After some last minute rushing around to make things as perfect as possible, wherein the cats were threatened to stay out of the litter box for at least two hours, Tucker was relocated to the back porch, coffee made, scones baked and four kinds of fruit (organic, even!) cut for a nice little tray, we nervously welcomed our social worker for her first visit to our home this past Monday, June 3rd.
She arrived promptly at 10:30, after having driven three hours from Raleigh. In the minute and a half it took her to come from the car to the house, we introduced ourselves, shook hands, inquired about the drive, commiserated with her about the beastly traffic, and welcomed her in. As soon as she stepped inside, she was all business. It was remarkable how she just sort of flipped a switch, and more than a little unnerving. We expected at least a little bit of discussion or getting-to-know-each-other chatting, but as soon as she sat at our kitchen table, she announced that we would begin individual interviews and one of us would need to leave.
I retreated to our bedroom (after determining that that would be far enough) and let my brave *A* go first. Her interview lasted about 30 minutes, after which we traded places. I didn’t listen in on *A*’s interview, but we’ve compared notes since, and we were asked the same questions. Our social worker did say that the questions would mostly repeat questions we had answered on previous paperwork, and they did. For our individual interviews, these questions were the same questions we had answered in our autobiographies about our childhoods, family structure while growing up, discipline in our childhood households, work and educational histories…those sorts of things. Easy enough to answer.
After my (approx. 30-minute) individual interview, I retrieved *A* so that we could do an interview together. Again, we answered the same questions that we’d answered on previous paperwork: the client profile sheet, the transracial adoption questionnaire, primarily. We weren’t really given the opportunity to expand any previous comments, though she didn’t cut us off or anything. I sort of had the impression that she was in a “moving right along…” frame of working.
The interview together lasted about 45 minutes, after which she made plans for a return visit, packed her bags, and departed.
A little less than two hours after we invited our social worker into our home, *A* and I stood on our sparkly white front porch and waved her off, then sat down and looked at each other with an expression of “Uh, that was it?” on our faces. The whole experience was not especially surreal, but it was….well….disappointing. As a matter of fact, we were kind of confused (the primary reason why it has taken us until today – Saturday – to post about it).
Don’t get me wrong: the visit went just fine. It would’ve been nice to have a super friendly, chatty social worker to put us at ease, and her business-like manner was sort of unexpected, but she was not unfriendly, by any means. We have no reason for concern, or at least, no reason to be fearful about anything negative coming from it. And I’ll freely admit that we undoubtedly turned it into a bigger deal than was necessary. But there’s a response of “Oh, that’s all?” that stems from relief that something is over, and then there’s how we felt: “Uh, surely that’s not all there is…”
The truth is, yeah, we’ve filled out quite a bit of paperwork, much of it necessarily invasive. We expected that our social worker would have A)read that paperwork and B)asked us questions that would have expanded our previous answers. Instead, she freely admitted that she had a copy of but hadn’t yet read our “client profile” (which delineates the decisions we’ve made in regards to what situations we’re open to with potential birthparents), one of our weightiest documents. That was sort of concerning – seems like it would have been a good bit of homework to do prior to meeting us, but who knows – maybe that’s not how it works. She did not mention whether or not she’d read our autobiographies, but the questions she asked were the exact same ones. So naturally we generated the exact same answers ,which she dutifully scribbled into a three-square-inch block on an answer sheet she completed as we went along. It was hard enough for us to cram our answers to these difficult questions into a short paragraph. They were further being crammed into a tinier space on a question-and-answer interview form.
The thing is, as former English majors who both like to write, we realized that we’re not really writing the epic stories of our lives thus far, and we’d spent a great deal of time editing our autobiographies to a decently concise minimum – three pages. If I do say so myself, we’re not wholly uninteresting people, and there’s a lot to leave out in just three short pages each. We really thought, and we were told, that the home study process was all about getting to know us as prospective adoptive parents. The interviews would be a good chance to fill in the gaps, to expand what we left out, somewhat at least. We just don’t feel that was really accomplished in this super-short, by-the-book meeting. Maybe that’s how it goes for everyone. We don’t know.
We met a good friend Monday evening for dinner. He has been one of our strongest supports in this process and we knew he’d help us figure out why this meeting left us feeling sort of weird. He urged us to share our concerns with our adoption coordinator at the IAC. That idea was seconded by another close friend whom we trust.
This has nothing to do with the social worker herself. She was fine, and we are not complaining about her whatsoever. I’m sure she did her job just as anyone else would have. We’re just not sure it went the way we want it to have gone, and since this person is doing a write-up of our fit-ness to adopt, we have the right to control at least a part of that process.
One of my co-workers asked how it went, and I gave a much-shortened version of what I’ve written here, simply stating that it wasn’t quite what we expected and that we were concerned about the lack of depth. He said, “but she didn’t leave saying ‘no way are these people gonna adopt,’ right?” Well, no, admittedly she didn’t say anything like that. “Seems to me,” he continued, “that it went just fine. These things are either good or bad, right? Don’t get worked up over nothing.” To some degree we see his point – I guess a home study is sort of a pass-fail kind of thing – either you pass or you don’t.
There are one or two other personal factors in our decision to speak in person with our adoption coordinator that I’m leaving out here, which would probably fill in our reasoning a little better for your understanding, dear reader, but there’s no sense in getting into those things here. Suffice it to say, the first home study visit was nowhere near the big deal we thought it would be. I guess, it was nowhere near the big deal we hoped it would be. Maybe we’re weird for not rejoicing – after all, now that the first home visit is over, if nothing else, we are another step closer, we have another box checked on the to-do list.
In any case, on our social worker’s return (which will not be June 14th after all, but the 21st) visit, she’ll actually do the tour of the house. Yeah, after all that scrubbing and polishing, she visited only the kitchen table and the guest bathroom. *sigh* *A* has decreed that we shall be on our best other-people’s-house-guest behavior so there isn’t the same degree of scrubbing in preparation for her return in a couple of weeks. We’ll see how that goes… 🙂