Everyone who stops in here pretty much knows that adoption is near and dear to our hearts. More specifically, we are advocates for domestic county adoption -- they are right in your backyard -- though adoption in general is just a wonderful thing.
Our adoption was through the county just south of us and what we did was Foster to Adopt. What that means is that when K- was born, the hospital reported her birth status to the county, they filed for temporary custody (emergency if memory serves) and she came to live with us. She was foster only at this time. Her first week with us was a flurry of caseworker visits (3 total) and a doctor's well visit. (Required to be done the first week a child is with you.) We had a hearing in mid-January that was optional for us to attend, but we were able to meet K-'s Guardian et Litem. The county was awarded temporary custody, then the move was to get permanent custody. Monthly, we had a few workers stop in to check on K-. We eventually gained permanent custody, despite the timing with the paperwork issue, then onward to adoptive status. Early on, we did have one worker give me a tip. I'm adding the others that we found particularly helpful.
1. Keep track of the birth mother via the public record. -- Every state (I think) has online access to the public record. This gives accounts of arrests, court dates and so forth. I would check the record a couple of times a week. If there was a new entry, I would e-mail our worker immediately.
2. Be seen often. -- An optional court date? Go. A review hearing that you don't have to attend if you don't want to? Go. Hubs and I were determined to have the county see our smiling faces as much as humanly possible.
3. Keep impeccable records. -- When we got K-, she was a day and a half old. Keeping records for her was easy, as I just kept an incredibly detailed baby calendar for her. She had a doctor's visit? I recorded it, for what reason, the measurements taken that day and if a follow-up was needed. All case worker visits were listed. Any milestones were recorded. Any new places or fun things we did were listed. She went to the voting booth with me that year (it was a presidential election) and I placed my voting sticker in there. They knew that we were very involved as a family, I had all kinds of memorabilia and whatnot. No questions asked. The worker was so excited when we were wrapping up our paperwork to move onto ADOPTIVE STATUS! that she actually copied the entire calendar so that she could show her clients.
4. Tackle paperwork like a life depends on it. -- Really, this statement is completely true. Our adoptive worker, the one who copied the calendar, commented that she could be to our house on Monday, give me a stack of papers 2" thick to fill out and she knew that it would be in her box by Wednesday. I pushed papers. My husband said that he was stunned with the intensity that I had when tackling the adoptive paperwork. The sooner I got it handled and back into their hands, the quicker we got through the system.
5. Put your big city girl boots on and talk to everyone that you need to at the county. -- Seriously. The county knew that I made no bones about calling or e-mailing. Usually, I would e-mail, as I knew that they had so many cases and that really, we were a cut and dry case. We had to go through the motions (K- was the 7th child, after all) because really they had it streamlined by the time K- came along. It still didn't mean that it didn't need to be handled. When our Guardian failed to turn paperwork in on time and K-'s permanent custody case was appealed (ARRRGGGHH!), I called the CSB attorney. I don't think that is typical for a parent, but he could see with what extreme seriousness we were taking our case. I spoke to department head to address the concerns that I had with the homestudy. Our homestudy was handed over to an independent contractor and she came, took the information and was lolly gagging on getting the report filled out. I complained and magically, the report appeared.
6. Keep all appointments. -- You only delay the process if you don't keep the scheduled visits and so forth. Sure, it can be a bit of a pain to have people traipsing in and out of your house all the time, but this is a part of it that you signed up for. Look at it this way, it is a built in house cleaning plan.
7. If you choose to call your child a name other than the given name, remember to call them by their birth name when official folks are present. -- K-'s name is not her birth name. There was no romantic reason for us to keep the birth name. We chose K-'s name for a few different reasons, but that didn't mean that we could call her that to the workers or in court. Sure, the first thing that the workers asked when they entered after K-'s arrival was "so, what are you naming her?" (Her birth name was very misspelled and a bit street, as my social worker friend told me.) The pediatrician that saw her the first time asked that, too. However, as much as the workers understand that you are changing the name, the courts like you to refer to the child by their legal name until adoptive status is reached. Then you can call name them mud, if you want!
8. Be extremely appreciative. -- Honestly, these folks are overworked and underpaid. If you are taking a child into your home, chances are that they are only visiting as a formality. Really, they look at your house as a place to hang out, take a deep breath and be glad that they don't have to worry about roaches, fleas or other creepy crawlies, abuse, neglect or other bizarre things. There were times that we found that it was more of a therapeutic dump session for them. During those times, I (it was mostly just me) got a little bit of a window into what their work was really like. It is because of all of these meetings that I'm as hyperspastic about K- as I am. (Hubs, too.)
9. Keep up to date on coursework. -- Don't try to crash all the required upkeep hours in a week. Take classes that seem interesting to you, not ones that you are taking just to log in the hours. Take it as an opportunity to learn. Take it as an opportunity to network with other parents. Give honest feedback. Help the county to know what worked and what didn't with the class. Really, most of the classes that we took were really good.
K-'s adoption day was exactly two days shy of her 1 year anniversary of being with us. Her adoption day? It fell on her very first birthday. I still get weepy just thinking about it.
Truly, I cannot say enough about how much adoption has touched our hearts. Whether it be private, county, domestic or international, know that the children who need homes didn't ask to be in their situation. They are little victims of circumstance. Their parents, for whatever reason, have been deemed as not the best guardian for them. Even if it is not your heart's calling to adopt, please pray for all of the children that need homes. There are so many children without parents, here and abroad, that the number is just shocking. They need moms. They need dads. They need love. Even if fostering is what you are interested in, a positive launching pad stays with a child for a lifetime. You may be the first positive reinforcement in their lives that they ever got. Though sometimes they may not say it at the time, believe me when I say that you will stay in their hearts forever. Fostering is a gift that makes my eyes well in tears. So many stories I heard of from folks who only fostered, fostered so many and were able to see children, otherwise broken and bruised physically and/or mentally, turn around and be productive and wonderful citizens. Please remember these children. They have been through so much.