Now we’re getting to the good stuff.
I decided pretty early in my process that I wanted siblings, preferably boys. Siblings, because I figured that being adopted by a single gay guy might bring up stuff, so at least each kid would have someone to share the experience with. Also, a sibling set gave each kid a built-in playmate who—to the relief of both of us—would not be me. Boys, because I was thinking ahead to puberty.I know my limits, and the idea of dealing with a teenage girl—or, worse, girls—made my hair stand on end. No clue. Having been a boy once myself, I figured boys would be easier.
I think that turned out to be a pretty good choice on my part.
I finished all the requirements of my training, house upgrades, home study/psychoanalysis, etc. by the end of October 2002. And here’s what happened:
In mid-November, I went to the AASK office and sat in a room with a table full of binders. Each binder represented a California county, and inside each binder were (very brief, sketchy) profiles for all the foster kids up for adoption in that county. The binders were divided into three sections: boys, girls, and siblings.
(Note: There are other ways to “look for/at” kids: there are websites, a community TV program, even “picnics” that gather available foster children and invite prospective parents to meet, greet, and evaluate—sort of like adoption speed-dating. I couldn’t even imaging walking through all those kids live and having to note “maybe them, or them, definitely not them,” etc.—especially older kids who know exactly what’s going on. Binders seemed a lot safer.)
The rules of looking through the binders were simple: The more you look through, the better your chance of finding a match that will work out. As you go through, you are to flag any potential matches with a post-it note. The agency worker then contacts the county worker for each of those kids/sibling sets and sends the worker a brief bio of the prospective parent (me).
After this point, the process is out of your hands. Each county worker makes a decision whether they think you (the prospective parent) are a good fit for the kid or kids in question. If so, the county worker replies to the agency worker and sets up a meeting. Again, it’s a numbers game: If you want a match, flag lots of potential kids. There is no commitment at this point.
Back in the room, I took a deep breath and grabbed the binder for my own county. I ideally wanted local kids—again thinking that being adopted by a single gay guy might be enough of a major transition, I was hoping we could at least minimize the impact of the actual physical move.
OK, so I have my county binder, and I open to the siblings section, and there they were: my kids. They were the very first picture I saw, and I knew right away they were the ones. Yes, I’m one of those “gut instinct” people. But this was gut instinct times infinity.
I flagged their page and probably could have called it a day right there, but stayed for another hour doing my due diligence, flagging other possible candidates—including a few trios of two brothers and a sister. I try to play by the rules.
Here’s what normally happens next: You wait a month, or two, or six. If you’re lucky, calls trickle in from various county workers. For any given kid or kids, you set up an initial meeting with just the workers, which usually leads to two or three more meetings. Then, between the workers and the current foster parent, you work out an initial visit. Assuming the first one is a hit, you make any number of follow-up visits, gradually moving toward sleepovers and more extended stays. At some point, you and the kids are separately asked, “Do you want to make this permanent?” If all parties say yes, you officially become a foster family on the road to adoption. This process generally takes about a year, although it’s not uncommon for it to go to two years and beyond.
Here’s what happened to us: The day after my post-it party at AASK, my kids’ county social worker, Amy, contacted my agency worker, Heather. The next week, we had a meeting. Within two weeks, we started visits.
I found out later that none of the other county workers had ever called back.
Next: The Visits