Another long day at the embassy. Here’s a little career tip: “facilitating trade negotiations” is a lot less glamorous than it sounds, and mostly seems to consist of wrangling catering arrangements for two dozen different sims, with half a dozen different diets between them. I was just about ready to collapse on the couch when I got home, but Hazel was there ahead of me.
“Listen to this,” she said, waving me over. She lifted the newspaper in her lap and read from it.
“Arthur Beaumont, Minister of State for Children and Families, today unveiled his proposed Adoption Reform Bill. “This bill has been a long time in the making”, Mr Beaumont said, “and I’d like to thank everyone that worked with me on bringing it to fruition.” Noting the bill’s positive reception at today’s initial reading, Mr Beaumont added, “We’ve seen some strong levels of support from both sides of the political spectrum, which is really heartening. It reminds you of what politics is all about, and that’s building a better future for everyone within our society.”
The bill would introduce a number of changes to the law surrounding foster care and adoption, including tightening background checks on prospective carers, providing free parenting classes for first-time adopters, and establishing new incentives to encourage married couples to adopt.
“We’re all united in wanting what’s best for our children,” Mr Beaumont said. “And studies show time and again that the orphanage system is failing to deliver on that front. In order to thrive, children need a stable and nurturing family environment, under the care of a loving mother and father. But the tragic reality is that today, there are tens of thousands of children in the care system for whom this ideal seems impossible. This bill aims to change that, and ensure that every child has an equal chance at being part of a true family.”
The second reading of the bill is due to take place October 3rd.”
“So?” I shrugged, too tired to take in most of what she’d just said. “Free parenting classes sound like a good offer.”
“Incentives to encourage married
couples,” Hazel quoted, stressing the word. “‘Children need a mother and father’. Reading between the lines…”
“You think he doesn’t want couples like us adopting?”
Hazel nodded. “Beaumont’s got history. Lobbied against the introduction of joined unions, back in the day, and he hasn’t improved since. Very big on the “traditional family” vibe. So “tighter background checks”… it could mean something that excludes us.”
Hazel took my hand. “It’s not the law yet,” she reminded me. “It’s just that if we do want to adopt… we might want to do it soon.”
“Do you think we’re ready?”
She nodded. “I think so. Let’s do this.”
Five minutes into our first meeting at the adoption agency, and I was already feeling singularly uncomfortable. Sitting awkwardly on a too-hard chair, wearing the cheap suit I’d chosen because I hoped it made me look Responsible, I listened as our assigned caseworker tried to find a polite way to crush our dreams.
“Now, your file says you’re hoping to adopt an infant?” She glanced at me just long enough to take in my nod, then continued. “That puts you in the same boat as the vast
majority of our hopeful adopters, and I’m afraid that
puts you in a rather difficult position.”
Under the table, I clasped Hazel’s hand. “What position?” I asked.
“A long time on the waiting list, for one,” she replied. “Years, most likely, and that’s assuming that you manage to pass the screening process to begin with. There’s often some reluctance to place infants with… unconventional
Hazel tightened her grip on my fingers as she spoke up. “So you think that, because we both sit to pee, we’re not qualified to take care of a child?”
“A rather crude way of putting it, Ms. Pachis, but no. What I
think is that there are a number of people trying to play politics with my job, and it’s my duty to warn you of the consequences. I won’t make you promises I’m not in a position to keep, and I cannot promise you a child.”
“Is there anything we can do to… to show that we’ll be good parents?” I asked. “Hazel works from home, so she’d always be around to look after the baby, and I’ve been studying books on parenting…”
“Those will help your application, but even once you’re through screening, you’re facing a long wait. Unless-”
“Would you consider adopting an older child?”
I glanced at Hazel. We’d talked about this before coming here, planned everything out. How we were going to save up, over the next few years, until we could afford to buy a place with two bedrooms. How, until then, we had room for a crib and a changing table, the little space a baby would need. But not for an older child, not yet.
“We don’t know if we could…”
“Think about it. As I said, most people who come to us want infants. But most of the children in care are not infants, and it’s my job to look out for them. We have too many older children in need of good homes, and too few couples willing to take them in. All the politics in the world won’t change that fact. And that is the sort of argument I can take to my superiors to convince them that we should place a child with you, no matter what the “standard protocol” might be.
“We’ll think about it,” Hazel agreed.
“I know it’s not what you wanted,” she acknowledged as we left the office. “But it’s still a family.”
I nodded. “But we’ll miss so much. Teaching them to walk, to talk, watching them grow…”
“They’ll still have plenty of growing left to do,” she reminded me, “and plenty we can teach them. And you always talked about wanting to give a home to a child that needs one.”
“If we can afford it.”
“There is that.”
“And whatever we decide, we need to do it fast.” I sighed. “I wish we had more time.”