Finding a child to adopt is like catalog shopping. Our social worker gave us a website and a binder full of adoptee bios. We learned an entire vocabulary of abbreviations: SBH, ADD, ADHD, and MRDD. Our social worker called us about adopting a 4-year-old boy, but we felt that would be a better match for a younger couple. We were also asked to consider a 17-year-old, about to age out of the system, but after reading of her severe mental health problems we said a prayer for her and declined.
Our future son , David, lived only a few blocks from us, and could go to the same school. David is very high functioning MRDD in special ed classes, has a kind heart, and stated he wanted to be adopted by a Christian family. David was 13 years old. Another family was also interested in David, and a panel of social workers interviewed each of us to decide the best placement. David’s story of separation from his mother and her signing him over for adoption rather than attend parenting classes, broke my heart. The separation occurred right after a fire in the home that killed two boys near his age, and the adult babysitter, who were spending the night while the parents went out for the evening. David passed out in an upstairs window during the fire, and fell to the ground, saving his life. When our social worker told us David would be placed with us, we were overjoyed.
We met David at the local Wendy’s, along with his foster-mother, and the social worker. I prepared a small picture book of each member of the family, including all of our pets, for David. Our first meeting went so well that David came back to the house for his first home visit. We had two empty bedrooms, and David chose the one already decorated for a boy, and liked it so much no redecorating was needed.
For weeks, David would spend time at our house, until he was ready to make the move permanently. David loved our dog and cat, but asked if he could bring his cat to our house. We said, “Yes, of course.” So David and his cat moved in with us. The cat choose our bathroom as his home and defended it against all who entered. David’s cat even attacked David. I explained we would be bad parents if we allowed an animal that would bite him to stay in our home, so we made a plan together to tame the cat. David began hand feeding the cat, and slowly lured his cat out of the bathroom and down the stairs. Once the cat was on the main level, David began to pet the cat while he fed it, and eventually David could hold his cat. The cat joined the family. Perhaps this successful project gave David a bit of trust in us, his parents.
With the help of a bonding therapist we began evening holding, where David would lay across our lap, and gaze into our eyes as we talked. David was reluctant, but not so reluctant that he was willing to call the social worker and refuse the adoption. David also refused to call us anything. We, of course, wanted David to call us Mom and Dad. We were not peers, so our first names were out, unless accompanied by Aunt and Uncle. He could call us Mr. and Mrs. Sutton, but then he was only a guest. He had to decide. Guests ate at the dining room table. Family ate at the kitchen table. It took a week, but David started calling us Mom and Dad. In addition we read Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling together. David loved Dad’s reading, so Mom could just listen and enjoy.
After six months, on December 7, we went before a judge and David officially became our son. David’s new birth certificate states we are his parents. There have been challenges, but David is now 28 years old and living on his own. He occasional needs help, but usually refuses the help we are willing to offer. But we are there for advice, and emergencies. David knows he can trust us, and recently expressed love for us.