Never Done: Attend first adoption preparation class
As I have previously written, in order to become an adoptive parent, you have to take Group Preparation and Selection (GPS)/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training for prospective foster and adoptive parents. It's a series of 10 classes, offered in a continuous loop -- you can jump in any time. As it happened, Josh and I jumped in on the most intense and real of all classes -- the youth panel, where 10 young people, ranging from ages 14 to 19, all hoping for adoption placements, talk to a group of prospective placements. We went to the LGBT Center, because I thought I'd be more comfortable being myself with the agency people there than in a straight group. It was the right choice -- the prospective parents ranged from a gay male couple, to two single lesbians, to five straight couples, to me and Josh. At least one of the women leading the training was queer, and at least 4 of the youth present were, as well. In fact, the only discomfort I felt all day long was when someone asked the youth if they had a preference about their parents' sexual orientation or race, and one of them said that they didn't care, but if it was two men, they didn't want to see them kissing and stuff in public. I felt the air sucked out of the room. Here we were at the Center, and there was a gay male couple sitting right there. There was a lot of jovial concurrence among the youth, until I jumped in with a question: "Do you feel that way about any parents? Or just gay parents?" And then it came out that all of them felt that way about any parents. "What you do is what you do, but we don't want to have to see it." Ahhh, and the air started filling the room back up.
For three hours, the facilitator asked the teenagers questions, and we asked each other questions. My mide (the Yiddish word for the Hebrew word middah, or character trait) that the Mussar Va'ad is going to focus on this week is Humility -- seek wisdom from everyone. With that awareness, I listened even more attentively than I might have.
Here's what I learned. Not one of these particular teens cared what the race or sexual orientation of their parents would be. But they don't want old parents. "That's when they get cranky." They want respect. Patience. Honesty. Parents who would give their all, and not give up. They want people to choose adopting because they want to, not because of some sense of charity. They want to be given limits -- the younger children asked for curfews -- and thoughtful discipline. One girl asked the mothers in the room if we would want mother-daughter days to go get our nails done, or to go shopping. The older ones made it clear that they are used to being on their own -- but that they need support to become successful adults. Most of them want to be free to go "out" and not to tell us where "out" is. This got the biggest push back from the prospective parents in the room. Later, one girl told me one on one, "You know, when kids say they are going out, they are smoking. Just so you know." This same girl had told us earlier that she wants to be a rapper, and if that doesn't work out, a social worker, which made most of the adults in the room laugh. But as I thought about it, I realized that's really very close to how I have lived my life -- going between social work, organizing work, and being an artist. So I fought the urge to laugh, and re-dedicated myself to listen even more carefully, and to learn from everyone in the room. Humility.