Sunday, January 21, 2007

Waiting Families & Children

Some recent comments made on one of the Yahoo groups that I participate in has made me think a lot about how we decided to adopt from the Waiting Child Program (WCP). So, I thought I'd share. Plus, I need a written record of the process, since I know my memory will falter when I might be asked about this years from now.

For anyone who is reading and is unfamiliar with this program (probably no one!), the WCP is an adoption program run by the CCAA in parallel to their regular (or non-special needs program) to find families for children who have medical needs of some sort OR who are are considered harder to place since they are older than usual.

My personal journey to adopt a child from the WCP began not long after my husband & I decided we would adopt. We were placed on a wait list to do a pre-adoption course & homestudy- and told that we might end up waiting for over a year. The wait turned out to be almost exactly one year. But about 6 months into that wait, as I poured over the internet for every bit of information that I could find about China adoption, I came across a website on Waiting Children:

The fact that the WCP existed was not news to me- I had read about it when we first began investigating international adoption. At that time, I pretty much dismissed it as not for us. I really did not think that my husband would be comfortable with the idea of adopting a child with a *known* medical condition. And, to be honest, I was not sure that I could handle a "sick" child, given our busy lifestyle with two kids, two jobs, and several other personal pursuits. But I was curious. The fact that the children in the WCP were about 50% boys (versus about 5% in the regular program) also played on my mind. I was coming to terms with the fact that I really wanted to raise a son.

I joined a Yahoo group for families adopting through the WCP and pretty much lurked for several months. This group was run by a large US adoption agency (which, as Canadians, we could not use), and there were periodic postings of children's files on the group; medical reports and pictures of the children who had been assigned to the agency for placement. Most of my initial concerns about whether I could handle particular medical conditions began to fall by the wayside as I slowly began to understand that, as a parent, I would not be "handling" a medical condition. I would be loving a CHILD, who just happened to have a medical condition- most of which, btw, could be "handled" by good medical care.

So, at some point during this year-long wait, I turned a corner. I knew that there were certain medical conditions that could be dealt with at our local children's hospital. I realized that my birth children could have easily been born with a medical defect- and, if they had, we would not love them any less. In fact, with our first daughter, we had a good scare after a routine ultrasound- she was diagnosed with choroid plexus cysts in her brain- which *can* be associated with chromosomal disorders. For her, this was not the case, and the cysts resolved, but it made us face the possibility of raising a child with Down's Syndrome or another trisomy. We had decided that if she turned out to have such a disorder, then she would be born and we would deal with it.

I also learned from the mothers of waiting children that these kids are not "sick" by any stretch of the imagination! Most of their medical issues- such as cleft lip/palate, congenital heart defects, extra digits, hernias, and so forth- were relatively routine issues to deal with medically and/or surgically. Often, children had corrective surgery in China prior to being adopted. Sure, depending on the nature of their condition, some children required follow-up treatments or therapy (e.g., speech therapy, orthodontics, or yearly visits to a specialist)- but I could name a half-dozen children that I know who also use these kinds of services. However, the doubts still lingered.

We started our pre-adoption course in February 2006 and I decided that it was time to talk to my husband about the WCP. I told him everything that I had learned in the past 6 months- and I was a little surprised at how receptive he was. At this point, we did not make any decisions. If anything, we left the conversation agreeing that maybe we should not "go looking for trouble" by requesting a child with a medical condition. But the door was still open.

A few weeks later, we found ourselves discussing the issue again. We were beginning our homestudy and needed to come to a decision. I had just read that some children in the WCP are actually developmentally more "healthy" than some children in the regular program, since many of them often received more intensive care. Also, we had just been told by our agency that the wait in the regular adoption children might be 18 months or longer after our file reached China. We knew that getting a son in the regular program was not impossible, but was definitely not a sure thing. And we were assured that we would be completely free to request a child with a very specific medical need if we wished, or that we could list several needs.

We decided. We were in: 99.9% of the way!

The last 0.1% was settled when I spoke to Susan- a mom of two waiting children who had used our agency. I just felt that I had to actually talk to - not just e-mail- someone who had adopted a waiting child with a need that we would consider. After a nice chat, there was no more hesitation.

I'd like to say that "the rest is history". Some day, when we bring our boy home, it will be.


new girl said...

Carolyn, thank you so much for so thoughtfully sharing your story. I really appreciate reading it especially in light of the Yahoo conversation. And I really do hope that they "pick" you soon!!!

Debbie & Kirk said...

You are going to make a very special mommy to a very special child.

( 6 more sleeps)