The whole time we were waiting for K to come home, one of my constant prayers was that God would keep him healthy...both emotionally and physically. From my compulsive reading habit, I was all too aware of how important the first few years of a baby's life are and how unsuited orphanages are at meeting a baby's needs. So as the wait dragged on (and on and on and on) this prayer became more urgent. Well, today K had his Early Intervention screening, done by a physical therapist and a speech therapist. And the verdict? He is delayed and qualifies for services; probably he will have two sessions a week. (Did I mention that E. I. comes to your house? Hallelujah!) But, I was expecting that. All along I had been saying it was much more like having a one year old (really like an 18 month old) than a two year old. And that is exactly the functional age that the therapists thought as well. (I guess I've learned something in the course of raising all these children.) But the really good news is that except for some low muscle tone as a result of sitting around in a crib a lot, he is just like an 18 month old. There seem to be no weird behaviors or disorders that can often be seen in institutionalized children (ie sensory problems, hyper-activity, inability to concentrate or interact, lack of curiosity, etc.) Other than the delays that go hand in hand with an impoverished environment, there were no concerns. I am so thankful!
In the course of the evaluation, both therapists kept telling me how wonderful it was that K was in a large family with so many brothers and sisters to play with and learn from. I find this highly ironic given my state's policy on adoption. (Warning! the following is a major rant that involves reading about details of foster licensing procedures and immigrant visa status...read at your own risk [of either being thoroughly confused or completely bored.]) I have the proud honor of living in Illinois, probably the absolutely worst state with regard to adoption in the country. In Illinois, in order to adopt, either domestically or internationally, the prospective adoptive parent must be issued a foster care license. This means that to adopt, one must qualify to be a foster parent even if there is no intention of becoming a foster parent.
So, it's a couple more hoops to jump through, so what? There's already enough paperwork in adoption to fell a forest, what's a couple pieces more? For most families, it's not a big deal, but large families are specifically penalized. In order to be a foster parent, there must be no more than six children in the household. If you have six and feel as though you can and want to parent more, you're out of luck. Obviously there are ways around this, since we just came home with number seven, and that's where the whole visa-thing comes in. Bear with me here. Children adopted from other countries arrive in the US on one of two types of visas: IR-3 and IR-4. On the IR-3 visa, once the child sets foot on US soil, they are a US citizen and the certificate of citizenship arrives in the mail several weeks later. On an IR-4 visa, the child is a resident alien, with the parents having custody but the adoption agency retaining legal guardianship until the child is readopted in the US. At the point, the child becomes the legal son or daughter of the parents and the child's citizenship can be applied for (for a hefty fee, of course). So back to IL, the process can be circumvented if the child comes home on an IR-3 visa because the parents are bringing their legally adopted child into the country and not even IL can tell a family they can't bring their own child home. But children from very few countries can come home on an IR-3. In order to qualify for an IR-3, some criteria must be met: 1) The adoption must be legally binding in the sending country. This disqualifies countries such as Korea and India whose courts only grant guardianship. And 2) Both parents must see the child BEFORE the adoption occurs. This makes countries such as Ethiopia difficult because usually families travel after the adoption has been granted in court. In order to come home on an IR-3, parents would need to travel twice, once to meet the child and once to bring the child home.
So why are large families discriminated against? Rumor has it that the woman in charge of approving family size waivers just denied a large family who was trying to adopt. The rumors say that there were concerns about the family being able to afford all of the children. I don't buy it. I think DCFS just doesn't like large families. If income were an issue, why would a woman on welfare be an approved foster parent?** (And yes, I know of a case.) It really feels as though no one in DCFS approves of or appreciates large families. I know not every large family is functioning and able to adopt, but the same can be said of families of any size. It is the blanket nature of the laws that I object to. It is also incredibly punitive financially. Money that could go to clothe and feed the children, must instead be spent on incredibly expensive plane tickets for a second trip around the world. It is wasteful and unneccesary.
I sometimes harbor fantasies that a grass-roots movement can begin and the citizens of IL will rise up and request a change to the laws...and that our elected officials will listen. But, I'm afraid living in IL for so long has made me an extreme pessimist when it comes to state elected officials. In some ways, the officials in K's province look upright, caring, and efficient in comparison. Until some very well-connected IL family (perhaps with the last name of Daley) has a large family and wants to adopt, I don't see any change happening. Oh, and no one knows about this it seems. (Although I will admit it's definitely a special interest case...but how many children are languishing in foster care because large families are not even looked at?) The therapists I mentioned this to today were astonished. They had no idea, and they were appalled that a large family so uniquely able to provide a nourishing environment for an adopted child should be barred from adopting.
So, if you have made it this far, congratulations! Either you are incredibly interested in adoption or you're avoiding cleaning the bathroom. Either way, feel free to speak up for the large families you know, especially if you happen to reside in the 'great' state of Illinois.
**Disclaimer! Please note I am not making generalizations about people who need to use welfare. I know that sometimes events happen out of people's control and welfare can help them get back on their feet. BUT, if DCFS is all so concered about finances, why should a family who is living at or above the 125% poverty level (required in international adoption) be denied when a woman who is below that is not?