What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. (If you are new to this blog, regularly schedule programming will resume after the holidays, but you can check out the “Best Of” section in the meantime). If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Heather Brookes.
Adoption infertility: it isn’t a real word. I made it up. Or maybe other people have coined an official phrase for attempting to adopt and not succeeding and I just don’t know about it. Because I don’t know anyone else that has gone through what we went through and I feel alone. But through this experience, I have learned important lessons and things I think you should know about the experience of not succeeding at adopting.
First, our short story. As a military family, we knew from the start that we had a limited time frame to complete an adoption. We knew that after my experience coming from a family with adoptive and foster care experience, we were most interested in adopting from the foster care system. We were assured that because we were willing to adopt the children that are hard to place (older children, any race, sibling groups, etc.) that our time constraint wouldn’t be an issue and we signed up to start training to become licensed foster/adopt family. The problems started almost immediately. Our social worker very clearly expressed her dislike of military families. After a very long, emotionally draining 18 month process (that “ideally” should have taken 3-4 months,) we became foster parents for our local county department and began the process to be matched with an available child. After being matched with a sweet 6 year old little boy, our social worker decided that since we were “transient” due to our active duty military status, she was going to deny us the possibility to continue the process to adopt. We could leave the program or take placements on a short term or respite basis. We chose to take short term placements and had almost 6 months of very rewarding foster parenting before we had to leave the program. We leave for our next duty station in South America next month and the door on adopting has been shut for us for at least the next two years.
What I want people to know about this experience is how much it hurts to have to set up a room for an unknown child and have it sit empty for 18 months. I want people to know that not all people who choose to adopt are doing it as “Plan B.” I respect those who do adopt because of infertility but, please, understand that when you tell me to “Just wait…all the people I know who tried to adopt got pregnant,” you invalidate our choice to add to our family through our adoption. I want people to know that it kills me to know that the rest of our military career will consist of moves every 2-3 years and I live in fear that this nightmare will repeat itself at the next duty station. I want people to know that their story of how they got denied the ability to give blood is not the same as not being able to adopt at this time. We wanted to add to our family by being the family for kids that did not have one, not just be charitable. We recognize that the chance may come in the future but I still look at the picture of the little boy that we were matched with initially because I know that he still is searching for his forever family. I want you to know that the feeling of loss is still poignant and painful.
Lastly, I want you to know that there are 115,000 children available for adoption in the United States. And, according to adoptuskids.org, it would take less than 1% of the US population stepping up to provide forever homes for those kids. Because, the number one thing I learned through this experience is how much more I believe in the necessity of people to be involved in the foster care system. Right now, I can’t adopt or be a foster parent. But you can.