Saturday morning services have ended at Temple Sinai and the congregation is gathered in the recreation room for lunch and socializing. The table is covered with bagels and cream cheese, as well as Ethiopian injera and sauces. The children are running around, playing cards, hiding behind the curtains on the small stage at the back, sneaking soda, and negotiating play dates.
Among the children are a dozen or so from orphanages in Addis Ababa. They are of the eight families of Temple Sinai who have adopted in the Second Nurture framework. Their parents had shared the adoption journey from the beginning: from learning about the orphan crisis to home studies and paperwork; matching with and traveling to bring their children home to on-going support of each other and the children via classes and discussion groups.
In clusters of conversation they watch their children play. They share meaningful glances that say it all: thank God they are here, with us, our children. Fellow congregants who are part of the new cohort of adopting parents – still in the home study stage — join them in a cluster, excited and nervous. They grasp the hands of their birth kids and say, “Soon your brother or sister will come home from Ethiopia, too!”
Many of their friends in the synagogue, adoptive families and not, are now involved in supporting sustainable technologies in a village outside Addis Ababa that enables mothers to pump and filter water at home, raising their children more healthfully and safely.
Tonight, Temple Sinai is holding an Open House for Second Nurture. The members are excited to welcome families from the Sikh Temple, since only Indians can adopt from the very high orphan population in India, as well as families from the nearby Unitarian church and the city’s community center.
This scene is supported and promoted by Second Nurture in dozens of religious and secular communities around the country.
There is acute experience, like Homecoming Day, which is often followed by a Honeymoon Period. There will also be a stretch of time, until the finalization of the adoption, where there will be official social worker visits for both monitoring and support.
“I picked up the manila envelope we had received from an adoption agency, and Yosef put down his newspaper. I hadn’t opened it yet, hadn’t yet been willing to enter some ass-kicking reality: once the forms were complete, our file would join hundreds of others on the desk of a bureaucratic matchmaker—a faraway woman at a desk, surrounded by stuffed manila folders or clear plastic sleeves in binders. Half the files would be filled with information on prospective parents like us. The other half with photographs, biographies, and medical records of children. For Papa, make him a scholar! For Mama, make him rich as a king!
Maybe Xue the Matchmaker sits in an old Soviet-style office building in Beijing sipping bubble tea, and Sunita the Matchmaker drinks lassi in a Gothic structure in Mumbai, and Mio the Matchmaker sits in Hong Kong sipping yuanyang, and Yihune the Matchmaker savors muddy coffee in Addis Ababa, and Regina the Matchmaker tosses back a shot of Russian vodka. And maybe Xue’s bubble tea spills on one of the two piles of forms, and in cleaning up the spill she puts the top document on the windowsill to dry, and staples the second document to the first document from the other pile, and instead of Mei Ling going to Esther Goldberg on the Upper West Side of Manhattan she goes to Erin and John o’Malley in Boston.
And maybe that was meant to be.”
The length of time between being notified that you have been selected as the adoptive family for a child or sibling group and receiving the physical placement of them in your home is dependent on many factors. Just as you will need time to prepare both physically and emotionally for the placement, so too does the child with the help of their caseworker, foster family, and others. Activities such as goodbye visits with the child’s birth family and others will not only help you to be patient for placement to occur, but will also help you to respond to the child’s mixed feelings when placement does occur. Weighing other factors, such as timing placement to happen during summer vacation, holiday break, or at the end of a school semester will be help them transition more smoothly from their current placement to your family. Pre-placement visits with the child in your home, the child’s foster home, or a neutral location is important. When and where the visits happen, and how many will occur, are customized for each adoption and take into account the child’s age and developmental stage, child and family calendars, distance, and other factors. You will also have preparations to make such as school arrangements, medical insurance, and legal processes. Second Nurture and our partners – your partners – will guide you through it.
