It was a hell of an experience. And yes, it may be something we’ll experience again. The adoption carnival last weekend was our first “recruiting event” and we don’t think we could have ever really prepared ourselves. It was an emotional and overwhelming ride that also felt very, very strange.
The day’s activities were broken into two parts separated by lunch. The first part consisted of workshops. There were five different workshops and each person could attend two. We opted to get our feet wet together and attend the same workshop first – a workshop on legal risk.
The legal risk workshop was particularly interesting because it featured two unexpected speakers – a mother and her adopted 17 year old teenager. The two were actually attending the event as an adoptive family, looking to add a younger sibling to the family, but were asked to speak by the social worker who worked with them on the adoption five years ago. The other leaders of the workshop were the area supervisor for the southern region of our state and a lawyer who was also an adoptive mother, whose children are now grown.
The workshop was very revealing, we heard from a side of the adoption process that we hadn’t yet heard much from, that of the adoptive child. The teenager spoke about when her biological parents’ rights were terminated and when she was legally adopted by her mom. While the story was immensely informative it was equally as emotional.
We both successfully made it through the first workshop and were ready to take on the second workshop. This time we decided to divide and conquer. Meg went to a workshop about maintaining open relationships with biological families and Marcy headed off to a workshop about adopting sibling groups.
Meg’s workshop was lead by two adoptive fathers. The fathers, one black and one white, adopted two young boys together, also one white and one black. The two young boys came from separate biological families and were adopted two years apart. The fathers shared techniques for handling visits with biological parents – for example, the child was rarely told about the visit before the day of in order to avoid any anxiety about the visit or disappointment if the parent couldn’t make it. They never spoke negatively about the biological family, instead telling their sons that the reason they were adopted was because their birth parents needed to take care of themselves (and therefore could not also care for their children.) This explanation is not only true, but also a reminder of the importance of self-care for all of us. We cannot care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves.
They also shared fun stories from their lives like one about a visit to the dentist. The white father took his black son to the dentist one day and the young boy, while playing with another young (black) child, was asked who the man sitting in the waiting area was. The young boy simply answered saying that was his dad; however, the other child, confused by the answer, asked again – clarifying that he was talking about the white guy in the chair. The young boy again responded saying, “ He’s my Dad. I have a brown one at home too.” That gave everyone a chuckle. The fathers attributed much of their success to frequently checking in with their sons and reassuring them that no topic was “taboo” or would hurt their dads’ feelings.
Marcy’s workshop was lead by two social workers. One of the social workers was also a father of ten – two were biologically his and the other eight were adopted. This workshop produced some comforting facts, as we’re very interested in adopting a sibling group, such as the fact that siblings who are adopted together often act out less and can be more open to lettings other into their lives since they already have life long positive relationship with another person – their sibling.
Even though these tidbits are essential to us as potential adoptive parents to a sibling group, the most interesting parts of the workshop were the stories from the adoptive father/ social worker. One such story was about a lunch he had with his wife, his adoptive daughter and the daughter’s biological grandmother. The grandmother mentioned to the adoptive daughter that she had recently seen “Jessica,” and everyone else at the table responded with a quizzical look. They didn’t know who “Jessica” was. As it turns out “Jessica” was the adoptive daughter’s sister. The daughter found out for the first time at thirteen years old that she had a sister who was 3 years her junior.
Next up in the day’s agenda was lunch. Now this event was also attended by four other couples from our MAPP class so we sat and ate lunch with them and caught up. It was nice to see them and to hear how their adoption process was going so far. One of the couples, two gentlemen who live fairly close to us and are working with the same social worker as we are, recently finished their home study and have already started to receive phone calls about possible matches – we found this to be pretty promising for our own prospects.
After lunch was the toughest part. The children (about 100) had made their way to the event with their social workers and were given t-shirts and name tags that identified them as adoptive children. We, as adoptive parents, now had the opportunity to meet the children we were interested in, who we had already read about in the booklets we were provided at registration, and to chat with their social workers. 150 potential adoptive families had registered for the event, so it was very busy.
There were bounce houses, crafts, face painting and a DJ all set up for the kids. The adoptive parents could just walk around, observe the kids, and hunt down the social worker matched with the child you wanted to learn more about. We found this process to feel very strange, especially since most of the children were outside of our preferred age range.
We took a lap around the carnival, chatted with our social worker, who was attending the event representing our area, and left. It felt too strange and overwhelming. We didn’t feel ready to speak with anyone new at the event. While we saw a young sibling group of two little girls we thought seemed great, we didn’t make any effort to meet them or their social worker. We just weren’t feeling ready, confident, or outgoing enough. Plus, we aren’t yet even eligible to be placed with a child. Our home study is not quite ready.
Of course, now that we attended our first event we’ll be more prepared if we choose to attend another one.