On Adoptions: Beet & Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

-A pretty pink poppy seed and beet cake perfect for a family.-

I don’t talk much about my day job on the blog because I generally try to keep the two worlds separate. In addition, I don't want to be seen as speaking on behalf of my day job (and within this post I am still not). There’s no reason one should affect the other and I find that my life is simply cleaner and easier to organize when certain things are properly compartmentalized. (This is, in fact, my general life strategy and so far it seems to be working out for me).

For those of you who don’t know – and I surmise that’s almost all of you – I work in social work during the day. I started by accidentally falling into a position at a group home and school for children. It was a Level 14 Living Facility, which is California’s sterile and woefully accurate clinical term for One Step Below an Asylum. It was a place where the kids were sweet, but if one of them had a blowout and decided to strip down naked before climbing to the roof of the nearby post office before throwing roofing tiles at nearby police who are attempting to coax him down, well, that was a Tuesday for me. It was a controlled environment for round the clock therapeutic care.

Most of these kids were here because of mental problems brought on by years of abuse of many kinds. They were the extreme and a reminder that no one in the world is born troubled or bad, but because of the situations they've often been placed in.

After that I moved on to working as an office manager at a different a site where we focused more on child and family therapy. Eventually I left that and moved into a stint as an assistant pastry chef before going back to a world where I didn't burn myself as often and could use health benefits when I did. Currently, I do administrative work that also includes working with children directly for a non-profit whose primary goal is placing children in the foster care system with adoptive permanent families.

-So there’s the quick and dirty of it.-

I no longer do intensive treatment of any kind with kids because I find I’m rather as emotionally equipped to deal with these things as much as a pack of wild dingoes are properly equipped to run a day care. Usually, I find myself rather stupefied and break down in fits of crying or rage out at how God/the world/people/whathaveyou could allow some adults to raise – a word I use very liberally in this case – children.

Now, I don’t have children. In fact, I don’t plan to anytime soon. FiancĂ© and I have discussed the topic and as far as we see it we’re going to wait about ten years and then look into adopting a child between the ages of four and ten.

Both of us are perfectly fine missing the baby and toddler stages when the child is essentially a needy meatloaf that poops incessantly (as babies are wont to do). The only thing either of us regret in this decision is the fact that we will miss out on the opportunity to name another human being.

-Boy: Noel. Girl: Viola. If you were curious.-

My parents are a bit miffed on this subject and would prefer me to have a biological baby. FiancĂ©’s parental units already have a grandchild so their need to spoil a tiny human is satiated. Mine, though, insist that we both have “Such great genes!” and should pass those on by asking Fiance’s sister for an egg.

Ah, modernity. Remember way back when when asking a neighbor for an egg meant you were baking a cake, not putting a bun in the oven?

Still, they’re coming around fine enough.

Now even though I’m not a parent I’ve had a lot of time to work with and get to know kids. Troubled kids, whom I actually engage with better than those who aren’t coping with trauma and being pumped full of medication. So as I hop up on my soapbox and talk about kids and parenting while not being a parent take my ramblings from the fact that I’ve seen very horrible things happen to children and I’ve seen the outcome and have, at times, had to help raise whole housefuls of them.

I do speak as an observant who seen the clinical side of a child in emotional and psychological need - though I do not have a degree in psychology or social work. I speak from a place where I actually have had to tell people to go to dontshakeyourbaby.com (and, yes, this is a thing that horrifyingly needs to exist). Where I’ve had to hide my horror at cigarette burns on a toddler’s arm and not freak the fuck out when a twelve year old tells me that she slept in a tree the night before because when you’re homeless and twelve sleeping on a park bench is dangerous. I speak from a place where I have had to teach a sixteen year old how to use a knife and fork because none of their family bothered to (or, I gather, knew how to either).

Of course, I also speak as someone who has seen kids rise above it all. Kids who were tiny tanks destroying every obstacle in their way in order to beat a really screwed up foster system and in the end rose above it all to put themselves into college and start their own life anew; or found successful jobs and made lives for themselves; or found someone who wanted to adopt them. (Fun Fact: 50% of children who age out of the foster system without being adopted end up homeless, in prison, or dead. So next time you see a homeless teen realize that about 99% of the time it’s not that kid’s fault they are where they are.) I've seen kids get adopted by adoring parents and seen their personalities morph into something positive, like their outlook changed as easily as their shoes and all it took was - wait for the cheesey but truthful movie cliche' - love.

