Archive for September, 2009

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where our file is going now

September 25, 2009

Because we’ve been really been thinking in a lot of parallel tracks about how we’ll proceed with adoption stuff, I just want to give a quick rundown here of what’s going on as of now.

Elizabeth will come over in 10 days or so and we’ll talk about getting our homestudy corrected. She doesn’t know what the protocol is for this (maybe because ours is the first ever to have errors, but I kind of doubt that since our homestudy worker Kate has the most seniority and experience in the region; instead I suspect it’s because unlike in other places we don’t have the right to look over our homestudies and Lee and I only got ours because we made a freedom-of-information request at the state level) but she’s talked to her supervisor and they’re looking into it. I’ll feel a lot better about sending out a document that has flaws but not dramatic differences from reality.

Within our state, my high school classmate has given Elizabeth a copy of the file for the maybe-gay white teen boy on her caseload. He has significant challenges facing him, but they’d be ones we’d be willing to work with if the state decided our home would be the best placement for him. It would be kind of a stretch for us, but it would be in keeping with our commitment to help kids stay in their home regions and learn to live in an affirming community. We’re also waiting to hear more on these Middle Eastern brothers. We’ll probably go ahead and send out our file on them just because we have nothing to lose (since although we can only have our file out for one case in-state at a time, we can’t do anything more formal with the other boy until his case goal changes to TPR or adoption) but it’s looking like a long shot for several reasons.

In our two months with Adopt America Network, we’ve spent a lot of time sorting out what’s going on with our homestudy and how best to present ourselves in light of that. I get emails from Claudia or someone else at AAN almost daily about kids from all over the country looking for homes, which is heartbreaking but also reminds me to be optimistic about our chances of being matched.

We’ve had AAN send out our study several times. The first one, a boy about 10, has already been turned down because they’re not looking for an adoptive home for him now. We’ve also had ours sent out on three different black teen boys and one teen girl (who did feature my pet peeve issue of a homestudy making a point of talking about how she’s learning to be girly instead of a tomboy, which clearly pleases her worker but may or may not do all that much for her own self-esteem) and a young sibling duo.

Today Claudia emailed with a 9-year-old boy she thinks might be The One, and he falls right into the area of what we’re looking for. One of the photos of him shows that his face structure (and maybe skin color, though that’s always hard to gauge) is very much like Lee’s, so I’m glad we sent a lot of pictures along with our Dear Worker letter. Ever since Atlasien’s post about physical resemblance and matching decisions this is something that I’ve had in the back of my mind. It’s one of the reasons Lee initially wanted a biracial child specifically, because she thought people would feel more comfortable that he “fit” our family if it looked like either of us could have been his biological mom.

I have no idea where any of this is going. Well, I trust Claudia to advocate for us. I mean, she took our Dear Worker letter and photos and sent them out to hundreds of social workers she deals with just to see if that would ring any bells! We love Claudia!! And I trust that Elizabeth will be able to get things improved on our study, though that will probably take some time. We also signed up for a state-sponsored weekend training session in November, and I’m looking forward to that. But September is drawing to a close and I just wanted to take a minute to look back. Last year at this time, we had graduated from our training class and gotten through two of our three homestudy visits from Kate. A year later, we don’t have a child (which we’d expected) but we’re working toward one still. A year from now, we’ll have some kind of final resolution. Wow!

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there are always other options(?)

September 23, 2009

Today I talked to one of our state’s adoptive placement specialists down in the capital. But more importantly, after way too long lazing around I wrote our “dear worker” letter and sent it to Claudia, who’s going to be sending it out to workers she deals with. Adopt America Network now has a copy to send out whenever our homestudy goes out too. I’m working on a page of photos for Claudia to send too, and that may be something AAN would use too. And in local news, our local social worker Elizabeth got in touch with me. Her family emergency has stabilized and she’s made an appointment to come over and see us to talk about our options and how to get our homestudy fixed at last.

But as I said, I talked to the placement specialist downstate. After writing in the last post about two boys who didn’t fit our expected criteria but who nonetheless might fit our family better than most others in the state, I couldn’t resist calling in to ask about them. She was really thrilled about our interest. These are two brothers, older teens, who were born halfway across the world into a Muslim family. I’m assuming that they are now US citizens since their profile mentions a non-citizen mother in their home country. I don’t understand why they haven’t been reunited with her, but they are apparently well-behaved boys who are working hard and want to go to college here. They’ve lived with extended family members in the past and are apparently looking for an adoptive placement. While obviously this would throw me up against one of my worries about ethical adoption — since they have a living mother in another country — I could imagine us taking on roles as new aunties in their lives.

