On the other side of the table

This past weekend we were invited to speak at a pre-adoption class. It was the same pre-adoption class that we took several years ago. Since we attended our class, they have started to ask adoptive parents to come in and speak to the class about what their experiences were like.  Since we are still working towards finalization, we could not comment on all the aspects of the process.  But, we could certainly describe what we have experienced so far.

But, it was a bit weird being on the other side of the table. We arrived and entered in the back door of the Boys and Girls Aid building. Along the way we ran in to one of the waiting mom’s from our Pre-Adoption support class, it was nice to see her and catch up.

We entered the classroom and saw a room filled with hopeful parents. We hung out in the back of the room with the other panelists, like a bunch of cool kids on a school bus. Within a few minutes we were called up to the front and it began. As we did we were shocked to see two for our classmates from our Love and Logic class in the panel as well. They had adopted an adorable little girl. So after a few minutes of “Oh my God!”, hugs, and genuine joy for each other we all sat down and it began.

First, we had to introduce ourselves and then tell a brief bit about our family and our story. Then the teacher asked us some leading questions followed by questions from the hopeful parents directly. After years of working and waiting and being that pre-adoptive family, it was SO WIERD to be on the other side of the table. It was also weird to hear that copies of our hello book were still making the rounds in our old support group, giving other families ideas on how to make their books. On the whole experience was kind of surreal.

It started to remind us how far we have come. So without any further delay…  OUR ADOPTION JOURNEY… so far…

Our adoption journey really started 4 years ago after we saw a child’s profile listing on the Oregon Waiting Children. It wasn’t really the child that grab our attention, but rather that the caseworker was specifically looking for a two dad home. We had no clue that the adoption process had become so open to same sex families. After some long discussions, we worked up the nerve to make the phone call to sign up for a adoption orientation meeting.

The meeting was short introduction into the adoption process. They explained the special needs adoption process in Oregon and laid out some real hard facts about the types of damage these kids have gone through and what we should expect from the child and from the whole process. They also told the whole class to stop looking at the Oregon Waiting Children webpage as those kids would be long gone by the time we got our home study finished (THEY REALLY WERE NOT KIDDING). Which, at the time, was kind of a downer.

The next step was a set of mandatory classes. We were lucky and didn’t have to wait very long for a special needs class to open up. Within a month of our first orientation class, we were in the full special needs class, which covered in length and detail the adoption process and what our kido might be facing or has faced in his short life.

After the classes there was a bit of a pause in our adoption journey, almost a full year. After taking the classes and getting a better picture of what our new lives would be like, we started to set some goals. But the biggest decision was to wait. We wanted a better house/home and we needed to finish up our commitments to the different charity groups we worked with. We also needed to develop a lifestyle that would be beneficial for our future kido and us as future fathers.

So we did things like moving to a better house, started saving money to cover the adoption expenses and began reading a huge pile of adoption books. We also started to get our world setup for kids. We talked to friends and family members to see who would be a part of our family and who might need to not be a part. After almost a year, we both felt much more confident and we jumped back in with both feet. We picked our agency, filled out the agency application, paid the required fees and several weeks later we were assigned to our caseworker.

After a short get to know you meeting with our new caseworker, she started us working on our home study. First stop was signing a bunch of forms. Second stop we got finger printed. Our caseworker gave us a big long list of the information we needed to gather for our home study. Since we had taken some time off in our journey we were able to give her a big stack of legal documents (birth certificates, domestic partnership papers, etc) at our first meeting. But even with those off the list, we had a long list of items we still needed to locate and turn in. We had to supply financial information, personal references and had full medical checkups with drug and disease screening. We also had to complete a huge massive questionnaire, which asked some deep probing questions. The final step for us was the actual inspection of our home, to make sure it matched the state’s mandatory criteria.

During this process we also took some additional parenting classes and we started to volunteer some time each week to providing some respite care for a new adoptive family. The classes gave a much better grasp of the challenge ahead and working with the adoptive family has gave us some hands on experience dealing with a special needs child and the world of post adoption placement.

Once we had all of the required forms and paperwork turned in. Our caseworker started to write our home study. This took about a month. This was our first taste of the waiting process and we learned right away the worst was yet to come. WE HATED THE WAITING!  We were so amped up after getting all of the paperwork turned in, that just waiting doing nothing, felt like torture.

