Adoption Update

Last April I was excited and nervous to announce that my partner and I were in the early stages of trying to adopt a baby. I’ve been very aware of how long ago that announcement was and how silent I’ve been on the process. Some of this has been because it was suggested to not be too vocal about the process at our adoption workshop, but more has been because of the challenges this process has brought so far. When we attended the adoption workshop back in April, things felt like they were moving along smoothly. We’d had two visits with our home study social worker, we were signing on with the agency we’d chosen to work with for placement. Everything was very positive. Of course, things didn’t continue in that way.

The original paperwork we filled out for the home study required disclosure of any prescription medication and hospitalizations. Because I am on psychotropic medication for the management of my mental illnesses, the home study agency required letters of recommendation from both my therapist and psychiatrist. Originally, the instructions for these letters was very vague in what the social worker was looking for and my first letters were rejected for not being detailed enough and for implying but not outright saying the exact phrase “I am in support of this adoption”. Our social worker offered to let my providers write a second round of letters, but there was an issue with the second letter that my therapist wrote which sent up red flags within the agency and my psychiatrist was told by the lawyer at the clinic where she works that she was not able to answer specific questions pertaining to my ability to parent or use the specific language required. After clearing up the issues with my therapist’s second letter, which had resulted from a miscommunication between her and the social worker, our social worker said she could write yet another letter but did not follow through on her offer to reach out to my therapist again to clear up any confusion. My therapist wrote a third letter with the guidance of my partner and myself and it was submitted a couple of weeks ago. I was waiting to hear back from the social worker about the last letter when we got the first major bad news.

Yesterday, we received an e-mail from the Independent Adoption Center, which we had chosen to do our placement, that they were filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy and closing all of their offices immediately. The e-mail cited the declining number of domestic adoptions happening in the country and the increase in number of families trying to adopt a child as a reason for them shutting their doors. Apparently the money they have at this point will go in a court appointed trust and after their debts have been paid, all the families that had signed on with them, more than 300 last time I looked, would be contacted to submit claims as to what they felt they were owed. It sounds like if there is money left over, there will be some process of divvying it between families, but I don’t imagine there will be much returned of the $15,000 we’ve paid them. This news was devastating. My partner lost her job three weeks ago, money has been tighter than usual, I used a chunk of my savings to pay for the final agency payments to IAC. It looks very unlikely that we will be able to sign on with another agency any time soon. After all of the initial excitement, our hopes of starting a family in the next few years were effectively ended.

Then I got a call from our social worker about the home study this morning. Unfortunately, my psychiatric history is pretty extensive and includes seven inpatient hospitalizations from 2012-2015, three of which were for a month or longer. I had to report them because leaving them off of my paperwork would have been fraud and easily discovered if the adoption agency requested copies of my medical records. Because of this, the social worker and the agency she represents felt that I had not been stable long enough for them to take the recommendations of my therapist and psychiatrist and find in our favor. Our social worker offered us two options. The first was that we could continue the home study and have a negative outcome. The second was that we could stop here, not complete the home study and wait until I had a longer period of stability, at which point we could start another home study in the future and not have this current home study impact our ability to adopt. I had been expecting this from her because she’d discussed it with my therapist a couple of months ago while waiting for the third letter. When I asked her how long of a period of stability they were looking for though, she told me five to ten years of consistent therapy and no major hospitalizations. At this point, I have been stable and out of the hospital for two years and some weeks. With this recommendation, the earliest we can hope to start another home study is three years from now and I could still be told that they want to wait closer to ten years at that point.

So that’s where we are. Our placement agency is bankrupt and I’m too crazy to pass a home study right now. It feels pretty hopeless and bleak. I keep having dreams about parenthood but the reality of that happening feels impossible. I’m trying to stay positive. Tai chi class last night helped give me a solid 90 minutes where I was completely focused on what I was doing, which helped. But still, I feel like the rug was jerked out from under me. I’m alternating between completely numb to very angry and sad.

So yeah, it’s been a week already and it’s only Wednesday.

