My wife Brittney and I knew early in our relationship that we were interested in adopting from the foster care system. I’m a teacher of students with social, emotional, and learning differences, and she is an administrator at a local university. Health issues would have made it difficult for her to get pregnant but not impossible, and we never really had any hangups about wanting to have a child biologically. Rather than go bonkers with trying to conceive naturally, we always talked about adoption. We wanted to share our awesome lives with a tiny human, and sometime after our wedding we started the ball rolling on the foster to adopt plan.
I think the first real step we took was just attending an info session for people thinking about adoption. There were about seven or eight couples in a room. Two very nice ladies talked about the steps that we’d need to go through and some of what we might expect. If we’re being honest, most of the process was a lot of hurry up and wait. We waited a few months to have a visit at our apartment with a social worker. She asked half a billion questions, but it seemed like she was cool with us. Months later we were placed in a class. You get to know a lot about yourself in those classes, and they do a good job of scaring the hell out of you. They also help you to learn what exactly you’re hoping for from the process. We hashed out our situation with a group of strangers and came down to the realization that we were hoping for a little lady of any race and somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5.
When the class was over, we had a few home study visits where they asked us a few billion more questions, most of which we’d already answered. We started going to Jordan’s Furniture adoption events. They were super awkward. It was a lot like speed dating for kids, but whatever… we met a bunch of social workers, which we knew we’d need to find a kiddo. Also, there was free ice cream.
Around this time, we also started obsessively checking the MARE website. That was less awkward. We’d both randomly shoot out texts with pictures of cute kiddos to each other. When Grace’s profile popped up, we both kind of freaked out. She was the first kid we both felt super passionate about looking into. My wife emailed our social worker and tried to get into contact with Grace’s. After a few weeks we assumed she was snatched up by someone else, but we kept inquiring about the tiny blonde girl. A month after our initial inquiry, we were asked if we were interested in going to a disclosure meeting about her! Someone thought we’d make a good match. At the meeting we learned Grace was a stubborn, talkative, little 3-year-old girl. This description turned out to be a huge understatement. She is literally the most talkative person I’ve ever met. They gave us a bit of background information about her biological family and in particular her biological brother, John, who was also up for adoption. Some issues made a sibling pairing for one family to take them both impossible. We were encouraged to keep up a relationship with John. She was legally freed making her already available for adoption. We were told to take a night and think it over, but we knew then that we were going to move forward with Grace.
Brittney made a lovely picture book with our extended family, pictures of our dogs, her new bedroom, and the rest of our apartment, for Grace to look at before we met her. The day we met we were obviously super nervous. She’d been with the same foster mom her whole life, and by all accounts, that woman had given Grace a wonderful life. There was no preparation we could’ve done for this part. When we walked up the stairs to the foster mom’s apartment, I worried that this had all moved way too fast. (Despite it having taken over a year of paperwork, classes, and countless meetings.) The second we walked in, Grace threw her arms around my leg and screamed “Hi new mommy and daddy!!!” I didn’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. Any awkwardness was eliminated by the fact that she is just about the most precocious human alive. She jumped in my lap within ten seconds of meeting me.
It has been a little over a year since that meeting. It hasn’t been anything like what we expected. We have grown together so much since that first day. It’s a lot of hard work. We potty trained, watched Frozen, got through the passing of a beloved dog, watched Frozen, started new schools and jobs, watched Frozen, visited with John and his new pre-adoptive parents a bunch, watched Frozen, traveled a bit, watched Frozen, and somewhere along the line became a family. I feel so lucky for how things have worked out. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’d do it all over again a thousand times for this family.
Sean Milligan is an adoptive parent and a teacher of students with social, emotional, and learning differences, who’s parenting style can best be described as a hot, loving mess. Brittney is an event coordinator for a local university, and is generally playing the adult in the room to both her strong willed daughter and man-child husband. Grace is a 4 four year old tiny person that has never been in a room in which she was not the loudest person there. She enjoys painting, chicken nuggets, and the new Muppet Babies. They live with two goofy pups in an apartment that just barely contains the chaos within.