Now, this same room seemed dimmer, smaller, colder.
As I flipped through the 25 pages of our personal home study report at our local Department of Health & Human Services office, I felt a wave of panic. Who would ever want a family like ours? Who would ever choose us?
When you read a personal account of your 30-some years on Earth, from a complete stranger, it’s an odd experience. Harsh. Objective. Judgmental. Devoid of any emotional connection to the life that I actually lived. And, since it’s not trying to be an award-winning autobiography, it also lacks a sense of cohesiveness that feels like you’re reading a story. Instead, it feels like you’re reading an indictment.
As I read through phrases like “Britney dresses with flair,” and “Britney is assertive,” and “the Colton’s efficiently run home life doesn’t leave much room for children breakdowns,” I felt . . . exposed. Vulnerable in a way I’d never felt before. (Now, I don’t even know what “dresses with flair” means, except it harkens me back to the movie “Office Space,” and Jennifer Aniston’s work uniform suspenders decorated with buttons).
I also didn’t like how I was presented in this report. I closed the last page feeling, Is this really how people see me? I felt like I came across as Cruella Deville. Assertive? Would she use such an adjective describing a man? It took everything in me to bite my tongue and not say, “Dear caseworker, in my professional world, people return phone calls promptly. People respond to emails promptly. Simply following up on an unanswered phone call or email categorizes me as assertive?”
But, of course, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be assertive.
So, instead, I bit my tongue and marveled at how anyone would ever want to subject themselves to the last 12 months that we’ve been through with this home study process.
Delay upon delay upon delay. Unanswered emails. Unanswered phone calls. Countless meetings, pages of notes, all culminating in a 25-page report that labeled me, in my opinion, as someone I would not want to be friends with.
As our caseworker politely explained that this is her job – all reports look like this – we’re a “good family,” I thought back to a sign I had seen walking into the building that day. It was a poster taped to the receptionist’s desk. It read, “147 children today are waiting in foster care to be adopted. Will you be the family they’ve been waiting for?”
I had to chuckle. Really? That sign insinuates that the child is waiting for a family to decide to adopt. Instead, the truth is that the child is waiting for the State to have more resources, more caseworkers, and more time for probing into the lives of decent families.
Those 147 children are not waiting on families like us. They are waiting for the State to get out of its own way and remove the bureaucratic blockades.
As I feel my blood pressure start to rise just writing this, I realize it’s time to close. And, just as anti-climatic as it felt yesterday hearing the words from our caseworker as we left the room …
Our home study has been approved.