It’s that season when that our adoption agency welcomes stacks of annual reports, and yes, we do indeed read every single one… but this year, we are reading them astounded at the year that was.
This time last year, your annual reports were filled with joyous tales of family vacations, open adoption visits, renewed friendships at Camp Abrazo, and other happy highlights.
This year, not so much. (Like not at all.) Let’s be honest: 2020 has been, for all of us, the year that was.
Except that 2020 is ending with a historical recurrence of the Christmas star, this one is unlikely to go down in most folks’ memory as their “best of times.”
Adoption: Before Covid
At the beginning of the year, adopting parents were still able to go to the hospital to be with the placing parents in the delivery room, if invited to do so. Families who had completed their post-placement supervision were still returning to the Bexar County Courthouse to finalize their baby’s adoptions before local judges. Many invited their children’s birthparents to attend, too, like the beloved relatives they were, by then.
Abrazo’s birthparent support group was still meeting weekly, every Wednesday, over lunch. In February, Abrazo’s birthmothers gathered for Homecoming, our biannual birthmother retreat. This year, they participated in making BIRTHMOM STRONG!, a special video to help educate the public about birthparents, why they place and how open adoption impacts them and their children. Orientation weekends were filling up fast, and Camp Abrazo had already been sold out by March 1.
But then, nationwide news broke, of a mysterious virus making some people (mostly international travelers) ill. We sanitized all the toys in Chase’s Castle, and spritzing the entire office in Lysol became a daily habit. Our intern Jan made masks for the whole staff. A generous adoptive mom sent homemade masks, as well, for our visiting birthparents. We all thought it’d be long gone by summer.
How Covid-19 Affected Us
Out of a preponderance of precaution, Abrazo suspended its Parents of Tomorrow orientation weekends. We began allowing prospective adoptive parents to temporarily forego that admissions requirement, if they so chose. Birthparent support group, too, got necessarily postponed, and the local graduate programs suspended the interns, too. Deemed an “essential service,” Abrazo’s staff was not required to stay home, and kept coming to work, out of dedication to our clients.
Then, the courthouses closed. Suddenly, adoption proceedings just stopped happening, while judges waited to see when hearings would resume. Families eager to finalize were told “not yet.” Interstate Compact offices shut down. And Texas birth certificate processing became horribly backed up, as well. (Our staff had to undergo Covid testing after transporting a mother-in-labor to the hospital and learning she was found to have coronovirus; fortunately, all employees were cleared.)
Hospitals stopped allowing visitors in, so most relinquishments and placements occurred in our office. (Our new office, that is, for Abrazo also underwent a major move to the Glenny Law building at 3123 NW Loop 410 this summer.) Adjustments had to be made to homestudy and post-placement supervision procedures in states with strict shut-down regulations. Abrazo’s most popular swag item became hand-sanitizer.
The hard decision was made to make Camp Abrazo a virtual affair this year, to keep our alumni safe. A media-predicted “Covid baby boom” never happened; instead, the American birthrate has continued to plummet, slowing placement wait times dramatically. Our attorney, Clint, has taken to keeping a jacket, shirt and tie in his office for online court hearings. Adoption proceedings have become anticlimactic encounters held via Zoom, and birthparents promised finalization-time visits with infants they placed have mostly had to wait. (Sadly, those babies will be toddlers, at least, by the time their first moms get to see them in person, again.)
Everyone (us, included) assumed that the Covid-19 pandemic would last only a few weeks or months, tops, but here it is, and here we are.
How Covid Affected You
The coronavirus didn’t just impact us, of course. This year’s annual reports make clear the devastating toll the pandemic has had on all of you, all across our community. Our families have lost beloved relatives and friends to the pandemic, people of all ages, all across the country. Faith has been tested, and foundations have been shaken by this unexpected scrouge.
Folks have lost their jobs or been laid off, and unemployment benefits are running out for many. Students of all ages (and parents, too) have had to adapt to virtual learning and home-schooling. Proms, weddings and graduations have had to be cancelled. First-line responders in our Abrazo community are bravely facing untold risks to care for the sick. Evictions are looming for some, and family budgets are getting tighter, as the plague drags on
And yet, through it all: the 2020 annual reports remind us of something else: the remarkable resilience and strength of all Abrazo’s people. Despite this year’s devastating scourge, you are rising to face the challenges with grace, with creativity, with courage and yes, with humor.
You’ve found new ways to check in on your adoption kin and clans, whether through group chats or quick weekend car trips or good old-fashioned phone calls or mailings. Your kids were kept safe and sane through the creation of new family rituals, pillow forts, staycations and more. You’ve somehow found a way to hold (most) marriages together, despite unforeseen hardships. And an encouraging number of you have endured and recovered from Covid-19 or nursed family members through it, and for that, we are most grateful.
The holidays won’t be the same for any of this year, but do try to find a way to still make them merry and bright. (Then opt for the vaccine as soon as you possibly can, please!) Together, let’s close the chapter on 2020, remember it as the year that was, and strive to make 2021 even better for everyone.