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Thursday. July 3, 1SS3 The Tar Hed 9
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By Jac Verxteeg
Annie Smith used to live in temporary foster. homes .
and Bonnie Hacker used to live alone. All that
changed about six weeks ago. when Annie moved into
Bonnie's home and the twotrf them became a family.
Bonnie, an occupational therapist at UNC, decided
being single should not stop her from having a
family. She set out to adopt a child.
"There are many motives for a single person to
adopt a child," Bonnie said. "Of course there are some
feelings of wanting to save a child and give her a
home. But the basic motive for most people, and
certainly for myself, is the desire for a family."
'There are many motives for a single person to adopt a child.
Of course there are some feelings of wanting to save a child
and give her a home. But the basic motive for most people, and
certainly for myself, is the desire for a family.
Although Bonnie first contacted the county social
services agency about adopting a child in January,
they told her they were ! in the process of
reorganization and weren't doing any home studies
for adoption. Bonnie had to wait.
"I was very fortunate in that they did call me at the
end of March," Bonnie said. "And then things moved
extremely rapidly. Annie's social worker called and
told me about the child. I went down to social services
and we talked about Annie's natural and foster home
situations; I got to see a picture of her then, and they
asked if I was interested in meeting her."
Annie, 7, also had a chance to hear about Bonnie
before their first meeting. "With a younger child the
meeting usually occurs without them knowing that
the visitor is a possible parent," Bonnie said. "But
Annie was old enough to know what the meeting was
all about; so naturally we were both nervous."
Even before the first meeting, Bonnie had to attend
to a bundle of details.There was a series of meetings
with Annie's social worker, a physical examination,
and Bonnie's home had to be inspected by people
from social services, the fire department and the
department of sanitation. After all the preliminaries,
Bonnie was issued a license as a foster parent.
Bonnie doesn't think it was any harder for her to be
approved .because she is single. "Ironically, the
. process was a little easier for me because I am single.
There was only one person to evaluate," she said.
Finally it was time for Bonnie and Annie to meet.
Bonnie took a week off from work and Armie's social
worker brought her to what might become her new,
permanent home to spend the day. "The first meeting
was incredibly difficult because we knew the person
we were meeting could become part of our lives.
Adopting is hard because you're making a change that
will affect the rest of your life.
"When Annie arrived, the first thing we did was
tour the house and I showed her where her bedroom
would be. Then we played some games, had lunch
and visited the park. Then, we went shopping for
bedroom furniture for her room," Bonnie said.
' During the next few weeks Bonnie and Annie spent
several days and nights together. Finally the getting
acquainted part was over, Annie moved in and a
period of adjustment began.
"Of course there are adjustments to make during an
adoption for all the people involved." Bonnie said. "I
don't think I've completely adjusted yet and there's
still a long way to go.
"Having lived alone, I never had to adjust to
another person. For instance, there were no house
rules: I did as I pleased. When Annie came, we sat
down and wrote out the house rules on some poster
Annie, too, had to make some adjustments. "She
came from a different home and with a different set of
values. Also, each move is a rejection and a loss for the
child," Bonnie said. "She's still going through a
period of grief for the loss of her last family."
The gap between blissful thoughts of peaceful
family life and the realities of having a child at home
can cause problems for some single people who want
to adpopt. But Bonnie's job has brought her into
contact with enough children to help her deal with
the problems that crop up. "At first things were
difficult because there was a lot of testing behavior,"
Bonnie said. "But things have calmed down now. I
almost expected my life to change more. After six
weeks you settle down and adjust. And all my friends
have been very supportive."
Even though Annie has moved in and the process of
adjustment is well under way, it could be a year or
more before she is adopted legally. Both of Annie's
parents must release her for adoption before she can
become Bonnie's daughter. Until then, Annie
technically is living in a foster home.
However, Annie's placejnent with Bonnie is
different from placement in a traditional foster home.
"Now there is a big push for permanency planning,"
Bonnie explained. "In the past, a child could be
shuttled from one foster, home to another. With
permanency planning, the child is cared for in a foster
. home by the same family that hopes to adopt him or
, Until the adoption is completed, Bonnie and Annie
will have to cope with the possibility that their dream
of a permanent family may not come true. "There is
always the chance she won't be released for adoption
and will have to stay in a foster home," Bonnie said.
"And there's also a very slight chance she will go back
to her natural parents. Any time the placement is pre
legal, there's a risk."
Bonnie and Annie consider themselves lucky to
have found each other, and Bonnie thinks many other
people, married and single, might consider adoption.
"It's been estimated there are 100.000 children cleared
for adoption but not placed," she said. "But that
doesn't make them easy to find. Each county is
concerned with placing its own children. There may
be children in the next state, but you can't find them
in your county."
Another problem, Bonnie said, is that many people
are only interested in adopting a perfect baby a blue
eyed, blond-haired infant. One reason for Bonnie's
success may be that she told the agency she would be
glad to accept a child with a physical handicap or a
mixed racial child. Annie is considered a hard-to-place
child because of her age.
'At first things were difficult because there was a lot of testing
behavior.' But things have calmed down now. I almost
expected my life to change more. After six weeks you settle
down and adjust And all my friends have been very
Bonnie found her ideas about the difficulties of
adoption were unfounded. "Basically, people think
you have to be married, have a lot of money and a
sterling character. But that's not true. The agencies
are looking for people who love children and want to
make families. All those barriers that you think are
there probably aren't," she said.
Despite the difficulties Bonnie and Annie have
faced and still must face to become a permanent
family, Bonnie obviously thinks the experience, has
been worth the trouble. "We probably will try to
adopt another child. In fact Annie told me she thinks
it would be a good idea if we adopted a younger sister
for her." ,
Editor's note: Annie Smith is not the child's real
name. Until adoption procedures are completed, the
child's name cannot be released.
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