When starting on a new adventure, a new path in life, it’s always good to let someone know where you’re going, just in case you need help once you get there.
Our families had always been good at that – being there, but this would be different. We were talking about bringing in a child that we weren’t birthing.
Other than my cousin, no one in our family had adopted a child. No one.
Now, there was a family story (I can’t verify this) about my uncle Charlie saying he planned to adopt James Dean after Dean and Elizabeth Taylor stayed at their house one weekend when the actors had taken a break from filming Giant. Dean, a former foster kid, didn’t have a “real” family and Uncle Charley never had any biological children. Apparently, they got along great and struck a deal – after filming, Dean would come back and they’d work out the specifics. Dean died two months later.
(James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor hanging out on Uncle Charley’s Couch)
No one in our families had trouble having children, but we remained positive that they would all be supportive and honor our journey.
Most were, in fact, my father said he felt relieved that we weren’t going to try and have anymore biological children because of the two traumatic miscarriages I had.
“You’re in your forties. It worries me,” he said. “You don’t need to be pregnant again. It’s not healthy.”
My mother voiced the same concerns about pregnancy, but I had to keep in mind, she had all three of her children by the time she turned twenty-nine and she’d never miscarried – as far as she knew.
I didn’t even have my first until thirty-five.
Regardless, most of the family members and friends were happy for us and asked what they could do to help the process. We asked for references and people quickly offered to write whatever we needed.
Some were not so thrilled and told us horror stories of families who had all these problems with their children.
My husband asked, “Yeah, you’re telling me stories about family members who are actually related to each other. How is this even relevant?”
We got congrats and “if it makes you happy” comments as well as “better you than me” which is better than, “Are you crazy?”
We contacted Children’s Connections, an agency that facilitated adoptions of children out of the foster care system from other states. Thinking a new start, a new family, and some distance between the child’s biological family would be a good thing, we gave them the $1000 to process our home study and get the ball rolling.
“We’ll find that perfect boy for you,” the case worker told us. “I’ll make it my mission to do it.”
The paperwork took the longest. We needed a fire inspector to come out, health inspector, CPR certification, references, credit checks, and criminal background checks.
Child development classes were waved because I’m a former pediatric trauma nurse and my husband a pediatrician, but we were encouraged to attend child development classes given by the local Child Protective Services departments to “help us understand an abused or neglected child.”
Arrogantly, we thought, “We know what we’re doing. We have plenty of education about that. What could they possibly teach us?”
After nine months of waiting for paperwork to be completed, we got a phone call. A mother in North Texas was having her third child and wanted to give it up for adoption. All she asked for was a few hundred a month to cover rent and all medical costs covered. We found out quickly that Children’s Connection also facilitated in-state newborn adoptions. The case worker told me that for the first time ever, they had more birth mothers than adoptive parents and they thought it was a sign of the down economy, so this could be a “good opportunity to get a child.”
We discussed it, but found out the birth mother also had a drug problem and lived with her drugged boyfriend. Mom admitted to using cocaine, but there could be “other drugs as well” and they weren’t sure if the boyfriend was the father.
Neither of them had jobs and there was no guarantee the money we sent would be used for essentials or that we’d even end up with a child. We wondered why CPS hadn’t been called on this case as she also had two other children.
We passed after I talked extensively to the case worker who said she had other families to call and that she would “find the perfect family for the child.”
I felt guilty for saying no, even though I knew that situation screamed disaster.
“We can’t save them all,” my husband explained. “We can’t do that to our family. I’m not writing a blank check to a couple of people who won’t take responsibility for themselves.”
We continued on, searching websites for children and sending their links to our case worker. Each day, I’d find two, three, or ten boys or sibling groups that might work. My husband would search as well and each one would fall through.
- Just had a failed placement – adoption status suspended
- Adopted by foster parents
- Grandmother adopting
- Adopted by foster mom
- Case worker never returned calls or emails
- Child has schizophrenia, bipolar, had a violent episode and is now in therapy – adoption status suspended
- Adopted by foster father
Now we’re at a year and nothing has happened.
“We’re missing the boat, somewhere,” my husband said. “I keep seeing children being adopted by their foster parents. Maybe we should foster?”
I didn’t know if I could do it. Foster a child and give them back if the parents did enough to appease the court, but we’d come to the point where we kept hitting road blocks.
We discussed private adoption again, but both agreed it wasn’t a good fit for us.
Then out of the blue, a woman told me about a local children’s home who always needed adoptive families. I called them and they said we had to take thirty hours of training before we would be considered.
“Go to Pathways and they’ll get your classes done,” the director explained. “Just a few weekends and you’ll be certified for foster placement.”
Within weeks, we were sitting in class with forty-two other adults, all of whom wanted the same thing – to expand their families by adding children from the foster care system. All of whom had been through the same crap we had, all had been waiting and trying to navigate the adoption process and only found roadblocks and frustration.
When our instructor, Linda Hurtubise, walked in, she explained she’d fostered over 200 children in the past thirty years and she’d give us all the answers we needed.
My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief.
We’d finally found our Pathway to hope.