As part of the adoption process in the state of Maryland, we’re required to be foster parents for six months. Only after we’ve had Teddy for six months can we finalize the adoption, at which point we get a new birth certificate for Teddy naming us as his parents. (His current certificate lists his birth parents and is sealed from us.) The six-month probation period, so to speak, gives our social worker sufficient time to assess the placement and ensure Teddy is connecting with us and we’re successfully making the transition to parenthood. She does this through three home visits, two of which we’ve already had. If we weren’t doing well and/or Teddy wasn’t connecting with us and we were having serious issues, and our social worker decided the placement wasn’t working, it’s much easier to remove a child from a foster home than from an adoptive one.
We’re also required during the six months to take a parent preparation course at the agency offices. Last Saturday, we checked this off our list. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the class and in fact had low expectations because this was the second of two parent prep courses we had to take (the first was pre placement) and the first we found to be mostly a waste of time. I was sort of hoping we’d have a different teacher this time. So when we walked into the room and I saw the same woman sitting at the head of the U of tables, I had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes.
The first class was quite discouraging. It was mostly a lecture and focused on how challenging transracial adoption is, even showing a video featuring black adoptees lamenting being raised in a white household. I left wondering if there were any positive aspects to adopting a child of another race or if it was all challenges and hardships. I can appreciate the agency wanting us to enter transracial adoption with our eyes wide open, but a little encouragement would have been nice.
Fortunately, the second class was much better, mostly because the teacher would simply mention a topic and then ask us to share any experiences related to that topic. Every adoptive parent I’ve ever met is never at a loss to speak about their adoption experience, and these couples were no different. We all had stories to share. And of course sharing those stories led to requests for suggestions. Some requests were adoption related: “Our birth mother doesn’t want a relationship. How do we tell our child that when he’s older?” We all looked to the teacher for the answer to that one. Some were questions every new parent has: “What’s the easiest way to travel with an infant?” Those of us who had traveled already were quick with advice for that one.
My highlight from the class, though, actually had nothing to do with the class. Every new parent wants validation that (s)he’s doing a good job, but I think adoptive parents soak it up a bit more because we’ve heard so many times that the first few months post-placement are particularly important for adopted babies because they’ve been hearing their birth moms’ voices for nine months and suddenly have a strange voice now speaking to them. It seems all we hear about pre-placement is how important attachment is. So any time anyone points out how attached Teddy seems to be to us, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Our personal pat on the back this time came during a break, when one of the social workers who had been present on our “Gotcha Day” and was in that day to do some office maintenance stopped by to say hello. She lifted Teddy up and chattered to him, and he giggled and squealed in response. She turned to us and said, “You guys are doing a great job,” and proceeded to explain that Teddy’s responses to her engagement indicated great connection. Phew! We know he’s doing well, but to hear it reaffirmed–and spelled out like that–was wonderful.
Now we just have one more visit with our social worker, which is scheduled for next week, and then we’re on our way to finalization!