Shortly after we started back to work after spring break we had a discussion with our caseworker. The two boys we were hoping to match with found their match with a different family. Its a weird emotion to experience joy for the kids' potentially forever match and sorrow for your missed match at the same time. That's adoption from foster care for you.
I'm told we will experience a lot of those weird conflicting emotions in our journey.
Our conversation was not all bittersweet though. We found out that our previous caseworker (the one we loved that went out on maternity leave) had been in contact with another caseworker about a different sibling group of children for us before she went on maternity leave. That caseworker hadn't said anything else since we made the switch to our new caseworker, so nobody had told Steve and I that there was a possible match in the works.
Turns out, there was. We have a match!
For those of you who have never been in this position, let me be the first to tell you: it is intense. Before, we worked in generalities for the most part.
Yes- we will consider these special needs.
No - we will not consider that diagnosis.
Now we have a specific set of children to consider with all kinds of specifics to pour over and make decisions about. How do we feel about this situation, can we handle that behavior.... Are we even capable of going from no kids to 4 kids practically overnight?
All of this within the context of forever. If we proceed with this match the end result is this set of kids becoming ours forever. This formal match process is the only time we have to decide whether we are the right adults to take on the privilege of parenting these specific children.
Do our strengths with regard to their situation and specific needs outweigh our weaknesses?
I promise I'm not trying to be a downer. I'm just trying to express what a complete mindfuck this last week has been. And I know those experiences have just begun.
Let me tell you what the next steps are... That's always the question I get asked by people when we talk about the adoption:
1) document presentation: Sit down with our caseworker and go over every piece of paperwork related to these kids since they came into care. Usually psychological evaluations, reports, medical reports, school records, IEPs if there are any... that kind of thing. It's exciting because you find out little things like names, birthdays, favorite foods, what they like to do... but also sobering things like why and when they came into care. Ours is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
2) formal staffing: meeting with everyone involved with the case - Steve and I, our caseworker, the kids' caseworker, foster parent, and regional adoption coordinator. We meet at the DFCS office in the county where the kids reside and Steve and I get to ask all of our questions about the kids we have based on their documentation. We also get to talk with people who actually know the kids and get their input since no kid is as one-dimensional as they seem on paper. This meeting is also when we create our visitation plan.
3) visitation - This is when we finally meet the kids. It starts with a brief meeting (around 2 hours, usually at the kids' foster home) and proceeds from there with visits gradually increasing in duration and eventually leading to visitations in our home with the kids spending the night.
4) move in - If all the previous steps go well, the kids move in with Steve and I permanently. We have them 24/7, every day. This period before finalization allows us to get an idea of what day to day life will be like with the kids. We experience getting them ready for school, eating dinner together, taking them to their various appointments and activities, interacting with friends and family.... the things that make up real life.
5) finalization - a minimum of 6 months from move in day is when finalization occurs. This is when we go down to the courthouse and a judge issues the final adoption paperwork. From this point we are officially, legally, a forever family.
If I haven't made this clear... I am BEYOND excited to begin this process and potentially meet my kids. I am trying to be cautiously optimistic, but I'm the kind of person who puts my whole heart into something or none at all. Staring down potential heartbreak is intense... but it is way better than the alternative of never experiencing something worth risking my heart for.