Parenting Advice

I’m Adopting a Child During the Pandemic—Here’s What It’s Been Like for Me

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Photos: Courtesy of Katie Wagner; Art: W+G Creative
In 2017, my husband and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, from San Francisco. We found a townhouse we loved and were ready to start having children, ideally both biologically and through adoption. Conceiving biologically didn't come easily for us, which is why I started IVF treatments soon after we settled in Charlotte. During that time, I read an article in the local newspaper outlining that many children in the foster-care system are actually in need of a permanent home. After talking to my husband about it, we decided to put having biological children on hold to pursue a foster-to-adopting process.

Early on in our journey, though, we hit a roadblock: Our new townhouse was located too close to a lake to pass the foster system's house inspection. That meant if we wanted to pursue adopting in this way, we would have to move to a whole new house. This challenge ultimately made us realize just how much we really did want to expand our family in this way, and we moved to a new house last year that was sure to pass the inspection.

After we got settled in our new home in October 2019, we started going through the official process of becoming foster parents. This included taking classes to learn skills like CPR and basic medical training, and also educating ourselves on what's required to navigate the foster-care system. We learned, for example, that some foster parents strictly want to adopt from foster care, which means the child's birth parents or legal guardian have terminated their legal rights. Other people only want to foster, which means providing a safe home for the child temporarily, usually until the child's birth parents or legal guardian can better care for them. My husband and I were open to both options. We told our caseworker that we would also be interested in adopting a the siblings of a child in need to keep the siblings together.

Our caseworker emailed me and my husband a one-pager about a child named *Drew. As soon as we saw it, we knew in our hearts that he was our son.

We became officially certified to foster in January 2020. At that point, the process was a matter of waiting for a child to be placed with us. In mid-February, a month before COVID-19 hit in full-force, our caseworker emailed me and my husband a one-pager about a 3-year-old child named *Drew. As soon as we saw it, we knew in our hearts that he was our son. Drew came into the foster-care system when he was just five months old and was placed in the care of an older foster couple who specialized in nursing babies back to health. Even though Drew came into their home as a very neglected baby, with their love and care, he started thriving just a month later and has been in good health ever since. When we learned about Drew, the couple was ready for him to find his forever home.

My husband and I told social services and the county that we were interested in adopting Drew, so the next step was for them to meet, go over our paperwork, and either approve or reject us. Sometimes, more than one family is interested in adopting the same child, and in those cases, the committee weighs those options. But the dawn of COVID-19 slowed down this whole process. In March, committees stopped meeting in person, and the shift to virtual meetings was far from immediate. Finally in April, we found out that we were approved.

Under normal circumstances, we would have been able to meet Drew immediately upon our approval, but because of COVID-19, we couldn't exactly hop in the car to go see him in person. So instead, we started with FaceTiming Drew and his foster parents. I have to say, trying to keep the attention of a 3-year-old on a video call is...well, not easy. Drew and his foster parents lived two and a half hours away from us, and after trying to FaceTime a few times, we asked them if they would feel comfortable with us getting an Airbnb close by so we could meet with Drew in person. After they gave us the okay, my husband and I quarantined for two weeks and then headed up to finally meet our son for the first time.

I know that the pandemic has a lot of people second-guessing which parts of their life should be put on hold and which shouldn't. But my advice to anyone who is thinking about adopting or fostering is to move forward.

We decided to meet for the first time at the park. Drew, his foster parents, and a social services representative were all there. We spent the afternoon playing tag and just getting to know him. It was absolutely perfect. After meeting, his foster parents told us they were even okay with Drew spending the night with us a few nights during the two weeks that we were in the Airbnb. I went home after that two weeks with my heart full. In July, we received the paperwork to adopt Drew and it will become official later this month. Drew lives with us full-time now, and it just feels like this is exactly what was supposed to happen all along.

I know that the pandemic has a lot of people second-guessing which parts of their life should be put on hold and which shouldn't. It's a tricky time. But my advice to anyone who is thinking about adopting, or fostering, or fostering-to-adopting (which incurs no cost), is to move forward. There may be additional roadblocks because of the pandemic (like the delay in approval that my husband and I experienced), but the need is so great. Unfortunately, reports of neglect and abuse have risen during COVID-19. There are many children who need a safe, loving home—whether it's temporary or permanent. So if this is something that has been on your mind and in your heart, know that the need is there. All you have to do is say yes.

*Name has been changed.

As told to Emily Laurence

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