“Are you guys still wanting to try adoption?”
Right now I’m being told by the ever correct grammar checker that that sentence is grammatically incorrect – and it is – but that’s how they ask it. I know what they mean, of course, but it strikes me as a little funny when I see it written out. I mean, is adoption really something that you “try?” It’s never been about an issue of “trying” adoption for my wife and I – we have always wanted to adopt. But still they ask, usually tentatively, as if the question itself is an inconvenience.
This, the time that I’m going to talk about, it was a distant relative of mine. I’m going to avoid names, or use fake names, because this ends up in legal territory, and there’s already been a lawyer or two involved. So, yes, names might be changed, wording, facts, and events are paraphrased and collected from memory, and none of this should be taken as fact. I apologize for making this disclaimer, but the internet is forever and I don’t want to be sued.
So, it begins with a phone call, usually out of the blue. (Also usually sometime in January, oddly enough.) This time a relative told me that one of my distant cousins just had a child taken away from her (again) when she was sent to jail (again.) She’s had five children, now; all of them have been taken away, some of them have been placed with their grandmother and some of them with some other relatives. This latest one was a boy, and he was only a few months old.
When I asked for his name, I had to ask twice, just to be sure that I had heard correctly.
I had. He was named after a famous gangster.
We were given a number to call, and we were told to call quickly, because time was of the essence. I called the next day, and began talking to a very nice social worker who seemed incredibly, amazingly tired. When she found out what case we were interested in, she became somewhat wary. She asked questions, I answered them, and she said that she’d get the ball rolling. She warned us not to get our hopes up, but since we were related it looked like it really was a real possibility that the adoption would go through ok.
We waited, filled out some forms, and talked a few times for updates. The family member who introduced to the situation called us and told us that things were looking *very* good. She had talked to the social workers, and to the mother, and everyone agreed that we’d be the ideal family to raise the child. This was fantastic news to us, and it would have been perfect, if it hadn’t been a blatant untruth. Talking to a social worker again, I found out that this wasn’t the whole story – in fact, it was infinitely more complicated than we had ever known.
The boy had already been placed with a family for adoption. It was a family unable to have kids, one who’d been on the waiting list for a long, long time. And to more complicate matters, he was placed before we were even contacted. And the family member had known this when they called us. They were upset that the boy had been placed with a family other than them. So, they dug out and invoked some sort legal document that required the state had to first pursue family placement with all available family members.
The family that the boy had been placed with was on the next conference call, along with everyone else involved in the situation. We were asked to go each take turns, and, for the record, say what we hoped would happen. The family he was placed with spoke – he’d been with them for months. They loved him. They called him their son. He was, already, their boy. Both the husband and wife tearfully begged that he stay with them – they were willing to make any concessions, including an open adoption and family visits. They’d do anything, to be able to raise the boy they’d come to love.
None of it had any effect, of course. The boy was being taken from them, no matter what. When I heard the couple begin to break down as they realized the hopelessness of the situation, I made my big mistake. I said that we thought the boy should be left with the family that he had been placed with, the ones that had been waiting so long for a child of their own.
The situation quickly went downhill, from there. The next conference call the family that the boy had been placed with was gone, not even mentioned. The boy had been removed from their home. Also, another relative of mine was included on the conference call.
We were told that we now were no longer the preferred family for placement. We were off the list, and final documents were being approved for the child to be placed with the other relative on the call. It was a shock, but I realized we shouldn’t have been surprised – the writing was on the wall when we indicated that the boy should have been left with the family that he was initially placed with. Even now I don’t regret our decision. Taking that boy away from a loving family was wrong.
We were, after this, out of the situation.
We had one final phone call with the social worker I had first talked to. It was entirely off the record, but she just wanted to let us know what really had happened.
We were never a preferred family for placement. It appeared that we were simply used as a method of slowing down the courts, so that the family of the boy could arrange for him to be placed nearer to them. They had known we wanted to adopt, and knew we would try our hardest to be involved, so coming to us would buy them a few months.
They ended up getting the boy removed from the relative he was placed with, as well. He now lives with his grandmother, along with several of his half-brother and sisters. As the social worker informed me of all this I felt a numbness spread over me. This wasn’t the first time I’d been used, but this was the first time someone had purposely manipulated one of my dreams – and worse, they had used my wife’s dreams as well.
I didn’t know what to say. Still don’t, really. I became aware that she was still talking, and snapped back to reality to catch the last of her words.
“…so, so sorry Mr. M. You were screwed over. I’ve seen things like this before, but never quite this callously. I wish there was something we could have done – you are your wife seem like wonderful, loving people. I’d like you to urge you not to give up on adoption. There are so many kids that need homes, and you both seem like you’d be wonderful parents. I really hope it works out for you next time.”
I thanked her for her words and assured her that we wouldn’t give up on adoption.
And we haven’t. And it still hasn’t worked out. Yet. Maybe next time, though.