Friday, June 4, 2010


An acquaintance of mine isn't a fan of flying. It's not a fear of flying or heights per se but rather the fact that someone else is in control. "How do I know if the pilot got enough sleep or isn't paying attention because he's pissed off at his spouse?"

For me, I approach it the other way. I'm fine with flying because I'm willing to put my trust -- hopefully not woefully misplaced -- in the professionalism and experience of the pilots. I'll drive my car from point A to point B but when it comes to getting from point A to point Z in the shortest time possible, I'll defer to the pilots who have the skills and knowledge that I lack. I'll simply sit in my seat, read a book, munch on the peanuts, and ignore the occasional turbulence on the journey. I'm a bystander, a passive passenger as the pilots -- the experts -- do the work and I'm OK with that.

Unfortunately, I've discovered that we've become bystanders on our adoption journey with pilots I'm having doubts about, and I'm definitely not OK with that.

The first stage of our adoption process felt like a crazy, stressful, invigorating road trip without a complete or altogether legible map. We plunged into the research, plowed through tons of paperwork, wrote checks, and participated in home study meetings and adoption classes. It was up to us to complete our tasks, drive the schedule, maintain the momentum, always knowing that we would determine where we ended up and how we got there.

But once we turned over our profile information and photos to our selected adoption agency, we suddenly had nothing to do but wait. And wait. And wait. We knew this was going to be the case. Unfortunately, we expected to be a bit more...well...involved in the waiting.

Instead, we watched as our profiles were posted and then heard nothing. No updates. No input. No news. We've had to actively seek out every scrap of information and feedback that we've received. Again, I can handle that if that was how the process had been described to us by the adoption counselor (aka sales person). But it wasn't.

(Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Frustrated Prospective Adoptive Parental Rant Ahead!)

My first frustration...We were told that the significant number of expectant mothers in their system meant that clients were averaging a 2-4 month wait. We’re now told, but only after asking about the process four months into it, that the average wait has been extended to 6-18 months. OK, I can understand that the situation changes but there's a nagging question in the back of my mind whether or not we were sold a bill of goods at the start. If so, it's a bit like falling for a used car salesman's "only driven by a little old lady on Sunday" pitch and we have no one to blame but ourselves for believing it.

Frustration #2...Despite being assigned a client liaison at the start (and then a new one three months later) we haven't received the promised guidance on what else we might do to increase our chances of being selected above and beyond a recommendation to consider loosening up on the “medical stuff” and accepting a child from a mother who is a heavy smoker because "really, the doctors we work with say that smoking doesn't really affect the babies all that much. So, y'know, it's something you could consider." (Really?! And what doctors might these be? Drs. Kevorkian and Doom? Thanks but I'll go with the subtle guidance provided by the Surgeon General's warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes.)

And the most recent frustration...Despite being promised a detailed review and assessment of our profile after the first three months, we received no news on how our profiles were being received or feedback on how we might improve them. However, being diligent participants in this process, we took it upon ourselves to review the materials posted to our various profiles and then make minor updates to reflect changes in our lives.

Sadly, removing the mention of our three cats and downgrading to only one following the deaths of two of our kitties this winter was one of those changes. Not so sadly, we removed the cheesy statement that the agency inserted without our permission about "drinking hot cocoa, watching snowflakes fall and building snowmen" as our winter activities. WTF! I don't think my wife and I have ever built a snowman together! (Wait a minute...maybe we're missing out on something there. Do snowmen have aphrodisiac qualities?)

So we made relatively minor edits to the profiles that had already been live on the various profiles for the last five months, sent them in, and received a "Thanks! We will update your profiles ASAP!" response.

OK, standing by. Patiently.

Two weeks later...

No changes.

So I send a very polite "Hi there. Just wondering when the changes we sent two weeks ago might be made" inquiry.

The response? We were added to the schedule and it typically takes two weeks to make the changes. (Apparently the profile person missed the irony that she was responding to a follow-up message that I sent more than two weeks after sending the profile updates.)

Sigh...(ok home stretch on the rant, I promise).

A few days later, I receive an update that the changes were made and the new photos were added. So again, being the diligent person and adoption non-bystander than I hope to be, I go online to see the new versions of our profile.

