I am not yet a mom. The term used in our community is “prospective adoptive parent.” It means I’m in the running for all those terms I cannot wait to be called: mommy, maman, mom, mum. Knowing that sometime in the next year I am going to get to be a mom is still staggering to me. But every time I think about being a mom myself, I am reminded that there is woman out there who has missed out on the chance to parent the child that will one day be pitter-pattering up and down my stairs. Another mom, and all to often in the adoption community, an invisible mom.
November is International Adoption Month! A wonderful time of year to help educate our communities about adoption and foster case, and even greater opportunity to allow less prominent voices within the adoption community to speak up, also known as Flip the Script.
I was really excited to see an adoptee featured in American Girl. Years and years ago, I spent hours flipping through the glossy American Girl magazines and I know how the articles really spoke out to me. The article is written from Amaya’s viewpoint. She is strong, beautiful, and I hope her story helps other girls learn more about adoption and foster care.
On the earth, everybody’s a brother or a sister. It’s like the golden rule in school: People should treat others the way they want to be treated. So we try to do that.
The process of adoption is hard and really never ending, no matter what member of the adoption trifecta one happens to be a part of (adoptees, birth families, and those like us, the adoptive parents). These beginning months of our journey seem to be hard, and I know being an adoptive family will eventually be even more difficult, which is why I am taking this moment to put my jealousy up on the shelf.
We are blessed. We are so grateful that we can consider adoption as our first means of building a family. D and I have not experienced the heartbreak of infertility or child loss. We are not struggling to find the financial means to bring a child into our home and raise them in comfort. Our jobs allow us to save up ample time for the need to stay in country for the weeks and weeks needed to complete the adoption paperwork in South Africa.
So we are finally at PHASE TWO of this paperwork process. Our family physician gave us a bit of a hard time about the paperwork – he wanted us to come in to follow up on our bloodwork in order to get the medical forms we needed to finalize the home study. Except that we did not really go over anything. We just waited around in the office while he finished up the paperwork, which I had to constantly correct as he and the notary kept forgetting to fill out important sections.
But, now our home study has everything, including the official offer letter for my new job! (That’s right! I am officially a new federal employee, which means benefits and income so we can continue onward with the adoption.) Our social worker has said we can expect our final copy of the home study hopefully sometime next week.
Not a lot of time to be posting as my semester continues to ramp up in intensity before I graduate. But just a quick update as to how this is going along:
As I have said before, our home study process has taken a lot longer to go through than we had originally intended for many reasons – new jobs, sick pets, family tragedies and so on. This has given us time to constantly recommit to the process of adoption.
This also means some of our paperwork is now too old.
D and I had hoped that we’d be done in 4-5 months. We’re pushing 9 months. That means our police clearances and medical reports are now getting a little too old to be used for a home study, let alone our South Africa dossier. While our social worker finishes writing up our home study (the last meeting went wonderfully, btw), we are resubmitting for clearances this weekend and working to meet with our PCP soon after. But that is it and then we can put in our application to US Custom and Immigration Services for international adoption approval.
This is a little complicated because D was supposed to be in Asia for work originally on Monday, then next Sunday, and now possibly the Sunday after that instead. It may be that he does not go at all, but the confusion and constant changes of dates makes it hard to arrange for paperwork that needs official signatures and what not. But there is an end in sight and we should have our dossier in South Africa no later than this summer!
A great reminder that the story of adoption should be not focused entirely on the parents. That circumstances and the whys of adoption is something that the child gets to decide to share. Adoption already has too many stigmas attached to it – why add more?
Then add the presence of one of the t-shirts, pushing him into the spotlight further and without his consent, and it screams, “THIS KID WAS AN ORPHAN!” It makes the child, even if unintentionally, the poster child for international adoption or for orphan care. Yes, the child instantly becomes an advertisement for adoption.
Beyond the issue of elevating the child as an ambassador for international adoption, these t-shirts connote far more than the actual words and graphics. Strangers and others start seeing the child as a service project. Or view the first grader as a charity case rather than a boy who likes Legos like his friends. Or perhaps others will believe the child is continually in need of saving or rescuing, given that the a-parents wear these t-shirts again and again and again. Some will fail to see the child as any other child but rather first as an orphan in need of pity.
I am so eager for the rain, warmer weather, and fresh buds poking through the soil. Not so happy about the cold I caught while we were visiting family for a cultural new year celebration back in the Midwest. It kept me under the weather these last few days, but D and I still got to enjoy the pleasure of little kiddos running about with all the joy of presents and people to pay attention to them. Watching D observe the littles as they ran in circles through my mother’s house and attempted to kiss the New Year goldfish warmed my heart. His eyes just lit up. Granted, these kids are amazingly awesome children, very polite, happy, and listen pretty well to their parents. But it is still fun to imagine the heavy pitter-patter of small feet in our own home some day soon for the Persian holiday. My only regret is that I forgot to request a session of family photos for our dossier to South Africa.
Our second home study visit was over this past weekend. D and I tidied up the main floor a bit and talked over our views on adoption again as sort of a preparation to meeting with our new social worker. We were both nervous – I do not think I have wanted someone to like me this badly since I met D’s parents for the first time. I made up for my jitters by being extra smiley and bubbly like I do, but really, in the end, I am decently sure we made a good impression. She was certainly enthusiastic and we were happy to hear that she would be our social worker for the whole duration of our adoption (that means even after placement as we send back reports to South Africa on how our family is doing).
Was it anywhere as terrifying as I thought it would be? No way. It did not feel like an interrogation to me, and the things she asked where not really that much of a surprise for me; D did mention later a couple of questions caught him off guard but they were not too hard to answer. But it was almost fun for me – talker that I am – to share myself and my hopes for a family and why I thought we were a good fit for adoption.
As we get closer to moving into the second half of our adoption process, I want to inform people why we were so set on adopting from a Hague Convention country. Too often when you hear about international adoption, you hear the tragic stories of families being coerced to give up (not place for adoption) their children – either with promises that they’ll be able to get into contact or lies that their children are only going abroad for the education, not being formally adopted to another country.
This is not all cases of adoption, but it should not be any. I make no claims that the Hague Adoption Convention process is guaranteed to eliminate these sorts of tragedies, but it is important that more checks and balances and a stricter background check is in place to ensure that as new families are being created, other families are not being destroyed. The Convention begins with,
Intercountry adoptions shall be made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children and each State should take, as a matter of priority, appropriate measures to enable the child to remain in the care of his or her family of origin.