(I’m blogging about our experience adopting old children from foster care here in Massachusetts, in the hopes that it might inspire you to consider adoption, too. It’s a fantastic way to build a family.)
Your adoption license has FINALLY come through! Which means that now, when you speak to social workers about specific children, they’ll return your calls.
Here’s what you’ve learned in the past few months: Social workers don’t have enough time, so they prioritize. If you’re the standard couple looking to adopt a white toddler, but are just starting MAPP class? They probably won’t even return your call. Or if you meet them at a matching event they’ll say, “Talk to me in six months.” It’s a very practical, no-frills world.
You’ve had a slightly different experience. You’re considering kids of different races, which opens the communication door a little bit. You hope to adopt older kids, which warrants the occasional return call. But the big star that goes next to your name on the call log is that you’re interested in siblings, possibly as many as three. (As a friend who adopted three told you, “You don’t have to promote yourself at that point. They’ll come to you.”) And this has proven true.
At the same time, though, the callbacks you’ve received have been overwhelming, disappointing, and even frustrating:
-One brother/sister pair were technically available for adoption, but the social worker did not have the necessary paperwork together to move forward…and couldn’t say when that might happen. It could be months.
-You received a call one afternoon asking, “Has anyone contacted you yet about the three little boys from Burundi?” No one ever did.
-Another sibling group is on the website as available for adoption, but you’re told there’s a significant chance they’ll be reunited with their birth parents. (This is called “concurrent planning,” and it’s a disaster for everyone involved. Birth parents are threatened with adoption if they don’t get their act together, which sometimes motivates them to comply with visits & classes, but doesn’t necessarily help them become minimally viable in terms of actual parenting. And on the other side, pre-adoptive parents either won’t consider these children because the risk is too high, or they live in fear of having the court return the children to the birth parents. The kids lose out on so much when they’re caught in this limbo, and often aren’t really “free” for adoption until they’re at an age where fewer adoptive families will consider them. It’s incredibly frustrating.) After your experience with Princess Peach, you and your husband are 100% in agreement that you’re not interested in a situation where reunification is still part of the conversation. You move on.
-You talk to workers representing three other sets of siblings, but in each situation there is one child whose needs are beyond what you can offer.
You start to wonder if it’s even possible to find a good fit. And despair as you look at the faces of all these children and wonder, “What is wrong with me that I can’t say yes? Shouldn’t I just DO THIS – just pick one of these sibling groups and make it work – because it’s the right thing to do?” Your friend talks you off the ledge, saying (emphatically) that that is a TERRIBLE approach to adoption, that finding the right fit DOES matter, and that you SHOULD NOT SETTLE just because you’re tired of waiting.
You realize she’s right and go home and take a nap. You might not be able to do that much longer, so you revel in your freedom to nap now. It’s surprisingly consoling.
-You attended an event where social workers meet prospective parents. It’s a sea of white, middle age couples, mostly competing for the same few little white kids. It sounds awful to put it in such stark terms, but that evening it’s just so obvious. “It’s like we’re all interchangeable,” you said to your husband. Some of the social workers are fabulous as they present their kids: enthusiastic, engaging, eager to talk to you. For a couple of others, though, it’s clear that they’re just at the event to mark it on their time sheet. They’re shockingly rude.
On a happier note, you meet a social worker from the agency where you took your MAPP class. She has a flyer on a brother & sister that really stands out from the others: It’s in bright colors, with bullet points of the kids’ interests and what they’re looking for in a family. “They’re 12 & 10, and they’re super close,” she says. “They really need to be adopted together.”
You look at your husband, and he’s looking back at you with the same expression. You’ve heard about these kids before. From Janna, your MAPP teacher. Back in the third or forth week of class, she was describing a bit about how her job works and mentioned that she’d just started working with a brother and sister. You’d even asked her about them at the end of class. “I’m just getting to know them now,” she’d said, “but we can definitely talk more about them once we’re further along in the process….”
You go up to talk to the social worker. She’s enthusiastic and helpful, and even though she hasn’t met the kids (because she’s not their worker) she knows a bit about the foster home they’re in and some of the different facets of adopting older kids. It’s one of the most encouraging conversations you’ve had so far because there aren’t any giant red flags.
You stop at a restaurant for dinner on the way home. You have the the kids’ flyer there on the table between you, and you wonder…
“Maybe we should call Janna tomorrow?” you say, trying to keep the excitement out of your voice. “Yeah, we should, “ your husband agrees. You’ve learned not to get your hopes up. But who knows?
You pull out your phone and type “Call Janna about C&C” on your calendar for the next day. As if you might forget.