We recently completed the last day of our adoption education program. I’m feeling a little sad that it’s all over already. We were looking forward to it for so long and it all went so quickly! Our class became fast friends, and we already have plans to meet again in August for a potluck.
I remember in the first class how they emphasised that the training would not answer all our questions, but would simply be an orientation to make sure we are giving due consideration to the many variables that come into play when you are adopting a foster child. They weren’t kidding. We learned so much, but there is still a lot of self-education that lies ahead. I want to read more about fetal alcohol syndrome, learn more about what an Aboriginal cultural plan involves, techniques for building attachment and improving communication with kids that have learned not to trust adults to stick around.
In our last class, we talked about the remainder of the overall adoption process so we could have an idea of what lies ahead. Of course, there’s no way to offer estimated time lines since every situation is quite different, but they talked about the home study – which will take several months to complete – and how the social worker will be asking about what we have done to become more educated on some of the issues addressed in our training. We were told which social worker our case has been assigned to. That surprised me a bit; for some reason I thought our adoption coordinator would also do the home study.
This is where the real wait time begins. There is no rhyme or reason to how long a couple can wait at this point. You’ve done everything you can, and it’s just a matter of your social worker seeing if there is a child already in care that would benefit from being in your family. What I do like about the process is that the emphasis is always on finding the best home for the child – not finding a child for every home. But that also means that a seemingly “perfect” couple can end up waiting a long time.
When they think they have child who is a good match for our family, we’ll be presented with a proposal. They will give us time to look over the whole package, but apparently they usually have a good sense within a week as to whether or not it will be a good fit. That made me nervous – I can’t imagine making such an important decision so quickly! Fortunately, they clarified that if we need more time to get a medical professional to review the file, they are certainly understanding of the wait that can exist in booking those kinds of appointments.
If you decide to accept the proposal, the next step is meeting the kids. The first meeting was likened to a first date...it’s a shorter meeting, usually coffee at the foster family’s house or something similar. Just a chance to meet each other and begin getting to know each other. If all goes well, there will be a transition period of several weeks, where visits increase in length, occurring on different days and at different times of the day, so you can become familiar with the child’s routines, habits and preferences.
If there are no red flags, this is the point where the child moves into your home – affectionately called the “Gotcha Day.” I love that! So cute! They also make sure to make it a meaningful transition for the child with a little ceremony and families will often celebrate Gotcha Days annually, just like a birthday.
Of course, this doesn’t mark the end of the process at all! In fact, it’s when the real work begins! This is where everything we have been learning and preparing for is put to work. They talked about what a transition looks like for most families: the period of testing, settling into new routines, moments of crisis, and acceptance of the new family structure. Apparently, adoptions that dissolve will usually do so in the first 18-24 months, so those first few years are critical and there are lots of resources for helping families work through it all.
Now, even though the AEP is over, that doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly become scarce around here. I will still keep you up to date on what Clark and I are reading and studying, and the other things we’re doing to help us prepare to become parents.
Waiting to Belong started as a movement to help the more than 30,000 kids in Canada who are waiting to be adopted. Our goal is to see as many waiting kids as possible be placed into loving, forever families. We work to shape realistic perceptions of adoption and to encourage the body of Christ to come alongside adoptive families in practical, loving ways.