This guest blog post is written by Christopher Matos-Rogers, an adoptive father and REALTOR® with PalmerHouse Properties in Atlanta. As a foster care adoption advocate, he supports child-focused organizations such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. He and his husband co-founded an adoptive parent support and resource group to connect adoptive families and help those at all stages of the adoption process. You can find their group on Facebook at ADOPT Georgia.
In December 2016, as we gathered with family at a local restaurant to celebrate one of our son’s birthday, I realized something: exactly a year prior we had attended IMPACT training across the street. IMPACT is a program developed by the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Family and Children Services that works to prepare families for the joys and challenges of fostering and adopting.
While reflecting on IMPACT, a particular question stuck in mind: “What does your perfect child look like?” It was a question we thought about as we started this journey and it lead us down an unexpected path.
Our ideal child is between the ages of 5 and 10. We just knew it. On the first day of IMPACT training, the instructor had everyone draw their “perfect kids.” We drew pictures and explained the traits and characteristics of the children we thought would best match with our family. People drew infants, toddlers, princesses and cowboys. My husband and I drew elementary school-aged twin boys; one was a techie guru and the other an athlete. Once the last person had presented, the instructor told everyone to ball up the pictures and throw them in the trashcan.
It was an exercise in letting go of the idea of perfection and opening our minds to possibility. With an open mind, our chances of being matched for adoption and being successful parents would greatly improve. At that moment, it was tough to accept the point made by the instructor, but over the course of our adoption process we found ourselves expanding and refocusing our search.
Our child is definitely between ages 5 and 12, we just know it! In March 2016 we attended our first adoption event. It was an event for prospective parents to meet adoption agencies and caseworkers from every region across the state. We chatted with caseworkers, heard about kids on their caseloads and we decided to expand our age range up to age 12. The following month our home study received agency approval. A couple weeks later, we met a child who we thought was 12, but turned out to be 16. It was eye opening to us and we decided to increase our age to 16.
Our child is definitely going to be between ages 5 and 16, and this time…we were right. A few weeks later, we were introduced to two brothers, ages 14 and 15 years old. Our first son, the 14-year-old, was placed with us two months later. It was a process for the state to reunify the siblings, but five months after our first placement our second son (biological brother to our first son) joined our family. Just in time for the holidays. Thanks to the work of our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Tina Goode, our boys were reunited with each other and we all found the family we were searching for.
Our sons were right there in front of us all along. We never noticed them because they were outside of our age group, outside of our focus. Each time they went unnoticed by us because we were not ready for them. By experiencing the adoption process, we grew to become the parents they needed. Our first son is a book worm, science nut and lover of all things tech. His brother is a star on the varsity lacrosse team while just a freshman. How long will it take you to see the child that’s right in front of you? Adoption is a journey. Be open to the experiences along the way. They will ultimately lead you where you need to be.