What I want you to know… about the adoption and foster process (Part 1 of 3)
When I started writing this post I intended it to be about our adoption story. However my heart was drawn in a different direction and I decided to make it a three part post titled, What I want you to know. The first will be about pitfalls of the process, the second will be about taking in and raising adopted children and the third will be about how you can better serve adoptive families. I hope that you know these words are from my heart. My hope is to share this with you so we can all grow as people and a community.
Our adoption journey began with a simple goal of adopting one child. Now, two adoptions and one biological child later, we are now contemplating if we should have/adopt “just one more.” Our dream of having one child grew quickly. . . and I mean quickly. We now have 3 boys all under 4 and a half (4, 3 and our youngest turns one on December 1st).
All of the visions you are having about the chaos of my life are accurate. It’s crazy. Buts it’s also wonderful.
When we began our adoption process I remember meeting with our attorney, Georgia, and discussing the amazing situation we would be a part of and the modern relationship we would have with our child’s birth mom. I remember her smiling and lovingly saying, “Tiffany you have such a beautiful but glamorized version of adoption and the process.” As an adoptive mom of two herself, she was on the other side and knew so many of the challenges waiting in the wings.
It was a hard fought battle some days but I did keep my positivity up for the majority of our process. I don’t look back and regret anything; however I do wish I had been emotionally prepared a little more for certain things. The emotions of adopting are hard enough but there are many roadblocks that I never saw coming. Here is a list of some of the things I wish I had been more prepared for.
Waiting was something that I feel like I was mentally prepared for before we even filed the first set of paperwork. However thinking about how the waiting will be and actually doing the waiting are two totally different things. Just to put it in perspective for you, this was our timeline for foster care certification: After our initial meeting it took 8 weeks to finish the certification classes and then an additional two months to go through the home study process. We started the process in September and didn’t get our first foster placement until May. (I want to say that the agency has made improvements with certifying families sooner as well as Crossroads NOLA is assisting with making certifications happen more quickly) That placement stayed with us for three days and we didn’t get another placement until July. That child ended up being my oldest son who we adopted. He was in foster care for 846 days until his legal adoption date. My second son we adopted through a private attorney but that process wasn’t without waiting. There was waiting to meet his birth mother and waiting for her to make decisions and waiting for the attorneys to meet and then waiting to finalize the adoption. We often say that between July 2012 and October 2014, when both boys adoptions finalized, there was a constant feeling of being unsettled. You were always waiting for something to mess up or delay the process. One more request. One more roadblock. It’s tough to live with that uncertainty hanging over everything. That was what made the waiting so difficult.
Unlike a biological pregnancy that has a due date, adoption is very open ended. There is no guarantee how long it will take you to receive a foster placement or match with a birth mother. Because of this people have a lot of questions and you will feel like you have repeated yourself one million times. There were some points when I would tell people, I just can’t answer questions today because I am too emotional/tired/angry/frustrated/sad. Enter any emotion you choose and all would be applicable. People mean well. They want to be involved and supportive which is wonderful, believe me you won’t get through this without a village, but it’s still emotionally exhausting to always have to be explaining what is happening when sometimes you don’t even know for sure yourself. Also, there are the people will ask you why you are adopting. In our case we had infertility and I heard on more than one occasion, so you can’t have a baby of your own? No, it isn’t okay for people to ask or say things to you like this, but you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared to hear it. Believe me you will hear much more once you have adopted especially if you adopt a child of another race. As a multicultural family we field a lot of questions from people but I will cover that in another post.
To say the paperwork is daunting is the understatement of the year. I have filled out multiple stacks of paperwork as thick as an encyclopedia. I have been background checked by the FBI and State Police more than four times. I have been fingerprinted. I have completed a state home study with the Department of Children and Family Services and one with a private adoption attorney. I have had my home inspected five times. I’ve even had someone come in and make sure that our fire extinguisher was up to date and take the temperature of the hot water coming out of my tap. No one is more prepared to be a parent than an adoptive family. All the bases have been covered. You should know going into this that you may not have a lot of privacy for a while. Case Workers and home development workers usually call and give you notice of a visit but they also have the right to just pop in. You will have to answer private and sometime uncomfortable questions about your past, your relationship with your spouse and various other aspects of your life. Your life is not always your own so to speak. But their thoroughness is what helps to keep kids safe and THAT is the most important part. It also keeps families from jumping into things that they are not ready for because there should never be a child who is adopted and then surrendered again. Adoption should be forever.
Lack of Details.
This is something that was probably the most difficult thing for me. I am a details person and I am very organized. I wanted all the details and I wanted them in full. Why is this baby coming into foster care? Tell me about the parents? What is their history? Health issues? When is the next court date? Meeting? The list could go on and on. The truth is that most case workers and attorneys want to tell you everything but sometimes they just don’t know. The court system is slow and sometimes they don’t have the dates. Parents are not always forthcoming with information and do not give everyone involved all of the details. This will again bring you back to step one which is the waiting. You will have to learn to be patient but press on. I learned very quickly things that were better to call about and things that I just needed to email someone about. I also learned that I could ask my own questions sometimes. One instance my foster son was having major issues with his ears and the pediatrician had asked me some questions. I asked the case worker and she didn’t know so I waited until the next visitation and I talked to his mom about it. She gave me some answers and I was able to go back to the pediatrician. You always have to remember that foster or adoption, you are your child’s advocate.
There is so much uncertainty that goes into foster and adoptive situations. I have taken care of 4 babies in my time as a foster parent and we have had one private adoption situation fall through. There are no guarantees. Situations change minute by minute sometimes. One day things are on track and the next they are off of the rails. In the foster system you are at the mercy of the players involved such as the lawyers, judge and courts. In private adoptions you are at the mercy of a person making the most emotional decision of their life. There is an incredible level of uncertainty and you have to learn to roll with it.
As I said above I have had 4 foster babies and one private adoption fall through. We have also had numerous calls for foster placements that we had to turn down. All of these babies weigh on my mind. Even to this day. I experienced grief in a different way that I ever had before. Babies I didn’t even know I felt my heart longing for. Emotionally you try to prepare yourself for this. Anyone knows in a foster situation (or even in adoption) that babies can go back to their family. Early on you can wrap your head around it. Later on it is much harder. When my oldest son, who we were fostering at the time, was 13 months the court ordered that he be reunited with his biological mom and dad. We found out at 1:00 in the afternoon and he was gone by 2:30. We sent him on thinking that we would never see him again. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The grief was life stopping. I had another baby at home, King son #2, and I knew I had to go on. We always say that he was the boy who saved us. Without him I don’t know what we would have done. After the initial grief wore off though we were left with this feeling of loss but knowing he was still out there. It was different than a death. Just to give closure to the story, we were reunited with him 60 days later and were able to adopt him later on so our grief was short lived but still very real.
My words may seem sad, hopeless or not encouraging but I want to be real with you. This process is not for the faint of heart and I don’t want to portray it as anything but what it is at times. Are there wonderful parts? Absolutely! There are so many wonderful parts I can’t even count. They are coming. Stay tuned for that future installment.