I rifled through the forms. Three stapled sections were held together by a paper clip. The pages were photocopies, black type on white paper, the text askew. I paused at the page of medical conditions, like the health history form you complete at a first doctor visit. But instead of checking off the ailments you had, you checked off the ones you were willing to have—in a child:
HIV, Clubfoot, Blindness, Deafness, Cleft Palate, Spina Bifida, Hypospadias, Hemangioma
Each mark, whether a “yes” or a “no,” felt significant. Would a certain pattern of yes and no marks somehow lead us to our child? How could I divine these markers on our path, like constellations in a desert sky? And who was I to have this kind of power? God lifted the veil of creation, just a little smidge at the corner, for half a second, and showed me a glimpse of its inner workings. “Now,” the still small voice said, “take a step toward your child.”
I reviewed the column of blue Xs I had drawn. I had responded honestly, as honestly as possible. This was a partnership between my Bic pen and the cosmos.
In NC, a total of 3 home study visits are typically required. For married couples or if there is more than one adult living in the home, this usually extends to 4 visits. The first visit is generally with both partners: discussions related to why you’ve chosen to adopt, what you anticipate your life will be like as parents (or with additional children in the home), addressing any major concerns related to the process, the child, the overall adoption and what it means for your family in particular.
The next two visits are with each partner individually; we’ll talk about your childhood, your own experiences with your parents and what sorts of traditions and parenting norms you want to continue or see change with your own family. We’ll talk about your best memories and some of your hardest memories. Your relationship with your siblings and extended family. We’ll go over your time in school, your career, what it’s been like to be a parent so far (if you already have children) or what you anticipate parenthood will be like (from an individual standpoint). Talk about your partner and how you expect your relationship will change once you have children (or more children!).
The last visit is a general wrap up – go over anything that needs additional clarification or may have been missed, address any questions that have arisen throughout the process.
At some point, we’ll do a house tour. I’ll open closets, but I won’t rifle through them! I don’t care if your house is clean or if your pets (or children!) are freshly bathed. You do not need to have a room prepared for the child to be adopted (rules are different for foster care); you only need a rough idea of where he/she will sleep. Without a doubt, everyone says this is the most nerve wracking part of the adoption process – but it really shouldn’t be!
Note: International Adoption demands additional steps related to the US Department of Homeland Security, legal and court procedures, and US State Department immigration. Throughout, we will help you bring meaningful cultural paradigms to the process.
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No one knows how many orphaned children are in the world or the circumstances of their care. In 2005, UNICEF estimated that there were 13 million children who had lost both parents in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Due to the AIDS pandemic and other factors, that number has surely grown. Many of these children are being raised by extended family. Many are in orphanages, on the streets, or in child-headed groups. Many are trafficked into sexual and other criminal and military activities. Children living outside of family care are far less likely to have access to adequate shelter, nutrition, healthcare and education. They are far more likely to be subjected to disease, child trafficking, hazardous labor, physical abuse and sexual exploitation. They are also more likely to die from preventable and treatable diseases stemming from malnutrition, AIDS, inadequate sanitation, poor water, malaria and diarrhea. Remember the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria? There’s one reason the world has paid attention to them: They have mothers. Recent medical research and cross-cultural studies confirm that institutionalized children are susceptible to a wide array of psychological and developmental and emotional challenges. www.bothendsburning.org
According to the most recent federal data, there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. They range in age from infants to 21 years old. The average age of a child in foster care is more than 8 years old. Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. All of these children have experienced loss and some form of trauma. In other ways, foster children are no different from children who aren’t in foster care: they are learning and growing, like to play and hang out with friends their age, and need the love and stability a permanent home provides. The median amount of time that a child spends in foster care is just over a year. More than half of the children in foster care will be reunified with their parents or primary caregivers, and nearly one-quarter will be adopted, many by their foster parents. Each year, approximately 20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, or when they finish high school (depending upon the state in which they live.) These children are at increased risk of poor educational outcomes, experiencing homelessness, and being unemployed. (From AdoptUSKids.org)