When a 17-year-old is shot and killed in a racially motivated crime and there is no justice, I realize that I have been worrying about the wrong things. I should be worried about a society in which so many are morally bankrupt. I should be worried about allowing the disease that is racism to seep into my own heart under the guise of wanting to do the right thing. I should be worried that Trayvon Martin is one of thousands of black, Hispanic and other minority men that live their lives in fear because of their appearance, an appearance crafted by the same God of white men. Amidst our statuses of outrage, I urge each of us to examine our hearts and see if there are traces of racism, sexism, classism or other isms that corrupt our relations and dealings with other human beings. I hope that this is an opportunity for us to be honest with ourselves and work at cleansing these sicknesses from our communities. For me, that will be welcoming any child that is in need into our home and our family and spending my efforts not in worrying about where our society is failing but but rather in helping to create the type of society I want to live in.
Feraz and I met when I was 18 and he was 22. By the time I was 19, we were engaged and as two young kids, we still had a lot to learn about the world. But there was one thing that we knew we wanted to do from the moment that we decided we would share our life together and that was to adopt.
We both felt a social responsibility to take care of children that were already in the world and needed the support, love and security we felt we could provide. We have both always wanted four children and initially we planned to adopt all four. As our relationship grew, we realized that we also had a desire to want biological children as well. We thought creating a life together was a great expression of love and I also wanted to experience the miracle of creating a life inside of me. We decided to adopt two children and biologically have two. This was decided about ten years ago and we have both stayed committed to this plan for our family.
We had always planned to adopt internationally and for the last few years, I had been researching different agencies and countries from which we could adopt. As the date to start our adoption process neared, I realized that I was not comfortable spending 20-50k on the adoption process for two kids. One day, while I was researching adoption online, I came across an article about adopting through the foster care system. On a whim, I emailed CFSA and signed up for their upcoming orientation session.
At the orientation session, I learned about the great need for good parents right in our own community. When I was in college, I spearheaded our university’s Fast-A-Thon, a national event geared to eradicating hunger in our communities. A message from that event that always stuck with me is the great need to address issues that are happening locally. Whenever my friends and I would think of places to help, our minds and our efforts would go towards helping people overseas. While there is a great importance to spending our energies towards global relief efforts, we should not do it with a blind eye towards the many social issues and injustices that happen in our own backyards.
After the information session, I knew that I could not, with good conscience, board a plane to fly across the world to find a child, when so many children just blocks from my home, needed a loving and caring family. I was so touched by the message of the social workers and the children in the videos at the orientation that I immediately went home and campaigned for Feraz to consider adopting through the foster care system.
Feraz was not ready to commit immediately but was very open minded and said he would also attend an orientation session and learn more about this route. Before we knew it, we were both on board and ready to start the process to foster to adopt.
The first part of this process was taking a five-week MAPP training course. In this course we met other prospective foster and adoptive parents, learned much more about the foster care system, the reunification process and the many challenges that come with adopting a child from the foster care system.
The class also helped prepare us for the realities of parenthood. We learned of different ways to address problem behaviors, handle situations as a family and plan for the children’s futures. By the end of the class, I was convinced that every parent, bio or adoptive should have to go through such a class before having children.
One important thing we learned from the class was that we would not be able to be foster parents. Although we were open to this possibility when we started the class, we both knew that we would become too attached to the children to be able to say goodbye when they were reunified with their biological family. For this reason, we decided to apply for children that are already available for adoption.
Every child who is in the foster care system has a “goal” or “plan.” The goal is usually reunification meaning the child is to be placed back in the home that it was removed from once the parent is able to resolve the issue that caused the child to be removed in the first place. But there are instances where the parent will not be able to resolve the issue and the best resolution for the child is to find a permanent or ‘forever’ home. At this point, a judge will terminate the parental rights of the biological parent and that child will be available for adoption.
This is where Feraz and I come in. Once we have our license we will be able to be ‘matched’ with an available child. Part of the process included us filling out a matching form on which we detailed things we could or could not parent. For instance, we were open to parenting a child that was born premature and had prenatal drug exposure but we were not open to parenting a child that was terminally ill or would need constant medical attention. The matching tool is very thorough and it was so sad to read some of the issues the children came with and even more saddening that we were not equipped to parent some children who will desperately need loving homes.
After we filled out our matching tool, we were set up for our first home study. At this home study, we were given all the paper work we would need to fill out and we discussed the timeline of getting licensed. Among the things we would have to do before getting licensed were having a lead inspection of the house, getting medical clearances, getting background checks, child proofing our home and submitting references.
At the second home study, Feraz and I each had individual interviews with our social worker and also talked to the social worker together. Here, we delved into our relationship, our backgrounds, our values and our goals. We really like our social worker and found it easy to talk openly to her about our expectations and hopes for this process.
We had the third home study earlier this week. It was very brief and we just went over financial information to demonstrate that we are able to financially take care of the children.
In the next month, we should complete the licensing process and then the agency can begin to find matches for us. We have asked for twins or a sibling set under the age of three but could be placed with single children as well. Once we are into that stage, we will do another update!
Feraz and I did not put a race preference on our adoption paperwork. And even though I could never bring myself to change that lack of preference, I worried. I knew that 85% of the kids in the DC foster care system are black and I knew that most likely, the children that would first be matched with us would be black. I worried about the reception of black children into our families and our communities. I worried about not being able to raise my children “culturally appropriately.” I worried about having to deal with the racism they will be subjected to throughout their lives. I worried about them thinking about how their parents looked so different from them. I worried that they wouldn’t have the chances in life that other children we adopted would.