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.
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. Fiancé 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.
My parents are a bit miffed on this subject and would prefer me to have a biological baby. Fiancé’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.
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.
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
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.