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Is it a good idea to adopt when you have a 7-year-old biological child, potentially on the autistic spectrum, that really doesn’t want a sibling?
You know, that’s just not something you can know going in.
Due to things neither of us saw going in, and the horrific medical complications of the pregnancy, the plan shifted from “have 2” to “one and done” even before my son was born. A few months afterwards, I had a vasectomy, sealing that decision. We weren’t going to have more kids.
But as he got older, and we’d starting seeing the behavior that put us on the track of getting an ASD diagnosis, one of the common elements was that he kept getting kicked out of play groups and shunned at the park playgrounds. His older siblings were much older and already had busy lives with friends and school and events, and it wound up being just me and him playing, a lot. Or him sitting by himself wondering why no one was playing with him as I tried to hustle up kids for him to do things with at the park.
In one of those flashes of seeming brilliance, we decided that maybe — just maybe — adopting a boy near his age would be a good thing. I’m adopted, it seemed like a way to “give back” and solve for a selfish desire for him to have a built-in playmate and companion at the same time.
In Washington state, to adopt, you have to be a certified foster home, and you have to have had foster placements, to get access to the pool of children available for adoption. Certification was about a half-year long process, and I still vividly remember the first call we got for a placement. It was at night, there had been an “incident” where some kids found themselves without parents (it’s always at night, isn’t it? domestic violence, pulled over for DWI, drug bust… none of these kids asked for any of that, ever).
That night, our number was up. I took the call, heard the words. I looked at my wife. She looked at me. We both looked at my son. And knew, right then, that despite all our prior discussion, that having these kids show up on this night would not be the right thing for him. After more “no’s”, the calls finally stopped, and a supervisor called to ask if we wanted off “the list.” We agreed. Had meetings with other supervisors, discussed maybe less-than-urgent placements.
We weren’t going to have more kids.
And always came back to the same realization: whatever he had going on, it wasn’t going to be made better by other kids in the house that he didn’t know. Eventually, our certification lapsed, and that was that.
Had we been looking at adopting an infant, that might have been different. Kids his age don’t really know where babies come from so just walking in with one might have been no different than having another biological child of our own. That probably would have been okay-ish.
His issues would have persisted. The truly horrifying abuse he suffered at school would have still happened. His trajectory wouldn’t have changed all that much — except he would have a younger sibling. Who would themselves have been affected by his struggle.
Had we pushed through the doubt and found the perfect child to fit — another boy about his age, similar looking, similar interests — it’s really hard to say how it would have gone. They would not have gone to school together — my son would have still been shunted into day-treatment hell, the other boy would have gone into general education. It’s likely that his friends would have tormented my son for being “a retard” because he was in the special education program — because we saw plenty of that as it was.
Hard to see there being a good outcome there, retrospectively. Even though at the time, it did seem like a really, really good idea.
If you do adopt, remember that family is forever. There’s more than enough love to go around. And it’s not going to be a pain free experience.
Stan Hanks is a writer. Read more from Quora below: