To cut to the chase: we finished the final interview on September 29 and were officially approved to ADOPT on October 14th ! **Cue the fireworks here!!**
So that's the big, exciting news. Before we outline what comes next, we want to share a little about what the interview process was like.
First of all, our social worker (we'll call her "Debbie") was wonderful. She was experienced, professional, very friendly, timely, and efficient - basically all the qualities you want in a social worker who is interviewing you. She was very easy to work with, including working around our busy schedules and coming to our home for all of the interviews so we didn't have to drive to the agency. Not that we've ever done this before, but it felt like having the interviews in our home was more comfortable and relaxing rather than the office-like environment of our agency. Plus our social worker had several opportunities to see our home, which we personally think is pretty, well, homey :)
Interview #1 - September 11
This was our first meeting with Debbie, so we were kinda nervous! The night before we cleaned our home - not to a crazy level of white-glove clean, but respectable. Dan set out a platter of chocolates and a tray of tea in case Debbie wanted any. Oh, and the interview was in the early afternoon so we both worked that morning and then hurried home right after lunch.
Debbie was so friendly right away. She seemed very motherly and kind, which put us at ease. We gave her the 60-second tour of our digs, and then settled down in the living room to chat. She explained the process to us: she had a number of questions to ask us, and although there was time for us to talk leisurely, she might need to switch topics from time to time in order to cover everything. She also explained that the process was meant to be transparent, meaning that if anything came up that might be a potential issue, she would address it with us - we'd never get a letter in the mail saying "sorry, you fail" or anything like that. We would know ahead of time if there was a problem. And she said she would take lots of notes during our conversations to make sure not to miss anything.
This session had some pretty intense topics: she asked about us as a couple, how we met, our strengths and weakness, what we love about each other; she asked how we came to the decision to adopt, so that involved sharing about our infertility, which is always challenging because it is personal and still quite sad; and then we talked for a long time about our parameters for the child we were hoping to adopt: boy/girl, race, medical issues, family background, etc. With all of these topics, part of the social worker's job is to help us address and work through any lingering questions we have about anything related to adoption, and Debbie was also able to provide guidance along the way if we wanted it.
All in all, we spoke for about an hour and a half, and it was pretty exciting, but also tiring. But overall, we thought it went well!
Interview #2 and #3 - September 17
This was a two-for-one special. Debbie came to our home in the morning, and first talked with Dan individually, then with me. This was a chance to get to know us a little more, and to talk more in depth about our respective backgrounds: family, childhood, education, career, etc. Topics included the composition of our families of origin, how our parents raised us, our experiences in elementary school, high school, and college, and our job history. It was all very comfortable and rather pleasant. (Who doesn't like to talk about themselves?)
Side-note: In-person reference interview - September 19
Part of the home study process was to have four references submit written letters about us to the agency. One of those references later needed to be interviewed in person. Our original choice for the in-person interview ended up not being able to make it work (they had moved quite a ways out of town earlier in the Spring), so another reference kindly made the time to come visit and meet with Debbie in person. Anecdotally: the plan was that Bethany would watch their two oldest kids while they went to a coffee shop with Debbie (Dan had a work event that morning). Well, their oldest son decided we needed a little more hands-on parenting practice, and got sick at breakfast! It was providential though - yes a kid throwing up was providential - because our friends were able to tell Debbie, "Yes, I think Dan and Bethany will be good parents - after all, they're cleaning up our son's throw-up right now and taking care of him while he's sick!" Ha ha (and no we didn't know they were going to do that!). The reference interview went fine too.
Interview #4 - September 29
This one took place in the evening, the day after we got back from a week-long trip to Philadelphia to attend the World Meeting of Families and see the pope. Needless to say, we were a bit tired! Thankfully we had enough energy to do the interview and sound decently coherent. The main topic for this session was our ideas about parenting, and specifically about parenting an adopted child. Debbie asked us questions about what we think will be our strengths and weaknesses as parents, how we plan to discipline our child, and so on. And we talked through our thoughts on the needs our child will have by being adopted and how we will help him or her cope with the loss that comes with any adoption.
We talked about our thoughts about open adoption and having an ongoing relationship with the birthmother and/or birthfather (which we are open to). And we talked about what we've learned and thought about regarding interracial adoption (which we are also open to). Debbie had a lot of good parenting tips and was very encouraging to us in regards to the transition from being a family of two adults to a family with a little baby. As much as we so, so much desire to be parents, sleep deprivation will still be real! We talked through what that will look like, particularly with adoption where time spent bonding with your child is so important.
At the end of this interview, Debbie said that she doesn't see any red flags, and doesn't see any reason why we wouldn't be approved. That was sweet music to our ears!! She also said that she was almost finished writing up the home study report and that the director of the agency would send it to us in about two weeks to see if we had any edits about factual evidence. Awesome!
Receive draft of home study - October 6
It took less than two weeks for our agency director to email us our home study. We then had the chance to read it in its entirety, see what it said about us, and correct anything - mainly the corrections would be misspellings of names and factual things that were missed.
It was strange reading a 15-page report all about us! It actually was quite moving in a way. The report outlined our life's journey to this point - our childhoods and upbringing, how we met, dated and got married, our struggles with infertility that led us to the decision to adopt. Reading it brought up a lot of emotions and memories, and on a spiritual note a distinct sense of God's presence throughout the ups and downs of our lives so far.
The most beautiful words came at the very end where they officially approved us, right before Debbie and our agency director had a spot to sign off on the report!!! Again, music to our ears!!! Never has dry, bureaucratic language been so lovely! Those sentences are the culmination of a process that began officially on April 2, 2015 when we began filling out the adoption application - and of course before that, when we decided to pursue adoption and discerned the best time to start - and most cosmically, when God chose this particular path for us, that here we are now, approved to adopt.
Next post = Next Steps (stay tuned)