.  The problem was that the application asked if she had a criminal record.  She thought that maybe she would include a letter with the application, explaining her story and why she wanted the job.  She hoped this letter would inspire them to give her a chance despite her history.  The thought of Billie painstakingly writing her story, a story that I loved and was so proud of, making herself vulnerable and then likely getting rejected made me really angry.  I told her no.  Don’t write the letter, just don’t tell them about your history.

When I think it’s okay to be a little dishonest

I am definitely not one to encourage dishonesty.  But this was different.  Billie wasn’t a violent felon, hadn’t destroyed property or put anyone in harm’s way.  How is a single mother supposed to feed her kid if she can’t get a job?  How can anyone ever expect her to be a productive member of society if she can’t work?  It just wasn’t right.  Here was an eager, smart, resourceful woman ready to work her tail off.  They’d be lucky to have her.  And I told her so.  I said the worst that would happen is she wouldn’t get the job (or get fired later).  I was convinced that once they saw what she was made of, and even if they found out about her record later, they’d keep her.  She was hesitant at first, but did it, she said, for her Eilish.

Challenging my preconceived ideas

Needless to say, she got the job and shot off like a rocket.  Everyone loved her at the co-op.  She soon became a manager and worked there for three years.  That job allowed her to get her own place, buy a car, and to spend more time with Eilish doing typical mom-kid stuff.  When Billie got a lead on an administrative position at a rehab facility, she nailed the interview, and they gave her the job on the spot.  She’s been there ever since.

Admittedly, I had preconceived ideas about ex-cons who did drugs, who lived on and off the street.  I’m not even sure exactly what I assumed, but working with Billie challenged me to think differently.  She showed me another side.  A side that proved to be tough and courageous and wanting nothing more than to be productive and independent.  She showed me that someone who is raised in chaos and without guidance or support really can get their s*** together given the right opportunity.

Everyone deserves a chance

Because of Billie, I walk into each new case and each new birth mother with no preconceived ideas. More than ever, I know that everyone is equal, everyone deserves a chance.  I want every woman I work with to know that I have her back, that she will  have the best support possible as she decides if adoption is right for her.  It’s an honor to work with them, really.  I feel so lucky that Billie found me.  Hers is the case I’m most proud of.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.