When my daughter was killed in a single-car rollover in 2008, my life changed abruptly and dramatically.
In recent years I lost both my parents – Mother at age 73 in 2001 and Dad at 84 in 2006. We were a close-knit family, and although their passing was painful, it was expected: they were elderly and ill. Their deaths were within the natural order of things.
That left my immediate family consisting of my daughter and myself. (I also have a brother in Idaho and half a million cousins scattered around the country.)
I think most parents take their future for granted. I know I did. I looked forward to Christmas every winter. I knew I would be traveling to see my daughter graduate from college in two years. I hoped to see her fall in love and marry some day. I looked forward to grandchildren.
All that “looking forward” was removed in one seemingly random moment.
On top of the profound grief I felt was the loss of futurity. My most important definition in the last 20 years has been that of mother. What was I to be now? How does one re-create a future, a family, remain a mother, when one is single and 50 years old?
I immediately knew the answer: adoption. And not of an infant, but an “older” child, one of those that “nobody” seems to want.
As I did my research, I found out there are literally thousands of children in the United States who are without a parent, wards of the state anxiously waiting and hoping for an adoptive family. These are not infants, but toddlers to teenagers; the older the child, the less likely they are to find a “forever family.” These kids come in all shapes and sizes, colors and cultures, levels of ability and disability. Some have severe handicaps, many do not, but all have suffered terrible loss – the loss of family.
Loss – that sounded familiar. Perhaps these children and I have something in common. Perhaps in helping a needy child, she in turn could help me. We could become … family.
I have begun the process by which one adopts an older child in this country. Although it varies from state to state, it is a lengthy and complicated undertaking, taking at least six months to qualify and requiring piles of paperwork, interviews and inspections. I plan to share this process, and its eventual outcome, in this column as the months go by. It should be an interesting adventure, and perhaps stimulate someone else to add a child in need to his or her household.
On the Internet I found www.adoptuskids.org, which led me to an email address in Phoenix. I learned my first step was to attend an orientation class where I would get basic information and decide on an agency to take me through the process.
After calling several agencies throughout Phoenix, I settled on the West Valley Child Crisis Center. It was relatively close (Glendale) and I liked the way they responded to my questions.
My next steps include 33 hours of training called PS-MAPP (Partnering for Safety and Permanence – Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting), a state requirement for anyone seeking to foster or adopt. I also am providing extensive documentation including income statements, birth certificate, insurance, references, an autobiography, two sets of fingerprints for a background check and clearance card, photographs, and more.
I begin my classes – they are one night a week for 11 weeks in Glendale – the end of August, and I am excited.
I cannot possibly replace Abigail. She was the child of my heart and I will always miss her. What I am hoping for is my second daughter – a completely different person and parenting experience – and a renewed future.
(Editorial in The Wickenburg Sun, August 2008)