What can I expect during the adoption process?
There are typically three different routes to adopt a child – from the foster care system, internationally, and privately. A home study by a licensed social worker/case worker in your state is typically the first step.
A complete home study takes at least a few months – your life needs to be an open book, no pun intended.
It depends on how picky you are. You MUST be willing to accept that social services does not call it Adopting a child. You must first be a foster parent and be adamant that you will only take freed children (children with the rights of their parents already severed). After three months, you can request adoption. The adoption will move as quickly as the paperwork moves. Our quickest adoption through foster care was seven months from placement to adoption.
The time it takes to adopt also depends on the child you choose to foster/adopt – age, ethnicity, gender, sibling group, disabilities, emotional issues….
The biggest hurdle is working with different case workers with an array of beliefs, personal experiences and biases. The second hurdle being a lack of non-judgmental support for the foster/adoptive parents.
What are some of the major flaws of the adoption system in the US?
The foster and adoptive care system in the US does not want to change. It is a permanent entity that is content with its status quo. I have become a rebel of sorts as I have spoken up for the children stuck in the cracks of the system. I believe a strong voice or a celebrity would help a great deal if they would take on this cause. I wrote PHOENIX BOUND for many reasons and one is to expose the unethical and self-empowering people and policies that make up the systems. PHOENIX BOUND tells my story.
The major flaws:
Adoptive parents are not valued or supported, especially when they encounter trouble with their child or teen. For example, these children are accustomed to manipulating and lying to create their own realities – to feel power that they rarely ever feel. These kids are typically moved from home to home, for any infraction on the part of the child or the parents. The insecurities, distrust, and depression that it creates within the child only plants the seed that continues to grow throughout their lives.
There also needs to be more Trauma Informed trainings for the foster and adoptive workers. These trainings should extend to all professions dealing with adoptive families such as pastors, counselors, therapists, law guardians, teachers, and policemen. For example, a letter I received from a case worker spelled out ‘legal’ punishments I could impose on my adopted child. Without going through each one, #1 was “Time Out.” If she had been properly trained, Time Out should never be used with adoptive children – Time In is more valuable and prevents the child from feeling rejected. Time In has the child sitting next to you in the same room for a disclosed amount of time – perhaps even helping you bake or cook. Spending time WITH you, rather than isolated in a bedroom or corner, creates an atmosphere of learning appropriate behavior rather than rejection and isolation.
The State and Counties often close more foster and adoptive homes each year than they open. Many of the foster parents’ infractions are minimal, if existent, and require more understanding and support, rather than closing. It only hurts the children at the end of the day.
Lastly, there needs to be a deconstruction of the brick wall that separates adoptive parents and the children waiting to be adopted. It is improving with the internet but even then, social services do not like children crossing state lines for adoptive families, Adoption Support systems are few, and it is difficult to find a child that is freed for adoption.
People in all areas of the adoption realm need to speak up for injustices. I understand the risks of speaking up, but it is vital for change. PHOENIX BOUND is ideal for universities, commissioners, senators, supervisors, people of power to make a change.
Besides the adoption process, how would you suggest I prepare for adopting?
Research counselors, therapists and supports available. Read an array of books, like mine and those written by professionals working with adoptees. Go into adopting with your eyes wide open. Be prepared to change the structure and dynamics of your family. Also, deal with any marital issues or personal issues such as infertility before you add an imperfect child. No child can live up to unrealistic expectations. Every child is imperfect and will have baggage, even biologically born children. Adopted children don’t want to be your second best and your baby girl does not want to be the boy you always wanted.
How do you want your book to challenge people about adoption?
My daughter said it best, “I want people to understand us.” She has gone through many difficult times emotionally – from an African orphanage, adopted by a family who realized they could not handle her behaviors and then, adopted by us. Not all adoptive families go through what we have gone through, but PHOENIX BOUND is meant to open people’s eyes to the difficulties and struggles – so that people going into adoption as potential adoptive parents are prepared and so that those not interested in adopting, can be supportive to us – even those people that we meet on the street or at summer camp. People do not always realize what their words can do to our children’s insecurities and hearts. Before you begin an adoption journey, your support system needs to be educated.
What is the significance of the name, PHOENIX BOUND?
PHOENIX BOUND means to literally be bound for Phoenix, Arizona and like the Phoenix, the mythical bird, we are rising from the ashes…of destruction, of persecution, of oppression, of trauma….