2005-12-30 07:28 pm (UTC)
The Feeling it out stage....
Well first off I think anyone who wants to participate (family or displaced person/s) should be 18 years old. Sorry teens but the law complicates things a lot before you're an adult, DCFS has that area covered.
Others.... Yeah age matching would be an important aspect. I actually think you could play a Mother role to an 18 year old (you've learned a ton in 14 years!). Perhaps a blanket 14 year difference would be ideal so prospective members won't be shown matches that are younger than that difference. The unfortunate side of that is the youngest person who could be a family host is 32, which reduces the field of hosts a bit. Maybe we need some other opinons on this issue.
Expectations for adoptees? Well yes you would like to avoid mooches out there, I'm not sure of the best way to know someones true intentions but that can be worked out. For instance; rules like no personal information can be viewed until you have been a member/registered and active with the site for 90 days. This would likely root out many scammers becasue they aren't willing to court someone for that long just for the chance to make a few bucks off a charitable person. I think in general though you have to leave adoption up to the parties involved. The site is simply a tool to help people find other people and connect them/give them an outlet for communicating, don't get too involved past that point, things could get really complicated really fast. Try to keep a friendly distance.
I'm going to throw in a parenthetical "or legally emancipated", but yeah. Good point that adopters have to be 18, too. Although that's just a matter have having your parents in on it, which they have to be anyway.
More like a very big sister; I think setting the age of parental relationships at 36 is reasonable; it doesn't mean you can't sign up, just that you would sign up for a sibling relationship. (Your parents, if living, would take the parent role.) Which also puts a focus on the point that the whole family must be willing.
Yes, we have to keep our distance, and we will have a disclaimer (I'll have to look at some dating sites and see what they have)...I'm just trying to think of things we can do to reduce problems.
2006-09-14 12:57 am (UTC)
Re: The Feeling it out stage....
Coming to us late, but age difference: I'm 32, and have an 18-year-old who calls me Mama. I'm her internet mother, yes, but I act in a parental way to her on the phone and in person, too.
We have adopted a lesbian. *laugh* Not formally, but she's become family; she comes here for vacations, is always here for Thanksgiving, et cetera. Again, the sucky story of her parents not accepting her. At 26, though, she fills more of a little sister role to me than a daughter role, and she's my 11-year-old daughter's godmother (and favorite grownup).
*nod* See the conversation with pocketnaomi
below; I think it is important to be as flexible as we can while trying to meet as many people's hopes as possible. It's mostly a matter of including a LOT of choices. Now if I could just get the thing set up...
I dunno about that age thing.
The Goddess is 29 and her stepson is 18. She commands respect, and he gives it. It's another one of those "If you can do it well, there shouldn't be an arbitrary restriction" things, IMV.
*nod* You aren't the first one to voice that opinion; I think maybe the best thing to do is let people choose themselves, and just require that everyone give their age. (Which we really need to do anyway.)
One big question is whether specific one-to-one mapped roles are necessary in the first place. I have blood family with whom, if I thought about it, I could figure out exactly what the technical relationship is, but we don't think about it; they're just relatives. I'd been a host family to a couple of exchange students (and am shortly to be one to an au pair) in which my role was sort of maternal, sort of big sisterly, sort of housemate, sort of a lot of things. I can see both of those as models for building family ties with an adult, rather than necessarily deciding that I am going to be a mother-figure, my husband will be a father-figure, etc.
Another question that impacts the adoptive-sibling thing mentioned above is how much of the adoptive family needs to be actively involved. Certainly whatever portion of it lives together (whether or not their adoptee ends upliving with them), but the "your parents, if living, would take that role" thing gave me pause. I'm 36, married with kids, and if we do this it will be a project to which my husband and I commit ourselves and our children (who are both too young to make such decisions for themselves; the oldest is 2 1/2). But I'm not sure I could reasonably commit my parents to an active parental role; they've had me well out on my own for some years now, and while I can expect them to be kind and welcoming to anyone my husband and I introduce to them as *our* family, they may or may not form a separate bond with them. I can't see disqualifying anyone whose extended relatives are in that position, although I probably wouldn't try it if I couldn't count on them to be warm and accepting.
All extremely good points; it's important to be flexible, and perhaps it would make the most sense to say that if you WANT that sort of one-to-one mapping (because I imagine there will be people who will), you should say so. We could maybe even have a selection menu where people could select a relationship, with an I-don't-care option.
