When we adopted our oldest (domestically) there was a giant list of conditions that we had to accept or decline - whether or not we would be open to a child with those traits/conditions. At the time we thought that was difficult...working our way thoughtfully through the list analyzing what we were equipped to handle, what we had the resources to deal with. Eventually we checked all the boxes we felt were appropriate for us and felt comfortable with our choices. And we ended being placed with a healthy baby boy.
This time around (doing international adoption) things are different. And they are different with each country. With some countries there are still check lists. With Ethiopia however, it is more of a sweeping statement of being open to special needs or not. You can limit it by defining the severity (minor correctable, moderate, severe)...but what falls into those categories can be somewhat subjective. Mark and I are in agreement about which special needs we are open to, and would be a good fit for our family...but there are some that we don't feel comfortable taking on, and feel that another family may be a better fit for.
Our struggle right now, is this:
We do not want to open ourselves up to being in a position where we feel like we need to decline a referral (if we were matched with child with a SN out of our spectrum of things we are open to)...or that because we would want to, that we would step outside of what we logically know is the best fit for our family and take on a child with a special need that requires more attention that we can provide considering the needs of the 3 children we already have.
On the flip side, we are concerned about listing that we are only open to a healthy child when there are special needs that we are open to - that we would take on gladly.
So, we are spending a lot of time not only researching various conditions (especially specific heart defects)...but also pondering what we feel most comfortable putting on our paperwork. I contacted our caseworker for advice amidst all of this and she responded yesterday that we can include specific conditions that we are open to in the homestudy wording. Now, that would preclude us from the previously mentioned concern of possibly being presented with a special need that we aren't comfortable with, but it does give some guidance to our agency prior to the match process about the type of special needs that we definitely are open to.
Initially Mark was very closed to the idea of listing that we were open to special needs. I think this was because he is educated in the many "worst case scenarios" of each disease or condition. He also knows what kind of long term care some require and what kind of limitations they provide for the child. There is also always the concern of adding this worst case scenerio to the inherent risk of undiagnosed problems that will come up for the child down the road due to malnutrition and institutionalization.
As we have discussed things though, Mark realized that because of that same medical background that he is also aware of some conditions that would scare some people away, but that we feel are truly very manageable. Because of this I believe that we are slowly getting to a meeting place about how to approach things, and how to guide our caseworker in the wording for our homestudy.
When people ask why our paperwork is taking so long...it is things like this that require research, thought, discussion, and lots of reflection that add to how long each step takes. (Yes, in addition to the mounds of paperwork that must be collected, filled out and submitted) Would it be "easier" (and at least with us, faster) to just submit that we are only open to a healthy child - of course. And if that is the best fit for a family then I think that's great, but I believe that even most families that put that they are only open to a healthy child put time and thought into that decision. In the end we (as prospective adoptive parents) all want to help a child that is in need of a home and family, and providing the best care for any child includes finding the family that is the best match for them. I want to make the best decisions that I can right now to help the right child for our family find their way to us.
And, by way of sidenote - last night I dreamed (for the first time) about a beautiful girl with lovely dark brown skin, eyes, and hair. In my dream she had been part of our family for a while and fit in beautifully. Since I only woke up a few hours ago I can still feel what it was like in my dream to wrap my arms around her. I feel like I love her already, and she is not even born yet. Thank goodness I have three beautiful little boys to pour out my affection on while we wait. That wait as a first time parent was nearly unbearable.