Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Preparing to meet Anne

      Tomorrow we will be traveling across several states to spend a couple of days with Anne (and hopefully Ben, but that is still up in the air). Today, our case worker called to give us a head's up about what to expect and what some of the rules are. Before I summarize what she said, though, I want to point out that the format of how this is happening with us is very unique compared to the usual agency/lawyer policies. So, here are how meetings usually go:

     Option 1: Meet immediately after match. This is the option that I have seen most often in reviewing agency and lawyer policies. What generally happens is that when you apply for a situation, you be given a estimated timeline of when things will take place. An example would be: "Applications are due Wednesday and a family will be chosen Thursday or Friday. The potential adoptive parents will need to arrange to travel to (location of office) early the next week for a meeting with ________ at our office." After this meeting, the match is considered final if both the PAPs and the emom are on board. The meeting happens at the office (or at least with a case worker/counselor present).
      Option 2: Meet soon after match, but scheduled in advance. This is basically the same as option 1, except that the PAPs are given more time to make travel arrangements. For example: "Applications are due Wednesday, October 7th and a family will be chosen that Thursday or Friday. The potential adoptive parents will need to arrange travel to (location of office) sometime during the week of October 26th to meet with __________ at our office." If the meet date is more than a couple of weeks after the match date, there will often be a phone call in between if the emom wants a chance to speak with the PAPs before they meet.
      Option 3: Meet at the hospital. Many emoms do not want to meet the PAPs until they are at the hospital. In fact, this is what Anne had originally said that she wanted. In these cases, there will usually just be phone calls between the PAPs and the emom.

    There are two reasons that our situation has ended up being unique: 1) Anne didn't think she wanted to meet us, but she changed her mind after our first phone call (which we were very excited about!), and 2) There is not a physical branch of the adoption agency that Anne is using in the town where she lives. There would have been the option for her counselor to meet with us at our first meeting to help supervise and moderate things, but since everyone is comfortable with the situation, this option was not really explored. It is my understanding that most agencies or lawyers want at least the first meeting to be monitored to help make sure the conversation goes smoothly and to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible.
    At this point, the plan is for us to meet Anne for breakfast at a restaurant the first morning that we are in town. From there, we will make plans for the next couple of days depending on if Ben wants to join us, how Anne is feeling, and (let's just be honest) how comfortable everyone is with each other.

   So, back to the phone call from our caseworker. There were two main goals to this phone call: first, to let us know some of the regulations of Anne's state when it comes to what we can and cannot do, and second, to give us some suggestions for what the PAPs and emoms sometimes do together during these meetings. Obviously, many of those regulations revolve around the monetary caps in place in Anne's state. Here are some of the things that we were told to keep in mind:

     1) We are allowed to pay for any meals we have together (and that is what is recommended, obviously), as long as they are within reason. It is not advised to have 4 course meals at 5 star restaurants-- stick to something within the range of where you would usually go for a dinner with friends.
     2) Even though we can pay for meals we have together, we cannot take her grocery shopping. If she should mention not having enough money to buy groceries this week or take care of this or that (which our case worker doesn't think she will do-- she seems to be very conscientious of not wanting to look like she is taking advantage of us), we should pass that information along to her case worker rather than doing anything to intervene, ourselves.
    3) The monetary cap on gifts is high enough that it allows for reasonable "thinking of you" gestures. If we want to take her something or get her something while we are there (again, it can't fall under the umbrella of living expenses or bills), we won't run into any problems as long as we stick to the standard of a "reasonable" present.
    4) Save receipts, just in case. Our case worker said that she has never seen a judge ask to see receipts or a list of expenditures from a visit during the adoption process, but it is a part of that state's adoption laws that this information can be requested at the judge's discretion. There is a first time for everything, so it would be better to be prepared.

      The suggestions that we were given for activities to do together were going to eat, taking a tour of the hospital, having her show us around town or significant places to her, and maybe going shopping for baby items. The last one is a bit tricky. The case worker said that for some emoms, it is nice for them to feel like they were able to pick out a couple of things for the baby, but for others, the idea of shopping for things for a baby they will not bring home is too difficult. I think we will probably just let Anne take the lead on that one, because I would be afraid that even asking if she wanted to go shopping for baby items might put her on the spot or make her uncomfortable.
      Tomorrow will be a long day of traveling!

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