the coulda been kid

The adoption agency called and asked if we would be interested in fostering a four year old. This would be an immediate placement, meaning the child could be living with us by the end of the day. However, as the caseworker explained, this placement would not be permanent as they were looking for a long-term foster family and not an adoptive family. The end goal of this placement was to be reunification with the child’s birth parents.

We would be temporary.

As much as I would love to give a home to every child in the foster system, the fact is I can’t do it. I tell myself (and others) that the reason we don’t foster is because it wouldn’t be fair to Chris and Elijah. This is your new brother, but don’t get too attached because he’ll be moving out in 4 to 6 months. But the real reason we don’t foster is because I can’t handle it. I’m not strong enough. I fall in love at first sight. I become too attached. I can’t say goodbye.

The truth is even if I knew from the beginning that a placement was to be temporary when the time came for that child to leave it would destroy me. I can’t be temporary. I’m just not wired that way. I’m grateful to those people who are able to be placeholders, people like Chris’s foster parents who have selflessly given home and heart to dozens of children in need.

For the past two decades these heroes have taken in children from the most unimaginable situations. One child brought in to their care had been so badly neglected that she suffered brain damage when her birth parents attempted to starve her to death. My son’s former foster parents literally nursed this child from the brink of death, loving her for over a year before saying goodbye when she was adopted by her forever family.

I wish I possessed their courage and strength. Because that particular brand of courage and strength is in demand.

Today in the United States of America there are more than 400,000 children in foster care.

400,000 children in need of a home.

For many of these kids the need for a home is (at least for the moment) temporary, but for more than 100,000 of these children the need for a home is a lifelong commitment.

And here’s the thing: those numbers never go down. It seems as soon as one child is placed with a family another child is brought into the system to take his place. The need is never-ending.

I think about all those kids who came before Chris and Elijah and all the children that will come after them. I think about the hundreds of profiles that have come across my desk. I think about all the photos and stories. I think about that four year old.

I remember all the times I was convinced that a child would be a perfect match only to never hear from the caseworker. I remember all the times my heart broke reading page after page of neglect and abuse. I remember all the times I had to say no.

You can’t save them all, I tell myself.

Except it’s not about saving. These kids do not need to be saved. These kids need to be a given a chance.

Like all of us, they just need to be loved.

November is National Adoption Month. Learn more about adoption and find out more about local adoption.

with six you get egg roll

November is National Adoption Month and while not as noteworthy as the recently celebrated National Donut Day, I do believe it deserves a mention if for no other reason than because for the majority of the 400,000 kids currently in foster care in the United States there is no home, but for the 10 billion donuts baked every year in this country there is a home (and I know this to be true because I personally ate 5 billion of them last year).

I had wanted to be a Dad for as long as I could remember, almost as long as I’d been eating donuts.  Having a family was the future I imagined for myself.  When I was younger that family photo included a very understanding wife who would happily give me the six kids I wanted.  As I got older and realized that I was gay, that photo changed.  I still imagined the six kids, but my very understanding wife was now a hot guy named Juan.   In the end I got my guy and, while he lacked the ethnic flair of Juan, we built a perfectly imperfect life together.  We talked about starting a family very early in our relationship.  I can remember the two of us in that impossibly tiny twin bed in my apartment in Freeport discussing it.  It was something we both wanted.  We discussed it at length,  revisiting the idea often over the years.   It seemed to always be there – hanging over us just slightly out of reach because, really, who would give two guys a kid?  It just didn’t seem to be in the cards for us.  

remember asking Todd if we were ever going to have a family and he said, “No, it just wasn’t going to happen.”   It was devastating to hear and I was angry with him for saying it, but I realized he said it for the same reason we had done nothing more than imagine the idea: FEAR.  We had talked and dreamed and schemed but we had never taken any real action.  In fifteen years, we had done nothing more than float the idea as if that alone would make the dream a reality.

So one day we did something.  Because it’s that easy.  Because adoption is easy.  Yes, there are hundreds of pages of paperwork to fill out, and yes, your privacy will be invaded, and yes, the process will seem never-ending, and there will be days of rejection that crush your soul where you feel absolutely inadequate and lose all hope.  But as someone who once directed the single worst production on record of the William Wycherley play The Country Wife, I like having my soul crushed.  And besides, I didn’t mind the paperwork.  I think filling out all of those forms brought Todd and I closer together. As for the countless home interviews and personal questions, well, they were just a chance for me to talk about my favorite subject: me.

The only downside was the waiting.  It was the waiting that almost did us in.  But here’s the truth: the waiting is only bad when you’re actually waiting.  Yes, days seem like months and weeks feel like years, but from start to finish it really didn’t take that long.  We walked into the adoption agency on August 7, 2012, and by November 1, 2012, we were officially certified as viable adoptive parents.  On April 19, 2013, we read Chris’s profile.  Five weeks later on May 29, 2013, the state of Oregon approved us as his foster parents and finally on July 8, 2013, we met our son for the first time.  We finalized the adoption on May 21, 2014.  Now when I think back on that time I just look at it as the world’s longest pregnancy.

And it was worth every minute, every stretch mark, every piece of paper, every personal question.  The waiting.  The rejection.  The feeling that you just don’t measure up.  Yes, this process will break you heart every day until one day you walk up the stairs past the room that used to be your bedroom before you turned it into a kid’s room and in that moment it will all make sense because there he is, your kid.  The kid you adopted.  The kid who it feels has always been there.