After a few torturous few weeks our home study was ready to go.  We met up with our caseworker and she presented us with two huge 3-ring binders filled with waiting children profiles. Not sure if new families get to see the binders anymore, right before we got Jayme, Oregon switched to a secure online system. But regardless, from those three binders we found 12 kidos we liked. Jayme was kido number one, top of the list.

Our caseworker then sent our new home study off to the caseworkers of those first 12. Since then every few weeks our caseworker would email us a new profile of a kido or set of kidos who she thinks we might be a good match for us. We would also check the waiting children’s websites (daily). Once we check it out and if we like it, she sends in our home study.

So now some depressing math… One of the choices we made was to stick to an Oregon based adoption. Same sex couples can’t really adopt openly internationally and each state has its own rules on same sex couple adoption. We also had a goal age and sex of our kido. We are looking for a little boy, aged 4-9 or a sibling group of boys aged 4-9. We knew that sticking with one state and with such a narrow range limits our options, but it also helped us learn what we want and set a goal and get a plan. So knowing that, we can look at some rough, questionable numbers.

Based on the historical adoption numbers reported from the Oregon DHS…
Last year, 584 kids that fell within our target age range were adopted. (not placed or matched, that could be a much higher number, this is only finalized adoptions) 78% of those were adopted by a foster family, which we are not.
Which leaves 129 kidos. Of that 129 kido’s 49.9% were male
This leaves roughly 64 boys within our target pool. This 64 is before we have even read their profiles. Just a bit depressing, but then we look at our results. Over the course of a year and a half we sent in a total of 48 home study’s. From that 48 we heard back with more information on 6 kidos. Of that 6 we were selected to go to committee on only 3 of them.

But all of that that is getting ahead of our story. So of those 6 we heard back from, the caseworker read our home study and thought we might be a good match. They then sent us a more detailed profile of the kido. This bigger profile shows more of the kidos background, who his biological parents are and more information on any medical or other special needs the kido might have. As we mentioned we only got to this stage with 6 kidos.  The 3out of 6 times that we have gotten to this stage we excluded ourselves from the process. The information we got back showed us that we were NOT a good match. It’s hard not to get a little depressed about the process. After waiting for months to hear back only to make the choice to walk away, it’s beyond emotionally draining.

But as we said we did get to the committee stage with 3 kidos. The first was by sheer luck. Our caseworker happened to be in the right place at the right time, when a family backed out of going to committee at the last minute she was able to re-present our homestudy to the child’s caseworker. Turned out the caseworker really liked us and asked us to go to committee…. in 4 days. It was a mad dash and an emotional 4 days, in the end we came in 2nd place.

The second time we headed to committee was for Jayme. With Jayme we had a long time to prepare for committee and we took advantage of that and had several conversations with his caseworker and therapist. We also took some extra classes that targeted Jayme’s needs better. The third committee we were invited to was to be held 1 week prior to Jayme’s, we felt such a commitment to Jayme that we declined going to that committee (all our eggs in one basket). In retrospect we made the right call, but it was a big emotional event in our lives. At the time we described it as an emotional roller coaster, it was a very mild way of putting it.

We also had to submit twice on Jayme, he was taken out of the adoption pool and then reintroduced later. It was on this reentry into the adoption pool we caught the caseworker’s eye.

When the big day for Jayme’s committee came, Joshua took the day off, to stay home and pace the floors. Later that night we had a big stack of information about Jayme dropped off at our house. Which required several hours of reading, Full medical history, educational records, family information, the works. We will then had 7 days to opt out of the adoption. We gave our YES, 24 hours after the committee met.

Our transition was a slow one.  Jayme learned that he had a new family and then over 4 weeks we met with him several times a week.

Up next…. finalization. At the 6 month mark Jayme’s caseworker and our Boys & Girls Aid caseworker will write 2 letters to DHS, hopefully recommending we move to finalization. They say the paperwork from that point can be 6-12 weeks, but then we all end up before a judge to make it all legal and binding.

But if we have our way… All we want for Christmas is Jayme (and perhaps a trip to Disney World).