Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adoption nightmares in Haiti

My mother called last night as she and my stepfather watched the Hope for Haiti Now telethon.

"I know it's not really what you were planning on but maybe you should consider adopting a child from Haiti."

I'm not quite sure how to respond.

"If I was 25 years younger, I think I would do it," she says.

"I'll go turn on the telethon, Mom," I reply.


The scope of the Haitian tragedy is, quite frankly, beyond my capacity to truly comprehend. I don't think the human mind is designed to wrap itself around death and destruction of this magnitude, even if you're sitting there in the middle of it. I see the photos, the videos, hear and read the stories, and it's overwhelming. Part of you just wants to say "This can't possibly be real." After all, we've all seen death and destruction on a grander scale in the movies and really, no one was actually hurt. But it is real. It's just so overwhelming.

But then you reduce the scope of your view, see the individual stories and the tragedy becomes far more tangible if no less horrifying. Truthfully, by narrowing your view the reality becomes almost more harrowing as it's easier for those of us safe and secure in our homes to put ourselves in one person's shoes rather than comprehend the horror inflicted upon millions.

As a prospective adoptive dad, the stories of the children and families have resonated most deeply for me. Amidst the wreckage, and death that now engulf Haiti, aid and government workers are overwhelmed as they try to cope with a flood of displaced children -- 45% of the population is under the age of 15 and UN observers estimate that 40,000 to 60,000 children were killed, orphaned or separated from their families. At the same time, adoptive parents in the U.S. and Europe struggle to find out the status of the children they'd hoped to bring home to join their families. The process is at a standstill as the country, its infrastructure, its social and government organizations all collapse.

Sadly, with this tragedy and the true agony of the children and adoptive parents comes a darker side. UNICEF and other international aid organizations are now calling for a halt to all adoptions in Haiti with the exception of those for which the paperwork was largely complete. Why? Because of the tremendous risk of child trafficking either with orphans or those children do have families and simply who hope to be reunited with them as the chaos is controlled. The threat is real -- UN workers have reported "people driving to the airport in expensive cars and putting children on outgoing flights without any documentation."

As if the tragedy in Haiti wasn't already horrific enough, these children continue to suffer due to the actions of evil men. I know "evil" is a strong word and one that can be tossed around a bit too easily but I do believe that it applies to those adults who knowingly take these and other children, whether it is to make money posing as legitimate adoption agencies or to exploit these children through the 21st century equivalent of slave labor or in the sex industry.

With time, effort, and funds, the lives of these children will hopefully improve and Haiti will be rebuilt in some fashion. Adoptive families will hopefully be able to bring their new family members home and aid will flow to the children who remain. However, it will be a long process and they need our help. If you haven't already done so, I urge you to please consider making a donation to the Haitian relief efforts now. You might not be able to make a large donation but for the people of Haiti, many of whom have nothing left, a little from each of us will add up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

And two more makes three

We've received word that our two remaining online profiles went live today AND that the long-delayed final home study report is being sent to our placement agency on Tuesday!

Great progress in the last few days.

And now we wait...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

OK, now it gets real

Holy cats! Our first profile page is now live with photos, a slightly modified version of our "Expectant Mother" letter (shockingly, the agency's edits didn't include changing the greeting to "Dear Birth Mother"), and some profile information. We're now out there in the wide world for expectant mothers to look at, consider, and hopefully choose.

Wow, this just got a whole lot more real!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fear and Exhilaration

I've been thumbing through one of the Christmas gifts I received from my wife this year, a humorous yet extremely helpful book called "The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance". It's a perfect fit for me, catering to my overdeveloped geek side by writing about the care and handling of a newborn as if it could all be summed in a snarky manual for a cool new cell phone.

Snark aside, I'm finding it to be far more interesting and helpful than the massive tomes that traditionally pass for parenting guides, like the classic "What to Expect..." series, which I find absolutely overwhelming, not to mention tremendously boring. I'll use "What to Expect..." as a "hmmmm...I'd better look this up" resource but you're not going to find me sitting down and reading it from front to back. My tolerance for dry and dusty and, quite frankly, dull is limited.

All that aside, as I've been reading the Baby Owner's Manual and other books, I've become more and more cognizant of all that can go wrong. It's actually moderately terrifying. Diseases, household appliances, psychos in the outside world, all of them just lurking to ambush our child at some point in the future. Hell, the Owner's Manual even goes so far as to point out that you need to make sure to vacuum regularly to prevent bad things from being inhaled, licked, swallowed, etc.

Great, now I have to worry about kitty fur balls as deadly weapons.

