Thursday, July 20, 2006

Rights of Adoptive Parent Applicants

Well. Had a very interesting conversation with a social worker in Post Adoption Services in a certain Southern California city. She seemed honestly pleased to learn that I'd connected with my birth mother. I mentioned that my b.m. was very surprised that I had been placed with a working class dark-skinned Mexican-American family instead of a rich, white one as had been promised by the original social worker.

"Was she angry?" asked the Post Adoption Services worker (PASW).

"Not exactly," I replied, reluctant to tell her the truth. I suspect my b.m. was angry. Education topped her wish list for me and a Latino factory worker with an 8th grade education wasn't exactly what she had in mind. However, I didn't want to put the PASW on the defensive as I had more questions.

"So, back in the sixties, what were the social workers looking for in prospective adoptive parents?" I ask.

"Just what you'd look for in if you were in that position. It's all common sense, really. Stable relationship, stable job, stable income, mental and emotional stability, good motivitation for adoption and, of course, positive references," she explains.

Hah! This is where the original social worker got it WRONG. My adoptive father was not, never was and is still not mentally stable. Severely abused as a child, he developed a very bad case of the Narcissistic Wound which translates into: major loner, needy, insulting, racist, self-centered and....self-centered. I suspect - so strongly that I can picture it - that my mother told him to keep his mouth shut during the interviews or he'd botch everything. In fact, my adoptive mother had him so trained that today, when he senses my embarrassment or displeasure at his behavior, he'll look at me, head hanging, and say, "Okay, Okay, I'll keep my mouth shut."

"So how many interviews did parental applicants have to go through?" I asked.

"Ummm, several," replied the PASW.

"As in two...or three?" I pressed.

"More like two," she said.

This is where I wanted to ask...and how long were those visits? Ten minutes? Twenty? For a total of what? An hour. A quick tour of the house and the backyard. How can you really tell anything about someone in less than what? Minimum....72 hours...the length of a visit from distant relatives.

"The real trouble," I finally admit, "was when I announced I was going away to college. My adoptive mom got so mad she cut me off. Financially. And emotionally."

We talked about this for a awhile.

"Maybe it's a cultural thing," the PAWS said. "You know, a good Latina daughter stays by her mother's side the rest of her life."

I agreed, but it still makes me furious. The big proud moment in my life turned upside down by drama and...self-centeredness...and the just-below-the-surface-accusation that I was ungrateful for abandoning them.

So I can't resist. I tell the PAWS of my adoptive father's instability and my mother's expectations of lifelong obedience and gratitude. And then, I don't know why, I say, "Well, I'm sure a social worker can't predict parental behaviors that far in advance. My adoptive parents were okay when I was little, but the real trouble happened when I hit my teen years when I began to act out against their little charades that I wasn't their biological child."

So she sniffs and says, "Well, how can you deny someone the opportunity to raise a child unless there is concrete and compelling evidence that they are unfit?"

How about "Just say no." Of course, I don't actually say this. I think it. I'm still thinking it. Does this mean if a social worker has a gut feeling or instinct or wouldn't want to spend more than one hour hanging out with these people him/herself, then...well, the couple deserves a child because they have some sort of universal right? Did the social worker suspect there was something off about my adoptive dad but thought...oh well, even someone like him deserves an opportunity? What about my opportunities? Obviously, they were outweighed by those of the "parental applicant."

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