For the third time in as many years, we’re filling out our paperwork for an adoption agency. This time it’s different, though. After trying to adopt from foster care for almost two years, we’re switching gears and signing on with an agency that specializes in infant adoption. After talking with countless social workers, reading hundreds of profiles of children in foster care, and meeting with various people connected to foster care, we’ve come to the realization that we don’t have what it takes right now to successfully parent a child or children who have spent years living with uncertainty in the foster care system. We have gained a monumental amount of respect for foster parents and those who push through the system to successfully adopt, and the social workers who try as hard as they can to make new families a reality. But we want to adopt and, at this point, it seems that infant adoption is a more realistic option for us.
Many experiences led to our decision, but the two most important ones happened in the past few months. One of our major hesitations about infant adoption is that these days, the vast majority of them are open adoptions. Birth families choose their child’s adoptive parents, and most often the parties meet prior to the baby’s birth. As a pro-choice person, this concept has been difficult for me since I wouldn’t want to influence a birth mother’s choice in any way. If she should give birth and change her mind about adoption, that is totally valid and she shouldn’t have unhappy would-be adoptive parents to deal with. It just seemed like—regardless of the amount of contact between the birth and adoptive families after the adoption is finalized, which we’re completely supportive of—it would be cleaner somehow if a birth mother was able to make her final decisions without an adoptive family waiting in the wings. And we had been unsure of our abilities to get to know a potential birth family and “sell ourselves” as good parents, while not attempting to sway them in any way.
However, in October, we met with family members of two children who were about to be placed for foster care adoption. Although we had no idea if we would be matched with the children, their family seemed very comforted to meet us even just as an example of the kind of parents the kids could end up having. And although we were nervous going into the meeting and didn’t know what to expect, we actually got through it very well. Cory tapped into his skills from his estate planning days, and I instinctively went into my old “women’s services director” mode. We had never talked about it, but both of us have had a good amount of experience helping people in difficult and often sad situations that require them to make tough choices. That made us realize that we actually do have the ability to be unbiased and helpful when meeting birth parents.
Then, between the end of December and mid-January, both of our mothers got serious medical news that required immediate surgeries. We’ve tried to be there for our parents as much as possible through it all and at some point in the middle of it, I realized that there would be no way we could be as available for them if we adopted a child or children with high levels of emotional needs and behavioral challenges like those we have considered in foster care. Not that adopting a baby would give us unlimited free time (feel free to laugh, parents of little ones), but the probability of a young child needing the amount of appointments and types of intensive family therapy that were suggested for the older children we considered seems relatively low. Additionally, a family member or friend could babysit an adopted newborn if we had to make a sudden trip to the hospital, while a child in foster care can only be looked after by a licensed foster parent. Simply put, this is not the right time for foster adoption for us.
So now we’re moving forward and getting excited about another opportunity for growing our family. It’s not how we first pictured it, and obviously there are no sure things in adoption or any part of life, but we’re feeling good about our next steps.