relevance

Gearing up for our home study visit on Friday, I realized that aside from cleaning our house, there’s not much we can do. Except get some fresh flowers. And someone suggested baking cookies (probably not going to happen). But there’s not really anything more we can do to prepare for the experience of being interviewed about our stability and “fitness” to parent.

We’ve already discussed the hard questions and answered in writing. But that’s much different than answering in person. I, for one, am usually more comfortable writing about difficult issues than talking about them, at least when it’s personal. And this is about as personal as it gets, aside from spreading my legs for a total stranger in a paper gown under fluorescent lights surrounded by onlookers. Oh right, I’ve done that too… Is nothing sacred anymore?

Rebeccah at Chasing a Child recently had an excellent post about the incredibly invasive nature of the adoption home study process. She wrote about the expectation that you should be prepared to “pry open your soul and lay it on the table” for inspection. She said something else that resonated — that while infertility treatment was also a very invasive process, there were boundaries that enabled her to protect her heart and mind from exposure and scrutiny.

It’s so true. There are no such boundaries in this process. There is no division between personal and private. Everything is fair game, subject to scrutiny. Our feelings are our own and we have to deal with them, but here they are to be judged by people with the power to make us parents.

I understand the need for certified professsionals to verify that we are not criminals, and that we would provide a permanent loving home for a child. I appreciate the need to ensure that we would not physically or psychologically harm our child. But I have a hard time with the intense scrutiny of every little detail of my life, heart and mind, particularly where I doubt its relevance to my ability to parent. (I can’t even begin to tell you how mad it makes me that a single person or gay couple could encounter even greater restrictions…)

M and I don’t have anything to hide. We’re committed to telling the complete truth. But for me that’s not even the point.

We would expect to be asked about how we came to our decision to adopt, our views on discipline, etc. We would even expect to be asked for proof of finances or income. Yet here are just some of the questions I’ve heard asked, with detailed answers expected: Tell me about your parents; Tell me about your infertility; Tell me about your grief; How do you feel about not being able to have biological children?; What are your fears about open adoption?; Tell me about your sex life. Excuse me?

Tell you about my grief. Hmm. Do you want the long or the short version? I suppose it bears repeating. I will never “get over” the grief of losing my son. I may always grieve the biological children we never had. But I’ve made a conscious choice to try to move past it, to move forward. Because I want to be a mother. To the extent that my grief for my lost child/ren would affect my ability to parent my future child, I get it. But this is not a psychologist making that determination.

How do I feel about not being able to have a biological child? Well, it sucks. It’s a significant loss. But does that mean I would not unconditionally love a child who had been carefully entrusted into our care? Absolutely not. I’m committed to becoming a parent, and our child will be our child.

I was on an adoption board recently, reading about someone’s home study in which the couple had been asked about their sex life (and she was not the only one). Now I’m hardly prudish, but I was offended by the question. How the hell is that relevant?  Is the social worker trying to determine the stability of the marriage based on how frequent or good the sex is? Is she even qualified to make a judgment whether both people are satisfied? On the board, most women said “who cares? it’s fair game and I have nothing to hide!” But tell me, what happens if I say “excuse me, but can you tell me how that is relevant here?” Seriously, I want to know.

I should add that we’re not really sweating the home study, even though it’s a lot of work. I just don’t want to resent the invasiveness of the process any more than necessary.

To anyone else who has been through this, what’s the strangest question you were asked in your home study, and how did you respond?

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~ by luna on August 6, 2008.

27 Responses to “relevance”

  1. What exactly is the social worker trying to determine by asking about sex life? How exactly are breeders superior in their sex life?

  2. I heard about the sex question from many people going through the process, and it never ceases to bother me that it is considered relevant. I am also worried about the grief question, because, as you say, this is not a professional, and there are so many misconceptions out in the general population about when we should be “over it,” or that you have to be “over it” to parent other children. All of which is bull, but I feel bad that this question is fair game. Without fair rules, so to speak.

    I will be thinking of you on Friday, and checking nervously for updates.

  3. Your sex life? Seriously? I also fail to see the relevance of such a question. I’d have to fight hard to hold back the snark:

    Case worker: How’s your sex life?

