I Went From A Single Career Woman To An Adoptive Mother

woman at desk taking off high heelsOn April 1, 2009, my parents got a call from Oregon’s department of child services. They were being contacted because their name and number were given as a possible relative placement of a three-month-old baby. A “relative placement” means the baby is related by family ties or blood. In this case, the baby is my mom’s first cousin. My parents love children, but are in their late 60s and didn’t think they could accept the role of parenting a small child into adulthood.

They sat on the information for about a week before telling me about this baby in Oregon. They waited because they knew I didn’t like children. At 36, I was well established in my chosen profession of social work and living an independent life in Seattle. I had stated repeatedly that children were little germ spreaders.

When they told me about the baby, an odd sense of elation began to grow inside me. They said “How would you like a baby girl?” and I laughed and thought to myself “oh yeah, here we go again with my parents wanting a grandchild!”

They told me that my cousin was living in poverty in Oregon in a marriage that was suspected to be abusive and chaotic. My cousin had three children living in the home that were in and out of foster care due to suspected drug use and squalid living conditions. They told me that the child had tested positive at birth for marijuana. They told me that this baby was abandoned at the ripe old age of three days at the hospital because my cousin and her husband believed she was the child of another man with whom my cousin had an affair.

The hospital named this little girl Hope and she was placed in emergency foster care.

When I hung up the phone with my parents, I discovered that I couldn’t sleep. I put my head to the pillow but I had this vibration growing inside me. A rapidly growing need for this child out of some hidden place in my heart or mind, I called my parents the next night and said “let’s do this.” Together, we mapped out what this decision would mean for all of us and what it would take to provide this child not just an adequate life, but a great one.

I am single. I knew from the moment that I made the decision to pursue this placement that it would be an uphill battle. Oregon social workers told me that I had to get licensed to be a foster care provider in Washington state the next two months because the placement had to happen by June. Some steps were easy and even enjoyable, like the Families Like Ours Pride training and orientation. The home study was grueling. I had to build railings and install childproofing throughout my house. I had to answer intensely person questions in person and with a social worker that I had just met.

The foster family, with whom Hope was placed, did not want me to succeed in meeting the requirements because if they were able to hold her in their custody for six months, then the legislative mandate for a family placement in Oregon would be less of a priority and they’d be given the automatic ability to adopt Hope. The CASA (court appointed special advocate) on the case told me that I was too old, too single and suggested in open court that my intentions were suspicious and that I may have a secret addict boyfriend in my closet. I wrote a five page indictment of this libel to the judge and demanded a new CASA on the case.

No new CASA would be assigned and her immediate supervisor was in total support of these actions. Fortunately, this CASA angered social workers in Seattle (where I live) who really couldn’t believe that she was saying these things about the person they were in the process of assessing. They reported to Oregon that I was consistent with follow through and was getting all positive references. They reported that everything they observed about me was acceptable by the state of Washington’s standards.  They were received with accusations, yelling and tears by the CASA.

In an incredible effort of support and solidarity, the entire state of Washington seemed to advocate for me and sped the entire process of licensing up. My state social workers advised me of my rights and that they believed the CASA in Oregon was discriminating against me. They told me that it was illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, marital status and age. Unfortunately, they reported that if I chose to defend myself against this discrimination at this time that the baby would likely not be placed in my home.
In May, my mom and I drove all night to southern Oregon to attend a hearing before the judge. The foster family was attempting to take Hope to Alaska with them based on a self-reported job opportunity for the foster father. I was told by all the social workers at Oregon’s DCFS that this was impossible. They said judges do not let foster children cross state lines. We got to court and the judge would not let me speak or defend myself as the CASA leveled libelous complaints against me without any evidence or support. The baby was allowed to go to Alaska and we were ordered to stay in Oregon for the next four days to spend time with Hope, in the event that I was licensed in the next month and able to get custody.

The next four days, I was allowed to spend two to five hours each day with Hope. During that time, I learned that the foster family had gotten the court to order her a strict formula diet of four oz of soy formula every four hours because they reported she had reflux. This child was hungry and agitated. At no time did I observe the child to spit up or vomit. I chose to feed her more than the court order and soothed her to sleep on the second day. I reported my decision to the foster mom and she reported me to the court and I was cited for a violation by 8am on the third day.

We were sent home on Friday and the family left for Alaska the very next day.

I got licensed. On June 11th, the judge on the case signed the order for transfer of placement to me. The foster family claimed they did not have the funds to return the baby to Oregon or Washington. Oregon then paid for their airline tickets and hotel to Seattle and sent a social worker up to supervise the transition. [tagbox tag=”adoption”]

They arrived in Seattle on Saturday the 13th. I held my child as a mother for the first time at approximately 11am. I had held her prior to that, but the conditions were so stressful that it was hard to imagine her as my daughter, much less allow myself to melt and accept the role as Mother in all that the word means.

Over the next few days, we proceeded with the transition. Upon leaving Seattle, the foster mom reported that she was sorry for her collusion with the CASA on the case and that she supported this placement. She stated that she knew in her heart that this was the right thing to do.

I took six weeks off for maternity leave. We attended mommy and me classes with a nurse and she helped advise me about feeding. This baby was quickly adjusting to her new lifestyle. Sadly, when she came to me, the only way she could be soothed is by swinging her carseat. The foster family reported that she had been sleeping in her carseat since moving to Alaska. I took her out of the carseat and into my Ergo and we fell in love.

Nearly a year later, the next May, I quit my job to stay home with my daughter and work part time doing shift work. Grandma and grandpa lovingly provide babysitting while I work now.

The adoption became final in June. Opening an official letter while standing at my mailbox felt a little anti-climactic, but I wept with joy.

As I write this, I have a gorgeous little girl cuddled beside me reading Curious George. She will turn three years old this January.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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