First, a little reminder: My husband and I adopted our son through the foster-care system. This process is quite a bit different than adoption through other agencies and didn’t go smoothly for us. You can read about our adoption story here, here, and here. Or click on the “Our Adoption Story” tab at the top of the page.
Today I want to talk about adoption parenting classes. As part of the process, we were required to take nine weeks of classes and – as I’ve told everyone who would listen – found them to be completely pointless.
Logistics: Our classes were every Monday night for nine weeks. We could have chosen a Saturday option that had less weeks, but longer sessions. We decided against it however, because we were taking the classes in the summer months and didn’t want to risk missing a class and having to deal with making it up. We had to get a sitter for our daughter – not an easy task for nine weeks straight. Inconveniently, the classes were twenty minutes from our house, not counting rush-hour traffic. Every Monday turned into a massive race against the clock. Naturally, I turned into a massive stress-ball in response. By the second class, we had realized that this was just another cog in the wheel. We dutifully kept our heads down and powered through.
Students: The class was composed of a wide range of people. There was us and one other couple only interested in adoption, as well as two families already serving as emergency provisional foster homes for relatives. The majority of the class was on the path to becoming a traditional foster home [amazing people!]. These families were from all over the county, so I soon stopped complaining about my rushed trip to the other side of town. Nobody seemed to have anything in common with anything else – it was like you randomly picked people up off the street and tried to make them converse [I actually think this is a good thing, but it made for odd classes]. This introvert was out of her element in awkward breaks and forced conversations. Well, I guess we did all have one thing in common – everyone’s ultimate goal was to finish the classes and get on with this never-ending process.
Classes: We participated in the PRIDE program – Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education – often called the Foster/Adopt PRIDE or something similar. When the classes started, we were given a giant binder outlining all of the sessions including readings and exercises to prepare for each session. The first thing I noticed in the binder was a mostly-blank page that read, “Insert letters of welcome from your local and/or state foster parent association and adoptive parent support group.” I guess they didn’t have those things, but who knows why they didn’t just leave the page out. Attention to detail is part of my job; these kinds of things just annoy me to no end.
The first session was fairly self-explanatory – an introduction to the program and to the foster/adopt system. I don’t actually remember what went on in class that evening, but looking back at our giant binder, I see another page that is supposed to have information added by the agency. Again, blank.
Session two had an awful title, “Teamwork toward Permanence,” but the information in the binder was good. It dealt with understanding the importance of providing a sense of permanency for the children. The class work didn’t really relate though and, again, blank pages in the binder not added by the agency. Seriously? This is the point where we really realized that things weren’t quite coordinating with the binder. Each section had a list of objectives and competencies, but very few were actually fulfilled (unless you could learn them from the printed material in the binder). I wish I had concrete examples from the assignments we completed, but it has just been too long for me to recall specifics.
I could keep going session by session, but I think you get the point: Readings that were good, but didn’t relate to class; Blank pages where the agency was supposed to add information; Class that was largely useless or confusing – like the one session where we learned all about how a social worker would make a case plan for a family and spent our time creating an example plan . . . but had no explanation of how this would play into our situation; Excellent objectives and competencies, but no follow though; etc.
Verdict: A missed opportunity. The classes I thought I was going to be headed to every Monday night were going to teach me about navigating the system, about the resources available and who to contact, about the challenges of bringing home a child with possible mental and physical challenges. Unfortunately, they just . . . didn’t. The classes were just another silly hurdle; another well-intentioned concept bogged down by an inefficient and overworked system. I left my nine weeks with absolutely nothing, except the business card of a DHHS contact – any of you who have dealt with the system know the helpfulness of a direct contact.