Hmmm...they seem to be a bit shorter than what we submitted.

Yes, they're definitely a lot shorter. Like 20% shorter as the opening paragraph is just gone. Wiped out. Not there anymore. Like Alderaan after the Death Star dropped by for a visit.

Hmmm...perhaps it was an error. But on all of our profiles?

So I send yet another inquiry, assuming that it was an oversight.

Nope. They made the decision to lop off 20% off of the message to expectant mothers that Jennifer and I put our hearts into.

Apparently, feedback from the expectant mothers was that the letters are too long so the agency's new policy is to shorten them up dramatically.

Now, if their marketing department feels that letters should be shorter, wouldn't it have made sense to tell us this when we sent in our proposed revisions to our letters? We would have been thrilled to rewrite what we'd sent, knowing that doing so could strengthen the appeal of our profiles and increase our chances of being selected. (See...doing our best not to be bystanders.)

Instead, the agency simply lopped off the first 20% of our letters. What's even more frustrating was that the only way I knew it had happened was because I visited our profiles to see which of the new photos we'd sent had been incorporated. As a professional writer, that didn't go over too well. I try not to get overly attached to stuff that I write for work, knowing that what emerges from the lengthy review process will no doubt be different from my initial draft. But I do take a certain pride of authorship in what I write for my personal use, especially when it's this personal.

Given that we'd taken the initiative to update and resubmit our profile letters, wouldn’t it have made sense for the profile people at the agency to take a look at what we sent and then reply with a “you know, before we post these, we’ve received some feedback based on what we’re hearing from birth mothers” message? Adding to the annoyance was the fact that none of the other profiles we checked out had similar cuts. They were all longer and had opening paragraphs in a similar vein to what was deleted from ours! So if we'd never sent in our profile updates, they wouldn't have made the changes?


So I wrote to the profile person and our client liaison (you know, the "sacrifice your hopes for a healthy baby because it doesn't matter if moms smoke like chimneys" liaison). I tried to be calm and respectful.

OK, I'll admit that I did back off a bit after my wife commented that perhaps I'd gone a bit too far over the snarky line (I was tempted to use something like my "Dr. Doom" comment above in the e-mail). I just wanted them to know how much we cared about what we were doing and that it didn't feel good to be left in the dark over and over. I ended with:

When my wife and I embarked on this journey, we were told by my father that this might possibly be the most important thing we’ll ever do. We believe that he is right. Based on our conversations with your past clients and with a member of your staff, we also felt confident that we were making the right decision to work with your agency. We still do, and hope that you will help us succeed in this journey. All we are asking for is a level of communication, support, and feedback that enables us to be a part of this process, not simply bystanders.

And then my wife and I went back to waiting.

It's been 36 hours. And there's been no reply.

Standing by...

************ Update...12 hours later ************

I returned home tonight to find an e-mail from the agency and our new client liaison who wants to spend some serious time talking with us to ensure that we're happy and feeling confident and satisfied with our adoption journey. Apparently Mrs. Marlboro is no longer with the agency. I don't know the details -- maybe she left of her own accord, maybe she was let go. If the latter, I am sorry she lost her job but on the flip side, adoption facilitation seems to be one of those "customer service is paramount" types of jobs and sadly, we weren't getting it from her.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I woke myself in the wee hours of Memorial Day, starting up from a dream. In it, I had been holding a little girl of Asian descent named Molly who had just been placed in my arms. She was going to be our daughter. It felt so excruciatingly good and right and I just couldn't bear to continue. I forced myself awake. I couldn't sleep much after that.


I've tried not to think about the adoption process as much lately as time keeps passing. Apparently, my subconscious feels differently. I'm not sure where the little girl's Asian background came from (though we are open to any race in our domestic adoption) and for some reason my brain latched onto the name of my mother's cat. Who knows why. All I know is that the joy I felt in my dream almost hurt, it was so extraordinary. And it was only a dream. What will it feel like for real? Tempered with a healthy dose of fear, no doubt. That part was blessedly missing from my nocturnal musings.

Still, I'm trying not to think about it, though deep down, I suppose some some fanciful part of my brain hopes that my dream is a portent of things to come. If it was, hopefully those things won't take too long to get here.