How did I find the agency we ended up using for our adoption? Online! We only knew one person who had adopted and this person lives in Gauteng and used a local agency. So, online the search went. We knew nothing at all about adoption.
I contacted four places. One didn’t respond and the other said they only take childless couples. Well, with our two biological children, that put us out the running. We got a prompt response from a Christian agency, but only one specific agency kept coming up with many positive online reviews. My husband knew two people who had links to Procare, with one adopting through them and one being the mother of a woman who was one of their ‘kangaroo’ moms. So Procare it was!
Our first meeting, termed ‘orientation,’ opened our eyes. One of those changes in our plans had to happen once again. We had thought that we would either adopt an abandoned baby or an orphan. Turns out there aren’t that many true orphans in our locality. And also very few stereotypically abandoned babies. There are though, many girls and women who have decided to make adoption plans for their unborn babies, rather than abandon or dump their children. Our child’s background changed from faceless parent to the chance of meeting her birth parent(s) face to face. Wow! Not what we expected at all.
Another difference was the waiting time. The people who documented their adoption process were all non-black. Their waiting times, once screening was finished, varied from two months to years. I had envisaged us waiting some months for our baby. But we were told that, because we are black, and most babies who needed parents are black, we could even ‘pick and choose’ a baby. Sounded a bit odd, but it proved to be so sadly true.
Another shock to our system
Screening. Whew, that was another shock to the system. ‘Making’ biological children was so much easier than this. We needed a criminal record check from the police, we needed to prove we weren’t on the National Child Protection register via the Department of Social Development. We also needed to visit a doctor to check our health status and submit forms about our preferences, our social and financial welfare and our family and friends. Through the agency itself, we went through psycho-social screening individually, we had individual meetings to discuss ourselves and our spouse, and a meeting together. The last thing we had to attend before a final panel meeting that declared us ‘paper pregnant’ was a group session, in which we were taught about bonding and attachment, how and when to tell our child they’re adopted. People sometimes complain about this process, but it made complete sense for us. If you are a social worker, the last thing you want is to put a child with a couple that is not safe for the little one. You want to do the best by them, and the laws are there to protect these already vulnerable children.
During the screening process, the ache began. I wanted my daughter. I wanted to know she was okay. I couldn’t feel her kicking. I couldn’t rub my belly and sing to her, like I did with my other two. I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know if her mother was eating healthily or not. I didn’t know if her mother was sad every day and how her emotional health would impact our unborn baby. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what type of foster care she would have in those 60 to 90 days before she could come home. Would she be in a home with many volunteers or in a kanga family? Would she miss them when she came to us? Would they love her as much as we would? Would she not miss her mother’s voice, its cadence and lilt? I missed her in the worst possible way, an ache that sometimes brought tears to my eyes. How could I miss a baby I had never met?
All along, based on others’ experiences, I figured we’d have our final panel meeting, be declared ‘paper pregnant’ then wait a month or two before receiving ‘the call’ that would herald a matching meeting. I was dreaming of the day we’d receive our call about a baby we had been matched with. I pictured myself standing in a queue at our local Spar, my two children in tow, receiving the call, screaming so loudly that the whole shop would come to a standstill, and excitedly telling the children, “Your little sister is coming home soon!” I was expecting to ask so many questions and to look forward to planning the matching meeting (which is where they tell you everything about any health issues the baby might have, tell you her birth weight, her background and why she was not going to be parented by her parents). I was looking forward to all of that. I wanted that phone call. I imagined myself ending that call with the social worker and phoning my husband at his work, bubbling with excitement.
It didn’t happen that way. Black ‘privilege’. There are so many black children just waiting for parents who want to adopt them. Too many. And so, the friendly arguments between the social workers in charge of screening us, versus those in charge of the babies and those in charge of the birth mothers that had been brewing during screening, actually came to a head during our panel meeting. There were already waiting baby girls. Waiting for us. We literally could ‘pick and choose’ as our social worker had warned us in our very first meeting. We were meant (according to my expectations based on others’ experiences) to wait for a call after the panel meeting and then have a matching meeting. Our panel meeting became our matching meeting. And so, we chose a baby. Within two weeks of our screening, we were going to have our baby girl home with us! Two WEEKS! Not months, not years, just weeks. In fact, if we hadn’t been waiting for some medical test results, we’d have had her sooner. We planned a meeting to discuss our future daughter’s background, her parents, and to decide if we would take her or wait for a different baby. Of course, why would we NOT take her!?
For my husband, that was when the ache began – the day we found out where our baby girl was waiting for us. The day we found out that she was so close to our home, but we could not yet meet her. When we saw her precious face and little forehead, we realised that she looked like his side of the family in that photograph. The day our son said he wished his baby sister could come home was the day the ache began for my husband. For him, it was the day he felt like he had a child who was missing, a child who had gone missing and needed to be found. He couldn’t concentrate. He couldn’t think. He just wanted his child home. Oh, so did I, so did I.