Original post: Wednesday, March 5, 2008
It was a crazy night on the roads, but we made the hour trek up to Amherst without incident. We had an ice storm last night and driving in the freezing rain while the ice glazes your windshield, as well as the roads, was not my idea of fun. However, they did cut the class short by an hour since the roads were so bad.
Anyway, the topic of tonight’s class was Child Referrals, meaning the birth mother/family backgrounds and childhood issues. I must say, it was a scary class. This is the one where you discuss all of the things you are willing to “deal with”, such as special needs, birth defects, and at-risk items like pre-natal drug and alcohol abuse.
We discusses all of the pre-natal tests, APGAR scores, tests that happen in the delivery room, etc. There were discussions of “normal” growth ranges for babies, and medical terminology sessions to become familiar with typical childhood diseases. We had discussions about birth-mothers who abuse alcohol and drugs, and what the effects can be on the baby. For instance, I always thought a pregnant mother’s drug use would be WAY worse for the baby that alcohol, but that is actually not the case. Alcohol is one of the worst things a pregnant mother can abuse, as it has the most effect on the baby’s development. And, BTW, methadone has not shown to have any effect on a developing baby if the mother is in treatment through her pregnancy.
We also discussed HIV and AIDS. An adoptive mother cam in with her beautiful daughter of 18 months and discussed her initial reservations and dealing with the birthmother who has HIV and is in jail. If a mother is HIV positive (not full-blown AIDS), the chance of the baby being HIV positive is only 1-4%. I had no idea! I thought the percentages were so much higher. I can remember when we were in high school health class, and the teacher saying that the baby almost always had HIV if the mother was positive for the disease. Of course, that was in the 80’s, and we know so much more about the disease now.
We also talked about the birth mother’s mental issues, if any, such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. Then we got into the “grid”. This is the form all adoptive families must fill out. It tells the agency for which situations you are willing to be profiles.
Let me explain the profiling a bit…
We initially filled out lots of paperwork about what kind of baby we desire, including things like race, sex, etc. We are open to anything, BTW. There was also a section on how open you wish the adoption to be, on a scale from 1-5. This agency is an “open” agency, so you must agree to the minimum of written contact with the birth mother for 18 years. We signed on at a level 4. We want to know the mother and allow her to have contact with the baby, so when the child has questions, we can answer them. I just look at it as extended family- the more the merrier! Of course, the situation of the birthmother may not be one we want our child exposed to, so we can change that level at any time.
Anyway, the grid is a list of things to help us and the agency get a sense of what type of child we are willing to adopt. However, it is not a commitment; it’s used for matching us to a mother. So a birthmother comes to the agency and makes a plan for adoption. Then she gives the agency her background: ADD, Drug/Alcohol use, diabetes, mental illness, etc. if any of these apply. She may be perfectly healthy and have no issues whatsoever. When she does that, the agency matches up her answers to this “grid”. For each item on the grid, you have a Yes, No, or Maybe, meaning that you are, aren’t, or possible open to a baby that may have these issues in their background. If there are matches, the agency calls the potential adoptive family and tells them the background of the mother. If they want to be profiles, then the adoptive family’s information goes to the mother and she can make a decision. Then the agency calls you to see if you want to accept. You can say no many times, if you want. You don’t have to take the first one that comes along, and many don’t. It doesn’t mean your chances are any less of being “profiled”.
Anyway, there are so many things on this grid- we need to do a lot of research to see what we can deal with and what we can’t. It’s a scary process, but we are learning as much about ourselves as we are about the process.
Next week: Post-adoption contact!