"doggie!" was Ryan's answer when I asked him whether he wanted a little brother or a little sister. I guess I shouldn't take it to literally since "doggie" is what he calls almost all animals these days - kitty, goat, deer, sheep, pig, you name it. And at 20 months, I didn't really expect an answer from him, but "doggie??" But I'd be lying if it didn't make me think twice about our adoption plans.
I'm surprised by the number of people who have emailed and have said they are interested in hearing more about our decision to adopt and how we came to the decision to adopt a special needs child from China. Not that I thought we were, but it appears we are not alone in our quest to produce a family.
I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone who knows us well that we were pursuing adoption. Afterall, we did spend our "real" honeymoon in Peru at the Sunflower Orphanage. If it were possible, our house would be full of those beautiful Peruvian children. And we had just decided to start the adoption process a few weeks earlier when I first felt the queasiness that told me our family might be off to a different start than adoption.
Pregnancy, with all it's ups and downs and mad dashes to the bathroom was quite an experience, but it didn't present the multitude and magnitude of decisions that we've faced so far with our adoption journey. Not everyone will be interested in hearing all the details, but someone might be. It's not an easy explanation and might best be explained in the research we did and how we ruled some options out (and in).
One of the possibilities we seriously considered is foster adoption. Working with that population of children - the child who is taken away from their biological parents and into the custody of the court system - has always been near and dear to my heart. When I lived in the South Bay, I volunteered as a Child Advocate with the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program. It is basically a Big Brother/Big Sister program on steroids. You go through a thorough training program for several weeks and are actually legally appointed by the court to be a special advocate for a child. You have weekly visits, you talk to foster parents, biological parents, school teachers, social workers and write court reports and make recommendations to the court on behalf of your child.
I loved that volunteer work. It was important and invaluable. And I loved the children I worked with.
That was MY reason for wanting to foster adopt. Tony's reason was much more personal. With his mother passing away at age 17 and his father passing away at age 22, he was an orphan at an earlier age than most of us. And in spite of having siblings and extended family, he struggled because, well, no one can really replace your parents. So for Tony, foster adoption is, putting it mildly, very appealing.
One of our main reasons for adopting is so Ryan will have a sibling close in age. To try to adopt a foster child close to Ryan's age means we would bring in a child to our home that is "legal risk" meaning the first objective is to reunite that child with their biological parents. I've been through that and felt I could handle loving a child as my own and then "giving them up" to their biological parents. But I was pretty sure it would break Tony's heart. And I didn't want to think about Ryan becoming attached to a sibling just to have that sibling leave our home.
So, for now, we've ruled out foster adoption and hopefully, that "for now" will come back into play at some point in our lives.
But at the risk of a really long post, can I put a plug in for foster adoption? I listen to a foster adoption podcast. If by chance, you see me on an airplane with tears running down my cheeks, I'm probably listening to one of those podcasts.
The BEST podcast I've ever heard on foster parenting was in response to their most asked question: doesn't it break your heart when one of your foster children leave your home?
Tim and Wendy (the foster parents) explained SO beautifully, that YES, it breaks our hearts. The went on to explain is that one of the hardest things for a child in the foster systemto do is to form attachments. So that is their task. To help that child build and create attachments. So they love that child unconditionally. They do everything they can to help that child feel safe and secure. They spend their days and nights helping them with their schoolwork, supervising visits with their parents, working with social workers and teachers so they can live as normal a life as possible. And in so doing, they become ATTACHED. That, in a nutshell, is their job.
So when a child leaves their home, they hope it is heartbreaking for both the child as well as themselves. But they also hope that they have created a situation where the child is able to understand the situation and deal with the situation with further damage. So, if their child becomes attached, it hurts. But it's also their job.
So again, although we've ruled out foster adoption for now (again, "for now"), we hope to someday have that blessing.