One of the things that happens all the time since we adopted (besides conversations about bodily functions and questions like “Can we pl-eeeeeze put a zipline in the back yard???”) is that people tell me of their own adoption dreams. I can’t tell you how many times someone has shared some version of, “I’ve thought about adopting…” or “I’ve wanted to adopt since I was little…”
I should say that I was not one of those people. Adoption never occurred to me when I was in the early stages of planning my life. (To be fair, children never really occurred to me. I thought they were something that just sort of happened to you, maybe in your 30s. Turns out I was wrong.)
But back when it first became clear that Steve and I might not reproduce naturally (that makes us sound like tomatoes, but you know what I mean…) I remember doing all these online searches about adoption, and how overwhelming it was.
So many websites, agencies, and promises.
So many families competing, it seemed, for the same few babies.
So much money required at every step.
Adoption seemed like a distant place we couldn’t get to. It was a weird position to be in because it felt so obvious – we wanted kids, there were kids who needed parents. But how do you pick a child? What if you start the process and decide it’s not for you? Adoption is a huge, life changing step. Not to be blunt about it, but why would anyone do it if they didn’t have to?
And yet there was this urge to help. And a sense that it might be important. But how do you figure that out?
What I tell people now is, take the MAPP class, or whatever the equivalent required class is in your state. There’s no obligation. It give you peers who are asking the same questions, information that you won’t know otherwise, and professionals who can help. At a basic level, it gives you a place to sort things out.
Beyond that, though, MAPP Class is training. The thing about training is that it empowers you to do all sorts of things down the road.
(Full disclosure: I went into MAPP Class totally kicking and screaming. Straight up salty and attitudinal. I believe I compared it to an ex-boyfriend’s mandatory DWI rehabilitation class. Yes, I was a delight. You can read about that here.)
One of the things that surprised me in this experience was how many different ways Steve & I could have been involved helping kids all along. Training helps you explore options.
You might decide to foster once, to provide a home for a child for a short time while their parents sort things out.
You might serve as a visiting resource, where you become a person a kid who lives in foster care can learn from – having them over on weekends, for example, introducing them to your friends, maybe helping them find their first summer job or apply for a driver’s license. You invest in their lives in ways that make a huge difference, without the significant commitment of adoption. (Not all kids want to be adopted, so this can be a big win for everyone.)
You could even provide respite care, which is where a child stays with you for a really brief time while their foster parents away for a week or a weekend. (Travel can be so complicated to get approved for kids who are in state custody.) When I first heard of this, I thought, That is AWFUL! You just dump the kids with strangers while you go on vacation??? Now I see how helpful it can be to give everyone some breathing room, along with another example of what home life can look like.
Maybe you’ll adopt.
Or maybe the main thing that will come of it is that years from now, when a colleague at work tells you he’s considering adoption, you’ll be able to say, I know an agency that can help get you started…here’s who to call.
I think maybe it comes down to this picture #2 Cherub painted shortly after she came to live with us. It says, You may only be one person in this world. But to someone, you mean the world.
There are so many ways to be this person.
I remember hanging out with our friends who adopted three kids, the ones who made us think maybe we could do this, too. Watching them made me think of the starfish story, the one about the little girl who sees hundreds of starfish stranded on the beach and jumps into action, grabbing them one by one and throwing them back in the water. Someone tells her, “Don’t bother. There are too many. It won’t make a difference.” She just throws another one into the water and says, “Sure made a difference for that one…”