When someone suggested embarrassing adoption moments for a link up topic this year, my mind flashed through numerous scenarios over the last 8 years. My life is the kind of life with embarrassing moments a plenty boogers hanging out of the nose, and Drs not actually asking me out are everyday occurrences in my life. It’s no surprise that several dozen awkward and embarrassing moments center around adoption for me. One such moment, or shall I say “series of moments,” was the infamous home study.
Like many potential foster and adoptive parents, I’d spent days preparing for the office of licensing to come by and give my home the final seal of approval. Someone at the foster care agency had made a comment early on that they had never had a set of foster parents as young as Rob and I, and that we would “see” what licensing said about us. Looking back, I don’t think they meant that statement the way I took it, but at the time I constantly felt like we were on the verge of not being approved. On the day of the final inspection, I felt an extra need to prove what great foster parents we could be.
I’d cleaned the apartment top to bottom (I’d heard rumors they ran white gloved fingers along the counters to check for dust). I’d stocked the fridge (I’d heard they usually checked inside to make sure you had food, and I wanted to show them there would be no high fructose corn syrup for us). And last but not least, I’d carefully selected a stylish, yet sensible button up shirt.
Rob on the other hand was in his standard t-shirt and jeans. “Can’t you wear something a little more… professional?” I asked him. He looked like he was gearing up to sit on the couch with a bag of chips rather than try and convince strangers we would be suitable parents. “They aren’t coming to judge our outfits,” he reminded me. Which was true, they weren’t coming to judge our outfits, they were coming to judge our entire lifestyle. The outfits were just a small facet of that.
I wandered the house for the hundredth time to make sure everything was perfectly clean. The social worker from the department of licensing finally showed up around noon and I greeted him with my best most friendly I-can-be-a-mom smile. He glanced around the living room as he walked in. It had felt nice and clean a few minutes earlier, but suddenly felt cramped and cluttered. “I love the orange. Very cheery.” he remarked. Did I detect sarcasm? A few months earlier Rob and I had watched one too many episodes of Trading Spaces and had gone a little wild with some bright orange paint. The shade made you feel a bit like you were standing next to a sign for the Home Depot. Oh my gosh this is the worst messiest ridiculously painted living room ever and we’re going to get our license denied, I thought to myself. I tried to think of what to do quickly. “We’re going to repaint,” I announced. Rob glared at me like I was crazy, the social worker looked slightly perplexed. It dawned on me that the cheery walls comment had not been sarcasm, just an attempt to make conversation.
“Let’s start with the paperwork part and then we’ll proceed to the tour,” he announced. We all took a seat at the kitchen table.
He began running down the list of questions. How old are you? Where do you work? How many pets do you have? He was obviously a nice guy, and my anxiety started to dissipate. We talked for an hour or so about our lives, and then got into the part about the potential foster children. “How do you plan to discipline a child in your care?” he asked us. Now I knew the answer to this. This had been covered extensively in our foster parent training. As a foster parent you are absolutely never allowed to spank a child, or withhold food from them. Not that I would have done those things anyway, but they had really drilled that in at our training. “I won’t hit them or withhold their food…” I began, and then off I went, rambling on and on about the negative effects of corporal punishment on a child, and the damage to ones psyche, and the physical and emotional toll. I could feel myself saying too much. I couldn’t stop. I realized how odd it was to spend 10 minutes talking about how I wouldn’t spank a child when I had only spent 10 seconds specifying what age placement we would be willing to accept, but I just kept going. Finally, Rob gave me a swift kick under the table and I was able to cut myself off. “Um, that’s all good Erin, I’m glad to hear you wouldn’t do those things, but how would you discipline a child?” Apparently 10 minutes on not spanking had not been what he was looking for, the answer he was looking for was probably time out. But for some reason time out completely escaped me. So off I went for the next 10 minutes into what I would do, which I said was speak to the child in a calm and rational manner. I would maintain my composure. I would get down on their level. I would use a kind voice and teach them with love, and kindness, and patience. The social worker interrupted me “So when a three year old is throwing a tantrum, you’ll just speak kindly to them on their level and they’ll stop?” “Uh yes…” “Okaaaaaaay……” he jotted a few things down.
After a few more minutes we moved into the tour part of the process. He measured the common rooms, checked the water temperature in the kitchen, breezed passed the fridge (without opening it), and headed into the soon to be kids bedroom.
Now the apartment that we were living in at that time was a bit odd. It was a first floor, with a tiny garden in back. The extra bedroom had a door to the outside garden, which was allowed for foster parents in our city, as long as the door had a certain kind of lock on it. The intention being that the room was safe from anyone breaking in, yet still easy enough for a child to open in case of fire. Our agency had advised me on what kind of lock to get, and Rob put it on the door the day prior. The social worker noticed the door and asked me to demonstrate the lock for him. Not a problem. I gave it a simple twist and pulled, nothing happened. I twisted the lock back and fourth, and pulled again. Nothing. I began to explain, “It’s a new lock… Rob just put it on… I think it’s stuck or something.” I tried to jiggle and pull at the same time. Still nothing. The social worker winked at me, “You may have better luck if you pushed.” I did, and the door opened effortlessly.
We moved on to the bathroom. He flushed the toilet, checked the temperature in the sink, and began opening the shower curtain to check the water temperature in the shower. As he slid the curtain open he paused, he glanced over at me, and then continued sliding. My thoughts raced. Was there a giant bug in the shower? Had one of the pets peed in there? Nope. Apparently I’d hung my bras in there to dry after doing laundry. I’d triple checked every single nook and cranny, except for the cranny behind the shower curtain. I kept my eyes on the ground, and he didn’t mention the unmentionables he had seen.
We wrapped up the visit. I was so nervous, and so certain we would fail. As I walked the social worker to the door, I asked him “When will we hear if we’ve passed or not?” “Oh you’ll pass. Pretty much everyone passes at this point as long as they don’t have any safety violations. I just have to write up my notes, and process your license. You’ll get it in the mail in the next 10 days or so.”
After he left, I laid down on the couch with my feet up. That was stressful, I thought to myself. I looked down toward my feet to kick off my shoes, and my eye caught on the corner of my shirt. I’d missed a button, and the entire alignment of my sensibly selected shirt was off. Awkward conversations, underwear in the shower, an inability to open doors or dress myself, yet we had passed.
And two weeks later we met these two:
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
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