Anti-Immigration Protests

Friday, the president signed an executive order banning people from Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran from being admitted to the country, even those with green cards and visas. On Saturday evening, I was browsing Facebook when I came across an event at Logan Airport, protesting the detention of passengers by Customs and Border Patrol. My partner and I immediately headed to the airport to join the protest. Our shuttle bus to the airport had maybe two people on it who were heading to the airport to catch flights. Everyone else was headed to the international terminal to protest. When we reached the midway point on the shuttle trip, where they switch the buses from overhead power to gas-powered engines, a supervisor came onto the bus, had a short word with the driver and then asked if there were any passengers headed to Terminal E (the international terminal). He then told us that we would have to walk from the nearest airport terminal because transportation to Terminal E had been shut down due to the protest. As he finished his short speech, he said “And I hope you have to walk through the whole airport!” At first, my partner was unsure if he was being critical of the protest, but then realized that he was saying that he hoped there was a mass of people walking throughout all the terminals carrying signs protesting the detention that was currently going on.

As we walked through Terminal C to our destination, we passed people who had arrived through the international terminal who were making the opposite trek as us. Many of them made positive comments about the protest and thanked us for joining. One guy gave me a high five. Of course, there were a couple people, able bodied white men of course, who complained bitterly of having to walk through the terminal because of the “damn protest”. When we reached Terminal E, there were probably about 400-500 people gathered there, speakers passing around a megaphone, the crowd repeating what they said so the people at the edges could hear what was going on. More and more people continued to pack in behind us. The state police were present, occasionally asking us to move back from the path from Customs and Border Patrol to the exit so that passengers could get through, but otherwise not saying much. There was a loud cheer when it was announced that a federal judge in the state had issued a stay of the president’s executive order, but quickly a reminder came through that we couldn’t stop protesting until all passengers who had been detained were released.

Elizabeth Warren was present and had made a speech before we arrived. Sometime after the announcement of the stay, Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, also made a speech. The protest continued as detained passengers were slowly reunited with their families. When the last detainee was escorted through Customs and Border Patrol by the mayor there was a tremendous energy and lots of cheering. After someone announced that there were buses waiting outside to take us back to the train station and asked us to remain peaceful as we exited the airport, my partner and I made out way outside to cram onto a very full shuttle back to the subway to take us home. Again, the bus was mostly full of protestors. I was exhausted but felt like we had made a difference for the night.

The next day, we headed to Copley Square with our neighbors to the immigration protest being held there. The subway station at Copley Square was shut down, so we walked from Park Street to get there, following a continuous stream of people headed to the protest. We got as close to Copley as we could, packing in with the other people who had gathered before us. I heard estimates put the crowd at 20,000 people that day. At first I couldn’t really anything or see what was going on, but as the crowd changed, I was able to get a spot on the stone wall where we were and then I could see above the crowd into the square. The energy was high that day, filled with people chanting and holding up homemade signs.

Since then, I have heard too many accounts of airports throughout the country refusing detainees to meet with lawyers even though federal court orders have been issued ordering them to do so. People have been detained for long periods of time, children separated from their parents for hours. A five year old boy was separated from his mother because he was deemed to be a risk to the country. An eleven month old who was still being breast-fed was separated from her mother for hours. A mother and her two young children were detained for twenty hours without being given anything to eat. And a woman who had lived in the US since 1995 and had a green card was turned away from a terminal in Iraq. She had become ill during her family’s trip. Her son says she knew, as she was being taken back to the hospital in Iraq, that she was going to die. She died a day after being refused the ability to board a plane back to her home.

I’d never been to a protest before Saturday night. I’d always been too scared to go out with everyone else. Scared of violence, of the risk of getting arrested. I don’t know what changed on Saturday to give me the courage to go to the airport, but something happened and I couldn’t stay silent any longer. It was exhilarating though. My usual phobia of crowds didn’t overwhelm me, even while packed into the airport terminal with hundreds of other people. Maybe it was the collective purpose, the fact that everyone there was there for the same reason I was, but I didn’t panic and my anxiety level stayed manageable. Even the shuttle ride back to the train station and the train home on Sunday didn’t bother me when in the past crowded transportation has caused major panic. So while I don’t know what exactly allowed me to engage in the protests this weekend, I plan on continuing to raise my voice in the following weeks and months. This upcoming weekend there are more rallies I plan on attending and I’m excited to be present.

A protester holds a sign during the protest at Copley Square as protesters gathered in opposition to President Trump’s executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.(Jesse Costa/WBUR)