After spending months going through interviews, training classes, home visits, paperwork nightmares, background checks and so much more, I am finally both licensed for foster care and certified for adoption. Those designations came within a couple of weeks of each other about a month ago. I celebrated, thinking I was almost “there.” I could begin to get excited about adopting my second daughter; it was only a matter of time.
Time… such a subjective dimension.
I was warned. I was told many times, but didn’t really believe it when the adoption agency workers told me, “The waiting is the hardest part.” The reason I was so unwilling to believe was the other refrain I heard: “Children older than 6 are harder to place; you shouldn’t have a long wait.”
It depends on what is meant by “long.”
I am not a patient person. In fact, when I was younger, my lack of patience was likely one of my worst faults. As I grew older and became a parent, I began to develop a bit more of this quality. But even now, entrenched as I am in “middle age,” patience is not my strong suit.
Time being the quirky thing it is, my wait seems interminable while the days and weeks fly past as quickly as ever. Am I closer to adoption? Yes and no.
The slow-motion grinding of the cogs of government agencies, the inefficiencies, the mountains of red tape and policies, combine to make even the quickest connection between adoptive child and parent take many weeks. I have located two young girls here in Arizona, one 7 and one 10, either of who might be a good match for me. I inquired about the two nearly a month ago. As I have said before, my caseworker is prompt and diligent in responding to my inquiries, but she can only go so far before she has to deal with other entities. They are rarely as swift in response.
So, nearly four weeks later I am still waiting for one child’s caseworker to send information about the child. The other inquiry is moving forward but at a snail’s pace. I won’t know anything about either child, most likely, until this month is over. A month for me is a long time when I am anxiously looking forward to adopting, but a month for a child feels much longer.
And I must wait for the outcome from these two inquiries before I can begin any other within the state. That is “policy.” If both girls are unsuitable for me for whatever reasons the caseworkers decide, I will begin again in my search and wait more weeks and months for responses to my inquiries to come back, and so on until a match is found.
Add to this slow process the recent state budget cuts. Perhaps subtract from it is a more accurate phrase. The state has cut the Department of Economic Security’s (DES) budget severely. Child Protective Services (CPS) is a division of DES, and its staff has been cut. My adoption agency largely depends on state funds to run its operations. I received notice last week that the agency’s adoption department was cut from nine people to five. Now each caseworker, including my own wonderful Shelli, has twice as much work to accomplish. And so what was slow becomes slower.
This is not just personnel and budget cuts; the problem is actually snowballing. Because of the troubled economy, more parents are under more stress; more children are being abandoned, neglected, and abused by these already dysfunctional parents. So more children are coming into the already overburdened system at a faster rate with fewer DES, CPS, and agency workers to help them. It is a no-win situation, to say the least. My frustration is only the tip of the iceberg – the entire system is teetering.
While I know my adoption will happen eventually, it can’t come fast enough to suit me – or my daughter-to-be. And I am left wondering about all the other children adrift in “the system.”
(This was first published about two years ago in The Wickenburg Sun as a continuation of my journey toward adoption.)