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Over the years I’d considered adopting. It was something that I had considered doing from the time I began imagining starting a family. However, every time I thought about it, there was always a reason not to go through with it. We didn’t have the space. We didn’t make enough money to support another kid. On top of all that, I had no idea where to begin. I never thought about it seriously enough to even talk it over with my husband. I’d just tuck the thought away somewhere and forget about it until the next time it would pop up in my mind. Then things changed. Maybe it was because we had bought a bigger house. Maybe it was because our biological son was reaching an age where parenting didn’t feel so overwhelming anymore. Maybe it was because we needed to feel like we were doing some good in the world at a time when things seemed really bleak. Whatever the reason, we jumped in head first and never looked back.
Having an older kid already, we didn’t want to start over. Neither my husband nor I wanted to go back to the days of changing diapers and being up all night. So we decided the best way to grow our family was to look into adopting older kids. We did some research to see if adopting was actually realistic for us and we had a discussion with our then 10-year-old son. We talked with him about what adopting older kids would mean and how things would change for our family. He’d always wanted a sibling and was over the moon excited about the idea, so we found an agency to help us navigate the process and get our foster care license.
In order to adopt a child who is in foster care, you have to be a licensed foster home. The reason being that until an adoption is finalized, that child is still in the foster care system. The process to get licensed isn’t complicated, but it is time consuming. There is a ton of paperwork, background checks, questionnaires, mandatory training classes, and a home study where a social worker inspects your house and basically asks your life story. For us, it took just shy of a year from when we initially contacted the agency until we became licensed.
Waiting to be licensed was hard. There were times when it felt like we would never be matched with a child. It was a frustrating year. A year of telling family and friends who didn’t fully understand the process or why it was taking so long, “No, we aren’t to the point of being matched,” and, “No, we don’t know how much longer it’s going to take.“ It required a year of patience.
Unfortunately, there was more waiting after we got licensed. Because we wanted to adopt and not foster, we only considered children who the court considered “legally free” – children whose parents have had their rights terminated and need adoptive homes. I don’t know how many profiles we read. For the children who seemed like they would be a good fit for our family, our case worker would reach out to their social worker and share our family’s profile. There were a few times when we really got our hopes up, but each time we weren’t the family chosen. No one really tells you to be prepared for the rejection on top of the waiting. It’s rough.
There is a reason things take so long. These kids have already been through so much in their lives. The last thing they need is a quick decision being made about an adoptive family. It took a lot of patience and a lot of reminding ourselves that things have a tendency of working out the way they’re supposed to in the end. And that’s exactly what happened – eventually.
About six months after our license was approved, we were finally chosen along with one other family to come in for what can be best described as an interview. We went in for the interview, and were asked numerous questions about ourselves, our family, and why we were interested in adoption. They told us more about the boy we would potentially be adopting and gave us a chance to ask questions. It went really well and we left feeling optimistic. It seemed like we would be a perfect match. So we were gutted when we received an email a few days later that they had chosen the other family. It was so disappointing. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that we weren’t chosen. But we tried to think about how these kids waiting to be adopted must feel.
Fortunately for us, that’s not the end of this story. Out of nowhere our case worker called a little over a week later and told us that the other family had backed out. They decided they weren’t ready to pursue an adoption because of some personal issues. The boy’s social worker had called her and asked if we would be interested in meeting him. Apparently, the adoption team had really liked both families, but had to pick one. When the other family backed out, we were their first thought.
What ensued after that now seems like a whirlwind. There were day visits to the park and to get ice cream. Then visits at our house so he could see everything and get used to it a little bit before we had an overnight visit, and then entire weekend visits. At the start, the adoption team anticipated a slow transition from his current foster home to our home to give him time to adjust and feel comfortable. We weren’t sure what that would mean in terms of an actual timeline. They hesitated to set dates for anything and make anyone feel pressure to meet those dates. The upside is that it left a lot of flexibility. The downside is that for about a month and a half we were in constant limbo. They would only schedule our visits with him about a week at a time, so for that month and a half we only knew our plans one week at a time. We couldn’t commit to plans for anything else because we were never sure if we’d be having a visit or not. And for most of that time we didn’t have a set move in date. My husband and I both planned on taking some time off from work once he moved in, so we both had to tell our employers that at some point in the coming months we would need some time off work, but we had no idea when exactly that would be. For a planner like me, it was a high stress month and I’m pretty sure my anxiety was at an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Luckily things went really well and he moved in with us quicker than we anticipated. He was ready before anyone thought he would be and we were lucky to have a team that recognized that. He hasn’t been with us that long, but he’s already fitting right in. He and our biological son have a lot in common and love to play together. He loves to play Mario Kart with my husband. He loves hanging out with my parents, who he calls grandma and grandpa. And he loves to hop in the car and go just about anywhere, so he often hangs with me when I’m out shopping. He’s absolutely adorable. Everyone who meets him can’t help but love him. I don’t think he could be more perfect for our family.
Even though we’ve been lucky in a lot of ways, that doesn’t mean this whole process hasn’t been stressful and exhausting. We are mentally worn out from working to maintain connections with his former foster placement (who were friends of his biological family); shuttling him to therapy and doctor’s appointments; managing social worker, case worker, and guardian ad litem visits; making sure he and our biological son both feel included and loved; and making him feel welcome and like he belongs in our family.
This is the world of adopting older kids. It demands a lot of patience and a level of commitment that some days you feel like you don’t have. But in the short time he’s been with us he’s blossomed. He’s come out of his shell and is comfortable at home with us. He’s doing better in school. He’s laughing and happy. That’s all because he’s part of a family that absolutely loves him. Because of all that, when I lie down in bed at night and can’t sleep because I feel overwhelmed, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
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