My wife and I had been together for seven years and married for five when we decided to start a family. We had known people who had adopted, but only through an international adoption or a private adoption through an agency. Neither of those options were what we were looking for.
We knew that there were a lot of children in foster care in Massachusetts, but didn’t know much about the foster-to-adopt process. We initially went to the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) website to get a better understanding of the process, and they connected us with Cambridge Family & Children’s Service. Our initial point of contact at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, whom we reached out to over email, was extremely helpful, but the process was inevitably slow. The initial application and background check process took longer than we expected, and a family wedding delayed our ability to sign up for MAPP training.
Once we started MAPP training, it felt like the process was ﬁnally moving along. MAPP training was amazing not only because it prepared us for the foster-to-adopt process, but it helped us prepare for issues that many foster kids (and kids in general) deal with. It was also really special to be able to meet other families who were going through a similar journey.
We ﬁnished the MAPP training course in March of 2018. We were lucky that our MAPP instructor became our social worker, and we started the home study process almost immediately. Then we started the matching process as our home study was being ﬁnalized.
Going to our ﬁrst “adoption party” had to be one of the most awkward experiences either of us have ever had. In preparation, we had to make a ﬂyer with pictures of ourselves (and of our dog), and with basic information about our family. With printed ﬂyers in hand, we drove to Central Massachusetts.
Once we got there, we perused information boards and packets with details about some children who were there and some who weren’t. We knew going into this ﬁrst event that “our” child would not be present; we didn’t care about the sex, race or ability of the child, but we were hoping to adopt a child between three years old or younger, which is too young for adoption parties. This meant that it was especially important for us to introduce ourselves to as many social workers as possible. We are both fairly introverted, so we did not relish the process of walking up to social workers, introducing ourselves and handing them ﬂyers featuring our smiling faces.
The vast majority of the social workers were incredibly nice, and some of them were even looking to place one or two children in our age range in a pre-adoptive home. However, most of the children we heard about were not legally available for adoption.
As we were talking to a table of workers, another worker overheard our conversation. She said that she had a little 16-month-old girl whom she hadn’t been posting about yet, because she was looking for the right family. She said that we sounded like we could be that family.
We had gone into the event not wanting to get our hopes up, but the second she showed us a picture of this gorgeous little girl, we were immediately invested.
We gave her our social worker’s information, and she gave us hers…and then we didn’t hear anything for weeks. Then, suddenly, we were invited to set up a disclosure meeting, after which we would potentially decide whether this child was “our child.”
Going into the disclosure meeting, we couldn’t imagine ﬁnding out anything that would erase the feeling we’d had ever since we saw that little girl’s picture. At the end of the meeting, the child’s social worker asked if we would like to go meet her – as in, right away! We were incredibly nervous, and had no idea what to think as we knocked on the door of the foster family’s home to meet the little girl who would become our daughter.
Two weeks later, our daughter came for a four-day visit to our house – her future home – after which we had to take her back to the foster home, where she remained for another week. That was one of the hardest weeks of our lives, waiting for this child who already felt like a part of us but to whom our connection was still so legally and bureaucratically tenuous. But then the big day arrived, and our daughter arrived back home to stay.
Since our daughter was still in the process of being legally cleared for adoption, we had to begin the journey of birth-parent visits, check-ins with social workers and quarterly visits from lawyers. As the ﬁnal days should have been approaching, one of our daughter’s biological relatives also made a last-minute claim for guardianship, which terriﬁed us despite reassurances from all of the professionals involved in our daughter’s case. Finally, the birth mother’s parental rights were terminated and we all signed an open adoption agreement. Six months later, we are still waiting for our court date to ﬁnalize everything so that our daughter can become ours legally, but we are trying to remain patient!
Nothing can prepare you for this journey. It is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end, even in a case like ours, which has actually been one of the least circuitous journeys we’ve heard about. But none of those ups and downs matter as soon as you hold your kid.
It is overwhelming to consider the crush of children waiting to be matched with families, and we feel incredibly blessed that we were brought together with our daughter. This process changed our lives forever, and we can’t imagine having started our family in any other way.