Our Imperfect Lives

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Officially MAPP Graduates

Last week we finished our very last MAPP Class – Wahoo! The MAPP Certification is good for 5 years, so let’s hope we get placed with a kid or three before then!

Our last class was one of the more emotional classes, not necessarily because the discussion topics pulled at our heartstrings more than others, but because we weren’t just discussing hypotheticals and ifs and maybes. We had the opportunity to watch several short video clips of youth discussing their experiences growing up in foster care. Real teenagers telling their very real stories. One of these stories was a girl who attended 13 or so high schools before making the decision to just drop out and get her GED; “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was when she transferred to her thirteenth school and was told she would be a ninth grader because not all of her transcripts and credits followed her to this last school – when she should have nearly been finished. This girl’s story was sad, but at the same time inspiring, because after all of that she was attending community college. She signed herself back into the foster care system after aging out so she was still receiving state help, but she was working to make something of herself after persevering through difficult times.

Another story came from a young man who lost his parents in a car accident. He was placed in what was thought to be a loving and nurturing home. However, after several years in the home the father, a preacher, decided that the young boy was teaching his biological son his “Mexican ways” ( he was Venezuelan) and had him removed from the home.

Some of the other stories were more positive. A young girl who was placed with a family who she stayed with for many years and gave her the love and support a child needs and deserves. All of the stories were heart wrenching – and inspiring at the same time. The story of the child or children we are placed with may share some of these stories and they may not, we won’t know until the time comes.

While the class was eye opening in ways we also know that we have a lot to learn about the process and the experiences and troubles children may have. For now though we’re focusing on our next step, which is to have a home study done.

The home study can take two to three months. Our understanding is that the inch thick packet of questions we had to complete as part of the MAPP class will be nothing compared to this process – lots of personal questions, self reflection and evaluation by DCF. In addition to all of that, this process will include an inspection of our house to make sure it’s safe and adequate for a small child to call home. So naturally, we’re viewing this impending process as motivation to cross a couple of items off our relentlessly expanding list of home repairs/improvement projects.

We love our home and we think it will be a perfect place for children to live and grow. It’s large, but not huge, it’s cute and comfy  – and it’s over a hundred years old – so it has some quirks and is in need of a few updates. Some of our electrical work hasn’t been updated since before disco was cool so that has been our first plan of attack. Thankfully, this is actually the easiest task because it’s going to be done by someone else: a licensed electrician.

We do have a myriad of other tasks that we’ll be doing ourselves, some of which are already underway. The important thing for us to remember when we start home improvement projects is to actually finish the project. We’re great at getting projects about 90% done and then getting distracted. A great example of this is when we tore down some ghastly retro paneling and a drop ceiling in our hallway and added a chair rail in the hall and staircase.  We’re so close to finishing – we just need to fill in some gaps and touch up some paint, but it’s been at the nearly finished stage for months. We’re hoping to fix that soon. (We can pretend that we haven’t finished because we’ve been waiting to get an electrician in to install a hall light but that would be a lie – anyway we’ll have a light by the end of the week!).

We’re hoping to hear from our area DCF office to schedule our first visit of the home study and while we wait we’re making our list, checking it twice and diving in. It may still be months until we are eligible to be placed with a child and we’re going to be as productive as we can in that time. Who knows how much (or little) time we’re going to have once we do get placed with a child – or children?!

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Lots to Do, Lots to Take In

It has been a busy week! We had our third MAPP class on Saturday, visited DCF to get fingerprinted on Monday evening, and attended the one evening MAPP class (a panel presentation) on Wednesday. We are looking forward to finishing our training this coming Saturday and moving on to the next phase of the process.

Last week’s MAPP class covered the adoption and fostering of children of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, among other topics. During the class discussion participants shared their expectations of race/backgrounds/etc. and whether they’ve shared these expectations with their friends and family. One couple in the class, the two gay men we’ve decided to befriend, shared their story with the class: While discussing the subject with one of their mothers, she said (and we’re paraphrasing here), “You plan on adopting a healthy white child, right?”

This of course, is not the most likely outcome. This couple appears to be pretty much on the same page as us and have pretty similar expectations to ours.

Now, we’re guessing that you’re probably wondering what those expectations are, because we’ve realized we haven’t touched on who we’re hoping to adopt…

As you’ve perhaps already deduced we’re not necessarily looking to adopt a white child, in fact we have no requirements or desires in regards to race or ethnicity. With that being said, since we live in a city where we’re in the minority as whites and the vast majority of the city’s population is Hispanic, we have imagined (correctly or not) that we will likely be placed with a Hispanic child or children.

Did you catch that – children? It was a hint towards another one of our adoption requirements, or really lack thereof. We are open to adopting a sibling group. We both have two siblings and can’t ever imagine being separated – even as much as we may have bickered as children – so we want to do as much as we can to help keep siblings together. We live in a 4 bedroom home (that’s including our master bedroom) so we have the room plus we want more than one child, so there wasn’t a need for much debate. The only unanswered question is how many children we will open ourselves to; three appears to be the current cap.

