November is National Adoption Awareness Month. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 107,000 children and youth are currently waiting for homes in the U.S. foster care system. That doesn’t take into account the number of pregnant women looking to give their babies up for adoption or the children and youth around the globe who are in foster care of one kind or another. As a mother, this is a direct hit to my heart.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not claiming to be mother of the year. Just the other day I actually used the phrases “find your peace” and “NOW” in the same sentence, and a week or so ago I threatened the kids that they had to play together downstairs for 30 minutes—they were only allowed to come upstairs if there was a substantiated emergency or someone had to go to the bathroom (I seriously needed a mommy time-out to preserve what little sanity I had left although I did leave the intercom on “just in case”). I’ll be the first to admit that when woken up at night sometimes my mouth speaks before my brain has a chance to filter out the no-no words, and in the sake of full disclosure my husband packs their lunches because he just does it better than me.
Both of my kids have special needs, and I won’t even try to claim that I can move the mountains that stand between them and healthiness or the hurdles of autism. For all of my shortcomings and failures, I can also promise that no one loves my children more than I do and there is never a morning or afternoon or evening that they don’t hear “I love you” with a hug or kiss more times than I could even try to count. There’s not a speeding train or foe that I wouldn’t step in front of to protect my kids. And I’m pretty sure that even with Caden’s autism, they both know that mommy is always in their corner.
The thought of children not having anyone to hold them, kiss their boo-boos, or tell them I love you to the moon and back just breaks my heart. Maybe that’s the reason I so desperately want to adopt. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t mentally ready to have a medically necessary hysterectomy. Maybe I just want to experience the first weeks of a child without being in pain or drugged to prevent the pain from childbirth. Maybe it’s a reason that I haven’t even come close to identifying, but in my heart of hearts I know that I want, maybe even need, to adopt.
Now you are probably thinking so stop talki
ng about it lady, and just go do it. This is one of those areas that you might not have expected autism to affect but like every other aspect of life it does. Let me explain.
Foster-to-adopt programs make the most sense initially. They are low-to-no cost and help to move a child out of foster care into a permanent, loving home. Unfortunately, the emotional risks are high. Rarely is the first child placed with you, the child you ultimately are able to adopt since the goal in every state is to reunite children with their biological families whenever possible. Caden has a fear of death as a result of a close friend losing his father unexpectedly last year; we worry that if a child were to come into and then have to leave our home, Caden might internalize the idea that he might one day have to leave us. We can’t do anything that jeopardizes what little emotional security Caden has right now. An older child also doesn’t match Caden’s understanding of having a “baby” brother or sister; if you follow my blog, Cadenstale, at all then you know Caden is very literal and the cognitive inconsistency with a new brother or sister being older would make absolutely no sense in his world.
International adoption is often mentioned as the next logical option as there are fewer fears around a biological parent “changing their mind” about the placement. Certainly there are a number of different country options to choose from, and the wait times can be anywhere from a few months to a few years and costs vary from country to country and agency to agency. Unfortunately for us, all require not only international travel but usually a several week stay. I love the idea of traveling and exploring a new region but there are several pragmatic issues that we have to face. First our children can’t travel with us as neither can receive the vaccinations required to travel due to their primary immune deficiencies; all vaccine protection they receive comes in the form of monthly infusions that wouldn’t necessarily provide the protection needed for international travel. Leaving the children in the States while we travel isn’t an option either. Caden’s autism would never be able to handle us being gone that long and ethically we have said that we would always have one of us close enough to get home in a day or less because life threatening emergencies develop quickly and often with immune deficiencies. All in all the “unfortunates” outweigh the advantages to international adoption for us.
So that leaves us with private domestic adoption. It makes the most logical sense given our challenges but there’s always a “but” isn’t there? That “but” would be how do we pay for a domestic adoption that seems to start around the $20,000 mark. I don’t worry about marketing our strengths as a family—heck we specialize in special needs and acceptance—we’re quirky but I think there’s a mother out there that would choose us because we’ve demonstrated that we will stand by and love our children no matter what. I don’t worry about the wait because the universe has given us lots of opportunities to learn patience. The part I worry about though is how do we finance that much money? I can promise you we don’t have that amount sitting around anywhere and blame it on the drought this year if you want but no money trees are growing in our backyard. We worked really hard to fundraise to get our son’s service dog not too long ago so I know we can’t ask people to help us again.
Adoption loans, more research on the best agency and process to use, and lots more soul searching are on the to-do list. It’s ironic that the same special needs that make us experienced parents are also the same special needs that make the adoption process more challenging. My heart says we’ve got to do this while my brain is screaming HOW. At this point, I can only desperately hope that we find answers that work for us and that one day in the upcoming years I get to write a blog sharing our coming home story with you. Until then, I’ll continue to spread the word about National Adoption Awareness month, and hope that anyone out there who has the means, a lot of love in their hearts to give, and even more room in their hearts to receive the rewards of parenthood will consider adoption. Doesn’t every child deserve love to the moon and back?
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