    Me: Oh, we tried it that way, but no haps. We didn’t get a baby like that so we decided we’d “just” do this adoption thing.

    Seriously, though – I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to open up and bare all the intricacies of your soul and have so much riding on it. I know you’ll handle it with all the grace that makes you you, even if that grace is lined with some tears.

  4. I was never asked about our sex life. That would be weird. I did ask how a couple of topics were relevant, but I can’t remember what they were now. Our most recent social worker was very respectful when I’d question the questions and we had some good discussions. A good home study should be a dialogue, IMO. Our first home study was a joke, so it didn’t really matter what I answered.

    Grief, infertility, feelings about open adoption–I actually think those are really important subjects. Uncomfortable, but relevant. I really hope this comes across the right way, because I’m not at all trying to argue your points. Maybe just add a different slant? The home study isn’t just about our readiness to parent, it’s about our readiness to adoptive parent. For as much as my family is just the same as other families, we’re also different. My experience as a parent has been different in some ways because we’re an adoptive family. And adoption will always be part of my kids’ identities to some degree, which I’m guessing would be less true if I had conceived them through IUI/IvF. Which is why (I think) the emotional boundaries actually should be different in a discussion of adoption than they would be in fertility treatments.

    Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t really enjoy the home study process at times, sometimes I railed against it, and sometimes I pressed the social workers to justify where they were taking the conversation. I appreciated when friends sympathized with us for needing to go through it. But in the end I think most of it was worthwhile.

    Best wishes to you both for tomorrow! I hope you come out of the afternoon saying, “That wasn’t so bad.” 🙂

  5. Sex life? Give me a break! Thank god we were never asked that.

    For us, the interviews really weren’t too bad. I have never been afraid of ‘failing’ this process. I just told it like it is, which is what I usually do anyway.

    It is incredibly invasive. Writing the Dear Birthmother letter is much, much more difficult for me than the interviews were. I found the interviews to be a breeze. But it does suck that some people get babies by ‘accident’ and you have to be put through the third degree.

    Good luck. I’m sure it will be fine and try not to worry.

    And I hope they don’t ask about your sex life. That just seems ridiculous.

  6. Yep..invasive is a nice way to put it. We were each asked to DESCRIBE our first sexual experience. WTH? We just had to renew our paperwork and, again, we were asked the same question on a provincial form that we had to fill out. Invasive…more like violating.

  7. I just wanted to respond to heather:
    thanks for your comment, I respect your view.

    of course I agree the question is whether we are fit to adoptive parent and not just parent, and I am fully aware of a whole set of issues and emotions raised by adoptive parenting, and open adoption in particular. I wasn’t suggesting that infertility and grief aren’t relevant at all — I know they are. overcoming fear too, of course.

    to clarify a bit, my point on the relevance of my grief has more to do with julia’s comment about the misconceptions and judgment about when someone should be “over” losing a child; on infertility, I know plenty of adoptive parents who still grieve the loss of biological children, but it doesn’t mean they are unfit to parent an adopted child. the loss is real, perhaps as a birthmother’s loss is real and never goes away. how could anyone expect it to?

    for me the relevant question is, can I deal with my own crap first (i.e., accept that it’s time to move forward in a healthy way) so I can focus on the needs of the child. that’s my standard for whether I’m ready to be an adoptive mother. I guess my concern about that line of questioning has more to do with the standard of judgment. I think I’m the best judge, but of course I’m biased. does that make sense?

    the sex life question still astounds, and I know there are other questions that I wonder how they are relevant at all…

    eventually I’ll write a whole other post on the fear issue, because the more I learn, the more it evolves, which has been very interesting…

    thanks again!
    ~luna

  8. I didn’t have any questions on my sex life in our homestudy. The stupidest question in my opinion was the one that read, “what type of child are you hoping to adopt?” I wanted to answer, “tutti-frutti.” I thought the question was asinine.

    As for being over infertility, again with this one, I chose to argue the question. I said that I didn’t think one was ever over their infertility, yet one moves through it to a point where becoming a parent takes precedence over becoming pregnant. But I didn’t not think that being “over it” was any more possible than it was for me to be “over” the loss of my mother. There are things you move through but you don’t get over.

