There we were entering the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) building for the final day of training. I remembered thinking the day before that I would rather have been at work than in this depressing, sad training program. But today I knew that I was going to miss being here, because in the end, each module, each day meant progress, one more step towards Daddyhood—or at least that is the hope.
Upon entering the class we find ourselves to be eerily alone. Other than a few stacks of boxes and stray wires coming out of the walls and hanging from the ceiling, the entire floor is empty. All of the floor’s inhabitants had packed up and were in the process of moving downtown. It adds to the emptiness of the experience.
And today, the trainer seems to be just as cold to Darrow and I as the very first day. It is amplified in the fact that she is very personable with some of the other participants who are decidedly not a gay couple trying to adopt a baby. At this point though, it doesn’t really matter anymore because it’s the last day. The fact is BCDSS can check the box now that says we’ve completed training. That is all we care about.
In some ways it is the most difficult day because the trainer seems especially irritable. In addition to reading the module this time, she also relies heavily on videos for this days training. It seems like a way to kill time while she is busy doing other things. These are the same horrible videos dramatizing sexual, physical and emotional child abuse and its affects on foster families as we had seen the previous week, only this time there is a pause after each scene in the video allowing for the viewers to engage in some sort of dialogue. However, when she is actually in the room, the trainer says little or nothing to stimulate any discussion. As I look around at all of the other trainees, I am furious that we have to sit through these awful videos again. I notice that no one is engaged and three people have their heads down on the table in front of them—sleeping. It is a sad ending to a sad four days of training.
At the end of the training they give us lunch and roll out a big cake. Maybe they recognize how awful their own training can be and so they are rewarding us for hanging in there. While we are all having cake, they hand out our certificates of completion and a souvenir BCDSS travel mug. As each one of us goes up we turn in our homework and an evaluation form. I hand in a blank evaluation because I refused to lie. And the way the trainer is collecting them, it is not an anonymous thing. I figure that if I fill it out and she reads it, our foster/adoption paperwork would never see the light of day. As each one of us goes up to receive our certificate, there is applause. We are all really relieved to have this behind us. The trainer even gives Darrow a certificate even though he is considered my back-up and not officially in the class as she had pointed out so clearly throughout the training. I lean over to Darrow after he receives his certificate and comment that there was no way she could have not given one to him. We just spent almost 30 hours in training with the same people and we had in a small way, bonded. Darrow had also been a vocal member of the class and the spokesman during one of the group projects. I think that it would have been perceived as being mean-spirited had she not given him a certificate.
One of the bright spots in this otherwise bleak experience occurs just before we are about to have cake. Someone asks if there is a camera so we can take a picture of it. After I whip out our camera someone asks, “How is it that you brought a camera to class?” I tell them that we are documenting the adoption experience so that we can share it with family and friends and eventually with our son. We had already taken pictures in front of the building and I wanted a picture of the cake . There is a collective sigh from the women and a positive response from everyone in the room (the trainer was off in another part of the building). I think our enthusiasm for being Daddies was not wasted. Everyone there was so ready to feel something positive and uplifting out of this experience. We emerged triumphant having passed through the first of what I expect will be many difficult hoops to jump through. Now it’s time for the home study………