Of course, these are two boys who may or may not have a religion different from ours (and I’ve never talked about my experiences in Islam, though they’re a major guiding force in my life and might be bigger if there were more space for queer women like me there) and who come from a culture that doesn’t overlap either of ours. We probably have a lot of friends with similar backgrounds, and in fact there’s a friend of ours who’s been pressuring us for a year to remember that he wants to be our son’s Uncle Ahmet even though he’s in Europe and only connecting with us via the internet these days. So when I saw an Ahmet on the state photolisting, I really couldn’t resist asking about him and his brother. Apparently we’re the only people in our state to show interest in these boys so far, which is extra sad to me. But these are young men who need to be in touch with their culture and their culture (however that’s defined) probably doesn’t have a lot of room for two-mom homes. They may want to rule us out before we even really find out about them, though the state worker has sent a message to their worker to see if she can ascertain this.

I’m not writing this because I think it will work, but I’m writing it because I have an undergraduate minor in their family’s religion and it really felt wrong not to get in touch with their worker to find out whether we might be a feasible home for them. I know from the spelling of their names that the Middle Eastern language I speak a little of is not the one they know, but again it’s a question of whether what we can offer with our diverse big city here is better than what they can get in other parts of the state. So just after writing about what kind of child we’re looking for and crafting a letter about who we are and why we’re looking for that kind of child, I’m also sending out our file on two young men who don’t meet that profile and hoping that Elizabeth will be able to tell us more about them in the next day or so. In reality, this is (I think!) how it goes, a lot of crapshoots and coincidences. I have no idea where we’ll go from here, but we’re moving.

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“open and relaxed”

September 21, 2009

In response to my last post, Mama Drama Times Two wrote, “I respect how open and relaxed you are about the whole matching process.” I’m not sure that’s how I’d have put it, but I guess we do have a pretty wide range of kids we’re willing to look at. I tend to get hung up on what we don’t think we can handle — no pet abuse, no major medical conditions since we both work full-time — and feel vaguely bad that we’re putting so many limitations on things, even though I know it’s necessary. We’re open to boys — one alone or two brothers — ages 3 to 15 with a little bit of wiggle room on either side. We’d prefer a black or biracial child. We’re open to a child (boy or girl) whose sexual identity or gender roles could best be served by a two-mom family, though I think this might be more of a stretch for Lee than it is for me. But we’re open to any child who’s the right match for us but doesn’t meet any or all of those preferences.

I’ve already said that Lee believes things will work out how they ought to in the cosmic scheme of things and we’ll end up with the child who’s right for us (or with no child at all before the next school year starts, in which case Game Over) and I think that belief is mostly a coping mechanism but not one I really want to argue about with her. Me, I’m not like that. I wouldn’t say I’m a worrier, but I always like to have a gameplan with plenty of backup scenarios already worked out in my head.

For instance, in preparing for the weekend (which is when I started this post) I knew of three or four things we might be doing on Saturday (plus the things we would be doing, like buying tile and choosing a paint color for our soon-to-be-remodeled bathroom and getting the house tidied) and I’ve already thought through the various permutations. If my friend from high school does stop by to see me for the first time in 10+ years, I’ll need to already have the house tidied and we probably won’t take the dog to the dog park with another friend and her child. If he doesn’t stop off on his way to visit his parents, then we can go see this friend at the park, though of course only if the weather’s nice. And I have meals planned, though if Lee’s not in the mood I’ll have to swap in something else instead. This is just how my mind works and what I need to be comfortable. It turns out that we did buy tile, didn’t buy paint (I’ll stop off on my way home from work today to get some of those little pieces of paper with colors), saw my long-ago-bestbestbest friend Sunday evening, didn’t make it to the park, and found ourselves trying to take lots of naps and get lots of vitamins because Lee is having some sinus-related sickness and I seem to be following her down that path. The point is, I planned a whole bunch of if-thens and adjusted accordingly to reality. It’s just what I do, what I need to do.