-I put a lot of stock into that nurture argument.-

There’s a lot of myth about adoption. Some of it true and some of it not. Will there be a rebellious period? Yes. God, yes. It’s because foster and adoptive kids crave structure. They’ll fight you, test you, see what they can get away with. Not because they’re upset with you, but because so many adults and rule sets have failed them before. Once they know you plan to stand firm things calm down significantly. Promise.

Are adoptive kids angelic? No. But I would like to see a child who is. All children, even your own, are people. They will make mistakes and piss you off. They’re kids, after all. Your job as a parent is to teach them how to be good people.

Adoption is a way to really make an impact in your life and a child’s life. There are kids out there who want to be devoted sons and daughters, caring brothers, adoring sisters, and who want nothing more in life than to have a grandmother who will sneak them extra dessert when mom and dad say no.

-Don't we all want that?-

Of course, it’s a big decision. The adoption process isn’t the simplest thing in the world. While many people can go out and start forming their own baby army right now, adoptive parents have to jump through twenty billion hoops of fire and stick the landing. In adoption you have to prove to the world and a few social workers that you are a fit parent. You have to do a home inspection, interviews, fingerprinting, background checks, CPR and First Aid classes, etc.

(It’s a notion that doesn’t seem so terrible, requiring people to accomplish X before the government will allow them to have kids. Hell, I think that should be mandated on people who want to have kids naturally. Socialist and terribly Big Brother-like? Yes. But would requiring people to take parenting classes and get licensed before they’re allowed to procreate so they can be at the very least semi-responsible parents really be a bad thing?)

The result of all this mandated dog and pony show and late nights cramming at Concurrent Planning courses and Adoption Moduels? Well-prepared to-be families who can provide a loving and dedicated home to a child (or children, plural, if you’re looking for a sibling set) who will adore you.

Keep in mind that it’s a two way street. You’re not just providing a family for a child. They’re also providing a family for you, too. Not only do they want love but they want to give it.


Adoption is a big decision to make. There’s nothing light about it. If you are considering it many adoption agencies have orientations that are non-committal and give you all the information you could possibly want so you can make an informed decision.

Afterwards, go home and think about it. Turn the information over and over in your head. Fuss with it the way you would a rubix cube, turning and spinning until everything aligns and you have your answer.

It will take a while.

I suggest cake to help fuel you as you make this decision.

This is a toyed with pound cake. A pretty pink pound cake with purple beets, poppy seeds, and zest from purple-juiced blood oranges. It's a cake that loves alliteration and being toasted for a generous smear of butter. It's a fragrant, different kind of pound that's earthy from the beets, floral, and citrusy. A pound cake with a bit of pop and zing.

The perfect thing to nibble on as you discuss things like concurrent planning and figuring out where a copy of your birth certificate is (you'll need that, by the way) and, perhaps, if you want to adopt a boy or a girl.

Cake also, as you well know, makes people happy. Sugar and seratonin and endorphins and all that stuff you saw on a science program once in your life. As such this cake may cause you to sway your opinion in one direction over the other. After all, wouldn't it be grand to teach your child how to bake a cake like this?

Beet and Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Makes one loaf cake

2-3 small red beets, trimmed from the greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces butter, room temp
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Slather the beets in olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 60-75 minutes or until fork tender. Peel the beets and then process them in a food processor until the consistency of baby food.

2. Reduce oven heat to 350F and butter an 8 1/2-4 1/2 inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.

3. Beat the sugar, extract, zest, and butter in an electric mixer on high speed for five minutes until pale and creamy. Add 1/3 cup of the pureed beets and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each for about 30 seconds.

5. Combine the flour, baking powder, slat, and poppy seeds in a bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream and mix. Proceed in this dry-wet-dry method until the mixture just comes together.

6. Pour into the baking pan and level with an offset spatula. Bake for about 40-55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Serve. 


  1. Wow, such a moving post. Thanks for sharing the details of your life.

    I keep re-reading the part where you say no one is born bad, but because of the situations they're placed in, they can be.

