Choosing Children: An Adoption Story

Application – wholy crap that was a lot of work!

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That’s it, that is our application finally going into the envelope. I remember when I first saw it I couldn’t believe that it took people six months to do this. I do bureaucracy for a living, I figured we’d fly through it… but no, there are all these small details that you need to go get and it did take us six months to complete the package.

Now I’m nervous about the stuff that was completed at the beginning. Since many of the check-ups and letters need to have been completed within the last six months there’s a small chance depending on when the package is processed that some could be invalid. Don’t need that.

C. shipped the package through work (yay free shipping!) which makes me sleep easier with the chance that Canada Post will be on strike as of tomorrow.

The next step is to confirm with the Adoption Worker that they have received the package. After that we should be paired with another Adoption Worker who will do six to eight visits with us. Some in-home, some together, some separate and this is the “homestudy”. We will also need to complete PRIDE training… which I originally thought would have something to do with diverstity training, but is something about Parenting Resources for Information, Development & Education.

If we make it through all of that then the Adoption Worker writes our assessment and we are ready for placement. That is where the real hair-pulling mind numbing waiting may begin.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

June 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

Profile Picture

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One of the items we have to submit with our package is a profile picture of us as a couple. The advice from the adoption worker is not to stress about it, pick something casual and not go all out. I have a mild to moderate phobia of cameras, so this did not make choosing a profile picture easy. The first problem is that I don’t like any of the photos of us, and the second problem is that there are maybe 3-5 photos in existance of us as a couple (see camera phobia). C. would have been happy to use a random photo from us on vacation wearing bad hats in Mexico, I decided we needed something that actually showed our faces… and had less bad hats.

The end result was that I hired a friend of ours Saajid “Sam” Motala to do the family photo thing. A recent gradute from George Brown, Sam has an excellent eye for fashion photography, so foisting two dogs who ran rampant around his studio (including into the underwear drawers), and two humans who generally freeze when a camera is pointed at us made for a challenging shoot.

Getting all of us to look at the camera and smile at the same time was near impossible, I think the above shot is the best of the lot, we are both genuinely smiling and the dogs actually look kinda cute.

These were some of our other choices:

This one is kinda good but my hand is weirdly positioned under Jenkin’s muzzle and he looks freaked out by it.

We finally got the dogs to sit still at the end of the shoot and C. and I couldn’t manage to both smile in the same shot – d’oh!

We could submit a shot that is just the two of us, but I like submitting one with the dogs.

And, as usual most of the shots were Mr. Brown stealing the show.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

May 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

New Home

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We moved into our new home on May 1, 2011. It’s a three bedroom unit on the third (top) floor of an old 1940s walk-up that is part of a local Toronto historical housing cooperative.

This is our second unit with this cooperative, we have been members of the co-op for about two years now. We chose to move into the co-op mainly as a way to find a long-term living solution for raising a family in Toronto.

To put it bluntly in the Toronto real estate market we are unlikely to be able to afford a stand-alone, or detached home in the downtown core without bankrupting ourselves. Condo’s could be an option but neither of us are fans of the glass towers in the sky that seem to be popping up everywhere. The other reason we don’t want to go condo is that  condo’s are increasingly used as investment properties and have (in our limited experience) very little sense of community.

Co-ops were our solution to being able to live in the downtown core, have some control over our housing costs and know our neighbours and our community.

There are some ups and downs with a co-op; not everyone gets along all of the time, but I find that the expectation that people do co-operate goes a long way to creating a supportive environment. In the two years I have been here I’ve gotten to know the vast majority of my neighbours. I have people to say “hi” to on the street, and have become friends with many of my neighbours.

Last year we have started an amazing community garden in the back yard of our former building. There is an informal parents day-care, a parents pot-luck, a great re-vitalized membership committee, an upcoming street sale and I’m looking foward to much more.

In our new place we have already met all of our neighbours and were given a good introduction to how the yard space is shared. The yard itself seems good for kids, it’s got a hocky net, basket ball, and some room to ride bikes. It’s set up with a patio swing and a few BBQ’s with some gardens around the edges.

The unit itself has two decks, a smaller one out front where some herbs and tomatoes could be planted (lots of sun), and a larger covered deck in the back that I’m hoping to turn into a dining area in a year or two.

Some stain, some plants, a lounge chair & breakfast nook, this could be nice?

I'm hoping this will make a good "before" picture some day. I'm thinking a bunch of white LED light strings, some lanterns and a dining set.

We have to give credit for the colour selection to the former residents, we just chose to keep the colours. The living room is smaller than I have had in previous places but still fits our very large couch and a few chairs.

Hello Mr. Brown.

We’ve taken the mid-sized bedroom because the unit has large old radiators which means the mid-sized room actually has more useable space than the larger bedroom.