So as soon as we’re looking at a child’s profile, I’m thinking about what the logistics would be of getting this one to Head Start if his daycare is across the river at Lee’s school. And how young is too young to be on the top bunk? If this kid is active in martial arts, could we get him to try capoeira and thus spend more time with other black kids than he’d be able to at school? It doesn’t mean that I’ve signed off on having this child in our home, just that I don’t feel like I can move forward and express interest without some sort of concept about the future.

But I feel a lot of guilt and uncertainty about this process, more and more the longer it takes. Yondalla wrote a wonderful post on termination and “clean hands” and how tangled her thoughts about it have become. I’m awfully tangled myself. While we specifically chose to focus on black boys because we think we can meet their cultural/social needs within our family, we also did it because they’re the group that’s least likely to be adopted and most overrepresented within the system. So our thinking was that there was a need and a fairly large population, plus we think we’re probably better at meeting these kids’ needs than most of the families available in our fairly white and quite culturally segregated state.

And yet! The reasons black boys are overrepresented in foster care are complicated, having to do with how our culture looks at boys and (especially black boys) as hard-to-handle or dangerous or wild and how black families involved in the foster care system on the whole receive a lower standard of care than white families do. And so it’s not the same as looking at some international adoption situations where the supply of healthy babies magically grows to meet the level of demand from adopting parents, we’re also specifically looking at getting into a system that will have children available to us (or so we thought; so far no bites, obviously) in some part because of injustice and racism and social policies we don’t support. So then what?

I don’t really have an answer. We’re sticking with it and still focusing on black boys because, as I said, we feel like we could be a good home for some child who’s already had his parental rights terminated — I guess even if we don’t agree with the rationale — and who could do better growing up in our home than staying in the foster care system until aging out at age 18. We’re focusing on black boys even though just that restriction makes me feel somewhat creepy as if what I’m doing is too consumer-minded. Lines have to be drawn somewhere, though. We’ve said we aren’t comfortable raising a Latino child because although we’ve both had a lot of Latino and Spanish friends, we don’t have many nearby at the moment and we aren’t more than tangentially part of those communities around here. And I’m fine with saying that, or saying that because we don’t know ASL we wouldn’t be the right home for a deaf child. But making the more arbitrary choices, that 15 is better than 16, that black is better than white (or than the two boys on the state listing who are outside our age range but from an ethnic/religious community I know a lot about and have had as a major element in my life, but who for that reason probably wouldn’t be best off in a two-mom home) is really an icky feeling for me and I don’t know if there’s any way around that.

I do think we could be a good, nurturing home. I think we could be good parents whose strengths complement each other well. Heck, after another week or so we’ll even have a shower and two sinks in our bathroom! (And I’ve even been able to get over my objection that dual sinks is a seriously yuppie conspicuous consumption thing and admitted that our quality of life would go up if neither of us had to move in the mornings so that both of us can floss and brush our teeth at the same time. I’m growing up!) I do think we’re doing the right thing and going about this the right way, or at least that’s mostly what I think most of the time.

I have to keep my desire to reform and improve this system separate from my desire to be a mother through special needs adoption. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to do it or only way to do it, but it’s all I can manage right now. But I don’t and can’t feel like I’m morally clean or that this is some easy good. I just still think we could be the best of many broken alternatives for some child or children, and I do still hope we will be. I’m just still feeling a little guilty in that hope.

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why we value openness

September 17, 2009

If I’m doing my math right, Lee was 16 when her birthdad, Richie, died. It was a few years before Lee met the daughter he’d left behind, who was only 6 months old at the time of their father’s death, and Lee hadn’t seen her since then. Last night they spoke on the phone for the very first time.

Lee’s half-sister Shasta is 31 now, not much older than I am. For all that we’ve talked through my desire to be closer in age to Lee than to our hypothetical future child, I never thought about being basically the same age as her sister. And maybe that’s one reason it hit me so hard from the first message Shasta sent to Lee on facebook that this is someone like me, who’s lived as much life as I have without ever really knowing who her father was or having any connection to that side of her family and her history. She now has a child herself and has made some good choices in her life that have left her alienated from her mother, and now she’s been able to reach out to meet someone new.

