Original blog written May 2015
There are messages all over the place that parenting is reserved for YOUNG MARRIED COUPLES. Many adoption agencies have this NOTION about who qualifies to adopt. Reason why as a Single, Black Woman who is 50’ish, decided to stay clear away from Agency Adoption because these words kept coming up; MARRIED COUPLES ONLY; AGE RESTRICTED; guessing, all others need not apply. Well, anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t respond very well to being RESTRICTED. I asked myself, am I legally restricted, morally, ethically or socially restricted? So, I was more than prepared to wage a SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT to break these BARRIERS into the Adoption world. However, ADVOCACY aside, at the end of the day, all I wanted was to bring my forever child home, so I decided to find the BEST MEANS to do that.
So, why did I mention that I am also BLACK? And does RACE matter? Well, NO, it SHOULD NOT. But, while I believe that the label “Black” and/or “African-American” are important and valid cultural identity markers, these labels are also “social constructs” that create ASSUMPTIONS, as with gender, age, marital status, etc, etc, labels come with assumptions that lends to ARBITRARY RESTRICTIONS whereby people are pigeonholed into where they should fit and what should come with those fittings. And, being one to not always buy into “SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS”, being a person of “sufficient maturity” to recall the social justice movements of the 70s and the “Burger King” commercial jingle of the 80’s, “have it your way”, I was determined by my own stubborn nature to live my life my way AND “by any (legal and ethical) means necessary”!! So, flash forward to 2015 and notions are still “out there” that Black people do not adopt, or at least if they do adopt, it’s a necessary situation, results from a family dysfunction or a family disruption; likely a kinship adoption; never independent, not privately, always somehow in the family or through “THE SYSTEM”. And where do all these notions come from? Well, at this point in my life……”Ain’t nobody got time for that”!! But, what jumps out at me every time I visit an Adoption websites, is that Single Black people like myself, are rarely, if at all ever visible on these sites. Well, not a bad thing if you want to GET NOTICED!!
Well, in spite of all my aversions to THE SYSTEM, my journey to adoption first began with the DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES (DSS), not because I felt that was the only place to begin as a “person of color”, but because the FOSTER CARE SYSTEM is very wide open to placing babies and children with parents of all age groups, any marital status, and just about anyone who qualifies may end up with a permanent situation which could potentially lead to a successful adoption. Also, I began there because a large number of children in the Foster Care System are children of color and in need of permanent homes and I would have gladly opened my heart and my home to any child or sibling groups needing a temporary and/or a permanent placement. However, I soon discovered that this was not the road for me and the very thought of working with THE SYSTEM was scaring the H… out of me.
So, way before my journey to Independent Domestic Adoption began, I found myself at the Nassau DSS scared, alone and full of self doubt. And, no wonder, the system began its own investigation into motives and my intentions as if I myself had venture into THE SYSTEM…...worst experience EVER!! This left me questioning my ability to parent ….what was I thinking!!! All the while, months were passing by and I could not for one SINGLE moment stop thinking that there was a child out there, yet to be born, yet unknown to me, with whom I was already in love with and wanted so much to know….Crazy Stupid for some, but for me a valid reason and, perhaps the only SANE reason to move forward…..So, “where do I begin to tell my adoption story….My starting point began on a cold November evening in 2011, sitting in a MAPP class all wrapped up in a thick bulky sweater (room was ice cold!!) and all wrapped up in my self doubt. The very first thing I heard at the very first session was, “the Foster Care System is NOT AN ADOPTION AGENCY”….”you are here (if you should accept this mission) to form a PARTNERSHIP with a child caseworker and the birth family for REUNIFICATION”; words that scared me from the very start, especially not being able to image at that point how I could love and parent a child for any length of time and end up having to return that child to a potentially bad situation and possibly unsafe circumstance…it was too heart-wrenching for me to imagine!!
