It had been awhile since we’d been in touch with our Ohio home study agency. The day before Thanksgiving we found out they no longer exist.
Even if you work with an out-of-state adoption agency, you must have a home study conducted by a licensed agency in the state where you live. Our options were limited because we live in a rural area, and many agencies here won’t work with gay couples. But we found one in a city nearby that was supposedly gay-friendly.
Before signing on, I asked for references. After speaking with two couples that had good things to say, we signed on. The alternative was an agency that was farther away, cost much more money, and required several weekends of parenting classes without childcare.
Although our social worker seemed disorganized and was sometimes abrupt on the phone, things mostly went okay. She got the home study ready, visiting our home twice to conduct a safety audit and interviews.
In response to their standard form question about a major disappointment, I’d written how I’d felt after voters in my former state passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage for gay couples. I described the awful feeling I had that the votes of all those people were personal votes against me and my family. Reviewing my document, the social worker turned to me, while sitting at our dining room table and swigging her gigantic container of Mountain Dew and said, “Now, I see that you felt pretty angry about that marriage vote. I’m not going to turn on the nightly news and see you protesting, am I?”
For some reason, my first reaction was to tell her that it was unlikely because, while I care about social change, I’m not exactly the protesting sort. But then she said, “Well, that’s good. You know we have to watch what we do because we’re licensed by the state. We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that license.”
I realized she was most likely just ignorant–not a hater. But the more I thought about it, the more outraged I felt that she essentially instructed me not to be political. She had all the power in the situation, and I just wanted the home study over and shipped off to our out-of-state, much, much cooler adoption agency.
It’s interesting to think of that exchange now because—after not hearing from this agency for months—we thought we should check in with them last week. When we tried to call, the phone number was dead. When we checked the website, it wouldn’t load. After Google searches failed to turn up news about the agency, we left a voicemail with the state adoption and foster care licensing office to ask if they had any information. A woman from the state called back the day before Thanksgiving on our drive to my parents’ house in Michigan.
The news? In October, the state shut down the agency because of fiscal mismanagement—fortunately not due to concerns about their home study or placement practices. And not, apparently, because one of their clients showed up at a protest somewhere.
It’s standard protocol for agencies with revoked licenses to inform all clients so they can transfer files to other agencies. But we’d never received any notice at all. The woman at the state office was kind but told us we needed to consider our home study invalid until we could get it transferred and accepted by a new agency.
It was crushing. I couldn’t help but feel defeated and in even less control over our future, after all the other twists and turns on this adoption journey. What if we’d had a fast match and placement with a baby already born in a hospital? And had only learned of the agency’s closing once we’d traveled out of state? I felt utterly betrayed and exhausted by the unnecessary complications they’d thrown our way.
It’s a few days later, though, and things look better. Miraculously, we quickly found another, better agency recommended by an acquaintance with lots of knowledge of adoption services across the state. The staff has been warm, sympathetic about our situation, and 500 times more organized than the last agency. They’ve agreed to accept our file without charging us fees as if it were a brand new home study.
The problem now is that in order for the transfer to be legit, the home study file needs to come from our old agency. We can’t just send a photocopy ourselves. The contact at the state office told us the former director has the box of files with her at her house. She gave us this woman’s cell phone number but said she doesn’t always respond and has charged some former clients for her “copying and mailing services.” I left a message Monday and a second one this morning, trying to be pleasant. But still no word.