And then there's the idea that when we come home with Plus One, it's all on us. Sure we'll have friends and family to support and guide us but really, the onus is on us to keep the child safe and healthy and I'll do whatever it takes to make certain of that. I have no doubt that luck will also play a large part in that and sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. But I know that I'll be saying a prayer of thanks at the end of each day if major bodily, emotional, and psychological harm has been avoided.

Friends with more that one child routinely tell us "don't learn that kids bounce" and other flip comments like that. They tell of how they were focused like laser beams on every aspect of child #1's life and food, etc., but that when kids 2, 3, and more came along, it turns into "sure Johnny, go ahead and eat that twig, fiber's good for you!" But I know that deep down, whether it's child 1, 2, or 10, they must feel that same fear that their child will be hurt by something they can't anticipate or a stupid accident or, god forbid, a "bad person." Of course kids get hurt and bumped and bruised and scared. That's one way they learn. As a parent, you might understand that concept but it damn sure doesn't mean you have to like it.

I wonder about living with that fear, what it will be like to be entirely responsible for the life of a small person and constantly wondering if you're good enough or smart enough or observant enough to protect them. I also wonder if it ever stops. Did my parents lived with a kernel of fear when I went off to Boy Scout camp every summer or when I sailed over the horizon on a tall ship when I was 19?

However, I've also seen the smiles and heard the laughs that come from my sister and her husband, or my best friends E and J with their two kids and I know that I can live with that fear. I can deal with the worry and the fretting and the waking up in the middle of the night just to sneak into Plus One's bedroom to reassure myself that she's OK because the exhilaration, the joy, and the wonder of being a parent and being on the receiving end of those smiles and laughter will make it all worth it.

But I'll still keep the Owner's Guide handy. You never know when a good reference book and a healthy dose of snark might be useful.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A bright spot

Shortly after returning home from the vet where I received the news that our cat, Forest, like her late step-sister Annabel, is ill with inoperable cancer, I found the following message awaiting me in my e-mail InBox:


We have enough marketing material to build your three web profiles!

This will take approximately 2-3 weeks and you will be notified by email when your webpage is LIVE.

Thank you for your hard work, dedication and never losing momentum during this portion of the process.

Good luck in your adoption journey.

At least there's one bright spot in an otherwise awful day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Progress? Maybe? Please?

With the start of the new year, hopefully we've started to get back on track when it comes to the adoption process after two months of frustration and bureaucratic delays.

First, we finally received the draft of our home study report about two months after we expected it. Thankfully, upon review, there were only minor factual corrections from our end. Of course, what would the adoption process be without previously unknown paperwork requirements cropping up at the last minute. Well, they weren't really unknown...they were simply requirements that our home study agency assured us in June that they would be taking of on our behalf.

Not so fast, little buckaroo! It turns out that:
  1. they hadn't gotten around to submitting the child abuse background checks to two states this summer or fall, and
  2. not only did we have to fill out the forms but there were additional administrative charges to go along with them

All this came to light in the days immediately before Christmas leading to a severe case of "bah humbugism" on my behalf when it came to the whole home study effort. Now those (hopefully) final forms have been submitted and barring some additional administrative rabbit hole, our home study final report should be ready to go in the next week or so.

And on the placement agency side of things, the saga of the "we need more than the 60 photos you've already provided to us because they don't match our cookie cutter templates" may also be drawing to a close thanks to a number of recent gatherings with family and friends and a concerted effort to remember to bring our camera. A suitable number of couple photos, entertaining photos, etc., were snapped.

Of course, all were taken without any sign of the many kids in our family because as we all know, photos of adoptive parents having loads of fun with their nieces and friends' children won't actually illustrate that the adoptive parents are good with kids but will instead confuse expectant mothers by making them think that the adoptive parents already have children.

Apparently, in the eyes of our placement agency, expectant mothers won't actually read captions or the multiple letters to the birth mothers that we wrote, all of which say that we don't have kids and can't wait to bring one into our family. Go figure.

But hey, I'm not the adoption professional so what do I know?

Hmmmm...perhaps a bit of that bah humbugism is lingering.

Nevertheless, with the last of the photos sent, the home study report almost final, and the last background checks requested, it's very possible that our adoptive parent profiles could be up and available for consideration by expectant mothers in as little as 10 to 14 days.

I think that's when I'll start to get nervous because then we're really out there. Someone may read our letters, review our stunning array of photos, and decide that, yes, these are the people I want to trust with my child. That's an idea that does freak me out a bit but when it happens, my oh my but that will make for a very happy new year!

And in the meantime, we'll just keep smiling in case we need to take more photos.

Well, if you've got to take some good pictures for an adoption profile, you might as well get into the holiday spirit and strike a heroic pose when you do it