I've always like the look of radiators, but damn these things are a pain when space planning!

I love this blue, it's the other reason I chose this bedroom for us.

I’m not a huge fan of browns for kids rooms, but at least they are gender neutral, we’re figuring we’ll let the kids choose their own colours once they arrive.

I'm terrible at photographing rooms, this is the larger of the two bedrooms, not that you can tell.

I like this colour least, but at least the kid with the smallest bedroom gets the biggest window.

There’s a tonne of work to do just to get the house ready. We’ve only been in a week, so we are still in the process of unpacking. There’s a long list of window blinds, desks, beds, linen, books, toys etc… etc… to consider as we start to get the place ready. Which makes me feel a bit better about still being stuck in paperwork hell.

And, the kitchen is yellow! I love yellow kitchen's they make me happy.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

May 17, 2011 at 9:00 am

Medical Clearance – DONE!

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Had my final doctor’s visit this morning and picked up the full medical package. Really feels like something has been accomplished. Five months of vaccines, needles, tests all finally done. She realized as we were filling out the paper work that my TB test hadn’t been done so I got the first part done today (Friday) and will have it completed on Monday. Assuming I don’t have TB I’m good to submit the forms.

For the rest of the package C. has to go back in and make sure his doctor actually signs the forms and checks off all of the immunizations he forgot to check then Chris’s forms are done.

We’re moving into our new place this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll spend the day moving the cats in and packaing, Sunday is the move.

Heard back from the adoption workers and got clarification on how to fill in the financial forms so I can do that tonight.

I feel like we’re in a good place and moving forward.

Still on the “to-do” list:
– S.’s TB test
– C.’s medical papers
– S.’s work verifications
– C.’s work verifications
– Couples photography
– Submit paperwork
– PRIDE training
– 6 to 8 home visits
– Adoption approval (hopefully)
– Buy beds / dressers etc… for kids rooms
– Waiting, waiting and more waiting.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

May 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

Waiting…

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One of the most difficult things about the adoption process is the waiting, and I know it is only going to get worse from where we are. Adoption progresses in infinitesimally small intervals that are invisible to family and friends. There is no standard 9 (or really 10) months with an expected outcome and long periods can go by without anything seeming to happen at all. This makes it important to me to celebrate the small steps.

Today, I’m happy because the final member of our family has been told about our adoption plans. This means we can be much more publically open about where we are in the process.

We are also celebrating another small step, we are fully packed to move into a three bedroom in our housing cooperative. This means we have the room to accept two children at any time.

Still on the “to-do” list:
– (Possibly) S.’s final vaccine
– S.’s medical papers
– C.’s medical papers
– Confirm which budget is to go into adoption paperwork
– S.’s work verifications
– C.’s work verifications
– Couples photography
– Submit paperwork
– PRIDE training
– 6 to 8 home visits
– Adoption approval (hopefully)
– Buy beds / dressers etc… for kids rooms
– Waiting, waiting and more waiting.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

April 26, 2011 at 9:00 am

Is there an end to this paperwork?

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When we first started the paperwork I didn’t think it would be a significant issue. I have seen longer and much more complex packages. To be fair I work with government so I’m used to long complex paperwork.

We got the package in November, and the big thing we were missing was family doctors. It started off well, we managed to each get a family doctor within a month. Then we needed the vaccinations, physicals and the forms filled out.

The financial form is the other form we figured would take some work. We keep our finances completely separate and while we have talked about shared expenses in the past budgeting is something we have always done as a separate activity.

We made a plan to keep detailed accounts of our spending while we collected the doctors visits we needed with the hope that we would have a few months of accurate detailed spending to budget on once the medicals were complete.

One final detail that we needed was a photograph of the two of us, and our dogs. As a couple we actually have very few photographs of the two of us, and those that we have I don’t want to share with anyone. I figure if it’s going to be the first introduction to us, then we want it to be a good shot.

Everything was lined up to be finished by the end of this month. My medicals took the longest since I was lacking a number of vaccinations. We planned to sit down with our budgets by the end of the month, I booked a photographer and we are moving into a new apartment with three bedrooms on May 1, 2011. Everything was looking good.

When I pulled out the forms, I realized that the doctor that had filled out C.’s form had stamped it but not signed or dated it, he had also not filled in that Chris does have two of the required vaccinations. So, C. needs to go get another doctors appointment to have his paperwork filled out.

The last medical thing I needed was to have a booster for one of my required vaccines, I arrived for my appointment only to find out that the manufacturer who made the vaccine that I needed the booster for has discontinued it. This means I need another doctors appointment for the doctor to write me a new prescription for another vaccine that can be a booster.

This weekend we were supposed to do a photograph in a local park, the weather had other ideas, and launched a small hurricane. We’re re-booked for mid-May with a studio as a backup this time.

