Yesterday

We heard no.

Yesterday was hard, but yesterday’s tomorrow is harder, because now we cope with the aftermath of yesterday. It took me a long time to convince myself not to just stop writing after that sentence, We heard no. It took us a long time to convince ourselves not to just stop this whole thing altogether. Forget roller coasters, I feel like I was living in zero-gravity and someone turned the gravity back on and suddenly slammed me to the floor. My stomach is still somewhere up there and hasn’t caught up with me yet.

But there’s no time to be wasted in this process; before we even hung up the phone after our worker told us the news, we had already told her to reach out as soon as possible about all the children we had missed out on while we were waiting for this one. The time for processing your feelings needs to come AFTER business hours, there are emails to be sent.

Like every place we visit in adoptionland, we are tasked with making space for so many feelings at once. The sting of rejection, the anxiety of worthiness, the sadness and joy that comes with knowing a child found a family, but we weren’t it. The frustration of their justifications, and frustration at ourselves that there is nothing we can do about them. The fear and pain knowing there are many, many more nos to come before we will hear just one yes. How many more times will I have to say it? We heard no. We heard no. We heard no.

We’ll take the weekend to sulk, and try to retrieve the hope that yesterday’s today held. Next week’s children, next month’s children, deserve our whole selves. But those are our next week, next month selves, and our “this weekend” selves are just going to choose one feeling…sad.

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Today

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I want to hold on to this feeling, in case I forget someday.

As I explained in my previous post, there are a lot of stops along the way in this process where decisions have to be made, both by us and by a child’s team. Think of it like the Game of Life: stop here, even if you didn’t land here exactly, and make a decision on whether to get married, which house to buy, etc. Bad metaphors aside, if the answer given by us and the answer given by the child’s team match up, we move forward together, until the next time we stop and decide again.

Two and a half weeks ago we had a match meeting for a child. It was actually our very first match meeting, ever. Even though we felt excited about this child, we weren’t sure if we should move forward because…well, most people don’t marry the first person they date. What if we were just excited because this was our first meeting? How can anyone in this process separate logic from emotion?

Just over 24 hours later, this sentence was shared in the monthly parent support group hosted by our adoption agency: “If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying no, then it’s best to say yes.” That sealed the deal for us. Even if we weren’t sure about saying yes, we knew for certain that saying no would mean missing out on a child we felt could be a very good fit. We passed along our decision and went back to (you guessed it) waiting.

Several weeks, a lot of anxiety, and approximately one thousand emails later, we got an email this morning from our worker saying the child’s team will be sharing their decision by the end of today. TO-DAY.

TODAY.

We have been focusing so well on taking things one day at a time, because that’s the only thing that’s useful to us. There’s no use stressing over what we said or forgot to say in the match meeting, wondering about how we compare to the other families they are meeting with, picturing our life with this child, navigating how we will move forward if we hear a no, or any of the other infinite past or future things we could worry about in regards to this process. There is just today, and the first-thing-in-the-morning question we ask each other: “Do you think today will be the day?”

TODAY.

Commence stressing about all those things I just said we had no use stressing about. Did we say enough? Did we say too much? Did they like us? Would they like us more if they met us a second time? Are we really ready for this? Have any other workers reached out about us? If they say yes, could this be our forever child? If they say no, have the last few weeks been a waste? What do I even want? What does this child want? What do they need? Are we it?

It feels like these workers have our lives in their hands (dramatic, I know). And yes, I know that comes off selfish, because really they have the child’s life in their hands, and they should take all the time they need to make such an important decision. Nate and I have discussed how if we do hear a know, our grief walks hand in hand with the joy we feel for this child, who will have been matched with the best family the team could find for them.

This process frays your nerves. It leaves you feeling exposed and powerless and highly sensitive. Each yes along the way, however exciting, signifies a no to some other child or children we haven’t learned more about yet. Each no along the way, however heartbreaking, signifies a yes to another child or children who could be the fit we are searching for. Most days, I don’t know how to feel or what answer to hope for.

