Bob and I have had to go to the doctors to get poked and prodded, we’ve had our fingerprints taken (for about the zillionth time), we’ve had to go into the dungeons of the San Diego courthouse and fight with antique microfilm machines to try and find the stone tablet that Bob’s divorce decree was carved into over 30 years ago. They’ve inspected our home, our finances, and interviewed our friends and relatives. They have done criminal checks on my employees (even though they have already been fingerprinted in order to legally work for me). My adult son who does not live at home was subject to similar inspections. My friends were sent extensive questionnaires. We, our friends, and our family finally jump through all of those hoops. Finally. Took months. Phew. Next phase… The Interviews.
They say that this was Bob and mine’s joint interview. After that they say we each have to have an individual interview. So we both dutifully trudge down to San Diego first thing after dropping the kids off at school. I was nervous as hell, I think Bob was more just annoyed. He would rather be playing in the sand at the desert. I was envisioning them having us sit down and have some serious discussion about why us two old farts might be nuts enough to want to adopt a child. I am 55, Bob is 72. She is 7. We’ve had her since she was 5. She will probably be 8 by the time this adoption process is finally over.
So we get to the office of Health and Human services. They issue us badges and tell us to wait. The Social Worker (SW) finally comes to get us and ushers us into a cold, sterile room. No windows, no pictures on the wall. A cheap conference table and three or four chairs. I was looking for the two way mirror, but they didn’t even have one of those. SW puts her thick file on the table, much like Gibbs on NCIS throws down the incriminating file on the table before his mind-bending, brilliant interrogations. We dutifully hand her the papers that we were required to procure for her, and then she states, “This is how this is going to work. I will send one of you out into the waiting room and then the other one will stay in here and fill out these questionnaires.” I see a thick set of stapled papers. My mind hits the throbbing panic button in my head and I say “Bob doesn’t read. He has a learning disability. I will need to read the questions to him.”
“Oh you can’t do that.” she said. “You aren’t allowed to see each other or talk while you are filling out the questionnaires.” What the hell? What? Are they trying to plot us against each other? Catch us in lies? Why did they want us both in here during our “together” interview, if they were going to separate us right off the bat? Is it so we can’t warn each other or coach each other? Why do I feel very much like a criminal at this point? Why do I feel like we are both taking a final exam….we have no idea what the answers are supposed to look like… and the final grade of this exam dictates the future of our little girl? The little girl, I might add, that we were required to tell about our intent to adopt long before this interview. Who we were required to promise that we would be her forever parents! What if we don’t pass this test? Why didn’t they do this in the beginning, before we made huge promises to her?
So the social worker finally agrees that she will read the questions to Bob, when it was his turn. My turn first. Here we go.
She ushers my best friend out into the waiting room. I start filling out the questionnaire. I am to answer the questions about both myself and Bob. So they are doing a comparison of answers, I assume. She sits across from me, watching me, as I nervously go through the questions…
Have you ever used drugs (list all kinds of illegal drugs here).
Do you drink alcohol?
A beer maybe once every two or three months. Bob maybe once a month.
Ever filed bankruptcy?
Check yes under Bob’s name.
Have you ever been to counseling or therapy?
Have you ever been molested or raped?
Does anybody in your family suffer from (insert every mental illness you can think of here).
No, they don’t suffer from it. They enjoy every minute of it. (No, I didn’t write that..although I would’ve liked to. But my little girls future is hanging in the balance, here.)
Have you ever witnessed any violence?
I finally finish these and many more questions written in fine print on the four or five sheets of paper (damn I wish I had brought my glasses!) And I push the papers across the table to her, as though for grading. She starts reading through the papers, and says
SW “You only drink beer once every two or three months?”
ME “Right. Essentially we don’t drink.”
SW “Why did you decide not to drink?”
What, I have to defend my position of not drinking? Really?
SW “You had counseling? When was that?”
ME “When I was single, 21 and pregnant.”
SW “Why did you go to counseling?”
ME “Umm…because I was single, 21 and pregnant.” (duh!)
SW “You’ve been raped? Tell me about that.”
ME “That was a long time ago. I was young (16) and naive and manipulated by a much older married man, the father of one of my girlfriends. He envisioned himself as the great God and teacher of young girls.”
SW “Did you tell anybody?”
ME “That was almost 40 years ago. I don’t really remember who I told. I told Bob.”
SW “Do you think you need counseling about that, now, to help get over that?”
ME “Um, no, that was almost 40 years ago and I haven’t thought about it in decades until you just now brought it up.” (thanks for that -____-)
SW “Have you ever witnessed any violence?”
BOB “Sure. Every time I watch TV.”
And on and on it went. I asked her…”Did I pass?”
“It’s not like that. No one has a perfect life. That people overcome adversity is a good thing.”
So why (I wonder to myself) are you putting us through all this?
As we leave, the SW says “I’ll see you at your next, individual interviews!” She told me that my interview could be 2 to 3 hours long, she told Bob his could last up to 4 hours!
ME and BOB “What could you possibly want to know that could take that long?”
SW “We are going to go through your whole lives, from the very beginning.” Maybe they scheduled Bob a longer interview because he’s an older old fart! More years, longer life, longer interview, I guess.
Oh dear God.
I can hardly wait.