Patrice and Charles Jones are hoping to become adoptive parents. Photo by Sarah Walor
I've always wanted to adopt, ever since I was a little kid," Patrice Jones says quietly. "I was an only child, my parents were divorced, and I always wanted siblings. Also, I'd be watching television, and I'd see an advertisement about children who needed homes. That really stuck with me."
I met Patrice a few years ago at the James River Writers Conference. Her passion for becoming an adoptive parent with her husband, Charles, was clear.
"Before we got married, Patrice mentioned adoption," Charles says. "I thought it was a good idea." He adds that their children, Joy, 8, and Charles III, 5, are also on board. "Our kids are looking at it as having new playmates."
After 12 years of marriage, Patrice and Charles started the foster-to-adopt process at the Children's Home Society of Virginia in 2008, attending weeks of classes.
When Patrice called to check on their status about six months later, she learned their application had been lost and that their caseworker no longer worked at the Children's Home Society. Months passed before the application was found. By then, the couple had given up in frustration, feeling like the agency hadn't taken them seriously.
Then, in the fall of 2009, Patrice discovered a brochure for KidsPeace, an organization with a location on Richmond's South Side. The Joneses were approved as foster parents in May 2010, but a few months later, while waiting to be assigned a foster child, they were shocked to learn that the Richmond office dealt only with foster care, not adoption.
In the spring of 2011, the agency contacted the couple to renew their information. They declined, since they wanted to adopt and not simply be foster parents. (In 2012, Kids-Peace added adoption services in Richmond.)
Patrice reached out again, this time to Virginia One Church One Child. During a meeting, a social worker appeared to hesitate after learning that the Joneses already had small children. "Tell me the truth," Patrice asked her. "Is having young children in our home a strike against us, as far as getting foster kids who need adopting?"
When the woman answered in the affirmative, Patrice decided against pursuing it, not wanting to attend another set of classes if it didn't look like it was going to work out.
Patrice, 44, an administrative assistant for Anthem and Charles, 43, a phlebotomist with LabCorp, have begun to wonder if they should skip foster parenting and only pursue adoption, including internationally, but another home study would be necessary. The couple is considering countries that wouldn't require too much time away, such as Ethiopia. "In a lot of countries, you're required to stay two weeks, some for 30 days," Patrice says. "Since we have kids at home, we can't be away for 30 days."
Charles Powers, a partner at Richmond family-law firm Batzli Wood & Stiles, understands the Joneses' frustration. An adoption attorney for more 20 years, he says, "It's a difficult and long process, and it's hard to find the right match between agencies, children, and adoptive parents. … In defense of agencies, they try to make sure all avenues are explored. Sometimes it's just by chance that parents are able to find a child placed for adoption."
For now, Patrice leans on her faith for strength, as she and Charles wait for their chance.
"I would be heartbroken if I don't get to adopt and give at least one child a permanent home," she says. "I would feel unfulfilled."
©Nancy Wright Beasley 2012. All rights reserved.