Yesterday, our home study was finally approved. The director had already signed off on the 16-page home study a month before (according to the date of her signature), and we went in to read the study and sign off on it. On average, it takes 9 months from a home study approval to "placement" of a child in our home. So...Kate and I are pregnant!
Reading the home study was odd, but that was expected. The home study is an in-depth account of who you are individually, together, and with your immediate family. Most of it was a basic accounting of our childhoods, what we do in our free time, and our personal history. Some of it was fun to read (our social worker called me "well dressed"), some of it needed to be corrected (Kate liked horseback riding because she was drawn to the people, not to the horses originally), and some of it we just had to get through. Most people read through the home study in 30 minutes, but we spent two hours correcting grammar, spelling, and finessing statements that didn't seem authentic in their original form. By the time we finished approving the home study, the office was already closed, so we returned today to look at kids' profiles.
Every foster care youth who is interested in adoption has a one or two page profile, which describes them - their health, their interests, their academic success - and their family and why they're in foster care. The profiles are inconsistent. Some counties provide lots of individualized information. Other county social workers are tired at their job, I think. Some of the profiles had the exact same text as others, washing away the child's uniqueness.
Each geographic region is put together, and we only looked at the Bay Area and Sacramento folders. We are looking for a child who is 5 to 16, curious, and smart, with limited medical issues. Technically, a lot of children meet these criteria, but I found it easy to say "no," harder to say "yes."
Today, I said no to children who: were connected to their church, liked football (but not playing outside), wanted a male role model, or simply weren't interested in any of the things we like to do.
We said yes to four profiles: a 16 year old queer teenager who wanted a home to support him as he continued to discover himself; a 8 and 5 year old sibling set, two girls who were resilient, playful, and smart; an 11 year old who looked shockingly like Kate as a child, with a huge smile, her tongue sticking out at you, who loves to play with chalk and do arts & crafts; and an 11 year old who spoke to us despite the social worker's terrible description, her kindness and creativeness leaping off the page.
At this point, saying "yes" means that our new social worker will send our one page profile (similar to the kids' profiles) and our 16 page home study to the social workers of these five kids. The child's social worker will then say yes or no. If no, that's not the kid for us. If yes, then there's a disclosure meeting.
A disclosure meeting is between us, our social workers, and the kid's social worker. The kid's social worker tells us everything they know about the kiddo. This would include grades, behavioral problems, why the kid was put in foster care, the likelihood of parental reunification (if any), other siblings, known family members, and anything else the social worker knows about the kid.
After the disclosure meeting, we go home and consult our friends and family and decide if this is the child for us. We do not get to meet the child before we say yes, and once we say yes, we have to be all in.
Rosh Hashanah is a holiday reminding us of our powerlessness - we do not choose major moments in our lives. We do not chose our birth, our parents, our death. Rosh Hashanah is also a celebration of our choices. We choose what we do between these points. Rosh Hashanah is a time to reflect on the past year's choices, forgive yourself and others, and spiritually prepare for the year before you.
Ultimately, we are powerless to who our child is. We can choose aspects of our child, we can choose one child over another, but these are artificial choices. Our child will become who they are, despite our due diligence research and social workers' assurances. In this choice, I am both powerful - I say yes and no - and powerless - I know I should expect the unexpected.
Rosh Hashanah is also referred to Ha'rat Olam, the pregnancy of the world, ripe with possibilities. The year has just begun, and there is so much to look forward to in the months ahead. Kate and I are pregnant.