Once he got warmed up, he volunteered, "I talked to April this week." April is the social worker who visited to talk to him about how he's feeling about us so far. I played cool for awhile, and said, "April called us too. She likes to check in and make sure we're doing a good job and not freaking you out." I knew he was trying to open up a conversation, so a few minutes later, I said, "April asked us how we feel about adoption, because some of the people in the Kidsave program want to adopt, and others are more into weekend hosting. So I told her we definitely want to adopt. But if you decide you would rather just do weekends with us, that's totally cool too. We're in it to help you, whatever you decide you want to do."
Bingo! "I want to get adopted," he said softly. I asked him how he imagines adoption will be different than foster care. He had a complete analysis ready to go! Foster parents give you back if you get into trouble or do something bad, he explained, but adoptive parents work on it with you and they are there forever. They "treat you like you're their own," and make you part of their family. I said, yeah, I think adoption is an awesome way to make a family. We always wanted to adopt, and I like the idea that when you adopt you become a family because you all really like each other. I got a little smile for that one so I kept going.
"Well, we'd be psyched to adopt you whenever you're ready, and you can come live with us while we do the adoption if you want," I said (the Kidsave program is set up so that a kid can be placed with you as a substitute foster family as you're pursuing adoption). "And we think you're the best kid in the Kidsave program and we liked you right away. We knew we wanted to do the program, but we didn't imagine we'd meet someone we like as much as we like you!" He was beaming. Hooray!
I also said, "But you know, if we adopt you, you're stuck with us. I mean, you'll be, like, 35 and you'll have your own kids and we'll be calling you up all the time, asking if you're coming over for Thanksgiving." He seemed surprised about that and amused. So I said, "I think that's one of the things that's really different about adoption - it isn't just til you're 18. And I know I needed my parents for a long time - to help me with stuff like college and getting a first apartment, and just giving me advice when I needed it." He was quiet about that part - I think it might be a new consideration. I also snuck in a word about how we would help him keep in touch with his brother. And I asked him who his favorite foster moms have been - which included the one he's with now - and said, being adopted doesn't mean you don't see those people anymore. You can totally keep in touch with all the people who are important to you. He was quiet, but I wanted to make sure he didn't feel like he had to give up what he has.
And OH MY GOD I felt relieved to have gotten all that out. I was really having trouble figuring out how to broach this subject - there aren't a lot of precedents for telling a 15 year old that you'd like him to be your first and only child! I realized last week that I was clamming up because I was uncomfortable with the emotional intensity of the conversation - it took me some effort to get down to emotional brass tacks and set aside my own fear of rejection.
We chatted all the way home! T. totally cracks me up. A little while later, he said "What do you think about tattoos?" I said, "Why? Are you thinking of getting one?" He nodded and smiled slyly. I said, well, for our anniversary, Tim got a tattoo of a big anchor with my name on it, so I think tattoos are pretty cool. What will yours say? "On my arm, it will say Live Life to the Fullest," he said. "And on my back, Liberty." I said, "I like tattoos to mark big life transitions, because a tattoo is forever. Wouldn't it be cool to get a tattoo like Liberty on the day you get free of the foster system?" "Yeah!" he sighed.
Then I realized he's only 15! "Hey wait, can you even GET a tattoo?" I asked. He cracked up and said a friend is going to do it. I said, okay, not with a ballpoint pen, and it's really important to make sure to use clean fresh needles. He nodded solemnly.
I also brought up the school issue - I said something like "I wish we lived closer so that if you decide you'd like to live with us, you wouldn't have to move and change schools." As usual, he thought about that for a quiet minute, then said, "I don't mind moving schools. That's how you meet new people!" I said, well that's an awesome attitude to have! He chatted a bit more - about his mom, and how he was going to live with her, but decided he didn't want to, and how he has a sister that he doesn't really know who has autism. He told me his mom is tall - 5'11" - and that she says his dad was tall, too.
When we got home, I called out to Tim "We're home! And we're adopting T.! But he's getting tattoos, so you better talk to him." T. loved that and totally cracked up in his quiet way - I was checking to see how comfortable he felt with the outcome of our conversation, and that was my answer.
So now we're home and T. is in the den playing X-box live, after we all shared sandwiches. He played with the cat, and we quizzed him about what he does and doesn't eat. It turns out he eats pretty much everything except what we served him last weekend. And he loves sushi! He's still beaming, and quite easy going and talkative today. And he went in his room and took off his shoes and left them there! So I think he's claiming it for himself.
I suppose the next hurdle is convincing DCFS that we all three know what we want, and they don't have to keep worrying about whether he's comfortable with us. But first, we have a weekend to enjoy. And we're planning a camping trip for two weeks from now.