Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to adopt. There are so many children, of all ages, out there who don’t have loving homes. I remember watching a talk show when I was in junior high. A man in the audience stood up. He said he grew up without parents. He grew up feeling not wanted and wishing he had never been born. What an awful thing; one heart or many, I couldn’t stand that such a feeling even existed in the world. When I was dating my now-husband, I told him of this desire to adopt and he was on-board. I wasn’t surprised at all. His heart is wide-open, generous and kind. But, at the same time I knew how much he loved me. So, was he saying he would want to adopt, just to make me happy? I couldn’t be certain. Until, fast forward 6 years later and I was at work. I had just finished a treatment with a baby who I just adored. Okay, truth be told, my heart melts for many of the babies I treat. I mean, how could it not? But this one baby in particular, tugged at my heart strings. He had no home to go to. No mommy or daddy waiting to take him home. I texted my husband how much I adored this little one. I think it went something like this: “I want to take this baby home, he makes me do squishy face.” That was it. He texted right back. “Okay. Let’s talk tonite. Let’s find out how we can make that happen.” What? I wasn’t completely serious because I figured it was a long shot. I mean, I didn’t know the full story about this baby.. .maybe there was an aunt, or a grandparent. But, perhaps he was more on board than I thought, and certainly more on board than what I was prepared for in that moment. I was elated and, at the same time, reminded at how truly lucky I am.
That baby ended up being discharged from the hospital. But, it didn’t stop my husband from signing us up for a class to find out more about fostering and adopting. Perhaps not that baby, but he wanted to make sure we were prepared if and when another opportunity presented itself.
STEP 1: Take a Prospective Foster/Adoptive Parent Orientation
DH signed us up for an orientation through the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. The orientation was held in a classroom at a community college. We arrived and were a bit lost as to where to go. We saw a gentleman who appeared just as lost as we were. Then another couple. And then another. We walked together as we navigated our way through the campus. Once we arrived to the right building, a man was standing in the hallway with a big name tag on his chest. There were balloons near doorways in the hall. He asked if we were here for the orientation. Then pointing to each door, he indicated one as the Spanish-speaking class, another for Portuguese, and another for Chinese. Wow! The classrooms were full. He said, head up the elevator to the English-speaking class. When we arrived, the class was full. The instructor asked for volunteers to help get more tables and chairs. Immediately, many people stood and helped. Those still seated helped move desks around to make more room. I breathed deeply in, filling my lungs with all the warmth and love in the air. Cheesy, I know. But, with all the negativity in the news today, it was so refreshing to be there; the aura of really good people was palpable.
The instructor welcomed everyone and expressed sincere appreciation for our attendance and our consideration to foster or adopt. It wasn’t the atmosphere of those “come and listen to our schpeel and get strong armed into signing up for a time-share” talks. No. There was no pressure to sign up. It was informative and supportive. The instructors talked about both the gravity of responsibility as well as the fulfillment and satisfaction of providing a safe and stable home to a child/children. They talked about the requirements and qualifications, the considerations, and the available resources and services.
STEP 2: Heart-to-Heart
After the orientation, many of the individuals and couples stayed to fill out and submit their applications. Some were there for second, third times—having told their success stories of foster children who are now in college and how they are ready to open up their homes and hearts again. Humbling. DH and I looked through the application. We talked about all the responsibilities and considerations that were talked about in the orientation. We left with the application mostly filled out but still in our hands. It wasn’t for lack of desire to open up our home or hearts to a child in need. Sigh. It’s not that simple though. We weren’t ready to submit that day, and that’s okay. We know that this decision is bigger than just the two of us alone. This decision will impact our home. We need a separate closet or dresser for the new little one, and a separate bed. It’ll be tight in our small 2 bedroom home, but we could make it work. This decision would impact our LO, who is just 3 years old and still potty training, learning to share, and needy for us. Would he regress? How would he adjust? This decision will impact our support systems, the grandparents who we will undoubtedly turn to for help babysitting. The decision will impact our time and our finances. Both DH and I work a lot already and the guilt we have for not having enough time with our LO is tremendous. Plus, I am embarking on developing a business with my sister that takes up what little free-time I have and eventually, it will also mean sacrificing money to invest as well as my income. This decision will impact our relationship, our marriage. For Better or Worse, whatever we decide, we are in it together. We are realistic that another child means everything shifts, whether we decided to birth another baby or foster/adopt another. It’s a decision not to take lightly. We know we want another. But, is now the right time?
STEP 3: Family Meeting
We spoke with our parents. Each of them were supportive. So supportive; the easiest part so far. How did I get so lucky to have such an incredible family, such a strong and unfailing support system?
STEP 4: Mail in the Application
Once the application is received, you get assigned a case worker who will help you navigate the process. Fingerprinting, and background check. A home visit to make sure your home is up to snuff. Pools are secure. Household cleaners are locked up. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. An interview…y’know, to size you up. And a training – a 12 hour no cost training for CPR and First Aid. And then another no cost 8 hour training before a child is placed in your home – this is a mandatory annual training course. In total, this process can take up to 90 days to complete. But, it’s necessary to make sure they are placing children in safe, secure, loving and well-intentioned homes. Alas, we haven’t gotten to step 4 yet. All in due time. When we are all ready…still ducks to get in a row.
If you are interested in becoming a ‘resource parent,’ check out ShareYourHeartLA.com. I encourage you to attend an orientation to find out more.