    How are the wedding plans coming along?! Next post? ;)

  2. I've always thought that I would adopt an older kid for many of the same reasons you put into words. Thanks, I needed the push.

  3. Dessert for Two: The wedding preps are coming along nicely, though I still have a few freak outs every now and then. Nothing to really post, though. ;)

    WildTomato: Yay! Lots of nonprofit adoption agencies have noncommital orientations where they will answer yoru questions. Be sure to check them out.

  4. Excellent post Garrett, and I look forward to trying that cake.

    My father was adopted, my parents took in foster kids while I was growing up, my best friend was adopted. I have actually never imagined being pregnant and having a baby. When I've thought about kids, I have thought I'd likely adopt a 5-8yo (boy!) because that's what my heart says I have coming to me! It's a calling, not an easy thing and it's great that you've had these learning experiences in your life and plan to adopt in the future.


  5. Great post Garrett. I've worked with homeless and troubled youth quite a bit and at times it's taken all my will power to not beat the crap out of selfish parents who don't even consider their children's welfare. Eric and I want to have at least one biological child, but we also want very much to adopt and agreed on that long before we were married. It's a beautiful thing when done the right way.

  6. I worked with high risk school age childre for a long time. I miss it sometimes, but this office job with the Department of Education pays the bills and is far less volatile. I, too, got too involved and would break down and get so angry that children were being treated in a way that made them crazy.

    I was never a breeder. I've known since I was 12 I didn't want to give birth to children, and I may never want to adopt. If I do it'll be a pre-teen or a child around eight who is stuck in the system. But I'm selfish and like to travel, so the adoption days may never come.

    I am making that cake this weekend. It looks fantastic.

  7. Diana: Yay! Yeah, my older brother was adopted and my mom had me at 39 and my brother at 41. We were both surprises as she was told she couldn't possibly have children. ;)

  8. Dorothy K: Sounds like a good plan, DK. =D

  9. In the school program my daughter is in, a lot of children come from not so positive comply situations, to say the least. I don't think any of it is nearly as bad as what you've seen, but even that I find hard to deal with. Hence why I've always been a supporter of the having to prove your abilities to raise and care for a child before having one. Yes, it's socialist. But with the Earth's population growing as fast as it is, we could stand to have fewer babies born.

    In any case, great post. And I'm not sure when you modified the site so it has a mobile view, but thanks! It's a lot easier to read on my phone now. :)

  10. Thanks for the awesome post again. Adoption has been a dream of mine for years and years...and now, in June, I'm marrying the best guy in the world who also wants to adopt! Knowing that it will most likely happen is thrilling, and I love hearing (again) about how amazing it is for everyone involved.

  11. thanks for another logical and well presented post. i agree with much of what you say including the portion of "not born bad" it is so true. though i have to admit - and i know people will criticize for this - that in my own life the issue has been focused more on dogs and cats. but many of the arguments you make are true there also. and no i'm not comparing adopting a child with adopting a pet - i'm not just that many of the underlying issues and causes of the problems are the same.

    thanks also for another wonderful recipe. though is it more a cake? you refer to it as a variation of a pound cake. or a bread? as you talk about eating toasted and w/ butter.

  12. Annonymous: It's a cake, but I enjoy toasted pound cake and serving it with butter. ;)

    Ashley: I think Google did that actually. Priase be to Google.

  13. I love the way you write - moving in one beat and funny in another.

    (baby = meatloaf - LOVE that analogy)

    and the wild dingoes.

    as one half of a couple who actively decided against children, I admire your choices and reasons for adoption - I wish there were more that think as you do...

    and this cake? simply lovely - beautiful and undoubtedly delicious!

    thanks for sharing, everything!

  14. I thought about a portion of this post all day, and have decided that, in more than one way, the fact that you'd only adopt a child over the age of 4 and under the age of 10 is offensive, and a little frightening. I'm not sure how I feel about quantifying love that will only kick in above a certain age. Furthermore, I'm not sure how realistic that cherry-picking approach is in light of the realities of the adoption process. I suppose the trust of what I'm saying is: Do you feel fit to parent if you'd only like to do so over a certain age in the child?

  15. This is beautifully written. I can relate.
    I worked in a level 12 group home for 10 years in Sacramento. It was the best and worst job I've ever had. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity.
    This cake sounds so conflicting. Beets? Oranges? Cake? It makes me want to try it... Thank you.

