Today is week 2 of Adoption Month here at A New Kind of Normal! If you missed week 1, you can catch up by checking out my advice on getting started with the adoption process!
The “paper chase” may be one of the most stressful steps of the adoption process. Ok, all steps are pretty stressful but at this stage of the process (which occurs between having your application approved and completing the home study), you may feel like you are buried beneath a mountain of paperwork. Thankfully now a lot of the required paperwork can be submitted online so you don’t find yourself living at the post office. Adoption agencies can now offer online adoption management services that can expedite the paperwork process, improves communication, and provides readily available access to status updates.
Between background checks, submitting medical clearance forms from your physicians, and writing a seemingly endless autobiography, you begin to wonder if you will ever make it through (and if you have an ounce of privacy left). Our autobiography questions and subsequent interview questions covered everything from how we were disciplined as a child to how our extended family feels about adoption to how infertility has affected our sex life. While it seems overly invasive, it is important to remember that the process is not only about completely the mandated requirements for adoption but in order to know you personally, as a couple. and as a family in order to match the best match possible for your family.
Of all of the vast variety of forms we had to fill out as a part of the process, answering the adoption medical questionnaire regarding what health conditions or needs we were open to was definitely the hardest to fill out. On one had we felt like if we had had a biological child we would not have had the option to choose which health issues we wanted to avoid in our child but on the other hand, we knew we needed to take each line of that questionnaire into serious consideration. While we were beyond ready to become parents and just wanted to have a child to love, we knew we needed to take this opportunity to be as prepared as absolutely possible to parent a child with physical, mental, or emotional needs.
The questionnaire covered physical issues as simple as having a visible birthmark to more serious issues such as muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis as well as possible transmittable diseases from a birth parent such as Hepatitis or HIV. The questionnaire also covered issues such as a family history of mental illness (or an older child already receiving a diagnosis) and a family history of learning disabilities. Of course it is impossible to know everything to know everything at the time of placement but this questionnaire sought to allow the adoptive family to be as prepared (mentally, emotionally, and financially) to parent a child with needs.
The questionnaire had the options of yes, no, and maybe next to each of the possibilities. Our agency advised us that saying “maybe” was the same as saying “yes” so take the option seriously (versus having the attitude of I’ll think about it later). They shared the story of a couple just as eager to become parents as we were and they checked yes down the list in efforts to welcome a child into their family as quickly as possible. They ended up becoming parents of twin toddlers who both had cleft lip and cleft palette and had not yet had corrective surgery. All of their family was 10+ hours away so they found themselves over their heads and in desperate need of support. The story served as a reminder of the seriousness of each line of that questionnaire.
Because of our history and the direction we felt God was leading us in, we knew there were certain needs we would be open to in addition to being open to any gender or any race. I will not be sharing specifics of our selections for privacy reasons (not only for our family but Abby’s birth family). When we got the call to be matched with our daughter, our social worker said we have a baby girl that we would like to place with you that has the possibility of having X. It was one of those blanks that we prayed long and hard over before making a decision to check yes. Even though there was a chance that she could have been sick, by the grace of God, Abby is absolutely 100% healthy but we have asked ourselves many times, “what if we had checked no?” If we had checked no to that box, we would have never received that phone call and we would have never been so amazingly blessed to have our daughter. Praise God that He led us to check yes and we did.
Every step of the adoption process is full of tough decisions. I cannot stress the importance of research, education, and support. There is always the possibility of the unknown but the purpose of the paper chase and home study process is to help you become as prepared as possible to welcome a child into your family via the miracle of adoption. Our social worker worked right alongside of us answering questions and recommending resources and our agency conducted group seminars where we would cover topics such as bonding and attachment and preparing for a special needs child but we would also have the opportunity to meet and connect with other adoptive families in waiting alongside us. Adoption Learning Partners is a wonderful resource before, during, and after the adoption process. Just as I visited the site to get the URL, I noted 3 that we need to take now.
If you are considering adoption as a way to expand your family, it is never too early to start considering which possibilities would best fit your family as well as starting praying for direction on how to grow your family. I took our being led to become a transracial family and being open to certain special needs a calling. We feel like God was leading us down a certain path, we followed in faith, and now have an absolutely gorgeous little girl!
If you are considering adoption or just starting the process, have you taken any time to consider the needs of a child you would be open to? If you are an adoption veteran, how did this step of the process affect you?
One comment on “What If We Checked No: Answering The Medical Questionnaire”
Wow, this post brings up a lot of interesting points. We’ve wrestled through a similar questionnaire, though our agency allowed us to mark “will consider” and that allows us to consider things on a case-by-case basis. We checked “will consider” for nearly every substance exposure or health history issue available because, as you say, you just don’t know. We found many of the birthparents reported suffering depression or anxiety (some treated with meds, some with counseling, some not at all), which are definitely mental illnesses, but then we learned more about their life experiences and they had been through so much upheaval and trauma that we would have been surprised if they didn’t struggle in that way! If they’d had more stable lives with supportive families, would they still report that? And just because they suffer from a particular illness, even a genetic one, doesn’t mean the child will, and in infant adoption, you likely won’t know if your child has a certain condition until they get older. There were cases where we felt like everything was so hypothetical that we were totally willing to take the risks, and then there were others where the problem was already apparent and we knew we would probably be chosen if we said yes, but could we? The ones where we prayed and researched and cried and then ultimately said no were the hardest of all. It really isn’t something to be taken lightly or to be leaped into because “I’ve waited long enough!” Thanks for being so honest.