They don’t really know each other yet. I don’t think Lee has officially come out to her, though it’s pretty clear from her facebook page that we’re together and when Lee asked if she had “a boyfriend? a girlfriend?” she didn’t seem shocked by the concept. I’m sure this will be a conversation soon. For now, they’re just talking about the basics and getting to know each other a bit.

Because I come from a family without many gaps, where we all know each other and see each other sometimes and know how we’re related, I haven’t really gone through this. (I do have a blood cousin I’ve never met and whose name and location I don’t even know, but I’m hoping to find out from the uncle who is this child’s father once the child reaches age 18 and maybe I can have some contact then.) Lee, on the other hand, was adopted by her grandparents and so gt instant brothers and sisters who were all already adults by then. Her closest bond is to her (adoptive) sister Grace, who’s near 80 now.

Lee’s half-brother (her birthmom Leah’s first son) was raised by their maternal grandparents. By the time Leah had the youngest of her three children, she was in a stable relationship and a healthy emotional state and raised that girl herself. All three of them flourished — though they all seem to have different measures of sadness/grief/anger/guilt related to their separation — and got through college and then graduate school in the same field before working for a series of big corporations. Lee has since quit the corporate world in favor of teaching (a choice she appreciates on a daily basis) but she managed to work at the same major corporation her half-brother had and her half-sister had at different times and in different areas. Although there’s no legal bond between them thanks to Lee’s adoption, they know each other as siblings and I love seeing the commonalities between them. Lee had a wonderful visit with her half-sister last summer and we hope to get together with her and Leah in the coming year.

Shasta, though, lost her dad when she was a baby. By the time she was older, her mother had started telling her that maybe Richie wasn’t her dad anyway and maybe someone else was, so she always kept her eyes open around town and knew who the people with Richie’s last name were and compared herself to them but never got to know them. It sounds like she didn’t have an easy life with her mom, and now they’re definitely estranged. She didn’t get the support and opportunities Lee did, but she’s persevered and it sounds like she’s now doing well.

I don’t know yet if she’ll have the same shoe size or smile as Lee (though both acknowledge they have the same nose) but I know that when Lee sent her a facebook message saying that she’d call in the next couple of days, Shasta responded with another about 49 hours later wondering when the call would come, a classic Lee showing of impatience and literalism. They both seem to have followed their father’s tendency to seek out fun even when that’s not the wisest option, but have both been able to temper it with self-control and self-awareness. At this point, they’re both pushing themselves to be open with each other, but it’s clear that this is kind of a stretch; they seem to have similar protective barriers in place.

I wish Shasta hadn’t had to wait 30 years to see her sister. I wish Lee had been able and willing to play a role earlier in her life, when she could have been a positive role model and a support. But I’m so glad that they have this chance to know each other now that they’re mature enough to also know themselves. Both times when Lee called Shasta’s number, someone else answered and as soon as Lee identified herself said, “Oh! Her sister!” This contact means so much to Shasta and I’m so proud of Lee for being forthcoming and supportive.

I hope if we have a child that we can maintain connections like these earlier rather than later. But I think of all the adoptees with sealed records who are never able to reach out even as tentatively and fearfully as Shasta did with her facebook request and I feel worse for them. We’re trying to build a family through adoption because we think blood and genes aren’t all that matter in making a family. But they certainly matter in making a person and I certainly don’t want to devalue that. From what I know of Shasta, I very much want to meet her someday. I think she and I would get along well. And of course, I love her sister.

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keeping our options open

September 15, 2009

I guess I’ve been on facebook a few years now, though I initially wrote this post to say I’d joined in the last year. It was a great way to keep track of what my brothers were up to, and I’ve since added even more distant relatives. My dad’s cousins mock-complained at my grandfather’s funeral that thanks to facebook contact with my brothers and me their children had known more about the funeral preparations than they did. Now I’m friends with a few of my favorite professors so I know what’s going on now at my old college. And I accepted friend requests from every high school classmate who asked, though I’ve since dropped some who were choosing to be shrill about anything anti-gay or racist back around election time.

A classmate who was a shy, quiet, somewhat heavy girl in high school sent me a friend invite even though we had never been close in high school. We have a lot of friends (facebook and real high school) in common and so of course I accepted her. She’s since bought a house like ours in the next county (not surprising since it’s a pretty common local look, though not one I’ve seen elsewhere) and we bonded over that and her puppy. And she’s a social worker for the state, working with teens in and out of care. So when she noticed I’d had a few negative status updates about my frustration with our homestudy, she got in touch to ask what the question is.

