This is the 16th article in Jason P’s series about Foster-Adopt. To read the first in the series, click here.
There were several potential placements calls that we didn’t take next steps on, not because we didn’t want to, but because we didn’t think we had enough experience to handle the situations that presented themselves. Nonetheless, those decisions still haunt us today.
But as first-time dads, we had to accept the fact that there were certain instances that we were just not prepared to deal with. We still had learning to do and these potential placements needed so much more we could possibly ever give. Even if we did choose to move forward and try our best, it just didn't seem fair to these children who would need more than two inexperienced parents could possible give and so we waited.
A couple of calls came, but just as before, they were all beyond our realm of capability. Our phone then seemed to go silent. Days felt like weeks. A few weeks felt like a lifetime. We had hoped to begin the school year with a child and yet there we were at the end of September, our fully furnished child's bedroom just staring at us.
Feeling helpless, I turned to the Internet, certain that if they couldn’t find our child, I could. I had been warned time and time again that these websites are usually last resorts for children with extremely challenging circumstances – but I just couldn’t help myself.
I started obsessing on sites like AdoptUsKids, Wednesday’s Child and Heart Gallery, often checking many times a day, refreshing the browser in hopes that "The One" would finally appear. These were the same sites that in the beginning had helped us hone in on what we had hoped for in a child and yet now these same sites made the whole process seem impossible.
“How about this boy in Colorado,” I would ask Eric, or “How cool would it be to adopt from New Mexico?”
Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Louisiana – you name it, I looked. I would find children on one website and look for them on another, gathering info and videos in hopes of finding the one who would be ours. Eventually I veered way off course and started looking at children in Congo, Zaire, and Ethiopia, knowing full well the restrictions on same-sex couples adopting in places like these.
There were children on the sites whom I had never met but grew to like, hoping each time I refreshed the browser that their faces would disappear as if they had suddenly found their forever homes. But they didn’t. They were always there, a smile on a face, a football under an arm, selling themselves, hoping for a chance, running out of time.
This emotional journey down a black hole of waiting was taking its toll as I became consumed by the search. My desperate measures led me to discover one boy on Wednesday’s Child. Maybe? Possibly? Could he be the one? I mean, our rescue dog had appeared on one of those adopt-a-dog series on the news, so why couldn’t we get our son from TV too? The way he was described seemed manageable and he was certainly cute. We thought we could make it work so we asked our social worker for more information but just as had happened before, it wasn’t the news we wanted to hear.
At that point, our social worker also pleaded with me to stop. "Stop looking at the Internet," she said. "Stop obsessing with something you can't control."
“For some families it just takes time,” she reminded me. And so I agreed – but only if we submitted our home study for this one boy in Colorado. Eric and I had discussed how much of an adventure it would be to drive out for a visit, become a family and then have one heck of a story to share – but his social worker preferred a local family and so that hope died right alongside the others.
It was now October and not only were our dreams not becoming a reality but we were drowning in stories of children who had suffered so much. Here in what I expected to be the happiest time of our life was now the darkest hour.
We received a letter from DCFS inviting us to a roller skating event for potential adoptive parents and potential adoptees. It specifically mentioned not to bring your own children so they weren’t confused with those available for adoption.
“Is this for real,” I wondered. “This really happens?”
I immediately called our social worker to inquire about the event and she shared that she had actually been the one to recommend us for an invitation. She knew we were struggling and thought it might help.
We were recommended for this? But I don’t even understand it. Roller skating for children? I had a hard enough time comprehending the websites of children in need of forever homes and now you want me to go put on some skates and do the limbo to find our son? The heart in me didn’t want to attend but the curiosity needed to and so I RSVP’d "yes."
But then it all changed again.
While sitting at the car wash amongst the sounds of the various outdated arcade game machines and that stupid magic claw thing that nobody ever wins at, my phone rang and it was our social worker.
“There’s a child I want like to talk to you about,” she said. The magic words.
Not planning on having an even remotely significant, let-alone life changing, conversation while having my car washed, I borrowed a pen and piece of receipt paper from the cashier and found myself hunched over the 50-cent-for-a-three-minute-massage chair struggling to scribble every word. I looked to the car, now going through the wash, and realized it was the first time I was without my list. I was completely unprepared. But this time, I wouldn’t need it.
For the first time on this journey, the story I heard was one where hope had not faded. This was a story where there was still a fighting chance. Maybe, finally, this was the one. "And best of all," she said "it needs to happen fast" – which by all means was fine with us by this point. Knowing Eric would agree that we should get all of the information we could, I let her know that we were definitely interested and that we would wait to hear back from her with any further information she could gather.
I think I stared at my phone all afternoon but our social worker, whom I fully trusted was doing her job dutifully and with best efforts, didn’t call back that day. Or the next. Or the next one either. With no additional information to share, she simply had nothing to report. Days spent staring at my phone turned into a week.
Finally she did have something to report but it wasn't the news we wanted to hear. What once had seemed so urgent was now going to make time. Weeks perhaps, maybe even more. "And because you're now considered a potential match," she added, " we have to rescind your invitation to the roller skating event."
To read the next (and final) article in Jason P's series on Foster-Adopt, check here.