Ok. So maybe deciding to adopt wasn’t as quick and easy as I made it sound in the last post. True, Demetri and I had been talking about adoption before we got married. But it wasn’t always with certainty. There was a lot of fear and anxiety. What if we can’t connect to someone else’s baby? What if there are health problems? What if a birth mother never chooses us? We researched adoption. We read books. We watched informational videos. We overcame our fears enough to move forward. And we were met with a whole new set of questions: Did we have a preference for gender, race, or age? Were we willing to adopt a baby from a birth mom who did not get prenatal care? Who smoked marijuana? Who drank during pregnancy? Who had a history of any kind of mental illness?
We did more research. Read more books. Had lots of talks, discussions, and arguments with each other and ourselves. Gradually we were able to answer the questions. We did not have a preference for gender or race. However, I was adamant that we adopt a new born. As a social worker I had worked with many many kids that had been adopted after they were a year or older. These kids were great, and many of their families were great, but the kids were working their way through Reactive Attachment Disorder.* And it was always a long, hard battle for everyone involved. Although I was good at working with these kids in a 50 minute session, I knew my limits. We would not be adopting an ‘older’ child. We also decided that we were only willing to work with birth moms that had at least some prenatal care, who did not drink during pregnancy, and with a limited history of mental illness (depression and anxiety stuff was OK, Schizophrenia etc. not OK). After consulting a doctor, we decided that infrequent marijuana use was OK. After many discussions, we decided an open (or semi-open) adoption would work well for us and for our baby.
Next up: We had to get a home study. This is the part where a stranger comes into your home (albeit a nice, social worky one) and evaluates your potential for parenthood. And, if you live where I live, you are asked to sign a “statement of faith” promising to raise a child you don’t even have yet in “the one true faith” as a “follower of Christ”. This presented a . . . “problem” for me. Demetri and I were totally unwilling to sign a statement of faith. For one, we would be lying. For two, one does not need to be “a follower of Christ” to be a good parent. Apparently, in this part of the south they haven’t heard that two-thirds of the world is not Christian. I called out of state and tried to cut a deal where we would pay for hotel and meals so a social worker could complete a home study. No luck. Finally, through a referral from Demetri’s work, we found a teeny tiny local agency (they didn’t even have a web site) that did not require a statement of faith. Thank god!
We cleaned the house like it had never been cleaned before. We gave Gilmore a bath. We framed pictures in which we thought we looked ‘parental’. We put fire extinguishers in visible places in various rooms. I bought fancy cheese and crackers to serve as a snack. We put on nice clothes. Nice but not too nice — we didn’t want to look like we were trying too hard. We had our paperwork in a brand new, crisp purple folder. We didn’t wear shoes when the social worker arrived so that we would look “casual and relaxed” when she came to the door.
The social worker came. She evaluated. She was kind. She gave us another binder full of paperwork. Yes, a binder. We had to get references. Check-ups and blood tests from the doctor ( I even needed a special note as I had a history of minor depression). Proof of marriage. Our educational transcripts (with the college seal). A note from the vet. Fingerprints. Yes, Demetri got fingerprinted at a gun store. Well, not just a gun store, the place also weighed dead deer. As much as I love guns and dead animals, I chose another location for my fingerprints. We also each wrote a 7 page biography. And no, we were not allowed to skip over the humiliating moments of middle school, poor choices that were made about men while abroad, or that one Grateful Dead concert. So yeah, the paperwork was all vaguely humiliating.
The end result? We passed.
* There are many, many “older” children who are adopted that never ever have to deal with this issue.
Come on . . . Don’t we look like awesome potential parents?
(Pick us! Pick us!)