Be imaginative! Sure, advocacy can be drudgery, frustrating and time consuming but it can be an art form, too. Think Gallagher crossed with Sarah Silverman. Think performance art. Think stand-up. Think about baked goods.
One of the first incidents where Ward and I had to advocate – on the “road to finding Thorin” – had to do with securing an adoption worker from our local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office. * When you adopt from the State you are not given an adoption worker. You have to find one that will talk to you and then like you and then decide you are worth their precious time (and it is precious time) to help you.
An aside for the uninitiated:
During your 24 hours of mandatory training to adopt a child from the State system you are told ad nauseum – “The State is not responsible for finding you a child to adopt.” WTF? We want to get our kid from them and they know where the kids are but they don’t have to help you find them. This is why I lost interest in the series Lost.
After weeks of numerous unanswered voicemails to adoption workers throughout the State we realized we had to find a new tacked. The solution came from my sister.
“Kari, these workers are mostly women right?
“What do women like?”
My sister could run the Dharma Initiative.
“I don’t know. What do they like?”
“It’s really so simple, Kari. They like sugar!”
“Ok, this is what you do. Go buy some donuts or cookies or a cake. Crash DHHS with sweets.”
“Kari, (why is it when she says my name it’s always because I am lame or dumb?) these women work in little offices or cubicles and they have stressful, crappy, low paying jobs and they want sugar.”
Betty has been right about a multitude of things in my life. I decided not to over-think it. I called Ward and said we are crashing DHSS after work with some Dunkin’ Donut Munchkins. My only other instruction was, “Follow my lead.”
Once we arrived at the reception desk I started getting cold feet – call it performance anxiety.
I put the box of 50 Munchkins on the receptionist’s desk and said (I swear to God), “We can’t get anyone to return our calls about getting an adoption worker. We have been through your training. We want to adopt a kid. We think we would be pretty good parents – of course we have a lot to learn. But, the point is we need help. There are 50 Munchkins in here – it’s an assortment box – you get 6 to make the call to tell someone we are here and the rest goes to whoever comes down to talk to us.”
She smiled and then laughed. I was killing it! “You’re serious, right?”
“Yea, we are.”
Still laughing she picked up the phone and said, “We have a couple down here with Munchkins who need an adoption worker.” She gave them the details of what I said. After she hung up she told us someone would be down to talk to us. She also asked if we would consider adopting her.
Ward and I looked at each other and knew we were in. Now to sell it or more accurately us to whoever came down. That would be the easy part.
The woman who came down was the most kick-ass adoption worker ever. She gave us some great advice, she complimented us on our novel ways, she held our hands through this crazy system for months on end and she found Thorin for us.
Why do I know sugar works? At the end of that first meeting Cathy asked if she could take the box of Munchkins with her because everybody upstairs wanted them.**
When I tell Thorin the story of how we met I tell him a lady named Cathy called us one day about a little boy who really wanted a family.
* This is particularly true if you have “demands” about what kid you want. We wanted a kid who had been TPR’d (meaning a termination of parental rights had occurred. The State had made a case for terminating the biological parents rights and the child is “free for adoption”). Of course we ended up with a kid who hadn’t been TPR’d but that’s another story.
**This approach can be used in other settings. A few years ago we flew home for my mother’s surprise 75th birthday. My sister got sick and ended up having an emergency appendectomy. When my sister-in-law instructed me to wrap up the rest of the cake for the nurses at the hospital I asked, “Why?” Her response was, “Kari, women like sugar. If we give them cake they will take better care of Betty.” I was like “Won’t they see through this whole thing?”. My sister-in-law said, “Kari (you lame-ass) they want sugar, OK?”