But damn if my pride doesn’t want to hear yes

TODAY.

The Match Game

No, this isn’t a weird 70s TV game show. It’s real life.

As you know, we completed our home study and have had an active foster care license since early August. (Why do we have a foster care license if we’re adopting? Read the answer to that question here.)

Now we are in “the matching process.” This time consists of a LOT of reading and waiting, emailing and waiting, meeting and waiting. It’s not something you hear a lot about until you’re in it, so I thought I’d explain in detail how it works. Vocab words are shown in italics.

  1. Read a 3-5 sentence public narrative about a child that highlights their strengths, personality traits, and favorite things.
  2. Decide to request the private narrative for this child, which contains anywhere from one sentence to ten paragraphs about their personal background, care needs, and ideal family structure.
  3. Let your worker know whether or not you would like to submit your home study for this child, meaning have your worker send your home study document to the child’s worker. You might not want to, and the process could stop here.
  4. Wait anywhere from a week to forever to hear back from the child’s worker about whether they would like to set up a match meeting with you about this child. If they do, schedule the match meeting, typically for 1-3 weeks out. Sometimes they also send a longer file about the child. After reading this file, you might determine that you would not be a good fit to parent this child, and the process could stop here.
  5. Have a match meeting, which is an initial meeting typically in your home, with members of the child’s team, such as their social worker, child-specific recruiter, agency representative, etc. Each child’s team looks different, but they always have a social worker. This meeting lasts approximately 1-2 hours and is an opportunity to hear an overview of the child’s history, current living situation, birth family contact, specific challenges, and more about their personality and future forecast.
  6. Decide after the match meeting whether or not you would like to move forward into collateral meetings for this child. The child’s team is also deciding which family they would like to have collateral meetings with as well (which means you might say yes, but they might not, and the process could stop here). Here’s the really intimidating part: if you choose to move forward into collaterals for a child, you cannot accept any other match meetings for children until the collateral process has ended, either with a placement or a “no, it’s not the right fit.”
  7. If everybody likes each other so far, start collateral meetings. These meetings are the potential adoptive parents meeting with the child’s current foster parents, therapist, teachers, school specialists, other workers, etc. in order to determine fit and gather more information about the child. This process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If at any time you or the child’s team decide this is not a good fit, the process could stop here.
  8. If, at the end of collateral meetings, the family and the child’s team still feel the match is the right fit, say YES and make a transition plan for the child to move into your home. This typically consists of several visits of increasing length, ending in a full move. Depending on the age, distance, and needs of the child, this transition might be put on hold until a break from school or a discharge from a residential treatment center.
  9. The HOPE is that all of the work that’s been done ahead of time to determine a good match results in a successful placement, concluding with an adoption finalization 3-12 months after the child is placed in the home. However, in very rare instances, something goes wrong and the child is not able to remain with their pre-adoptive family. This situation is called an adoption disruption.

Keep in mind that you could be at various stages of this process with multiple children, or if a child’s team is too overloaded or already further along in the process with a different family, you might never hear back from them. In between every step, there is waiting, discussing, praying, and incessant email checking (maybe that’s just me).

Each time we move forward with a kiddo, we have to make room in our hearts and minds for that child, picture them as a member of our family, assess whether we are prepared to parent them well, all the while knowing that at any stage our journey with them could end. Each narrative, each meeting, each imagining, there is a delicate balance between overflowing with excitement and sandbagging your heart against the flood of feelings.

I am learning lessons (or resisting lessons) about patience and uncertainty. I am grieving a child’s trauma even when in the same moment I am having to say that no, we aren’t able to parent them through it. I am praying, child by child, that even though we weren’t the right family for them, that they will be watched over, loved, cared for, protected, and valued for exactly who they are. I am praying that each “no” gets us one step closer to “yes” for our future child, who is out there, needing us.

Praying that the right family is out there.

Mourning that ours wasn’t the one.

Dusting myself off and getting back in the match game.