Search This Blog

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Adoption Fundamentals

So I was pregnant trying to figure out how I was going to keep my next meal down, and Sara was "pregnant" trying to figure out how she would cement a legal bond between herself and our unborn little girl. I did my very best to help her with this process because (a) I was an obvious component to it, and (b) I was as dialed in as her in making sure that there wasn't a being on this planet that could rip our family apart.

I imagine adopting a baby as a straight couple is difficult. Doing so as a gay couple is an extraordinary feat. Adopting a baby, then, that possesses one of the parent's DNA and who will be born into a gay family on a limited income is insanity. It actually requires digging for loopholes in the Wisconsin legal system AND, when all is said and done, the right judge. Mmmmhmmm. One could pass all of the "tests" they are put through, get to the courtroom, and get the wrong judge. That one judge, in all their glory, could kaput the whole thing. I'm jumping ahead, so I will digress.

Early on, Sara went Watson on me and researched the hell out of legally binding a gay family. She made phone calls, searched the Web, and, flipped through the phone book. After a few firms being completely oblivious to her inquiries surrounding our situation, she ended up finding an embracing, knowledgeable firm in Madison. The Law Center for Children & Family Services could "make" our family. They were practiced in our arena, they were proficient in the legal loopholes that we would need to maneuver through, and they knew which judges would raise our rainbow flag up high and which ones would rather burn it. She called them.

The law center graciously accepted our case. It was, after all, their specialty. After discussing money, the first thing you do with a law firm, we were assigned two lawyers. One lawyer would manage our life and estate planning. The other would oversee the adoption of our daughter. We ended the first phone call with a deposit of $1,500, an outline of costs that would be incurred to us throughout the process, detail on the adoption center we were to contact, and a promised packet of information that would be sent to us the next day. We were overwhelmed to say the least.

Our conversations with the lawyers continued as we progressed through the pregnancy. Things on the life and estate end were lining up beautifully. Simultaneously, we worked with a branch of The Community Adoption Center. Between our adoption lawyer and ourselves, the social worker at the adoption center was brought up to speed on our case. The ball was rolling. They (the adoption agency) were to send us the ream of paper we would need to complete to demonstrate that we could indeed raise a child. Upon receipt and completion, we were to meet with the social worker to present our story. Who we were. Who we are. How we came to be as a couple. Why we wanted to adopt our baby.

The coveted adoption packet arrived in the mail to us. Ever so gently, we ripped the envelope down the center to display its contents. We realized too quickly that wasn't going to be like applying for a job or for a dog at the pound either. We also realized that the enclosed application was incorrect. We needed the two-parent version. We got the straight people version. We contacted the adoption agency right away, and they put the correct version in the mail to us. The rest of the documents were there and correct. These were the "one lifestyle fits all" documents. There were sheets to be completed and sent in for two different levels of background checks. There were sheets to document medical records. There were sheets for checking references. There were sheets for everything. The intensity behind it was indescribable.

For Sara, it ran deeper than these papers. She had to write a story on her life, on why she wanted to be a parent, and why she would be a good parent. It had to be a certain number of pages and touch on specific points as provided in the syllabus they gave us. She had to tell them about her divorce, why it "didn't work out" for them, and why they didn't have children. She had to tell them that they did try to have children but couldn't, for some reason, with him. They tore off all the scabs that covered the wounds that ended that her marriage, and then told her, told us, that they didn't see that any of it would present any issues with the adoption of our daughter.

We had everything about us on paper and submitted to the adoption agency. We didn't miss a beat. We even had a meeting to discuss the completed documents with our social worker at the adoption agency in Green Bay. One might assume that we would get our gold star or our not so free pass at this point, but you know what assuming does... The social worker was going to run us through the ringer one more time. This step, our very last step, with her anyway, was to verify our standard of living. It was also when I learned that it is NOT okay to raise a child in a cardboard box. They put a red flag next to your name for that.  "Essentially," she said, "you need to be an approved foster home in order to successfully execute the adoption of your daughter." Really? Guess I can recycle that old refrigerator box then.

I remember the day our prudent social worker came to poke around our house. I know she was well intended and she was just following the checklist for her job, but, by this time, I had grown annoyed with her presence, her voice, her everything. I was ready to be done with it all and so was Sara. Still, we welcomed into our home; faux smiles and all. She was pleasant enough, but had her stack of paperwork and ballpoint pen ready to go. "Where shall we start," she asked. A little blip of sarcasm scrolled across my brain. How about with the door?

"How about the kitchen," Sara suggested. Sounded good to me. Our house is only 1,300 square feet so you can basically stand in the middle of the downstairs, upstairs, and basement, spin around a time or two, and get a pretty dang good idea of our lifestyle and home. But, we took the room by room approach so she could get the full picture.

The tour was complete in about an hour. Ms. Social Worker indicated she would wrap up her notes and send them to our  lawyer's office. Wonderful. That means more waiting for us. She walked out the door with one final word of advice. "Make sure you baby-proof." 

No comments:

Post a Comment