Joshie and I are finally home after taking Kenny and Matthew over to Colorado Springs for church camp. We have 3 days home and then are on our way back over where we will pick up the boys and meet up with our friends from Wichita. We had a long conversation on the phone tonight with them, and it always surprises me how comfortable it feels with them...and we have only been around each other twice before for a couple of days each time. It's just a great fit between all of us, we "get" each others' senses of humor and we parent very much the same way. I think all of us are looking forward to it and Dominick even said "I can't wait, we are going to have a total blast when they are here!". The house will be a little crowded with 11 of us altogether in here for a week, but for some reason I doubt it will bother any of us that much. We were counting it off and we will have 4 nine year olds, 2 five year olds and a 2 year old. Now, isn't that a recipe for fun? I have much to cram in before then though, so the next couple of days will be packed with work.
On our way home today Josh and I stopped by our adoption agency. I realized that Josh had never been there that I recalled, and although it was not the purpose of our visit it was also a good opportunity to explain to him how these people had all helped he and Matthew and Kenny to come home. I was greeted so warmly from the moment I walked in the door that even I felt at home there. I myself had only been there a couple of times, as it is so far from our home and we really have no reason to go there with the use of the internet. However, I had wanted to check out their resources and see if there were any items there that might better help prepare us for our newest LaJoy's coming home. I know it might seem strange after 3 adoptions to think we feel a need for more training, but each child comes to us with their own unique background and "baggage", and this will be an entirely new road for us to walk down. While I would not say I am scared, I think it is safe to say we both have a healthy respect for the challenges we might face in the future and want to do what we can to be able to spot things quickly, identifiy potential areas needing attention, etc. Overall, these children will come to us having been through the most emotionally, and to discount the effect that will have on them is simply naive. We are hoping for the best and doing what we can to prepare for the worst.
As I stood there chatting with this person and that person I was really struck by the fact that without these people, my family as I know it would not exist. Seeing the photos plastered all over the walls of all the families they have helped form (including a photo or two around of our family) you begin to see that they are the unsung heroes of adoption. They do the legwork, they hold the hands of frantic families, they fret over regulation changes of foreign governments which are totally out of their control. And yet I rarely read much praise online about all that agencies really do for their clients. As is often the case, those who are unhappy tend to be more vocal than those who are satisfied. It is much easier to criticize than to praise. By the time we are through, we will have adopted 5 children using Adoption Alliance, and they have never once made a mistake with our paperwork, they have always been professional, they have never been caught in a scandal, they have coordinated well with our various placing agencies (5 kids and 4 different agencies, don't even ask me how we managed that!) and they really do care about the kids and the families they work with. Over the years I have heard some of the most awful stories about poor agencies, stories that have even hit the national media and are ones we could have used ourselves. I am thankful for every agency who has been involved in creating our family as each one has proven to be ethical and caring. Believe it or not, they are not all in it for the money.
I want to add that I am particularly grateful for Leonette Boiarski at Pearl S. Buck Foundation. I contacted several agencies explaining our unique dilemma and none of them cared to work with us...in fact abrely gave me the time of day. Leonette was the only one who really heard my plea, who saw beyond the fact that this might turn out to be a dead end road and said "I'll see what we can do.". To even have that much of a response was more than I was able to hope for by that time. Once again, a faceless person held our fate in their hands, and cared enough to do the best they could for an unknown family.
We may not be "faceless" to Adoption Alliance, but it is not as if we see anyone there often. I guess we have been very lucky though in the fact that many people have "taken up the cause" for us, and we have been blessed each time with wonderful Social Workers who cared, and surprisingly remain in touch with us or have become good friends. I have never understood the attitude that some adopting families have that creates an "us versus them" relationship with their caseworkers. Social Workers don't relish the fact that they sometimes have to deliver bad news. They don't go into your home on home visits looking for reasons to deny you the right to adopt. They are not really there to judge you, but to help you walk through the process, identify areas of concern, train you as best they can for the unknown, and help you see things from a different perspective which then helps you as you are faced with the many difficult decisions that you must make along the way. They are your partners, not your enemies! I know we may have been lucky and never had the "Social Worker from Hell", but most that I have met through the years really do care. Our Social Worker for Matthew's adoption is now pregnant herself with her first child, and I couldn't be happier for her as we reminisce via email about us being her first international homestudy and us thinking Matthew was the only child we'd ever have :-) Regardless of our age difference, we have both come a long way.
So I walked away from the agency with 5 or 6 books that look like great reads and 3 videos that will hopefully help us wrap our minds around what our future might look like. And I know if we run into challenges, we have a great team behind us to help with input.
Josh and I really enjoyed staying a couple of nights at our friends' in Denver. I had a late night "girl talk" which was much needed, and felt like I had a bit of a respite where someone else did the cooking and cleaning and I was able to just relax a little bit. It is quite interesting to me how this particular friend has found herself in the role of sounding board for many friends who have adopted, she is literally surrounded by it and has been for years. She is an "adoption magnet" and her insights from years of watching from the sidelines are always thoughtful and introspective, and she is one of the few people with whom you never feel judged, and right now that is a valuable help to us.
All in all, we had a nice weekend and a much nicer one to look forward to!