Things are happening a lot faster then we had anticipated. It kind of caught us off guard. Earlier in the spring we had spoken to another couple about their not-so-positive experiences dealing with Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS). That combined with the dismal experience in training did not leave us with high expectations. However, since attending the orientation just a few months ago, our Home Study in nearly complete.
Our first visit with the Home Study social worker, Ms. B. was in July. That visit was primarily to assess our home and to help us understand the process for completing the certification as a foster/adoptive resource family. The visit that took place last Thursday afternoon had two purposes: the first was to gather information about us that would help BCDSS match our family with a child whose needs we would be able to meet. The second was to evaluate our ability to serve as a foster/adoptive resource family. Prior to the visit both Darrow and I had completed a biography that was comprised of specific questions related to our up-bringing. For the interview she focused mainly on three things: my family, my education and my current relationship. And while normally this kind of thing would have made me nervous, Ms. B. is very easy to talk to. It is amazing that after working for Social Services for nearly thirty years and having seen so many bad things, she has such a pleasant disposition and a wonderful sense of humor. We felt lucky that she had been assigned to us. During my interview she asked the following questions:
- What did your father do for a living?
- Give me the names of your siblings, their ages, marital status and whether or not they have children.
- Regarding your sibling that had passed away-when did that occur? Was it sudden? How did it affect your family?
- What did you think about high school?
- Did you feel that moving out of the house at eighteen, right after high school was a brave thing to do?
- How did you like college? How about graduate school?
- When you told your family that you were gay, how did they respond?
- How long have you been with Darrow? How long have you two lived together?
- What do you think of him? Why do you want to be with him?
- What do you like to do for recreation?
- How will having a child change the way you relax or take vacations?
She again asked the age range of children we were interested in adopting. When I told her that it was newborn through a year old, she pointed out that that might mean we would have to wait for some period of time. In Baltimore City, infants are placed in foster care while their case is being processed. The permanency plan for reunification with the birth parents is pursued, however, if that fails and a permanent placement is sought, BCDSS turns to the foster care family first to see if they are interested in adopting the child. Often they are. For those children whose foster families are either not interested or are unable to adopt, the children are placed with waiting adoptive families. This situation works against us for two reasons: first infants that are placed in foster homes in the first few months after birth are often in a tenuous situation with regard to their birth families and they may not remain in the foster home. For this reason we have decided not to accept the placement of a child under these circumstances. Second for those children who do become available for adoption, many are eighteen months or older which at the present time is outside of our indicated age range. We have decided that as we go along, should the age range significantly limit our prospects for a placement that we will reevaluate things.
Ms. B. then began to go over all of the possible medical conditions of a child that could be presented to us. Would we be willing to accept a child that is asthmatic? How about developmental delays? Hearing-impaired? HIV positive? Diabetes? Whoa!
While we had talked about some of the issues we were willing to deal with and had done the research in order to make informed decisions, most of these medical conditions we had never thought of. For example, a hearing-impaired or deaf child means communication difficulties which would also complicate life with three big dogs, and neither of us has had any experience with deafness. Is that something we are prepared for? Ms. B. suggested providing us with a list of the various medical conditions that we could encounter in placement. Once we have made decisions regarding each one, this information would then be used as part of the placement process to help match the adoptive family to the needs of the child.
The process is nearing its end, with only the fire inspection left before we receive our certification–an actual framed document that we hang on the wall that says we are okay to foster or adopt. Once certified, Ms. B. said that we would be assigned a home worker who would assist us with placement. If there were children we were interested in, we could work through the placement home worker. Our information will also be entered into a database enabling case workers of children throughout the Baltimore City system to identify us as a resource family. In addition we would be placed in the Maryland Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) database which would enable social workers from any local jurisdiction within Maryland to contact our social worker regarding the placement of a child with us.
Finally, while I was meeting with Ms. B. and again after Darrow had joined us, she talked about the quality of references that our friends and family had provided. For those people out-of-State, Ms. B. had obtained written references. For local references, she interviewed them in person. Ms. B. pointed out that in all of her years doing home studies she had never received such wonderful comments from references. She noted that my sister in particular had written a novelette in response to some of the questions. So let us take the opportunity to thank you all: James, Mary Lou, Michelle, Nancy & Doug, Russell and Darrow’s Mom), we appreciate you being there for us in this process. We think very highly of you. We are so happy that you are in our lives and will be apart of our journey into parenthood.