She has a teen on her caseload who hasn’t had his parental rights terminated but who seems to be heading in that direction, and it’s pretty much a done deal since criminal abuse charges have already been filed. He’s had a really nasty background in his family that’s left him confused about his identity in many ways, including in terms of sexual orientation. He claims to want a mom figure in his life and my friend thinks that’s what he needs, but she thinks he doesn’t have good role models for what a mom role is like. And since he’s in foster care, she can’t tell me all the details and even the details she did tell me aren’t anything I want on the internet at all. But he’ll be 15 soon and he’ll be finishing up his intensive residential treatment program soon after that and he might need a family who could support him figuring out who he is. He might be gay or bisexual; he’s also white.

The day my social worker friend got in touch with me was the day I’d emailed Lee already to say that she needed to get her thoughts together about how she’d feel about parenting a gay boy, since she’s the one who’s so keen on parenting a boy and because I’m okay with it. I told her it would probably come up soon, and sure enough it has. And I’m not really sure what our answer is, which is fine. We’re not committing to this boy today, and not just because it’s not clear whether he’d want us as his foster-adoptive parents and because he’s not even at a point where he’s looking for foster-adoptive parents. If he’s having trouble figuring out his sexual identity, it might be better for him not to have parents who are an obvious lesbian couple. It’s likely at some point he’d hear, “Dude, if your MOMS are gay, doesn’t that make you, like, gay by association?” and if he doesn’t have an answer to that that’s he’s comfortable giving (I mean, beyond, “Dude, why would you even ASK something that stupid?”) then this might not be a comfortable family situation for him.

And I have to admit that for both of us it was a little bit of a stretch to imagine parenting a white boy. (This is also probably where I should admit that there are two brothers on our state listing who are neither black nor white by normal US reckonings with names that mark them as being from a part of the world where I’ve studied and which I love, but we haven’t asked about them because it seems like the push to keep them in touch with their home culture across the world is probably in conflict with having them in a two-mom home, though I’m still wrestling with this a bit and will probably call their adoption coordinator. The bigger issue is that they’re large teen boys and we’d have a hard time fitting them in the spare bedroom, maybe. But I dream….) Anyway, as much as I’ve dreamed about girls and about other options, Lee and I have both been sticking with the default of a black or biracial boy or boys as what we’ve imagined.

The reason we were interested in black boys was that they’re the most over-represented group available for adoption. We thought we should be preparing ourselves to go where the need was greatest within what we felt able to handle. But that was also when we were thinking about our state, not looking all around the country the way we’re doing now. And when we talked about it, I felt strongly and Lee came to agree (I think without feeling pressured by me) that we’re serving the same kind of need if we’re open to boys with non-heteronormative sexualities even if they are white. I mean, we felt we could meet a black child’s cultural needs and keep him in contact with his culture, but our black church is also very much a gay church. We have a whole lot of friends who are gay, bisexual, transgender, cross-dressers, pretty much anything in that spectrum you could think of. And if the argument was that we could do a better job raising a black boy than most of the foster-adoptive homes in our state, well, it’s hard to disagree with the idea that we would be more comfortable with a non-straight kid than would most of the other prospective parents in our state.

And there are many things that could still change for this particular boy, which is why we’re not hung up on him particularly. I talked to my friend for quite a while today and she’s going to keep me updated on his case. But many things could happen with TPR, in relation to what having to testify against family members might do to him. If he and his brother — who apparently has more problems — don’t have their cases separated, probably neither will be recommended for adoption. And indeed he might not want to be placed with us or the other workers might not think we were a good placement or he might start acting out and have to stay in residential treatment well into next year instead of being transitioned out around the semester break.

So we’re not counting on him. I haven’t given him a mental pseudonym because I don’t even know his name; that’s confidential. I know some things he’s done and things that have been done to him, but I don’t think they define him. I do know that when asked what he liked to do my friend’s first responses were the sport Lee played (which she didn’t know about) and an activity I enjoy, which is a bit of a good sign. So as I told her in an email just now, he’ll stay in my heart like every single child we’ve asked about does. But we’re not going to hold our breath waiting to see if we’re right for him.

