Our Adoption Story: pt. 1

Pre-Adoption: Our Life Before

My husband Billy & I always knew we wanted to adopt. We had talked about it, several times, early on in our relationship. Personally, I never had the feeling that I wanted to be pregnant. I'm not quite sure why, it's just something I've always known. As a matter of fact, the idea of becoming a mother didn't occur to me until I was way in my 30's.

Billy & I got married in 1994, having been together 6 years before that. Our life was pretty wild when we met and continued through out our early marriage. We were very active in the hard rock/heavy metal scene in New York City and "sex, drugs & rock & roll" were the norm.

In 2001, our lives were forever changed and it was the start of a new chapter for us. By that time, we had sewn more than our fair share of wild oats and life was pretty calm. We had decided early in 2001 to move to Florida the following year. Buying a house in NYC is just to difficult (unless you're making mega bucks) and we didn't want to have to struggle each month.

My mother had recently remarried and they bought a winter place in Central Florida so we went there a few times to see how it was. We decided to buy a house there and they also decided to make a permanent move there. One of my longest friend, Adrienne, also lived in Florida (she moved when we were 16) and she lived about 30 minutes away with her husband & 3 kids so this was really something we were all excited about!

In August of 2001, Adrienne's husband George (everybody called him Squeak) died of a massive heat attack at the age of 42. We immediately flew to Florida to be with Adrienne and her kids. I can't even find the words to tell you how much we loved Squeak. Although we lived in different states, the four of us had become very close over the years and had visited each other many times. Just the previous year, Billy & I helped Adrienne locate her birth family and they had their reunion at my home. Billy took a short leave from work and we stayed in Florida for a while to help out and be close.

A short while after we flew home, the events of September 11 shook our world like nothing else. We lost two friends that day and more aquaintances that we knew we even had. My cousin is a firefighter with the FDNY and we attended some of the memorial services and funerals for some of the firefighters in our neighborhood. Our thoughts and what we dealt with regarding September 11 and the aftermath, is a whole other story that I'll tell at another time.

We were hurting because we lost Squeak and trying to comprehend what was going on around us in our devistated city when life had another twist for us. Two weeks later, my mother's husband, Tony had a heart attack and died, on their two year wedding anniversary.

This was a man who had become a father to Billy & I. The four of us lived in the same house (us in the upstairs apartment and them downstairs) and we were very close. To lose so many people and live through so much tragedy changed us in ways that would become a blessing later on and is a deep part of who we are today, which is why it's important to our adoption story.

Our plans to move to Florida were up in the air now, we had lost Tony, who was going to move with us and we had lost Squeak who was supposed to be there in Florida when we moved. Plus, our city was in mourning and we didn't feel right leaving so soon. After many soul baring discussions, we decided to make the move but didn't leave until early 2002.

Starting the Process:

Moving to Florida, after being born and raised in Brooklyn was a culture shock! It's actually been a very positive thing for us, we really like it here. And all we ever meet is fellow New York transplants anyway. :-)

As soon as we closed on our house, we started the adoption process. We had talked about adoption all through our relationship. We really weren't in a rush to be parents. We just kept talking and discussing and investigating all the different ways to adopt so they when we were ready, we would already know what we wanted to do. In the course of all our discussions, there were two issues that we felt strongly about.

One, we knew that we wanted to adopt domestically. We saw no need to look outside our own country when there are children waiting to be adopted here. Second, we didn't want an open adoption. We didn't want to have the committment of having a birthmother in our lives after the adoption was final. Sending pictures and possible visits was something we weren't comfortable with so we didn't pursue that route. We decided to adopt a child (already legally freed for adoption) through the foster care system.

Our Homestudy:

The first part of our homestudy was to take a 10 week MAPP class. MAPP means Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting. The class was designed to expose you to the realities that these kids face in their biological home and in foster care. It touched on a lot of different topics such as attachment disorder, sexual and physical abuse and we spent some time talking about our own childhoods. There were a lot of exercises that were designed to help us put ourselves in the childrens shoes.

I found it to be very informative and Billy & I participated in a lot of the discussions. The two women who ran it did a fantastic job. One of the women, Pat, was an adoptions case worker and the other (her name slipped my mind) was an adoptive parent. We were one of 6 couples and Billy & I both got the impression right away that the majority of the couples were looking to impress the agency and give all the "right" answers.

One time we were on the topic of different ways that these kids act out and one of them was inappropriate masturbation. When Pat said those words, you could hear a pin drop. I think one of the women actually gasped. LOL!! I was the only one who stayed calm and said that I would simply tell them to do it in private. All the parents joked that they were going to send me their kids when they hit puberty.

Towards the end of the class, we were assigned to a caseworker and we were thrilled that Pat took us on. We had started to build a connection with her during our MAPP class and we felt that she knew us very well.

She came to our home about a week later and we spent some time together. She said she was impressed with our openness and honesty during the class. She also said that she thought that because we were personally involved with September 11 and that we had lost so many close people in our lives, it would help us understand the loss these type of kids felt and that we would be able to understand the grieving process (which we spent time talking about in MAPP class). She also said that our "colorful" past would help us not be shocked at anything these kids did.

In the end, Pat would prove to be our loudest supporter and cheerleader but more about that later.

At this time we started talking to Pat more about what kind of child would be a good match for us. We mentioned that we wanted to adopt more than once, maybe over a few years. She asked us if we had considered a sibling group. We hadn't, but the idea interested us. We started looking at the Florida's photo listing of available children while our homestudy was being completed.

When I came across that first picture of my children (before they were mine, of course), it made me take a second look because it was the only multiracial sibling group I had seen. The picture showed "J" at age 3, "S"at 6 and "C" at 9. They were absolutely adorable and I asked Pat about them.

She told me that she had inquired about them and they were in placement with another family. Placement is the next step after you've been visiting with a child for a while. They move in with you for a period of 90 days. Once the 90 days are finished, you can petition the court to finalize the adoption. She also said that the picture was old and they were now 4, 7 & 10. I was a little disappointed that they were placed, but of course, I was happy for them.

We started looking at files and even went to two of the adoption picnics that DCF held. I have to hand it to the case workers at the agency we dealt with. They're a bunch of very dedicated people and they try hard to get these kids faces out there. Some people may not like their methods, but the goal is to get these children adopted, not worrying about offending people every person out there.

The only down side to Florida is they don't allow gay people to adopt. Florida is one of the few states that discriminate against gay people in this way. But that's another rant, another post.

Continued in part two

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Andrea said...

Awesome story so far! I can't wait to read the rest. :)