We do admit that we’re not completely restriction free. We do have an age range that we’re shooting for; we prefer to foster a child/children aged four or under but we have some wiggle room. Additionally, we understand that the majority of children in the foster care system will have some type of health/emotional problem which could range from being born addicted to drugs, to learning disabilities, to post traumatic stress disorder, and beyond. As a result, we’re trying to prepare ourselves for a child with mild to moderate needs.

We want to be as open as possible to different situations to help increase our likelihood of being placed with a child or sibling group, but at the same time we want to be realistic regarding what we can handle as a couple and as parents. The further we go down the path towards fostering to adopt the more we’re able to evaluate what we think we can handle.

Last night we attended a panel as part of our MAPP class with a DCF attorney, social workers and adoptive parents. This was an experience that provided us with a lot to learn – it was almost overwhelming the amount of information we got at times.
However, what we heard was  thought provoking and it helped us to further reflect on ourselves and what we’re ready to take on.

One of the more fascinating discussions of the panel was the “matching process.” It was jokingly compared to online dating and shopping – and from what we understand these are fairly accurate comparisons. Generally speaking, when a child is identified that needs an adoptive family, the child’s social worker distributes information about the child to other social workers in the state. Potential adoptive parents also have social workers, who follow up by contacting them, sharing information about the child, and following up if the child seems like a good fit. A group including the child’s social worker then sits down to review the candidates and select the family that would be the most appropriate.

Adoptive families also have opportunities to attend ‘adoption parties.’ An adoption party is where adoptive parents can get to know social workers and learn more about children who are available for adoption, typically older children, around five and up.  We’re told that adoptive parents barely even see the children during these parties as they’re running around playing with the other children while the adults mingle and chat.

All in all it was a great night. We especially enjoyed hearing from the adoption supervisor for the Boston area as she has nearly 20 years of experience and was full of stories and helpful information. Equally interesting were the accounts from the two adoptive mothers. It sounded as though they had ideal experiences and we can only hope for things to go as smoothly and end up with as happy of a family picture as they painted last night.

It is hard to believe but after last night we only have one more Saturday class and we’ll be done with our MAPP classes and moving on to the next step in this process. Thankfully none of the scary situations and thought provoking questions that have arisen in class have caused us to second guess any of this and we’re excited to move onto the next step of the process after the completion of the class which will be a “home study.” We are hard at work finishing as many of our home improvement projects as possible before then!


It’s a Small World – this Fostering World

We started this whole process last fall by filling out the initial paperwork, meeting with the social worker and having our first home visit. Now, as they say, timing is everything and unfortunately we started this process just a week too late and narrowly missed the start of a MAPP class in our very own city. So we sat back and waited for a class to be offered again; we figured we live in a fairly big city and another class should be offered soon. We ended up waiting for a while…

It’s now spring and still no classes are scheduled in our city, or in our county, which is why we decided to travel 45 min south. Although we’re familiar with the area and didn’t mind commuting since driving though Boston on a Saturday is fairly painless, we were a little disappointed. We were hoping to meet local people whom we could build friendships with and use as resources throughout this process.

However, as luck would have it we might still have that opportunity!

When we arrived to class we took a seat in the back next to another couple that looked about our age (coincidentally enough they were both teachers like Meg). The class was slowly filling up and shortly after we settled into our seats two men walked in and took a spot across the room – they were clearly a couple. Admittedly we were a little happy to see we wouldn’t be the only same sex couple in the class. However, our good fortune didn’t end there. As it turns out they lived not 15 minutes from our home and one of them grew up, and even taught for a few years, in the very city we call home.

At this point it’s still too early to tell if they’ll be people we’ll want to have a lasting relationship with but there’s certainly potential and we’re excited about that. We seem to have a lot in common which bodes well.

And in other small world news – another member of the class grew up in the same town as Marcy only a short bike ride from her childhood home, but is about 15 years older than the two of us.

OK, enough of the fun small world tidbits, lets talk about the world of fostering to adopt…

How was our first class you ask? Well, it was mostly what we expected, at least so far. Marguerite had done a lot of research so we had a pretty good overview of what fostering to adopt is all about. We also went into the class with the understanding that a lot of what the class would be about is pretty much scaring the crap out of potential foster parents to make sure they enter into this commitment with their eyes open. It seems as though a lot of what we discussed was merely an overview of adopting through the foster system. We touched upon who in the DCF we would potentially interact with, the roles and rights of the birth family, the foster family and the adoptive family. Plus, we learned about some of the baggage children in the system might have. In all likelihood the discussions are only going to get more in-depth and more difficult in the upcoming weeks. Not to mention it was hinted that we’re going to participate in… dun dun dun – role plays. We both hate role playing.

And now, dear readers, it’s time to do our homework before class number two on Satuday.