We’ll keep working with Claudia and AAN to see if we find a match in another state and let my friend make inquiries in the permanency department here. We’re going to just keep trying because I feel better now about how we’re a resource. I do believe we have a lot to offer a child. I hope we’ll end up with a child who can experience that (because I don’t want to be unrealistic enough to hope for “enjoy” or “appreciate” or “benefit from”) and that child could be a black toddler or a white teenager or — gasp! — a girl or even a Martian at this point and the biggest point would be that it means we’re able to give what we have to give and get whatever it is we’ll get from that child. There are many ways this could go. And I’ll probably have some frustrated and bitter facebook updates no matter what the outcome is!

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kid-related weekend tidbits

September 9, 2009

This post is a bribe to myself. I’ve been agonizing over the Dear Worker letter we need to write and I was able to use last nights’ giant lightning storm as an excuse not to finish it then. This post is to give me a chance to write and think about other things BUT with the understanding that if I don’t then write the stupid letter tonight and be done with it, I’ll have to start giving taking indulgences like this away from myself.

Anyway, I used to write a lot about how things in our day-to-day life intersected with my thoughts about adoption and I haven’t been doing that as much lately. So because this weekend gave me so many examples, this is what I’m going to do now. I’ll write as much as I can in 10 or 15 minutes and then I’ll be cut off until I’ve written my letter.

On Saturday, I got to meet for the first time in the flesh with a birthmom about my age who has a child in an open adoption and who’s in River City getting a degree in Women’s Studies and teaching what sound like some really cool classes. Because she’s not a blogger, I don’t want to write about her particular situation, but it was nice to talk to someone who understands how Catholic guilt and dysfunction work in families like mine and who’s interested in many facets of adoption and child welfare. We’re really looking forward to getting together again to talk more and she’s encouraging me to consider attending adoption conferences, which is already something I find awfully tempting.

Then Sunday we were at church again, where one of the attendees talked about how her mother had become sober after more than 50 years of alcoholism and substance abuse. This prompted another to talk about how she’d recently gotten custody of her children back from her mother after being sober for two years. Because this is a church dedicated to meeting people where they are in their lives — be that gay, poor, addicted, whatever — there seem to be a high number of former alcoholics or substance abusers, or at least people who are open about these histories. I know there are others in the church who’ve had custody disputes within their families because others didn’t think openly gay parents should be raising children. Since almost all the couples and most of the singles there are or have been raising children, obviously that’s worked out for most of them, but the former addict of course got me thinking.

I obviously wasn’t going to quiz this woman for the details of her story and I don’t know her other than what she disclosed, but what she said was pretty much how I think foster care is supposed to work, though I have no reason to believe that the state was involved in making decisions about her children. Because she was an addict and was not able to care for her kids properly, they went to live with her mother, who assumed a caretaking role for them. And then once she’d made it clear that she was in a healthy relationship (from the way she tells it; again I don’t know them) and was clean and sober, she felt ready to have her children back. In her case, the transition wasn’t smooth. Her mother had bonded with the children and didn’t want them moving away from the life they’d lived for the past few years. But finally the mom conceded and they’re going to live full-time with their mom and make frequent family visits to grandma’s.

If the kids had gone into the foster care system, I don’t know if they would have been placed with family. I do know that their mom wouldn’t have been able to take her own time in getting out of addiction and stabilizing her life; she would have been on some sort of court-mandated timeline. It certainly sounded like her journey out of substance abuse took years, not months.

And I’m scared because I don’t know what we’d do if we were offered the opportunity to adopt a child whose rights had been terminated in a situation like that, with a parent who was making strides but not doing enough or moving fast enough. I know it happens and I understand why it happens. I can’t even make myself sit down and write a stupid letter to a generic social worker, and that’s without any stress and trauma motivating me the way I’d be pressured if I’d had a child taken into care and needed to meet someone else’s goals to have access to that child.

I know that our plan is to work within this system not because it’s perfect but because we thought it was the best of our alternatives, but sometimes I still feel guilty and over-priviliged and selfish.