  9. Thanks for responding, Luna. I think this is such an interesting topic. Adoption takes a personal act (reproduction/family building) and turns it into an interpersonal one, and there are all sorts of fuzzy ramifications of that.

    I completely agree that being “over” infertility or loss is an impossible, ridiculous standard for adoption readiness. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up that that was your whole point before. FWIW, my experience (which is obviously limited) was that the SW wanted to see that we (a) could express some connections between those issues and adoptive parenting and (b) had an approach to dealing with them. Kind of like she was asking us to evaluate ourselves, I guess. Letting us be the judge, like you said. Although ultimately she gave the seal of approval to our self-judgment. And therein lies the unavoidable suckiness of the home study.

    Anyway, sorry for posting such giant comments. You’re in the middle of experiencing this huge invasion of privacy and I’m going of on tangents. I think I’m just in the mood for good conversation tonight. 🙂 You’re awesome!

  10. Best wishes for the homestudy Luna.

    You already are a great mom. And you will make an amazing mum to any living child that is blessed to have you as their parent. I know this will be evident to the people coming to visit.

    And if you need a recipe for biscuits msfitzia at Certainly not cool enough to blog could help you out I’m sure.
    I’ll be thinking of you.

    love and best wishes

  11. We didn’t have anything about our sex life; I would’ve been floored! We did have to discuss in detail our infertility struggle. They asked about what treatments we pursued and why we didn’t pursue others. They asked if we felt we’d dealt with the grieving. We were also asked questions about how we were raised; what did our parents do that we disagreed with, what will we take from them as parents,blah, blah, blah. I would get so frustrated by it because it’s just one more thing that separates us. Others can just have sex and have a baby; there’s no detailed form to fill out and background check to endure. I know it’s in the best interest of babies to be sure they’re going to good homes, so I’m not saying they shouldn’t have a good homestudy process, but it’s just frustrating when you’ve been through so much already.
    Hope it goes very smoothly for you guys! 🙂

  12. We, luckily, did not face the sex question. I’ve read about that on other people’s blogs and indeed – it boggles!

    I actually very much enjoyed the homestudy process. We were/are lucky to have a social worker who has a wonderful way of asking those questions without making them feel judgemental.

    Two questions that threw me for a loop. First, I had mentioned on one or another form that my family isn’t close with my paternal grandparents, and she asked what that was about. I have no issue sharing those things with her or any person who asks, but it wasn’t clear to me how it was relevant to the homestudy. Second, as we went over what we were comfortable with in terms of medical risk, legal risk, etc… she asked us how we would feel about a child born as a result of incest. I really had never given it a thought (we had discussed situations where the mother had been raped, but never rape with incest). Anyway, I couldn’t answer in that moment, and she didn’t pressure us to answer.

    Best wishes for tomorrow. I’ll be checking back to see how things went!

  13. I’m sure that any social worker will be able to see all that you and the amazing M have to offer as parents – regardless of whether or not you have baked biscuits, or the state of your sex life! (I too fail to see how this latter could possibly be relevant, unless they are trying to guage how connected you are as a couple).

    I am holding you in my heart as you prepare to open up your home and lay bare your heart on this homestudy. Huge hugs to both you and M!

  14. We didn’t get the sex question. The weirdest one was directed at D who was asked “How has your adoption affected your decision to adopt?” He was annoyed, it seemed like she was asking if he was happy with his parents.

    Dave also has a “teacher’s” voice. Sometimes he’d say “No.” to an invasive question and that was the end of it.

    Really it wasn’t so bad. It seemed like it at the time, but it wasn’t in retrospect. I do reccomend when they come to your house to have refreshments. It gives you something to do with your hands (pouring tea, cutting cake) and you can use that time when you are thinking of an answer.

  15. The boundary-less-ness of it all seems beyond cruel and invasive. I have all the respect in the world for those who go through this type of hellish process to demonstrate that they’re “fit” to parent. As I’ve said before, why shouldn’t everyone and I do mean everyone have to go through the same process? Let’s see how many people actually qualify. Sigh. If it’s any consolation I know you’ll wow them ….

