Getting the Most Out of the Process
If there’s anything I wish I’d done differently during the home study process, it would be to use the social worker’s time more to our advantage. That is, I wish I’d worried less about what I was going to say and concentrated more on asking questions about adoption (What, for instance, do birth mothers look for in an adoptive parent? Social workers talk to them all the time).
“It’s a participatory process, and I hope that families see it that way as opposed to feeling as though they’re sitting under a microscope and simply need to respond to the social worker,” says Freundlich. “You shouldn’t worry that your questions will appear dumb or unprepared, because asking questions reflects that you want to know more about what adoption will mean for you and your child.”
In fact, adds Holtan, adoptive parents should try to feel as though they’re in the driver’s seat. “The number of children around the world and in this country needing homes is infinite, and the numbers of adoptive parents are so small,” she says. “They’re the ones that should be asking the questions and really discussing anything they don’t understand or have misgivings about.”
And if you don’t feel comfortable doing either with the social worker you’ve been assigned, or feel he or she just doesn’t “get” you, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask to work with someone else. A home study is a very intimate process, and you want a representative who will understand you and present you as you truly are.
For all her quibbles with the home study process, Lisa Frye believes it was all worth it. “When I look at my kids I’m so glad I went through everything,” she says, “but I went through everything.” True, it’s not easy, but just like with the pain of labor and delivery, once you’ve got that child in your arms, the pain is barely a memory.
Parent Preparation Classes
Chances are, you’re going to have to attend some kind of parent training class. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a governmental clearinghouse for adoption info, the classes are intended to help prospective parents better understand the responsibilities of raising a child and help them make the right match. Still, the idea of having to attend a class to be a parent can rankle—until you actually go. At least that was my experience.
My husband and I had to attend a series of four classes, which were actually small, informal groups (four couples) led by two social workers. It was great to hear that we weren’t alone in the trials and tribulations we were facing in the search for a child (you don’t have to wait until your home study is done to begin the adoption process), and we got advice on how to cope with some of the touchier aspects of adoption (such as how do you talk to a birth mother without seeming desperate).
Barb Holtan sees the classes as a great benefit to adoptive parents. There are so many issues adoptive parents have to weigh—Could they handle a special needs child? Are they comfortable adopting a child of a different race? Will they be okay with a birth parent who wants a lot of contact?—that most other parents do not. “The classes help you determine what you feel you can and can’t do,” she says. “They increase your level of security.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2007 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Related Topics: Adoption
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Getting the Most Out of the Process
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