One thing I have learned is that parenting—at least, 21st century, Bay Area, middle-class parenting—involves a lot of shopping. Not just the obvious food and clothes, etc. If you are or become a parent, you will very well find yourself spending many hours of your life shopping for the right school, the right camp, the right tutor, the right after-school activity, the right ….
As I say, a lot of shopping.
For me, the “shopping for the right …” process began even before I was officially a parent. In 2001, after five years of training with Max—I’m not exactly the world’s fastest mover and shaker—I got to the point where many might say our family’s story really begins. That fall, I decided I was actually going do this thing: I was going to get some kids. Being smart, as well as gay, and single, I realized this translated into: I am going to adopt some kids.
Many parents who want to adopt are looking for newborns or infants. This process can cost upwards of $10,000 and can take months, if not years, of research, planning, travel, and the like. I, on the other hand, knew right away that I wanted older kids. “Older” meaning a) they could sleep through the night and b) they knew how to use the toilet. Hey, I know my limits—if I was going to raise a couple of kids by myself, diaper-changing was definitely not on the menu.
Unless you are doing a family adoption—taking your niece or nephew, etc., or possibly a friend’s kid—adopting “older” means taking kids who are already in the foster system. To do this, you have two options: working directly with your county Social Services agency, or going through a private agency that specializes in ”special needs“ adoptions (more on that lovely term later).
I avoided going directly through the county, because I heard horror stories of how overworked the social workers are and how slowly the process moves—people waiting two, three years just to get the point of looking at potential kids. The joke was on me when another couple I know, who started their process about the same time as I and did go through the county, finalized the adoption with their first son a good six months earlier than I did. So much for conventional wisdom.
So I my county-avoiding way, I began attending information sessions for different private adoption agencies in the area. The good news: Pretty much every agency holds such a session, where you can learn the ins-and-outs of how they operate. The bad: Being me, I felt obligated to attend all of them, which meant hearing pretty much the same thing over and over. Each time, I patiently sat through the spiel: “We love you! We need you! You’re great! We’re great!”
And then I asked my two big questions:
Do you work with single parents?
Do you work with LGBTQ parents? (Full disclosure: I probably said “gay and lesbian.” I haven’t always been Mr. Informed and Evolved.)
The responses I got went something like this:
Uhhhhhhhhhhhh …. Sure we do.
Ummmmmmmm … yes … we do that.
Single … gay … lesbian … ummm … yeah.
Call me crazy, but that’s a lot of “ummm.”
Finally, at orientation #5? 6? I asked the same questions at (shamless plug) Adopt a Special Kid (AASK) in Oakland. This time, I got: “Oh of course! Our director is a lesbian! We love working with LGBT families!”
Sold. And we were on our way.