Monday, May 13, 2013

Prepare to be documented!

On Friday we received a 'welcome' packet from the adoption agency.  Inside, along with some pretty pictures of smiling kids and letters congratulating us on deciding to adopt, were two CDs.  On the CDs are lots and lots of forms, questionnaires, and checklists which we will need to complete as part of the homestudy process.

Now, I love a well documented administrative process as much (ok, probably more) than the next person.  I am truly at home in bureaucracy. Compiling documents and data, marshaling affidavits, and navigating intricate, hierarchical processes  is something I do very well. I actually enjoy filling out forms, checking boxes, attaching appendices and validating affidavits.    But... wow. This is a daunting pile of paperwork to contemplate, even for me.

I know it's all important.  Obviously, they need to know if we have criminal backgrounds, or are financially unstable, or religiously opposed to medical care.  It makes sense to ask about our education, our relationships with our extended families, and our medical health.  And naturally, there's going to be some regulations regarding the condition of our home and various safety protocols.  We knew going into the process that there would be a lot of questions to answer.  But seeing it all laid out in one place, one set of documents, well, it's just shy of overwhelming.

Of course, the agency'll help.  Just having compiled all the documents and forms and questionnaires for us is a big help.   I can already tell I'm going to love the checklists.  Marriage licence? check.  Birth certificates? check.  Two years of tax info? check.  Immunization records for the cats? check.  Lock box for cat medicine, separate from lock box for human medicine? check.  Fire escape ladders for each upstairs bedroom? check...

Sunday, May 05, 2013


Conan loves to play games.  He frequently beats adults at Uno, Connect 4, and Memory.  He loves Sorry, War and Chutes & Ladders.  He learns rules quickly, understands taking turns and scoring points, and he can plan and pull off simple two turn strategies to set himself up for a win.

Recently we got a game called Blood Bowl, which, simply put, is a card game where monsters* play football.  According to the box, it's for ages 14+.  It's quite complicated, with several decks and a gazillion little chits and tokens.  Naturally, Conan really really wanted to play it.  So they set it up and played.

Conan loved it.  It took nearly an hour to play, which is an eternity in 4 year old time.  He keeps asking when we can play again.

*Yes, I know that Warhammer is a lot more than monsters, but I had to sum it up in one word from a 4-year-olds vocabulary, Ok?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Adoption: why?

One of the questions on the adoption application we are filling out (because we have finally chosen an agency, woo hoo! but more on that later) is simply, why have you chosen to adopt?   It makes perfect sense to me that the adoption agency wants to know  (I suspect "need more orphans to build the death ray" is the kind of answer that probably gets you disqualified) but I've been a little surprised at the interest in that same question in real life interactions.   Since I had to write it out anyhow, I figured I'd put the answer here, as well.  And expand on it a bit further than I did on the application, because I think will be important, later in the process, to remember exactly why we got started.

I've kind of always been intrigued by the idea of adoption.  From an environmental sustainability point of view, having children is not great; overpopulation is a big issue.  From a societal benefit point of view, it makes a lot of sense to me to adopt an already born child, rather than produce a new one, when there are already perfectly good kids out there in need of a home and family.  And from a purely selfish point of view, I really didn't enjoy pregnancy and don't want to do it again, although there's no medical reason not to (we're not dealing with infertility or any kind of medical danger if I were to become pregnant again).

But these are not really why we're doing it.  These are rational, intellectual reasons why adoption is a good fit for us, but to really kindle the kind of enthusiasm that is necessary to go into this process, you need emotion.

For me, the emotional kick came while I was driving home from work, one day in February, listening to the radio.  Some kind of international official (I wasn't really paying attention, at least at first) had been sent to Syria to check on the situation there, and was being interviewed about what he had seen.  The interviewer asked something like "what was the thing that really stood out to you, as you visited the refugee camps?"  The reply was that the impact on the children had been especially hard to witness.  He described a very young child, 3 or 4 years old, who had been scooped up by a neighbor or relative and saved from the bombing of their village, and was now in the camp.  No one really knew if the rest of the child's family had been killed, or maybe were in a different camp, or what.  There was very little organizational capacity available for reuniting families divided in this way, and of course food and shelter and general safety were much higher priorities overall.

It makes me cry, still, to think of how scary that would be for a child.  I thought about Conan in that situation.  Not knowing where he was, where mama and papa were, who would take care of him, or who would comfort him would be so overwhelming.  I wanted to find that child, hug him or her, and make everything better.  And then, I realized, I could.  I could make things better for one kid, not that same kid in a Syrian refugee camp, obviously, but one kid somewhere that just wanted to be hugged and loved and told that everything would be alright.  I can't solve all the problems in the world, but that one, right there, that's one I can manage.

I went home and told Cary the whole story, and that I thought we should adopt a kid.  I pretty much expected him to talk me out of it.  After all, we were happily settled into our life as a family of three, and had rebuffed all the friends and family who had asked us when we were going to have another kid firmly enough that the question had stopped coming.

But instead of talking me out of it, he just said yes.  Yes we should.  Let's do it.

We had more discussion after that, of course.  We talked about the age range (2-3), gender (either), nationality & race (no preference), and of course we talked to Conan, gently, about how he would feel about having a little brother or sister (he's all for it).  We did a bunch of research online, inquired with friends who have adopted about their experiences, corresponded with adoption agencies, got info packets in the mail and joined discussion groups.

This is a big process, and it will take a while to complete.  We are just now at the point where we're formally applying to the agency we've selected.  Soon we will start the homestudy process, which will take 3-6 months to complete, and then we will be waiting to be selected as a prospective family for a kid in need of one, which could take a year or more.  It will probably be hard, not only to complete all the paperwork and background checks and whatnot, but also to keep our intent strong enough to make it through the waiting period.

So why adopt?  Because someday, I will hug that little person tight, and tell him or her that it will be alright.  And it will be.