The good news is the financials are done, and we don’t think we’re in bad shape.

The bad news is we have some more information to get in the way of income verification, and details on our health insurance policies.

I can’t believe it has taken us over 6 months and we’re not done the paperwork yet!

Written by BeagleSmuggler

April 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Adoption: First Choice

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Today a childless-by-choice (CBC) friend of mine re-called my attention to an article she had posted last week titled “My Uterus is Officially Closed for Business and I Have No Regrets“. I say re-called because I ignored the posting when she first sent it. The reason I ignored the posting is that I thought it was another “isn’t it better to have a life without children” article and, while I do celebrate womens choices to not become mothers if they do not want to be, I find it increasingly difficult to occupy the space between the “bio-moms” and the “childless-by-choice” camps.

It took me three attempts to write my friend back about why I did not read the article in the first place and what I thought about the article after I had read it. This got me thinking that it might be a good exercise for me to find an outlet for my thoughts, and possibly my partner’s thoughts, as we go through this process. At worst this blog will be a place for us to articulate our thoughts into the vast emptiness of cyberspace, at best we hope to find others going through this journey and share with others our experiences in the hope that they may be of some small benefit.

One of the biggest challenges for me in this process is feeling like we don’t fit. It’s almost like being back in high-school struggling at cross purposes of finding my own identity and at the same time wanting that identity to be accepted by others.

The high-school rebel in me (which I was), hates acknowledging the fact that I do want acceptance. Needing acceptance for me is not about needing validation for my choice. I am confident in my choice. It’s about reducing the obstacles that my children will face as adopted kids. It’s about knowing that parenting is a community activity, and feeling accepted into that circle.

The article above and many similar articles have made the point more eloquently than I will here that any woman who chooses not to have biological children is bucking against the social norm and in doing so will find themselves in a position where they constantly have to explain and justify their choice in a way that women who follow the status quo of marriage + kids never will.

As a woman who is entering my 30s having declared that I will not be having bio-babies, I feel a lot of solidarity with the women who have chosen to be “childless-by-choice”. It takes a lot of self-introspection and conviction to continually affirm that I do not have a biological kick to have babies, I don’t smell something “wonderful” when I hold a newborn or infant. Choosing not to have biological children means accepting that I will miss a very important milestone in most people’s lives – producing children. There will always be a very common experience that I will have no knowledge of. And, this will inevitably cause a certain distance between myself and some of my peers.

The fact that I don’t go ga-ga for babies doesn’t mean that I’m a late bloomer it means that I don’t want a baby of my own, and I think the best thing I can do as a human is to honour that.

While I do not want a baby I do think that human life is enriched by being a parent, a mentor and a provider for another human being. So, unlike the “childless-by-choice” (CBC) set I do plan to have children, but by adoption.

In find the bio-mom’s just don’t understand this choice. Which is fair, it is not their choice. What I resent is their reaction. They don’t simply accept or congratulate as they would another bio-mum announcing a pregnancy. When a woman announces a choice to be childless, or to adopt the automatic response seems to be to question, or to assure these women that they will change their minds.  I want to think the best of these women, but I can’t help but think I didn’t question their need / want to have a biological baby.

The problem with the questions is that I don’t think the bio-mom’s understand how judgmental these questions are.

“My friend had issues with infertility, and they saw this doctor, I can get his number for you.”

“So, why are you adopting?”

“But they won’t be your ‘real kids’.”

Sometimes the most judgmental questions come phrased as compliments:

“You’re such a good person taking in troubled kids.”

“Wow, I can’t believe you are doing this, I really would, but I just couldn’t.”

I notice that the news that we are adopting is never greeted the same way a pregnancy is “OMG, I’m so happy for you, when are you due?” There seems to be an implicit assumption that adoption is a second choice. That it means an inability to have biological children or that adopted kids will by definition be deficient as compared to biological kids.

I can’t complain too much though because I really did expect this reaction from the bio-baby set.

The gap I find most difficult to occupy is actually within the adoption community. There are reasons that people adopt and I find we don’t fit into some of the traditional categories:

We are not infertile.
We are not in a same-sex relationship.
We are not religious.
We are not looking to adopt an infant.
We are not carriers of any significant genetic disorders.

I find a significant proportion of the adoption literature, websites and forums that I have found are dedicated to couples who would have their own babies but for one reason or another cannot and therefore turn to adoption. Of the families that don’t have this reason many of them seem to be coming from a religious background.

I have found some resources for older child adoption but most of the families I have come across so far are either from a strongly religious background, have experience with infant adoption or have biological children before entering older child adoption.

I’m looking for others who are choosing adoption first. Adoption before biological, children who need homes instead of infants. So far it seems like an empty space. I am sure we are not the only ones who think adoption first, and I’m looking forward to meeting others.

Written by BeagleSmuggler

April 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm