After googling, asking a blogger for advice on who to use to facilitate our adoption, receiving a wonderful mom’s email address in 2014, we eventually settled on a group of Social Workers I’ll call AmateurLiars who the mom had also used. More on THAT moniker maybe in another post. Will see how long this one goes! I’m still friends with that mom I got in touch with back then.
We had thought we’d adopt an orphan. We thought there were more orphans than abandoned children, and pictured ourselves adopting a toddler or young child. We didn’t care what age the child was, we just wanted to love a little soul.
AmateurLiars had two or three social workers who we met. One, who I’ll call Baddie, dealt with us prospective adoptive parents, and the other two dealt with the biological mothers. One we knew better than the other. I’ll call her Better.
Firstly, Baddie, who conducted most of our meetings, told us that it would be almost impossible to adopt an older child. She said that older children in children’s homes are mostly not adoptable as they have some sort of relative not giving consent, even if it’s just an uncle who visits once a year for 20 minutes. Later found out in an adoption group that this exactly what other clients were told. And that it was not necessarily the truth. It’s just that AmateurLiars dealt with little babies, took in quite a few pregnant women and therefore did not deal much with not older children. Maybe finding an older child through the system was not as lucrative? I don’t know! There’s an online system they have access to that tells them the age of the available children and legally, you can adopt from any province.
So, we adjusted our expectations to adopting a baby who at the very least would be 60 days old. Not that we minded. Whether it’s a talking child or a crying baby, they all needed a mom or dad. Birth moms have 60 days to decide and be SURE and during those 60 days, instead of placing the child with his or her future parents, the law preferred them to go to foster or safety or kangaroo care. The reason was that they didn’t want the parents to become attached, start buying the baby things, only for mom to change her mind.
For me, this was a selfish reason. So WHAT if we go through heartache, giving a baby back to its mother? All that means is that a child is not going to go through adoption trauma! I’d be happy to know I was temporary mom to a child who now will never wonder why they were placed for adoption, never wonder who they look like. And if birth mom does not change her mind and DOES go through with the adoption, at least baby will have bonded with the right people already and not being traumatised yet again by another separation.
So, there I was, in a Facebook adoption group, learning about the legal and bureaucratic process, reading others’ journeys and sharing my own. This sharing that I did is what made this whole thing more interesting and made me come up with the AmateurLiars name… The more I ignorantly and excitedly shared about our experiences and what we’d been told and knew, the more foster mothers came out to contact me secretly and tell me what THEY knew and experienced through working with AmateurLiars.
We each needed three reference letters from friends or family, and reputable sources. Reassign those letters testifying to our parenting was emotional. It’s not like we go around telling each other our positive thoughts about each other. Not in THIS manner!
We also filled in forms stating our preferences. I was very open to almost anything BUT with our not so high finances, my homeschooling our other two who were ten and nine years old, and with my extreme back pain and chronic illnesses, I couldn’t commit to taking a child with significant needs that could not be changed. Ie. if I needed to go weekly to the hospital for therapeutic reasons, I couldn’t say yes. I needed to be there for my other children, for the housework, and for my own health. I really felt guilty for wanting a healthy child, but with half a million children needing moms or dads and only 1000 adoptions a year, that healthy child also deserved parents and would not get them. They might as well get ME. One of them would be left behind ANYWAY😭 Clubfoot I was ok with as I’d had one. I did not want to watch my baby suffer through surgery, but I was ok with cleft lip and palate issues.
I was fine adopting any race but obviously, this is Africa, so it was given that the child would be Black. We ARE the majority after all. And we ARE the poorest after all. And they wanted to match the children as much as possible to those who were similar to them.
Sex? We knew we would adopt two eventually, so chose a girl and knew we’d get a boy the next time. Or a set of twins of any gender.
They asked about preferred age. I wanted the younger the better so bonding would be easier and so we could form their earliest experiences. They even asked about skin tone and hair texture. I didn’t care! Very kinky hair, fine hair… I don’t care! One of my old friends told me of a Coloured woman who received her baby. Took him home, then the next day took him back to the social worker they were dealing with and told the social worker that the baby’s hair was too coarse and wanted a lighter skinned child with easier hair to manage.
They combed through our income versus expenses. They requested criminal record checks from the police and proof from the Department of Social Development that we weren’t convicted sex offenders. We had HIV tests and health checks. You can have HIV or AIDS and adopt but they wanted to know who’d support you should you be hospitalised with a serious infection. Maybe they also gave positive parents education on how to avoid passing it to the child, I don’t know.
They asked what health conditions we were ok with. I wanted an HIV positive, or AIDS baby. But Nkosi Johnson’s story and death had traumatised both my husband and I. We didn’t want to go in knowing we might lose the child and cause grief to our children. Also, we didn’t know how AIDS works. I didn’t have close friends with it. We didn’t have medical aid. Would I need to go queue monthly in those long public hospital queues just for ARVS for the child? What about homeschooling and caring for my other children? And I knew I couldn’t sit in those hospital chairs and not suffer from back pain.
As for HIV positive moms who took their meds and didn’t pass the virus onto the baby, we were ok with that. Though who knew the impact those meds could have on a fetus? We were also ok with any kind of conception. Apparently, some don’t want to adopt a product of rape. And incest was scary in case huge health problems appeared down the line.
Baddie also visited our home to make sure we HAD a home for the baby to move into. Didn’t matter what kind, as long as it was safe. We paid for her fuel costs.
Speaking of paying! We were charged R34 000 to adopt through AmateurLiars. We told them this was too much and got a fee reduction. Why pay so much when we still needed to PROVIDE for the little one? There were places that charged based on your income, or public child welfare which charged virtually just admin fees BUT was not streamlined and more importantly for us, our one in our city was not working on adoptions at all when we wanted to adopt!
We were told that the fees included contributions to the foster moms. A foster mom who fostered for AmateurLiars told me this was a lie. We were told to make up a photo book with stories about us for the birth mom to choose from (She’d be given a few that met HER preferences) and that once she’d chosen the couple, the photo book would be given to the foster mom so she could show the baby and get used to us. Our child’s foster mom said this was a lie. That they never got to see it. She paged through it the day she brought the child to us-on placement day with us! Our child’s birth mom also said she never saw the photo book! So much for choosing based on it!😭They told us they ensured the biological mothers received counseling after placing their children for adoption. My one child’s biological mother said it was never offered. And by did she need it as she is struggling with shame and regret ad worthlessness even today, over seven years later.
If biological parents had to undergo all the scrutiny we went through, the birth rate would be so low. But it was understandable. Children needed to be fed. Needed shelter. Needed healthy parents who would have a lower risk of suddenly dying from terminal cancer while the child was still young and vulnerable to yet MORE loss in their lives. Needed parents who were NOT registered sex offenders!
We underwent psychological testing. Answered questions on the computer that seemed to be making sure we weren’t suicidal. My husband sipped to the psychologist that the questions made him FEEL like he now WANTED To end it all, the things people went through when THAT depressed depressed him! Then met individually with the psychologist. Seeing as we already were parents, it made it easier for her to judge us as prospective ADOPTIVFE parents. While the other was out, she asked the other about their own strengths and weaknesses, and how they viewed the absent one’s parenting skills.
When we came together for her to talk to us as a couple, she said something that has stayed with me forever. Firstly, she said she could tell we were telling the truth, because what I said was my weak point was exactly what he said was mine..and vice versa. Though there weren’t many weak points at all. Then she said to me, “I have done many of these interviews in my life. I loved your answer about what kind of a father your husband is. But what he said about YOU… For the first time in my life, the answer brought a tear to my eye…
Your husband told me that your parenting is flawless. 😂😂🤦🏾♀️You are a perfect and fair mom. That you teach him to be a better father. Most heartbreakingly, he said that you are the kind of mother he wishes he had when he was a child.”
(Anything I say about family, will be password protected. Feel free to email me. My email address is on the About Me page. Though I doubt I’ll write about what his childhood was like. This blog is about ME. But I will say this.)
When she said that I am the mother he wishes he had when he was a child, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I knew what he had gone through. I knew he’d tried to scrub away the darkness of his skin tone because he’d been made to feel he was dark and ugly. I knew that things were rough. They still are. So ja, at that moment, I wished that I COULD have been the mom he needed.💔
We also attended a group session for a whole day with other people who wanted to adopt at the same time as us. What a waste of time for US! They could have just spoken to us individually. The one thing we learnt was to tell the child from the moment we got them, that they were adopted, so it would never be some secret that comes out at the wrong time or t$riugh the wrong person in the wrong way. Everything else was irrelevant. It was geared towards people who were childless. We had two children already. It spoke about discussing race differences between us and the child. This was not necessary for us! The reason given for the child being adopted was ridiculous and also based on infertility.
The people waiting for their dream babies were lovely. But sjoe, it was a waste of time for us.
Finally, after four months of being screened, we were almost done. We’d been told that the bureaucracy needed to legally designate the child as adopted was long. We’d really be going home with the child legally now our foster child, thought we wouldn’t get a grant like other foster families do. We’d get the adoption order commanding 👏🏽 us to give our child our name. But that it might take 8 months.
All we needed now was a final meeting where we’d go over the legalities, the list of preferences, and be told we were now officially going to be waiting for THE call that would tell us our baby had been found for us. During that meeting after the call, we’d get photos and 24 hours during which time decide if we shared the child for real or not.
I was excited. Finally, he’d be the one to hear from me that our baby was coming!
I started praying for the pregnant woman or girl who would be nurturing our baby in her womb. I prayed for her peace. I prayed she really HAD no other choice so she could never regret it and felt guilty. The meeting was coming up soon and I couldn’t wait. Whether we’d wait weeks or months, at least the screening portion would be done and dusted. We’d be deemed worthy to adopt, I hoped. Some couples were turned away due to mental health issues. Others due to very serious and deadly health conditions. Others because psychologically, they were not fit to be parents.
To be continued…