Now, it is no cliché that “all roads on the journey to adoption will lead to the child that will be your own”. I was supposed to be there in that MAPP class hearing these words. And, I would come to understand later why I was there at that moment…..at that very moment when I received my Foster Parent Certificate and was ready to all but give up on my dream of adopting, I was handed a flyer by one of the ladies leading the class. She wanted to share an invitation to attend an APC (Adoptive Parent Committee) meeting for anyone considering Private Adoption; perhaps, one last sign that the Foster Care System was not the way for me to begin my journey to adopt. Well, I did attend that APC meeting (the only one in my MAPP class) and it was at that very first meeting that I met many wonderful people at all stages of the Adoption process, they were single, married, heterosexual and same-sex couples, of all ages and all persuasions and yes, there was even a place at the table for me, Single, Black, and 50’ish. The atmosphere was welcoming and the message was comforting…..YES YOU WILL ADOPT!!!
It was also at that same APC meeting that I met my attorney Jeanine Castagna, talking about the Red Flags in Adoption, a whole new world for me of ADOPTION ADVERTISING. Jeanine gave me assurance that I will adopt and to put the whole Foster System nightmare behind me and not give up on my dream. I attended an APC conference in 2012 where I met many more people on their journey to adopting privately and independently, domestically and internationally, as married and as singles, as inter-racial couples and/or as same-sex couples. It was there that I meet my Social Worker, Ellen Hackett-Murphy and began to feel more comfortable with the Home Study process and telling my story, without judgment! It was there at that APC conference where I met new friends, a Black married couple who were determined to adopt “in just a few month” they gave me hope that I could do the same!!! So, the adoption social movement had already begun and was gaining ground…..YES, BLACK PEOPLE DOADOPT PRIVATELY!
What also encouraged me was attending an APC SINGLE’S SESSION where I met other single women and their friends and family who came out to support them on their journey. An Adoption Therapist who led the session had adopted her daughter as a single “unattached” woman. Everyone was at different stages of the process but most in the room had already adopted….they were there to SUPPORT….I was getting even more HOPEFUL!! What most inspired me was the grace of one woman who would become a very dear friend and avid support person. She had recently become widowed just after starting the adoption process with her husband; lots of tears in the room and an understanding that we are all connected in our humanity by loss and grief and that in life there will be moments of deep pain, moments of frustration and moments of anger when you just want to scream, and there will be people who will surround you and be there to understand; just because they get it!! It was there that I first met Chemene and Josette and Pam; they were there to support their friend Adele. In my estimation, the three function as “Adoption Support Supper Heroes”, there to INSPIRE, there to lend SUPPORT to anyone who has faith enough and courage enough and guts enough to become parents by whatever means necessary, there to let you know that you are never alone on this journey!!
OK, so I am STILL WAITING and waiting and waiting and what a wait it has been!! I started advertising in October of 2013; one year, six months and a couple of weeks now….30 birthmother contacts, ups and downs, encouragements and discouragements, but in the words of the great poet laureate Maya Angelou, “Wouldn’t take nothing from my journey now” …….now as I wait with more purpose and determination…now as I wait learning new life lessons and understanding the value of building solid relationships with expectant mothers (even when they change their mind)….just because they may be an essential link to my child’s HISTORY. Now, waiting and knowing that it does not matter that I am single and 50’ish, at least not to the expected moms who have never once asked my age or questioned my intentions and have decided to call. And perhaps, I will find a life partner one day who will be a wonderful husband and father for my child….but, even if that never happens, my child will have me, a strong and empowered single woman prepared to contribute value and substance to my child’s “BIOGRAPHY” which will be interwoven with his/her very own personal story. My child will have the grace and wisdom of my MOTHER, who at 80’ish now has nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and will gladly welcome more while she is still doing well and have energy to love them all. So, with each day while I wait, there are those things that drive me on this ADOPTION JOURNEY…the fact that I am determined, the fact that I am healthy, fit and YOUNG AT HEART, and the fact that I am supported by Adoption Super Heroes, all points me to this one fact, “YES I WILL ADOPT… and the CHILD, yet to be found, with whom I am already madly in LOVE, will soon become my very own forever Child, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!!
Written by Lynn