Monday, July 20, 2009

Boys' Adoption Story -- Meeting Tortuga and Big Decisions

Boys' adoption story continued...

It was December 2006 and Christmas was looming ahead. We had planned on spending the holidays at home in Boston. It would be our second Christmas with Corazon and we were looking forward to spending it quietly at home. My semester had ended just before the social services meeting about the boys and I had busied myself with holiday shopping and decorating. Suddenly we were thrust into the prospect of having two additions to our family. C. and I agreed that we wanted the boys and I set up the first series of observations of Tortuga in his residential setting. I had asked to observe him a couple of times before meeting him in order to see for myself how his issues manifested. I could not have been less prepared for what I encountered! He was practically catatonic and I was hard-pressed to see any semblance of a person behind the vacant stare he gave me that first day. He was a shell of a person who sat in front of the tv without showing any awareness of whatever was playing whether it was a movie or a video game being played by other kids. I could instantly tell he was over-medicated. When I left I sat in my car and cried. Then I called Selma, his social worker. She seemed genuinely shocked by what I described and hesitantly asked if I had changed my mind about him. Before I could think I responded "No! I want him" and I meant it. I wanted him. Whatever it was that brought me to this point I knew there was a reason for me to be there and I wasn't turning back. I went home to fill C. in on my observations and to tell her I had committed to taking the boys. She was wholeheartedly supportive.

True to her word Selma had gone to see him and demanded that his meds be adjusted. She didn't recognize him either and she wanted them to quickly remedy whatever the issue with his meds was. It turned out they had put him on a powerful anti-psychotic drug without permission and without a thorough psychiatric evaluation. I visited him daily and saw a wide range of behaviors ranging from extreme mania to some semblance of normalcy to painful shyness. His usual response to me was extreme silliness mixed with lots of laughing and running around. His speech was very difficult to understand and he couldn't write his name. I also noticed that he didn't know his birthdate. He seemed genuinely happy to see me most days although he wanted to play chasing games and didn't sit still for even a minute.

Christmas was a few days away and I was glad his RTC was 5 minutes from my house so I could visit him every day. In the meantime conversations with the foster family had progressed and we made plans for me to meet Pollito. We agreed that I would meet the foster mother and Pollito for the first time at the RTC on Christmas Day. I was so excited to meet Pollito and we were anticipating introducing Tortuga to C. and Corazon soon after Christmas. On Christmas Eve I carefully wrapped a gift for Tortuga and one for Pollito to be delivered the next day during our visit. C. and I lamented that she couldn't join us but we weren't ready to tell Corazon and we still hadn't informed social services of our plans to potentially adopt the boys together. If we said anything at this point my homestudy would need to be updated and would require C. to take the required parenting classes, along with providing lots of necessary documentation, before placement could take place. This would also force Tortuga to go to yet another foster home after the RTC and none of us wanted that. We did however have one significant hurdle that I felt strongly needed to be addressed. Everything in their files said the boys, especially Tortuga, wanted and needed to have a father and I knew I couldn't provide that.

I spoke with the social services supervisor, Lisette and candidly expressed my reservations about taking the boys given that information. I explained that I was sure there would never be a father in the picture but there might be a second parent in the near future. She urged me not to worry and encouraged me to keep things "status quo" until we could get the boys home. She reminded me that if I added a partner after placement things would proceed much more smoothy and we could avoid some of the additional parenting classes and paperwork if we waited before adding C. into the formal mix. I agreed to wait on that since C. and I maintained separate households so technically we weren't living together. Furthermore, the supervisor agreed to stress to the boys' lawyer that I would not be bringing a father into the picture at any point so if he wanted to stand in the way he should do so before placement.

We had other reasons for not formally including C. at this point in the process. We still weren't out as a couple due to the interconnectedness of our professional lives and the significant roles we held in a very small professional community. C. was also in the midst of a significant law suit that had the potential to become very public and we were concerned that would propel her (and us) into a limelight we really didn't want. A few years earlier she had been seriously injured in a huge accident and had sustained multiple serious injuries the most serious of which was a TBI (traumatic brain injury) that left her unable to speak, read, and walk unassisted. Her records showed continuing health complications that we knew wouldn't interfere with our parenting together but we weren't sure would be viewed that way by some of the more homophobic people involved in the boys' lives who were looking for reasons to prevent their placement in a home without a father. We were trying to keep things as "simple" as possible and didn't want any additional complications. We had learned how quickly the tides turned in the process of my adopting Corazon and we didn't want to take any chances on delaying this any further. We were conviced that the boys were meant to be ours and we didn't want to lose time with them.

Our desire for keeping things simple was quickly going to be dramatically challenged. Late on Christmas Eve we discovered that C.'s father who had been hospitalized following complications from a kidney transplant would not be released from the hospital for the holidays. They had planned on joining us to celebrate C.'s birthday two days after Christmas. His condition was grave and at the spur of the moment we decided to go visit him in PA on Christmas Day. So, in addition to meeting Pollito for the first time on Christmas Day, we needed to be packed and ready to drive 8-9 hours to spend time with her dad. Christmas morning we rushed Corazon through the opening of her gifts and quickly threw things together for the long drive. We packed the car and drove to the RTC where I would visit with Tortuga and Pollito before we made the trek to PA. While Corazon and C. waited in the car, I went inside the RTC to deliver gifts to Tortuga and Pollito. As I walked into the visiting room I encountered a surprise of my own. The foster mom had decided to bring an additional guest to the visit--the boys' mother.


SocialWkr24/7 said...

Don't you just love surprises? :)

Wow, hearing you talk about your efforts to keep you and C's relationship quiet is an eye opener to me. The agency I worked for was a huge supporter of GLBT foster and adoptive parents. It surprises and saddens me to hear that it was such an issue for you.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Funny how even though I know the ending I am hanging on to every word. These stories are really interesting to me!

Dia por Dia said...

SocialWkr24/7--Actually I should clarify that in MA there was relative "friendliness" to gay/lesbian parenting especially within the foster/adopt program. Our issue was less about the system although certainly individual players were openly homophobic. Ours was about our particular circumstances and mostly of our own doing. I should write more about this in a post but the initial issues were that 1) when I started foster parenting I was a single person so all of my homestudy stuff was based on just me. This was still true when Corazon was placed and even though C. and I were "together" during that time it was a non-issue because I was the one adopting and not her. 2) Since the time between Corazon's adoption and the boys' placement was very short we didn't have time to fully shift gears and add her to it because our plan had been to add her in the Spring when my homestudy was up for renewal. Doing that at this time would have delayed the boys placement whereas waiting a few weeks would simplify things for us 3) Because she was in the midst of this lawsuit which involved some highly homophobic folks who had attempted some severe character damage about her it was important to keep us "separate" particularly in our professional circles at least until the lawsuit passed (which we anticipated happening very soon) and 4)We co-taught in a gay friendly but small institution with a VERY sheltered-at-best and homophobic-at-worst student population at a time when the whole gay marriage debate was at its highest so we had chosen to not be out as a couple to our students and colleagues until our co-teaching tenure ended (the following Spring.) Not sure this clarifies but it at least explains our own decision making process.

Lisa said...

You have seriously got to hurry with the next post. I'm hanging on the edge of my seat.

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