What We Learned From Adopting an Older Child: Part II

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Classes, Inspections and Catalogs

We went through 8 weeks of MAPP training. It was at once instructive and daunting. We were led through the catalog of disorders, dysfunctions, and trauma. It was a relief to realize that I would not have to deal with all of the issues, but the reality was that we would have to deal with one or two of the issues – which two we wouldn’t know . For me, a child with a passion, hobby, or interest in SOMETHING was important. I felt that would give us the best chance to connect as a family. We had told the social worker that we were looking for a boy who was “after diapers and before car keys”. We had to add ‘with issues that we could handle’ to that list. On the adoption application there is a list of every issue under the sun for you to rate your ability and willingness to consider a child with that attribute. TAKE THIS LIST SERIOUSLY. Be a parent, not a martyr. Be honest with what you can cope with; a failed adoption hurts both the child and the parents.

What is YOUR policy on nudity? In our home study, one question we were asked was what our policy on nudity was. I stammered for an answer, realizing that I had never considered such a thing before… Ultimately declaring that I reserved the right to point and laugh. I hope this communicated that we would take a reasonable middle ground, neither prude nor libertine. There really wasn’t a ‘right’ answer. DCF isn’t trying to find perfect parents. They are trying to accurately profile your skills, style, and preferences so that they can successfully match a child.

I was also amused that the home inspection included the provision that the home was ‘reasonably free of rodents’ – given that we had about 8 gerbils in cages – but the social worker said that caged ones didn’t count.

We were so worried about the home inspection that we took time off from work to pre-clean the house to sparkling perfection. It was a needless worry. The social worker is not worried about a few dishes or a little dust ; they are really just looking for basic habitability, modest standards of housekeeping and safety, and special conditions such as dogs, guns, and allergens.

The Long, Silent Wait

After the classes, and the inspections were over … nothing happened. The weeks and months trickled by with no action. Was there something wrong with us? Wouldn’t we make good parents? We kept reading about the hundreds of kids who needed a home. Sometimes we would see a kid in the paper, or on the MARE website, and ask about being matched with them. “What about the kid who likes volcanoes?” “the book kid… or the pudding kid?” Yet again we would get no response from DCF.

We learned this delay is normal. As frustrating as this is, it really can take a social worker a month to return a phone call. The simple logistics of connecting to a kid’s social worker, reviewing your profile, getting permissions, getting answers back from the therapists, social workers, and agencies involved really can take that time – they are not ‘dropping the ball’ or ignoring you.

The most frustrating part of this wait was being told that a certain kid was “not a good match” for us. With no other information provided, it felt almost insulting. We learned that the reason for the silence, or lack of information was that the other worker or agency was not allowed to provide additional information. They couldn’t tell us that the child we asked about had issues that our profile excluded. So we learned to ‘let it go’ and not feel personally insulted. I realized that orphans weren’t quite like Dondi or Oliver singing in the streets; their story is a bit more complex. This frustrating process was not about us. We were not the ‘customer’ they wanted to please – if anything we were the resource being considered for a match to their children.

Hello and Goodbye

We received news of a potential match with a boy who was older than the range we thought we were looking for, but the adoption workers were confident that this could be a good match. They still couldn’t tell us why in much detail due to confidentiality restrictions, beyond that our boy was a ‘quirky kid’ – and boy were they dead right on that one!

The first meeting went well. We arrived at the group home where a large pile of boys tumbled out of the house and thronged around us as we entered- all excitement and energy. Apparently, our boy had been broadcasting all the details he knew about us to his housemates for some time. It is a big event in their life when someone comes to see them; when someone wants them. The kids know why people visit, and they try to be on their best behavior. They long for a family – referring to their group home as “the pound”.

Well it was a nervous first meeting, but brief. After only about an hour it was time to leave. The process of getting to know a child is drawn out over several months of slowly increasing duration. This is designed for maximum protection of the child- to try and keep them from ‘getting their hopes up and then dashed’ too early- in the event that a match doesn’t turn out to be successful.

We noticed that our boy insisted on lending us a video each time we visited although we weren’t sure why. Later my wife realized that it was his way of ensuring that we had to return and see him again!

Tom & Renee A.


About the Family
We met our (future) Son, Justin in October 2004 in DCF care at age 13. He moved in Aug. 2005, and the adoption was finalized Nov. 2006.  During this time, we also became a family resource for Justin’s roommate in state care, Alex, who became our unofficial son.  Today our sons are 24 & 25 and make us very proud of how far they have come, and what truly nice people they are.  We work in technology, and are active in community events, Toastmasters, Cat Rescue, Politics and Foster/Adoption outreach.  Our two cats, and one gerbil were acquired from shelters.  We also have a thriving goldfish that was rescued from a drainage ditch!   Recently, we were approved to adopt again, and are beginning this journey anew. 

One thought on “What We Learned From Adopting an Older Child: Part II

  1. Thank-you for sharing, Tom and Renee. I learned a lot here. Best wishes to you and your sons, and congratulations on your adoption approval!

    Like

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