It’s been years now but I still remember it, my husband and I sitting on an uncomfortable sofa across from our adoption practitioner at our first home-study interview. I was so nervous I had already begun to sweat. I had a secret and I was terrified of what would happen once it came out.
I had been diagnosed as gene positive for Huntington’s Disease (HD), a neurological condition that slowly kills nerve cells in the brain, causing cognitive impairment, uncontrolled movements and emotional issues. Being gene positive means I will get HD one day; I just don’t know when the symptoms will start.
As we went through the process of becoming adopt-ready I was still trying to come to terms with the drastic turn my life had taken. First with my HD diagnosis and then with unexplained infertility. We had spent two and half years at a fertility clinic before it became too much and we stopped treatments.
We had decided to try adopting but I was worried we would get turned down because of my HD diagnosis. If that were to happen I knew I would blame myself for ruining our dreams.
As our adoption practitioner got herself settled, pulling out a clipboard and a pen, and sitting back in her armchair, I thought back to the advice I had received from a friend.
“The home-study is not a therapy session, just tell her what she needs to know.” she had said. It was just what I needed to hear. I am a very emotional person and when I don’t express the depths of my feelings that seems dishonest to me.
But I didn’t want to hinder our chances of adopting by getting into the minute details of those traumatic experiences. I knew I would have to be stronger than I ever had been before.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that almost everybody has something they would rather not discuss in their home study, from medical issues to strained family relationships or past financial troubles. Perhaps if I’d thought about that I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself.
Here are five tips for navigating tough subjects in your home study interviews.
1. Always be truthful.
Home study interviews can be very in-depth. It is important to tell the truth but you don’t need to go into every nitty gritty detail.
2. Prepare in advance
If there is a subject you are nervous speaking about in your home-study it is a great idea to discuss it with your partner ahead of time. Decide what you are going to say and practice saying it. That way you will feel more comfortable and confident if the topic comes up.
3. Talk about your hardships in a positive light
I understand that can seem impossible to do especially if it was something that happened recently but it is important to focus on the positive. For example, you could say, going through this hardship taught me what is truly important in life or I am lucky I have so much family support. The way in which we talk about our experiences impacts how others perceive our circumstances and in this case, our ability to parent a child.
4. Be prepared to talk about back-up plans
If there is something the practitioner thinks might affect your ability to be a parent such as a medical issue, you may be asked how you are going to balance that with raising a child. For example, who you will lean on for support?
5. Don’t try to be perfect
Pretend you are on a job interview and put your best self forward but don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Nobody’s perfect and you don’t need to be either.
We were fortunate to be chosen to be the adoptive parents of a baby girl through private adoption. I hope your road to becoming parents is a quick one. Best of luck on your journey to parenthood.
Toronto adoptive parent and author Erin Paterson positively impacts people’s lives by sharing her experiences with genetic testing, infertility and adoption. You can find more of her articles on erinpaterson.com