And then on Monday we spent some time with our lawyer-singer friend and her two children, now 8 and 6. They live in the town next to ours, which is bigger and has much bigger populations of both the very rich and the truly poor. These friends and their neighbors were early to move into historic buildings in what has become a gentrified area. The houses are bigger and nicer than ours, and it’s definitely a lovely place to raise children, though very white. The younger child asked if we were gay, which is apparently a new word to him, and was satisfied with the answer. The older child has to find a new school for next year when she ages out of Montessori. Her parents have been discussing sending her across the river to her grandmother’s school district so she could attend a highly rated public school.

The only people we know in that area of town who send their young children to public school do so in part because their children are half-Mexican and half-white and they wanted them to be in school with others who are like them. While all the white parents are liberal and most support public education in theory, they have a lot of reasons for not sending their children to public schools and I’ve never heard them use the racial and economic diversity of the public schools as a rejoinder. (I’m being a little hypocritical here since we’re not sure we’d have our town’s public school as our first choice; preferably not before grade 7 or so, when kids leave the somewhat ossified elementary school for the much better middle school and high school, but a big part of our discussion does concern diversity.)

Anyway, the point of this story was that this little 8-year-old related to me that she’s worried about going to public school because she thinks there might be bullies there, whereas she says bullies wouldn’t be tolerated at her school. I’m running out of time and won’t elaborate on this now, but I’ll just say that many tangles in life have a lot to do with privilege and predetermined expectations. And that’s what I’m thinking about these days.

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stress and superficiality

September 2, 2009

I’m letting things get to me. I wrote last week about how I was hitting a little period of sadness/grieving/PTSD remnants/whatever, and I’m sure that’ s a part of it. My tolerance level just isn’t what it needs to be. By the end of an evening of socializing or a litany of complaints about the house from Lee, I’m now snappish instead of patient or supportive. My fuse just isn’t what it needs to be to get through daily life, though the pattern seems to be that I manage the day all right (extra pressure comes from being the office manager while my own boss is on vacation) and then at some point around 8:00 get cranky and annoyed and say something bitchy to Lee and then immediately apologize and sequester myself upstairs where I can’t make the annoyance worse. Well, except last night when I was crankier and said a few things about how I was annoyed and need a more positive environment and how frustrated I was.

Most of that is just my issue, which is why I’m starting by saying that. But I’m also frustrated that I’m not sure we’re on the same page with how to do this adoption search thing. I mean, we’re both fine with our Plan A, where Claudia has already found the perfect boy for us and at some point his worker and her supervisor will have a chance to read our homestudy and high-five Claudia for another job well done and then start the ICPC work to make an interstate placement possible. But if that doesn’t work, then what?

It’s going to be crazy-making (though not a bad thing!) to be getting emails every day showing new kids who are available for adoption. I know from the experiences of so many other bloggers who sent out their information on hundreds of kids before ending up in a successful match that we should probably just be sending our files on anyone who sounds plausible. Lee — at least yesterday — disagreed and thought that we should feel some kind of special rightness before making a move. So while I was reading all these profiles with the thought that our default was to say no and we were looking for a reason to say yes, she was just simply waiting for some moment of emotional connection. And since I don’t like things that aren’t quantifiable like that, it scares me and I feel a bit uneasy.

I’m also not sure where we are in terms of demographics. In my mind, we’re looking at a solo child or same-gender sibling group of 2 ages 5-15, with a little wiggle room on either side of the range. But while Lee’s gotten over her original insistence on realizing her dream of a biracial boy who’s 3 or so — particularly after spending enough time caring for a 3-year-old to see how much hard work it actively is — I think she must have some other mental dream child who’s taken his place. We’d had all kinds of conversations about the benefits of raising an older boy, but then when I emailed her about a profile today she said she thought 13 was way at the top end of our range. And when they sent us some sibling profiles, her response was that she’d completely forgotten about looking at siblings. And I know the photograph is going to be the make-or-break thing for her when she’s making her snap decisions, and that bothers me.

I’m writing this here because I already wrote to her and said, “Hmm, I guess we’ll have to talk about this in more detail to make sure we’re on the same page!” because I’m afraid if I try to push her into clarifying herself I’ll end up frustrated and cranky. So instead I’ve told her that and I’ve made an appointment with Elizabeth to talk about where we stand with the state and what we can do about the inadequacies in our homestudy.

