• Erica Rosi Tham

4. Getting Started with Adoption: Becoming a PAP

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Descending from hope, love and inspiration to unforgiving and unrelenting paperwork ... becoming a PAP, a prospective adoptive parent, isn't easy for anyone.

“A man in Texas adopted a girl from India and murdered her. We thought they would close the program, but fortunately, they just cut off contact with that agency,” Jordyn told Philip and I during the orientation call. "Anyway, it's the sad stories like that one that make the process so difficult. This is just an introduction ..."

As Jordyn elaborated, I took notes. Every document in the dossier needed two copies and needed to be notarized. Before and while doing that, we would be completing our home study which would require ten hours of training and a full set of documentation, some of which would cross over with the dossier and some of which would not, depending on which agency we worked with on the home study.

“Is it possible to adopt from a region of India? We visit the northeast frequently, and we intend to connect these kids with our relatives there.”

“Umm …” Jordyn’s voice resonated with concern, and I intuited that she had talked with many people who had changed their minds regarding adoption. “That is not the way it works. There is a database of children from all over India. If you wait to be placed with a child through the Indian authorities, you will wait a long time if you request anything too specific. And if you turn down the children they offer you, your name goes to the bottom of the pile. But we usually do not wait for the Indian authorities. Our director finds kids on the waiting child list for most of our clients, and you can say no, and she will find other kids—she won’t put you at the bottom of the list. We suggest you communicate your preference to her later but don’t count on the Northeast unless you’re ready to wait for as long as that takes.”

I was sitting in the kitchen nook while Philip lounged on the loveseat in our adjoining living room. He wore his “listening look,” the one he uses when we’re visiting relatives he does not know.

When the hour-long call ended, I turned to him.

“So what do you think?”

“I think it’s okay,” he said with a show of cavalier acceptance. “They are protecting themselves from liability, and yet we will also push back.” Philip is, in truth, a terrible listener. He admits this, knows that I know it, and yet he utilizes artful techniques to suggest his full participation. The idea of pushing back is a constant.

“Well, I think I understand what she wants,” I said, “sort of. You are okay with the fact that we probably will not adopt from the Northeast?”

Philip cocked his head to one side authoritatively, though he smiled almost playfully.

“That is what they say now, but we will see what happens. Anyway, it does not matter too much. We have to be careful. We’ll say no if the kids are in an area where travel is difficult, but that’s it.”

“We can do the FBI background checks before my trip to Virginia. What do you think?”

“You’re in charge!” He said, merriness on his round, acne-speckled cheeks. He patted my back and kissed me before leaving for work.

This was true. We had decided together that I would manage the adoption process because he had managed the paperwork to help his daughter immigrate before she turned eighteen. It was my turn.

In the Lynnwood police station, we sat on two of three waiting chairs in front of the bullet-proof glass behind which sat a middle-aged woman and a young man in uniform whose cheeks glowed with youth.

Soon I was standing beside him in a back room feeling exceptionally diminutive beside his trim, six- foot frame. I was thinking of how I admired him for pursuing such difficult work as he took my full set of fingerprints in several ways. Though he congratulated me on adopting, his stony expression demonstrated his habitual skepticism, and I struggled to hold my hand steady during the last set of prints. I have never been arrested, and this was a new experience.

After Philip did his fingerprinting, he admitted that his hand had shaken too, near the end.

The next day, I followed the FBI’s instructions and sent the fingerprints, our permission to give full disclosure to Nightlight, and the fee. Whew. One tough errand successfully completed.

During the rest of that week, I planned to work on the “easy stuff,” the forms I had glanced over which seemed to require only identification information and the writing of a few sentences.

Before I knew it, the week had passed. It was Friday. We had already spent $5,000 on adoption fees, and I had spent two hours a day completing “easy stuff” while keeping up with my full-time work as a teacher.

Just a few more, I told myself, blinking to rest my eyes from the screen. Anxiety had begun to creep in as I completed these forms, many of which were depressing in nature. There was a “No Healthy Child” form designed to protect the agency from liability if a child with disguised emotional or physical problems was adopted, and several other forms tested our parental resilience by describing worst case scenarios and asking how we would respond. At last, I had to stop in order to start preparing for my trip to Virginia to visit my mother.

Ten hours of forms were only the tip of the iceberg.

I had become a prospective adoptive parent.

Erica Rosi Tham

Wishing peace and joy to you and your family. Thanks for reading!

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