  16. Annonymous: Offensive and frightening? Well, we ask all parents to consider what sort of child they are okay adopting.

    What about one with a history of starting fires? Sexual acting out? With siblings in other homes? With cancer? With developmental issues? Adopting a newborn? Adopting an 18 year old? Boy or girl? How are any of these different from the age?

    I work in this field. It's not cherry-picking as it is knowing what sort of child you are comfortable adopting. It's the very reason you aren't simply assigned a child to adopt. This selection process is - in fact - how the process works. And believe me, the child in many cases gets a say in picking the family, as does the child's social worker.

    BF and I are okay adopting a child who might have a sibling or even one who has HIV. Other parents might not. We also want to adopt a boy, not a girl.

    The thing about adoption is it IS different than having a biological kid. You do get a history of the kid and you do have a say in the match because it comes down to finding a match that is right for you. There's no quantifiable love about it.

    I encourage you to do some more research on the subject and not so boldly and offensively color all adoptive parents as "cherry pickers."

  17. As a person who has never had a biological child (I did have a step-daughter when I was married), adoption was definitely on the table when I was unable to conceive. It does take a huge leap of faith to bring in another personality (with history) into your home and family...especially in the absense of that intangible bonding that occurs while awaiting the birth of a baby.

    That being said, you and your partner know what's best for your home, what will provide the best possible outcome for all parties involved. No one has the right to tell you how to make that decision.

    If someone is going to call another person out as a 'cherry picker', at least have the courage not to do so under annonimity.

    As a fellow blogger, I know that we may place ourselves as targets on any given post, but that doesn't mean we have to take it.

    Thanks again Garrett for telling it like it is.

  18. My spouse and I purposely decided to adopt an older child. These children are harder to place, and far more likely to languish in the foster care system. We were blessed three years ago with a wonderful and delightful 9 year old boy who captures the heart of everyone who meets him. That we were able to bypass dirty diapers and sleepless nights was just a bonus. :) Best of luck to you Garrett!

  19. Oh my, what you said about people should have to take classes before being allowed to procreate is something me and my family have said for years! Whilst I've never worked in social care, working in a supermarket shows you all kinds of abhorrent human behaviour. I don't work there now, but I still worry about the future of humanity. I fear the film "Idiocracy" got it right..

  20. I always look forward to your posts, but I have never commented on one before. This one really moved me. I teach Jr. high, and I know that some of these kids I teach have been through things in their lives that are more difficult and scary than I will probably ever experience. It takes a lot of patience sometimes, but I do remind myself that no one is born bad. I really do believe it. It's hard to see these kids become products of their circumstances, and to know that their parents are also a product of the choices they have made and the situations they have been in. Some days when I can't sleep, I think my heart might be too big for my job, but it also makes me want to stay.

    So glad you are considering adoption, and I commend you for the desire to adopt an older child. It's not just the babies who need loving homes!

  21. What a beautiful post. I can't wait to be a foster parent and hope someday to adopt. There are so many children waiting for a little love, and so many personalities evolving with stories to share.

  22. Between this post and the one before It becomes clearer that there should be some kind of screening before you can become a parent. Is it too much to ask to take into account that you are dealing with human beings? As for the adoption part I understand the complexities of having to put rules to accomodate an enormous different range of people, each with their own values, ways of thinking, etc but I feel goverments and society leaders simply opt for the easy way out. That in my opinion is to treat children as pieces of a puzzle that should, first of all, serve their own purposes, which usually have to do with unlimited power. I live in Argentina and let me tell you that adoption here, is, in some cases, impossible. Because of beaurocracy and hidden agendas. You have to end up buying a child; so most couples opt not to do it or go to places like Haiti and adopt there. It´s a shame and a disgrace to society to have that kind of system. It´s clear that a poorly educated or frightened society is more easy to manipulate. And I see many parents treating their children like that. Adopting is a decision that should be done very consciously but so is parenting a biological child.
    Keep voicing your opinions.

  23. Well said, Garrett. I personally think people should require a license to be parents, as much of a socialist and big-brother-esque idea as it is. It's sadly true that many parents are simply not capable to handle the responsibility of having a child.

