It’s strange to be the one with the power to choose. As we’ve talked about our adoption plans and as I’ve gotten more and more involved in the tangles of what’s ethical and what’s better than nothing in a bad situation and so on, it’s gotten even stranger.
So here’s why we want the kinds of children we “want,” what I told the R&C worker I talked to last week. Lee has always dreamed of parenting a black or biracial toddler boy. It’s something she mentions a lot when we’re out in public, that she wants her son to do this or that. But she was making that plan before I was in the picture and without much thought about what it would mean to be the 50-year-old mother of a kindergartener or to have to change diapers, and she’s been willing to adapt to something that suits us both better. So what we’re looking for is a small sibling group (2-3 children), preferably at least partly black, all under 10. Because we both work, babies aren’t ideal, but I imagine we could manage a 2- or 3-year-old. So her dream boy could still fit in, but he’d probably have at least a sister or brother. This is fodder for a later post, but while I want the adoption to be as open as safety allows, Lee is hesitant in certain ways that relate to her own adoption history and the way she defines her family.
Age: I’m in my late 20s. Lee’s enough older than I am that she’s closer in age to my parents than to me, a few weeks older than my favorite uncle. This doesn’t matter much in our everyday lives and in fact when people ask how old we are she always tells them we’re both 35, which is a believable lie and probably more like reality than the actual truth. But I feel strange about parenting a child who’s not young enough to be biologically my child, even though I’m not looking for a family that will look like it was created “as if naturally” since that’s not even possible. Still, it’s a hangup; I don’t want children who are closer to me in age than I am to their other mother. So for me, 10 is (give or take) the maximum age right now. Really, anyone born after 1996 or so would do fine, but earlier than that would make me a little itchy. Maybe training will change this and make me less uneasy.
Race: We’re in an interracial relationship already, so racial issues are something we think and talk about on a daily basis already. In our state, as in many others, black children are disproportionately represented in foster care and thus when available for special needs adoption. While we haven’t decided to necessarily limit ourselves to the waiting children in our state, it’s noteworthy that there’s a particularly low age at which black children are automatically granted special needs status because they’re “hard to place.” Because of this, it seems like it would be a better idea to have some of these black children moving into a home with one self-aware black mom and one actively anti-racist white mom than, well, in some of the alternatives. I’d be open to any race, basically, but my Spanish is at pidgin level and Latinos are the other major non-white group represented in our pool of local children, so the question of how much linguistic cultural access they need would play into any such decision. Basically, though, it’s pretty clear that in our state’s system “black” is the least valued group a child could fall into (not necessarily in terms of how the individual workers respond, mind you, but just at a macro level) and so we see no reason not to commit to that.
Gender: Lee wants her little boy. I’ve had younger brothers, so there’s a part of me that’s always wanted a girl just for selfish variety. But I’m totally flexible, and what we both want most is a good match.
Siblings: There are a few reasons for this. Lee has sort of a mystical origin story about how her brother (birth uncle) begged his parents for a baby sister, not realizing that it wasn’t physically possible for them any more, only to end up a big brother years later when baby Lee moved in. I have siblings and am closer to them in adulthood than I was growing up, a result of both age and temperament. There are a variety of reasons for wanting siblings when we adopt beyond the personal. Politically, I think it’s important to keep sibling groups intact as much as possible. Lee wasn’t raised with any of her half-siblings, but she still values her connections with them. There’s also the issue of attachment and bonding, and while being part of a sibling group is no safe sign that a child will be able to avoid RAD issues, it could help. Plus, since we’re committed to special needs adoption, there’s the issue of what our state considers special needs. Even a group of two is big enough to qualify for some financial, medical, and eventual tuition support. While we’re not trying to get a cut-rate adoption, this is an issue. Again, it doesn’t hurt. And we plan to have one go-round through the adoption process and be finished with our family, so this seems like one reasonable way to get to that goal. I’m really not liking how I sound in this paragraph especially. Maybe it’s something I can elaborate on later, because I don’t want to sound like I think I’ve got some creepy rescue narrative going on or that I’m being glib about trying to get children who will fit my lifestyle. Some of this relates to Dawn‘s recent post at Anti-Racist Parent, but I realize that when I talk about race and when I talk about siblings and when I talk about cost, all of these are tied up in my wanting to do something specifically for children who are being told by this system that they’re devalued, but I don’t mean I expect them to be grateful and I’m not doing it because I’m a crusader or anything like that. I’m just a realist, and I want to do what I can because I can.
So, Reality: We mentor two girls, sisters who are over our age range, through a program in River City. They’re white. When a situation arose where we worried they might be going into the system somehow, which turned out not to be the case, I worked out everything in my head to calm myself down in figuring out whether we could manage to care for them if their parents couldn’t. We love these girls and the answer was unequivocally yes, that it would be (relatively!) easy and fulfilling to have them in our homes. So we’re open to what comes. I’m just noting this all so that I can see down the line what does and doesn’t change.