Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

What You See May Be The Exact Opposite Of What You Get

on December 29, 2011

Yesterday Rebecca wrote about the odd things (or simply out of our norm things that we have had to get used to) that we have seen incorporated into the “short form” profiles of children on adoption photolisting websites.  While it has been odd to see the same sorts of phrasing, gender stereotyping and the like, what has been more odd and somewhat alarming is how these short form descriptions can, in some cases, gloss over or outright seemingly mischaracterize some of the children.

Before I go further, let me set up a little bit of a background.  As previously mentioned, we have collectively tried to remain open to just about as wide of a selection of different types of kids (and their stories, backgrounds, challenges, etc.) as we believe we could handle.  We only have a few very hard and fast criteria that automatically would keep us from further considering a child.  One of those is if the child has any sort of history of animal abuse.  For those of us who know us, we are very attached to our three cats.  That alone is a pretty good reason for us to rule out kids who have a history of mistreating animals, let alone some of the behaviors that animal abuse can be an indicator for.

Does this count as animal abuse?

So, that all said, our first hand introduction to how the short form descriptions may not match up with additional data about a child came a couple of weeks back.  We had made an initial query with the caseworker for an out of state child. These initial queries are little more than internal data prompts that say “hey, highest level social work assigned to this particular child, please look at our family biography and see if you think we may be a good match for this child in question.”  If the social worker feels that the family might be a good fit (and after they have checked out the family’s home study), they will send you a longer form report on the child.  As you would expect, these longer form (from what we have seen so far these documents vary from state to state and kid to kid but are typically in excess of ten pages) documents give you a *lot* more specific and particular information on the kid.

Well, the long form data we received on this kid couldn’t have been closer to one hundred and eighty degrees away from the kid’s short form description.  Maybe we’re crazy, but if you read a description that  said “this child loves to play with the foster family’s pets” you probably wouldn’t expect to read another document that describes *multiple* incidents of animal abuse, right?  While this alone meant we wouldn’t be a good match for this particular child, there was also a lot of other material in this longer report that cut against the picture that was painted in the short form description.  Mind you, this report also made it clear just how hard of a life this kid has had – the behaviors and actions described within the report make complete sense in light of those life experiences.

The report itself, actually the first such long form report that we had received in response to any of our queries, was just a bit of a shock to us in contrast to the short form description.  We were immediately left wondering whether this sort of huge night and day discrepancy was going to be the case all of the time.  Had we made a huge mistake?  Were all the stereotypes of kids in foster care true? Rebecca was able to quickly reach out to a couple of friends who have adopted children from foster care with the question of “is this normal”?  We were able to get ourselves mentally back on track quickly once we were told by those folks that this sort of situation was *not* the norm and further had our spirits lifted once we received a long form report about a different inquired-about child later that same day with nary a mention of even frowning at a puppy (nor fire starting or choking other kids out).  This report also included plenty of very positive information about the child (while not glossing over their challenges) that weren’t touched upon at all in their short description. Whew!

The moral of the story?  Chin up, future adoptive parents!  Don’t get discouraged when you are looking through the information about available children.  Since so many of these brief reports and descriptions are written by folks who may not know the kids as well as their primary social workers, you just really have to take everything with a grain of salt.  It further demonstrates that one of your primary duties in the early stages is to obtain *all* of the information about the child that you possibly can, and to be as open about your own needs and expectations as possible with social workers.



2 Responses to “What You See May Be The Exact Opposite Of What You Get”

  1. Laurel says:

    hear hear! Cheer up indeed. Is it also likely that the short descriptions and long forms may be written by totally different social workers? That might explain some of the weird discrepancies… but one still wonders if, in the case you discuss here, the person writing the short one had even read the long one.

    • Cory says:

      yes – having different folks writing the two different reports would make total sense given how these things can seemingly go. that said, the longer ones are clearly written by folks more in tune with the kids directly. i’m not sure if the same is true with the short ones – maybe they are summaries written by other folks based upon their reading of the long report, other notes, etc?

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