We thought we wanted a baby. A tiny fist wrapped around our fingers. The smell of talcum powder. A coo, a cry, a cuddle.
But after trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive -- including an attempt at in vitro fertilization -- my husband, Kevin, and I decided to explore adoption.
Overwhelmed by the prospects of international adoption and the costs and risks of independent domestic adoption, Kevin and I decided to sign up to be foster parents. We could help a child, we reasoned, while trying to decide the best way to get one of our own. We imagined a toddler, delivered to our door, longing to be loved and nurtured.
That's not what happened.Special Needs
In Louisiana (where we lived), couples who want to become certified foster or adoptive parents first take a nine-week course, to learn about parenting and about the children who need homes.
The faces of waiting children look much the same in every state. They are six and 10 and 12. They are children with difficult histories. They are not infants or toddlers. They are not blank slates. Some have emotional problems and learning disabilities and even serious health concerns. But like all children, they need permanent families. A place to call home, a place of safety and guidance today, a place to bring the grandkids for Christmas tomorrow.
Kevin and I looked through photos of Louisiana's waiting children. The faces haunted us. They were smiling for the camera, like puppies in a pet store window wagging for a home. We were overwhelmed with sorrow and regret. Regret that we couldn't adopt them all. The question of whether to adopt one of the children in these photos became, "How do we adopt one?"
A social worker helped narrow our search. Would we consider a sibling group? We had two extra bedrooms, Kevin pointed out. With bunk beds, we could easily take three.
Special needs? Here we hesitated. Older children in the foster care system would likely have emotional problems, we reasoned. Could we handle learning disabilities, as well? Medical conditions?
We decided that we could handle "moderate" disabilities, but that, as first-time parents, we did not have the skills or confidence to handle severe problems.
And so we continued with our classes and waited for a call. It didn't take long for our children to find us. A friend was the temporary foster mother of a sister and brother, 8 and 10, who were on their sixth foster placement. They were not yet available for adoption, but were expected to be shortly. We saw their pictures, talked to their foster mother, and arranged for a visit. Three weeks later, our family grew by two.