thought we were special

adoption profile

see our online adoption profile at http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/jamieandsarah

Last month Jamie and I renewed our adoption home study.

The home study is the standard process through which a social worker evaluates our fitness to be adoptive parents. She teaches us about adoption. She checks on our psychological and physical health. She runs all the background checks.

We talk about family history and family systems and parenting styles.

We meet with her together. We meet with her separately. She comes to our house and meets our cat.

She looks at all of our income and collects reference letters from our bosses.

She writes a long, official report.

It is a bit nosy, now that I think of it, but unlike biological parents, adoptive parents have to be carefully vetted.

Last spring and early summer we went through this process for the first time. Lucky for us we had a flexible, funny, cat-loving social worker. We sailed through. We checked all the boxes and settled in to wait.

The agency we were working with says the average wait for an adoptive family is one to two years. Now while we believed them, we also realized that in most things, Jamie and I are above average. Surely next year at the family reunion we’ll have a baby. Surely when our nephew turns one year old in March we’ll be expecting. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll even have to change our Christmas travel plans.

Christmas passed; then March; then the family reunion. Now it’s August, and we’ve been waiting more than a year. We’re quickly headed for longer than the average.

A couple of weeks ago we sat down with our social worker again. The home study update isn’t nearly as intense as the initial intake: just a one hour meeting, a doctor’s note, and updated fingerprints.

Our update was really just a check-in, and as we sat together last month, we processed the year of waiting. Jamie expressed the sentiment we’d thought all along. We didn’t think we’d be waiting so long. We thought we were special.

Our social worker didn’t miss a beat: “You are special.” For a split second I thought she’d validate our self-centered impulses. She’s at least helping us feel a little better. But then came the punch line. “And so is everyone else.”

You are special, and so is everyone else.

It was a direct and true message, cutting through our self-protective exceptionalism and laying bare the waiting.

Jamie and I had built up the wait, filling it with expectations and desires beyond our control. We tried to manage our hopes and disappointments with narratives that made things seem sensible and manageable. But the adoption process isn’t really something you can manage or control. In that way it’s a lot like grace.

Those attempts to figure out the correct path are exposed for what they are: false attempts to manage what is beyond our reach. Those struggles for control are relativized in light of something much larger than us. That persistent need to prove ourselves worthy is released, because it truly does not matter. Indeed in some times and some places, the Gospel message might be just as simple as the adoption journey:

You are special, and so is everyone else.

talking about adoption

Jamie and I have been in the early stage of our adoption process for months.

We went to a workshop at our agency’s Indianapolis office (Independent Adoption Center).

We worked with a local agency to complete our home study including individual and couple interviews and a home visit.

We compiled a wide range of documentation including background checks and medical histories.

We filled out multiple worksheets on openness to genetic predispositions and level or type of birthmother’s substance use during pregnancy.

We wrote a Dear Birthmother letter and created a profile.

We have read and are reading books and blogs, and we both highly recommend Jana Wolff’s Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother.

And as of Tuesday, we have moved from the early stage to the waiting stage. Our home study and paperwork is approved, and our profile is available for viewing. The average wait in this stage is over a year, but a birthmother could call us any day for initial conversations about whether we would be a good match for her.

There is a lot to learn about adoption, and how special open adoptions are. So to get the you started, I want to share these tips for talking about adoption.

Just like with anything else, there is positive adoption language and negative adoption language. Thanks to IAC, here’s the quick guide to both (and of course, we will be insisting on positive language):

Positive Language

  • Placing your child with an adoptive family
  • Deciding to parent the child
  • Birthmother/birthfather
  • Adoptive parent/parents
  • My birthson/birthdaughter
  • Adoptee
  • Child born to unmarried parents
  • Meeting between adoptee and his/her birthparents
Negative Language

  • Giving up your child for adoption
  • Deciding to keep the child
  • Real parents
  • Not the “real” parents
  • My “real” or “natural-born” child
  • Adopted child (when speaking of an adult)
  • Illegitimate child
  • Reunion

 
A few other things to know for now:

We are open to birthmothers and children of all racial ethnic backgrounds.

We will be adopting an infant from somewhere within the United States.

You can share our profile as widely as you’d like. Ten percent of adoptive families find their own birthmother!