SAN DIEGO — The emotions range from "midnight doubts" to "adoption euphoria."
The realities of adoption can be daunting. For social workers and adoptive parents, though, the rewards are many.
Patrick Quivey described the pleasure he feels when he discovers people who are obviously going to make good parents:
"I get a feeling of promise. I'll be in their home . . . talking with them about daily life. Their family history. As it weaves together, the thought begins to grow 'This is only the beginning . . . but some child may be very fortunate.' "
A tall, bearded, soft-spoken man, Quivey, 32, is senior counselor of the Multi-Cultural Home Recruitment Network. He is in the business of recruiting parents.
The "midnight doubts," he explained, are likely to hit a soon-to-be parent when he or she is several months into the process--after the first excitement generated by the decision to adopt has worn off.
"They tend to wake in the night and think: 'What am I doing?' "
Quivey and adoptive parents he has worked with know that it can be a long process, with many steps along the way.
The state-funded network is part of the San Diego Urban League. Three of its four counselor-recruiters--Quivey, Candace Trotter and Joyce James--talked with a reporter recently at the agency's offices on Martin Luther King Way.
"We're not an adoption agency," Quivey stressed. People, he says, sometimes get the wrong idea about the network, imagining a back room full of babies, all waiting to be picked like summer peas.
"Our function is to find people who might adopt--including single people--and link them with private and county adoption agencies," he said.
"We work with the black, Hispanic and American Indian populations," Trotter said. Both she and James are black. Both have children of their own.
"Most of these homeless children--at least 80% of them--end up under the care of the Department of Social Services because they've been abused. Or neglected. Or abandoned," James said.
Minority children, children over 3 and children who have handicaps have historically been difficult to find permanent homes for.
"But that doesn't deter us," Trotter said. "Just the opposite. It's our motivation."
Joining the discussion of adoption was Diane Evans, a psychologist in private practice in La Jolla and downtown San Diego. She is single and has two sons. Kwame, whom she adopted, is nearly 11. When he was 5, she gave birth to Amar.
"I was 27 when I decided I wanted a baby. And I wanted a boy," she said.
"At that time, I was a senior social worker at UCSD. I was stable economically and socially, but I felt my home needed a child. If there had been a suitable man in my life at that time . . . " She shrugged. "Well, there wasn't one."
The adoption agency--Tayari, a San Diego County agency that works primarily with the black community--warned her that her chances of adopting a baby, rather than an older child, were slim.
"But they were very helpful. They really tried," she recalled. "Once you decide to adopt, you begin living with fantasies about your child. Tayari suggested several babies to me, and each time I'd mentally begin to bond with them. But then it didn't work out."
James said, "Adopting a child proceeds in stages, like a pregnancy does. But inception begins in the mind, not in the womb. Do you remember those diagrams in biology class? The ones where the sperm are swimming toward the egg? Sometimes they made it, and sometimes they missed. The matching stage in adoption can be like that. And it often takes about nine months."
For Evans, it took much longer.
For more than two years, she seriously considered adopting a baby boy without legs. "And glaucoma. He had all kinds of problems. 'Diane, that's crazy!' my friends said. 'You're a single woman with a full-time job. How can you manage to get him back and forth to the hospital for the medical treatment he needs every week?' And they were right," she said.
When she finally relinquished the idea of adopting the little boy, Evans felt terrible about it. "I'd been visualizing him as a part of my life for so long. It was like a mental abortion."
To subjugate her feelings, she started working on her Ph.D. "Three months into my Ph.D. program, I got a phone call from Tayari," she said.
"We've got a baby boy," they told her. "Seven months old. But you must make up your mind right this minute--it's now or never. And you'll have to pick him up in Las Vegas."
"I jumped in my car right away," she said, laughing with pleasure at the memory. "Oh, he was just gorgeous! That round little body. And his face was completely round! He was called Baby Matthew, but I renamed him Kwame after the African leader."
Things ran fairly smoothly.
"He was more independent than the average 7-month-old," she said. "Being in a foster home had done that. He would pull up his own blanket at night--that kind of thing."