Sunday, November 16, 2008

Paperwork and Training

At this stage in the adoption process, we're heavily involved in completing all of our paperwork along with completing a variety of adoption and parenting training. At times it seems a little overwhelming but we know that all the effort is worth it.

On Friday (Nov 14th) we travelled to the adoption agency to take our first of two all-day classes on adoption. The second class will be this Tuesday (Nov 18th). The first class had a mix of people that are adopting both domestically and internationally. It was a pretty large group of six couples. Two couples were adopting domestically, one couple was adopting from China, and the other three couples (us included) are adopting from Korea. For all couples, this is their first time adopting. It was really great to meet so many people that are going through what we are. Two of the couples are already birth parents but it sounds like just about everybody has struggled with infertility like we have. There were some sad stories to tell and quite a few tears were shed, but we all share an enthusiasm for what is to come as we adopt children from various parts of the world.

The overall theme for the day was "identity". There are many things that play a role in a person's identify. We started by discussing the differences between nature and nurture...and how this shapes our development. An adopted child often lacks information about the "nature" side of their life. Because they are not raised by their birthparents, they often don't learn about their family or cultural history. For adoptees, it's important for them to learn their life story so that they can better understand their "natural" roots. You may have heard the saying that "you need to know where you've been to know where you're going". This is the same thought behind an adoptee knowing their life story. Part of our role as adoptive parents will be to help our child understand his life story and explain it to him which is why we're learning about the Korean culture. It's important to us because we know it will be important to him.

The next topic we discussed was the difference between the perception of birthparents that make an adoption plan and the reality. Some of the typical stereotypes are that the birthparents are poor, young, irresponsible, and selfish. In reality, birthparents consist of people at various income levels, have an average age in the mid 20's, and usually decide to make an adoption plan for the welfare of their child (which is an extremely unselfish act). Our adoption agency deals with both birthparents and adoptive parents. They see both sides. One reason that we really like the people in the agency is that we know they have a genuine concern for everybody. There are many people that are affected by adoption. The birthparents, children, adoptive parents, family, and friends...all are affected. Even though we will be extremely happy when we finally have our child in our arms, I know that we will also feel a deep sense of sadness knowing that our child will probably never know his birth parents.

In our training, we also talked about positive adoption language. The goal with positive adoption language is to give the maximum respect, dignity, responsibility, and objectivity about the decisions made by both birthparents and adoptive parents in discussing the family planning decisions they have made for children who have been adopted. We feel that one of our roles as adoptive parents is to help educate people on adoption. One aspect of that education is how we talk about adoption. For example, one of the most common things people say when referring to birthparents is to call them the child's "real parents". In reality, the "real parents" are the ones that raised the child. They are the ones that comforted him when he was sad and laughed with him when he was happy. Adoptive parents are no less "real" than any other parents. It doesn't matter if we are the birthparents of our child or not...we know that we will be his real parents.

"Real parents" is just one example...there are many other examples of positive adoption language. Here's a good link that shows both the negative phrase and a more positive phrase that should be used instead: http://www.adoptlink.com/language.htm.

We finished up the day talking about the differences (and similarities) between being a birthparent and an adoptive parent. In addition, we watched a video that talked about adoption from the view of the adoptive parent as well as the adopted child.

It was a long day of training but if flew by very quickly. We left feeling reenergized and motivated to keep working on our paperwork. We know we still have a long ways to go and a lot to learn along the way, but we're as excited as ever.