Today is a very special day in our family. Today is Gotcha Day. 6 years ago today, Lydia’s adoption was finalized and she became a Schexnayder officially. Her story is nothing short of amazing.
My husband and I had thought of adoption many times over the years. We would start an application and, for different reasons, would stop the process. It wasn’t until 2007 that we moved forward with the idea. We had been told of a foster baby that would be up for adoption so we decided to start the paperwork with DHS here in Oklahoma. That was in March 2007. We went to the first DHS meeting where we were told if we wanted a baby under the age of 2, we should go to a private adoption agency. Adopting a baby under the age of 2, especially white babies, was almost impossible. We decided we would continue with the process and see how God would lead. There is no cost to adopt through the state. The only things we would pay for were our physicals. ($25 each)
We were given a very thick packet of information to read and fill out. It asks all sorts of questions about you, your marriage, your extended family, your finances, your debt. There is also a large section on what type of child you would accept. How old, what ethnicity, how many in a sibling group? “Would you accept a child who wets the bed?” “Would you accept a child who is behind academically?” “Would you accept a child who tortures small animals?” (No, I’m not making these up.) I felt like we were special ordering our child. We finished our packet, turned it in, and set up home visits.
There are two types of home visits/studies. One was with our case worker who would come over, check out our home, make sure it had: the proper railings if there were stairs, outlet covers, fire extinguishers, a land line, etc. The second type of home study was a person who would sit down and probe into your personal life. How do you get along with your parents? How do you get along with your siblings? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have a network of support? They also called all sorts of references. DHS was very thorough.
While this was going on, we had to attend somewhere around 28 hours of foster/adoption training. We drove to Norman from Bethany for a few weeks to learn how to creatively give your child exactly what they wanted. Also, how to correct your child without administering any type of punishment. 🙂 We sat there quietly, smiled and nodded, took notes, and watched the time pass. After our last class at the end of August ’07 we called our case worker, Jorge, and told him we had certificate in hand. We were ready to find our dream child. 🙂 And we wanted him/her by Christmas. Our case worker was amused.
Each month we received a list of adoptable children in the state. On an average it had 90-100 names each month, many of them repeats from month to month. At the end of October/first of November I noticed a little girl, Heaven, who was on the list. She had just turned a year old, parental rights had all been terminated 6 months prior, and she was legally free to be adopted. I remember thinking “Maybe we should call Jorge on this one” then quickly dismissing it, knowing hundreds of people would be calling on that one. The end of November Brian received a phone call from Jorge. He had a prospect, a little girl, for us to look at. Were we interested?
Were we interested? Is the pope Catholic? Is fire hot? Is water wet? We set up a time to go to his office and look at this little girl’s file. That was November 28. Guess what? Her name was Heaven. 🙂
I remember thinking during the whole appointment, “what’s wrong with her?” “why hasn’t she been adopted if the parental rights had been terminated months prior?” We found out that Heaven’s case worker had looked over all the adoptive parent files from the state and picked out 3. If the first couple didn’t want her, it would move to the second couple, and so on. We were the first couple!! As long as we said “Absolutely!” she was ours. We were told she was one of about five foster children and that she cries “all the time.” We figured we could work with that. I have to admit, in my heart, I kept asking “what is wrong with her?”
There is normally a series of meetings an adoptive couple goes through. A one hour visit, an extended visit, an overnight visit, and a weekend visit. They want to give a family plenty of time to decide if this child “fits.” Our first visit was set for Friday, December 7th at a McDonald’s. We walked in and saw this quiet, blue-eyed 14 month old beauty chowing down on fries and nuggets. She didn’t make much noise (see? something is wrong with her!) and she didn’t play much (that’s not normal, right?) but we fell in love with her.
At the end of one hour the case worker called the meeting to an end and we started the journey back to Oklahoma City. We called Jorge and told him we were ready to proceed to adopt this little girl. He started to go into all the visits we would need to set up when my husband politely said, “Jorge, we will do whatever meetings we need to do. But we want this child. Do what you need to, but she is only 14 months old. She is not old enough to look at you and say, ‘These people are dorks. PLEASE do not place me with them!’ ” Jorge did ask how soon we could take her; the foster home was full and the foster parents were hoping to have her placed by Christmas. My husband told him if he called us Monday and told us to pick her up, we were on the road.
The next Monday, December 10, there was a huge ice storm that practically shut the city down. We had already begun clearing out the extra bedroom in anticipation of bringing this girlie home soon. In the middle of painting, the power went out. No electricity, no heat. But I was determined to get this room done. We had no idea how many weeks we had before we picked her up for good, and we wanted to be prepared whenever we got the call.
Due to the extreme weather, state offices were closed. That meant our case worker wasn’t able to get into the office and start working on our case. We were a little disappointed, but we were working on that room regardless. Tuesday came and we were still without power. (Have you ever painted in a house that was about 45 degrees? I love to paint, but come on. It was SOOOO cold. But, hey, it was worth it.) DHS offices were still closed, but our case worker was cool and talked to us over the phone anyway. He told us as soon as he could get into the office, he would get the file and get started.
Finally Wednesday came. The ice had started melting and businesses were starting to get back to normal. I went shopping with my mom and Brian went to work. When Jorge got into the office, he called Brian and told him he had the file. He was going to get started on setting up the rest of the visits and wanted to make sure we still wanted to move forward. Again, Brian told him yes, and reiterated that if he called and said go get her, we would hit the road. Brian kept me posted that morning as I was out and about trying to get ready for whenever the big day came. That afternoon Jorge called Brian and asked him if we were available to pick the girl up Friday, December 14. Brian enthusiastically said yes and asked which visit this would be. Extended, overnight, weekend? Jorge told him, “No, pick her up and take her home. She’s yours.” No more visits! Just a week after meeting her, she was ours!
Friday afternoon we headed back to that infamous McDonald’s to bring home OUR little girl. When we got there, the manager saw us. She came over, with tears in her eyes, and hugged us. She told us she knew why we were there and was very excited for us. She even gave “Heaven” a bag of cookies. (When my husband is asked where babies come from, he replies “McDonalds. And they come with a free bag of cookies. Dine in only.”) Even Heaven’s case worker was excited to see that we were getting to bring her home and so quickly. We put her in the car and away we went. We didn’t want to give anyone time to change their mind! Needless to say, with a day and a half notice, we didn’t have everything done. My father-in-law and husband were putting her bed together after we got home.
We still had home visits where Jorge had to come check on the girl and us, but they were a piece of cake. The usual waiting period is six months from placement to finalization, but we were able to finalize her adoption in five months. We were able to legally change her name and in fact, Jorge had us start calling her Lydia from the day we brought her home. She has fit into our family from day one. She even resembles my husband. So much so that most people would never guess she is adopted. And the problem of her crying all the time? Don’t know what that was about. There was also nothing wrong with her. 🙂 She was the perfect addition to our family and the best Christmas present we ever received.
So in honor of her court date, we celebrate “Gotcha Day” every May 23rd. She thinks it’s pretty awesome that while most kids get a birthday every year, she technically gets 2. We go do something special as a family. Just us. No friends, no extended family. Just our sweet little family celebrating the miracle that is Lydia!