Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Life Determined by Strangers

By some amazing piece of luck, I am one of the lucky Americans to have health insurance. And while we pay more each year, I discover a benefit. Mental health is also covered. For once, the health care system smiles down on me and there she is, my therapist of choice is on the approved provider list. It was not easing finding her. Other therapists with experience in dealing with adoptees were recommended, but most of them were Christian therapists. And while I don’t knock spirituality and have a healthy respect for the man upstairs, I wanted to begin my journey without adding divine hurdles.

I have already told my therapist about my father. It’s him I talk about most. This bigger-than-life-stranger-than-fiction-ready-for-his-own-dramedy man. This man who was abused as a child and never grew up. This man who needed me to parent him. This man who was so singularly unqualified to take on the responsibility of an adopted child, who somehow managed to pass the interview with the social worker.

Why? I ask my therapist. How could this have happened? Obviously, my adoptive father has problems. BIG problems.

It’s not that hard to "pass" she says, looking sad.

I grill her some more. She is tapped into the world of the adoption system. Aware of its closed past and present inner workings.

This is what I gather. The social worker asks some questions, looks at some pay-stubs, checks with a friend or two and maybe with the boss and, unless something is obviously off, gives the seal of approval.

My head spins as it tries to calculate the endless possibilities, to grasp the power a complete stranger has over our lives. Someone made a decision. Rightly, wrongly, perfectly or with disastrous consequences.. To complete strangers we go. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

No matter how careful or selective or how much time was spent in the approval process, it suddenly strikes me as horrifying. That a child should change hands in such a manner. Arranged by a third party who may have been tired or stupid or overworked or bored or was a bad judge of character. Or new on the job. Or maybe the social worker was having a bad day or a bad month or was taking new medication. Or maybe there were too many babies of a certain ethnicity that month and not enough couples of the right match. Maybe, that month, to make the numbers work, they had to approve someone who wouldn’t have passed just several months before? Or perhaps there was just something about the parental applicant that reminded her of poor Uncle Joe, who deserved the benefit of a doubt. Or perhaps the birth mother had so many problems that just about anybody would be better than her?

For whatever wonderful things that may be said about the adoption system, we all know that it is work for those in it. There are paychecks and reports and good employees and bad ones. That work may be a calling. A vocation. But it’s still a job. And we are the product.

Plenty of children are born to bad parents. To the undeserving, to the idiots of the world. The indifferent. Are we not all at the mercy of fate? But when fate is a social worker with a social security number, a bi-weekly paycheck and a resume, well, that’s something else.


Blogger Joy said...

I had a roomate/good friend who was a fost-adopt social worker.

She told me she was pressured to approve people, a lot of them she didn't like, a lot of them being "Christian" and her being atheist.

1:50 AM  
Blogger HeatherRainbow said...

I'm glad you found a good therapist who understands the system.

I'm sorry to hear about your father. I can relate. I had to raise both of my parents. Neither grew up. But, it's sad that you were placed in this family without adequately investigating these people.

8:26 PM  

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