  16. I think I too would be very inclined to ask how that was relevant if they asked about my sex life. It’s mind boggling what you have to go through to adopt.

  17. I knew how invasive it could be in theory, but having it laid bare in a post is very eye-opening. Might be good for…oh…I don’t know. A site that gives glimpses into an experience. Just saying.

    I’m sending so many good thoughts for tomorrow. Please let us know how it goes when you’re ready to process it.

  18. Good luck with the home study!

  19. […] in the weekend, because we’re going to see this guy tomorrow night for a fun diversion after divulging our innermost thoughts and feelings to a total […]

  20. I got the sex question and the infertility question. I can’t help but think the people coming up with these questions are just plain idiots (at least in the emotional intelligence department) and that makes me feel all that much shittier about giving them all of my personal information. At least if they were intelligent and knew that it was far better to ask these types of questions in person, when one can explain what exactly they are getting at, then I would feel better about handing over my most deeply personal information.
    I’m a lawyer and asked around to a bunch of colleagues as to why the sex question is relevant, one suggestion was that maybe the agency wants to know if our relationship is in tact. I can understand that, I guess, but there are better ways to ask about that than asking for dates and sexual experience details. I agree w/ the poster who said that these questions are violating.

  21. So reading your post, I was kinda horrified, and then when I sat back, you’re not going to like my answer, but I wonder if they ask these types of personal questions just to “test” how you deal with uncomfortable questions, to “test” how you deal with personal and invasive questions that might piss you off, to see how well you handle situations? IF (and I do mean IF) they’re more interested in HOW you react and handle it, than the answer, then I’m ok with them asking. If however they want to know that you like it from behind, fuck them.

  22. Wishing you and M the best of luck in today’s inquisition! Ours is scheduled for Tuesday next week. Since we have the same agency as Heather, I suspect we won’t get the sex question, but now I kinda hope we do because I would totally question the relevance! I was so floored by the questions in our intake interview that I kind of melted into a puddle. But since our counselor/social worker already said she is excited about us as potential parents and since I’ve had time to put my emotional armor back on, I’m ready for a nice friendly intellectual sparring! Looking forward to hearing how things went for you …

  23. Luna,
    Honestly, i don’t have a clue about the process (i’m sure you would much prefer that over assvice). i am outraged for you that they may ask you both about your sex life, WTF? what does that have to do with anything?. there are so many out there (thankfully not the majority) that are ‘parents’ and terrible at it. yet after all the heartache and loss you have both endured to get to this stage, you still have to ‘prove’ that your capable and deserving of being parents. i’m very sorry you had to endure the invasive nature of IVF protocols only to endure this type of invasiveness. again i hardly know anything on the subject but have heard that most people pass this process if they are honest (i know, i know) but more so if the couple is on the same page, ie: fully commited to adoption.
    you come across so sane and so genuine in your posts and also very articulate. my gut tells me you will do fine. oh and get the flowers. i’m so excited for you.

  24. I am so glad we were not asked about our sex life–I had no idea that it might even be a possibility! I think I would have sat there with a blank look on my face, and stuttered out something.

    It is incredibly hard that our desire to be parents opens us up to this kind of scrutiny. When you’ve also already suffered through infertility, especially having lost a precious son, it feels like one of the most unfair systems in the world. Haven’t you already proven your desire to be a mom? I know that it is incredibly hard to go through all of this. While I won’t say “It’s all worth it” (because, as you said, you’ll never stop grieving your child), I will say that having your child finally come home helps to heal a lot of the angst caused by things like the adoption process itself. I hope it happens soon for you.

  25. […] questions were perfectly appropriate and relevant. We had already answered most of them in some form in our application. There were really no […]

  26. […] with our case worker (mine was last week, M’s was this week), without any especially tough or annoying questions. She thinks we might not even need a fourth visit since she already has everything she […]

  27. […] a different experience than our visit a year ago, when I was concerned about the intrusiveness and relevance of the home study inquiries. Instead of talking about us and our preparedness to adopt, yesterday […]

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