The Questions

May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Please check out the submissions here.

About two years ago, Huib and I decided to embark upon the journey towards adopting a child through our local Child & Family Services. We called our local CAS office and an intake worker came to our home for a preliminary interview. She took down all of our basic information and told us that given our backgrounds in nursing (my husband is a registered nurse) and social work (I am a licensed social worker), she didn’t see any reason for the agency to refuse our application. She then told us that in the spring they would be holding a 10 week class for all potential fostering and adoption families to attend if we were interested. Huib and I attended the classes and then began our wait for the home study to begin.

Fast forward two years…

Huib and I had pretty much given up on our efforts to adopt a child. We had not heard anything from our local CAS since our initial worker had left the agency. I had called her supervisor a few months after we completed the 10 week course, but nothing happened.

Then we got a call.

The agency had assigned a worker to perform home studies and they were wondering if we were still interested. Both Huib and I weren’t sure what to say, but decided to start the process.

The worker came out and we discussed the home study process. She told us about the background checks that would be done and the interviews that would take place. She told us about the things that we would need to decide – whether we wanted to foster, foster to adopt or just adopt.

Then the questions about my disability began.

How are you going to handle having an infant or toddler around the house?
Are there organizations you can contact to help you?
How will you keep track of the child?
How will you feed them?
What if they get sick?
What if they get injured?
Do you have a specialist who might write a letter to say that your disability will not affect your ability to be a parent?

The questions went on and on.

All I could think of while our worker asked these questions was:

Do you ask sighted people these questions?
What would you do if your child was sick?
How do you feed your children?
How will my eye doctor know what kind of parent I will be?
Do you really think I am that stupid?

The expression on my face must have given my thoughts away because before I could open my mouth to answer, the worker explained that she needed to ask these questions because I was the first visually impaired person they had ever had experience with.

Before actually getting to the answers she wanted, I made my feelings clear. I was offended by the questions. I didn’t see how such questions could still be asked in this day and age. I told her there were blind people out there having children and raising them successfully every day. I told her that I’m sure there are blind people out there that should not be raising children, but that there were probably more fully sighted people out there who shouldn’t be raising children. I told her that if I could have a child of my own then going through this discriminatory process wouldn’t be worthwhile, but that since having a child of my own doesn’t seem possible, that I guess I will just have to suck it up and answer the offensive questions.

Our worker seemed sympathetic, but said she still needed me to research how I was going to do things, and even suggested talking to friends who are blind and raising children for advice.

It has now been about a month and a half since we started the home study and even though all of our background checks came through fine, the questions regarding my disability are still present. I’m hopeful that the agency will maintain an open mind and that the process will continue to go smoothly, but I still find the questions surrounding my capabilities as a visually impaired parent to be offensive.

How can a profession such as social work, whose mission is to help vulnerable populations, be so judgmental and discriminatory?

Comments

  1. This is appalling. I am so angry on your behalf.

    “the worker explained that she needed to ask these questions because I was the first visually impaired person they had ever had experience with.”

    Did you say that you understood because she was the first clueless, ableist child and family services worker you’d had experience with, and how did she manage to do her job with such a handicap of asshattery?

  2. Haha Aftergadget,
    I would have loved to have said something like that, but being the good girl I am, I just made sure she knew how Un-impressed I was to be asked such questions.

    I’m sure she isn’t the first CAS worker to be asking such discriminatory questions and I can guarantee she won’t be the last either 🙁

  3. That is disgusting…just disgusting!!! I don’t understand how they can get away with this. it isn’t you who should have to research how you’re going to take care of a child, it is the social workers who need to learn how to treat people with dignity and respect. And if they don’t understand something, it isn’t up to you to prove it to them.

  4. Some years ago, I interviewed some deaf adoptive parents for a magazine story I did about them. One couple in particular had to really fight the system to succeed in adopting, and fostering, some children. In their case, I suspect it may be an intersection of ablism and racism that put barriers in their way: they were deaf and black. And they also happened to be well educated (both had Master’s degrees) and already had one biological child who was doing beautifully. You would think that people trying to place black deaf children for adoption would be flocking to these parents begging them to adopt these children (a disproportionately high ratio of children up for adoption tend to be black, so there is a high demand for black adoptive parents in general, or at least should be … and because of their communication needs, I think deaf children as a rule are likely to be better off, where other things are equivalent, with parents who are deaf, or at least who are able to sign fluently from the start).

  5. *shudders*

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