The Adopt America Network worker on our case (not Claudia, who does our matching, but one of the other people who’s been helping us get our paperwork ready to go and then sending us profiles) suggested we write a letter with corrections to the homestudy and an explanation of how it still represents us accurately on the whole and then send that letter along to the social workers who will be reading our profile. And she also suggested we make a page of pictures of our house and of us enjoying our favorite activities, because some workers feel closer to a family if they have that visual connection.

We already made a picture page during our preparatory classes, and a photocopy of it is in the homestudy, but it’s not all that exciting. It shows our animals, us on our trip last summer, and Lee sitting on our front steps with the dog. Like the “dear birthmother” letter we had to write, I thought of this as sort of something that was a crossover from domestic infant adoption, not as something that was all that useful in the matching process. We knew our page of photos was supposed to get turned over to a child after we were matched, but since we’re looking at such a broad age range we didn’t do much beyond the basics in terms of showing ourselves.

Anyway, because I’m conflicted about everything right now, I’m conflicted about all of this. I’m frustrated by the picture the homestudy paints because I think we’re better and more interesting people than it lets on, but I’m also frustrated by having to spin us into the kind of cool family someone would look at and like immediately. I just feel icky about all of it, whether and how to market ourselves, how to think about all of this in a way that makes me feel like I’m not just being selfish about everything. I feel bad wanting to be a parent when I’m being stressed out and bad-tempered with just a partner and some pets, but at the same time I know it’s partly the stuff surrounding that desire to be a parent that’s making me so cranky.

It’s all just a pain and a mess, but I guess that’s how it’s going to have to be for a while. Meanwhile, I have plenty of work to do.

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not exactly baby fever

September 1, 2009

Last night we went over to our neighbors’ house after dinner to sit in their back yard and talk for a while. They own the house next door to them and are currently renting it to their daughter so that they can keep an eye on her two young children since she’s mentally ill but generally a competent parent. The older of her boys was spending the night with his grandparents and was allowed to stay up in his pajamas until we got there so he could say good night to us.

He’s just started first grade at the Catholic school across the street from his house. I don’t know if he’s the only biracial child there (black African father; white mother who’s currently the custodial parent) but he can’t be one of many, and one of the reasons his family likes to have us around (besides being our friends!) is that they like him to see families that are mixed like his was before his parents’ divorce.

So Lee and I talked about how cuddly and cute he is at this age, how much better his speech has gotten over the summer. And then we had to talk about what on earth we’re doing, whether we should stay focused on older boys or think about someone more in the range of this kid. I really do think we’re on the right track with older kids, that it’s more in keeping with our lifestyle and with what we have to offer. But he’s so, so cute, and we could handle cute! So we had the conversation we have about every kid we spend time with, that this is a great age and has these pluses but also would be so much work!! And spending time with him, as always, made me grieve a bit for Ezra and for the life we could have had if we could have raised him. I haven’t heard any updates on his move to an adoptive placement, but he’s not on the state listing anymore.

Then today Adopt America Network started sending us profiles of kids who meet our acceptance criteria, so basically the single boys or two same-gender siblings who could legally fit in our spare bedroom. Tonight I’ll talk to Lee about how to approach this, but I think especially since our homestudy isn’t great (though we have some plans to mitigate that part too) we’ll probably go for a buckshot approach and just have it sent out on any child who seems at all reasonable for us. I’m not sure what “reasonable” means, but we’ll have to figure that out. Because we were only allowed to even get basic information about one child at a time in our state, this is all very new to us!

At the same time, though, we have Claudia working to do specific matching. I do have a special fondness for the boy she picked out and I’m glad to know that our information has headed out to his worker, though no one will be able to look at it for at least another week thanks to worker training going on there. I’m really counting on something like that to work out, a situation where we know more going in. But I don’t know whether I’m being realistic in my expectations, which is why we’re trying to cover other ground too.

So today we were emailed the profile a cute young boy who likes to cuddle and is good with animals and I guess that means we’ll see what his worker thinks of us and where on earth we go from there. All of this is so odd, but I’m still hopeful. We’re working on ourselves and open to a lot of possible futures. I’m trying not to get too hung up on what might or might not happen next, which takes a lot of work for me. And this isn’t much of a way to end a post, but I suppose it’s emotionally accurate if I just sign off ambivalently and very much in the middle of things. That’s my life right now.

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