    As for anonymous, well, you do realize that having a child is a HUGE responsibility. Picking the right child for you to adopt is NOT cherry-picking. It's simply matching the child with what you are capable with. If Garrett doesn't think he's capable of taking care of a baby then it's a much better idea for him not to adopt one. There's always a chance that the child (and the adoptive parents) would end up unhappy if they are not properly matched.

    And trust me, the world really doesn't need another unhappy child.

  24. Beautiful post, Garrett. Parenting a child will be both a tremendous challenge and tremendously rewarding, regardless of what variety you end up with ;)

    sporkgasm: I wholeheartedly respect your careful and deliberate decision to not have a biological child. It would be wonderful if you could respect my, and others', careful and deliberate decisions to have biological children by refraining from referring to us as "breeders". Thanks.

  25. Wow I plan to make this very soon because it is so pink. Though I will up the poppy seed amount (likely to 1/4 cup) because my usual poppy pound cake calls for a full cup--yes I realize that's extreme. Is there any special flavor reason to use blood orange zest, I know it's pretty? I ask because the recipe doesn't use the juice.
    I love both the writing and the recipes in your blog.

  26. Mouse: Blood orange is simply what I had on hand. Feel free to use any orange. =)

  27. We are in the preliminary stages of providing foster care for two children (means we have a name and general information about the children and talked to the social workers, but not to the children, parents or other caretakers)
    It has taken us a long time to come to that decision but it is worth it. My father was in foster care himself and loved his foster parents like any son loves his parents - and they loved him like their own son.
    And the "pony show" as you put it, wasn't really that intrusive. Sometimes - especially the seminars - were even fun - really! We applied for both - adoption and foster care and had of course to do a lot of talks and paperwork, but most of it was to make sure we knew what we wanted and could live with.

    We hope we can be a family soon and make two little people (brother and sister) happy and give them our home and hearts.

    (Please excuse any mistakes in grammar and style - I'm from Germany and no native speaker)

  28. I don't think all adoptive parents are "cherry pickers," but maybe I've missed something and don't grasp the definition you have: you want to adopt a boy and not a girl - isn't that at least "picking"? I didn't read all the comments, so you might have already explained why a boy would fit better in your family than a girl.

  29. Karen B: Well, here are the options we can give you when you adopt. A social worker can give you a child of any gender, age, race, and history of mental/emotional/physical problems - OR - you pick a child with a history (no blank slates here) who you feel is a perfect fit for your family and would complete it. Cherry picking makes the whole process sound frivolous. It's finding a match. Adopt and I promise you will realize it's anything but simple picking.

  30. Lovely cake, making it tomorrow. Even more lovely post however. Thoughtful and well written. Adoption is one of the most loving, gracious things a person can do. Good on you!

  31. My husband is a now-grown foster kid who was never adopted. Granted, he is a poster-worthy success story and has made his way in the world, through college, a career, and graduate school- I wonder how often that happens- but I would say his desire for structure is what led him to join the army, where he absolutely excels. We are planning to adopt a child so that one more kiddo out there can have the family that he never did. It frustrates me everyday that two idiots can freely make a baby yet my husband and I have to endure rather a lot of scrutiny in order to adopt a child. I'm glad there are safety checks in place, but it is heartbreaking at the same time. My husband and I are both in the army and since your fiance is as well, you might want to take advantage of military supported adoption programs, which have been extremely helpful so far- just something to keep in mind! Best wishes!

  32. As a person who was on her own at 14, I thank you for this post.

  33. Garrett, thank you for this post. We adopted a brother and sister from foster care at age 7 and 2. Our agency was Sierra. There is so much I wish I had known then. It is very important to match kids to your situation and resources.It is even more important to use support services to help with whatever is needed. Our sweeties are now 15 and 11 and they are bright, funny, gorgeous individuals who drive me nuts and rock my world. xoxo ES

  34. Your posts are always so thoughtful...this one especially so. Thank you for giving me something to think about this Sunday morning.

  35. Great post! I currently work at a residential treatment center for children..I myself was adopted as well. I'm really glad to have discovered your blog! check mine out (www.mywellfedlife.blogspot.com)...it's still very new and, although I want to keep my day job/blog worlds separate, I know the two will naturally bleed together at times. I think you did a great job conveying your work.


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