Warm and accepting is, of course, key, and as long as everyone is happy with the situation, that's what matters, of course. And we'll say that, and set it up so that any configuration is possible. But I think that part of this idea is to go beyond the sort of family-making people do on their own, where they form a friendship with one person that gets close enough to be considered family-level (note that I have relationships like that myself and am in no way intending to devalue them); I don't want people feeling like they aren't *fully* included in a family, if that's what they are looking for. I hope that more than just nuclear families will sign up; that, for example, you would talk to your parents and ask them if they'd be willing to take on that role with someone. If they can't, then it's not, I suppose, that you couldn't sign up, but you'd have to account for that; I don't want people, for example, feeling like the odd person out at family gatherings because the only real relationship they have is with you. That happens all the time now; the goal of this idea is go a step beyond that. Does that make sense?
Sorry, I'm sort of reading your comment as I type, so this is out of order, but, also, it's not that your parents would be taking on a role different from the one they have with you at this point; that was sort of the idea of the one-to-one mapping; the hope is that they would interact with the adoptee on a similar level to their interaction with you; these are adult adoptees, and the intention of the matching system would be to match people at similar need/give levels; so you guys would ideally be matched with someone who was older and more independent. Alternatively, it could be that you choose to take on a parental role with someone; then the hope would be that your parents would be prepared to take on a grandparental role, just as if you adopted a child formally/legally you would (I assume) expect them to do.
Again, I'm not trying to devalue the chosen family grown from friendships, I'm just hoping to go beyond that if possible; although we're not setting up legal adoptions, I'd like people to treat it as if we are.
(Which suddenly makes me want to come up with a ceremony or ceremonies families could go through, 'cause that would be another way to solidify things, and an easy way to explain to and involve the extended family in one swell foop.)
I've had chosen family that went out of my life in a way that my biological family hasn't; it's my hope to avoid that for the people who come to Friendly Families as much as possible, is all. I'm definitely still trying to figure out the best way to go about that; now that I've explained all this, what do you think?
I think for liberal but not particularly weird extended families, the terminology is going to be far more of a sticking point than the warmth. I mean, I know my parents: if we bring someone to every family event for a year or two, and it's known they are very close to us and we consider them family, they will be welcomed, and assumed to be part of the planning, and asked after, and all those things -- my relatives are used to taking in whoever arrives attached to any member. My grandmother has a dozen great-grandkids, not one of whom is biologically related to her... all of them through one step-connection or another, and some of the cousins who show up aren't even that. But, while, "they're family" is an understood phrase, "we're adopting them," isn't, because it's automatically associated with legal adoption of underage kids. They'd think that was weird enough to be off-putting. So I'd be inclined not to go into that part of it with them, but simply to start bringing the new family member to events and introducing them as, "We consider him family," and I can be confident that that will get the desired results, whereas trying to explain exactly what we're doing here and how it differs from the more usual chosen-family approach might not.
I suspect I'm not the only one in a similar situation -- where extended relatives would find the exact setup we're trying to do here too weird to be comfortable with it, but would perfectly happily form the same kind of bonds with anyone we invite as family that they do for, say, my cousin's husband's sister and mom, both of whom show up at our family Christmas celebrations every year despite their only "official" connection being through Arjuna, and we keep in touch the rest of the year. Their kids are growing up as cousins to my kids, and no distinction is made at family events, but to say we've adopted Arjuna's relatives would get funny looks.
*nod* I understand completely, and, yes, we don't want people getting hung up on terminology. We should probably put something in the FAQs on the subject, possibly rewording what you've said here...
Forgot to mention, I really like the idea of a ceremony, though I think it should be on the options questionnaire rather than assumed, the same as one-to-one mapping. There will be people who want one and people who don't, on both sides of the involvement. In general, I see what you're saying about chosen family and trying to do something that more closely approximates blood-or-legal familial relationships, but I think we can be more valuable to more people if we span the spectrum. There will be people who are looking for very much the kind of relationship that many of us have with chosen-family (but who simply don't have enough of it in their lives), and there will be people who really want a mother/father/ siblings/grandparents arrangement with a ceremonial bond and maybe even a legal one (it *is* possible to legally adopt an adult), and there is a place for matching both kinds and a lot in between. I agree that what we're doing should probably not go farther toward the casual end of the spectrum than chosen-family; we're not a platonic dating service or a pen pal organization, for example. But what adults want in the way of a family attachment varies with the people, and we need to allow for that.
*nod* I'm not sure how to cover all the spectrums, without getting so insanely complicated that people get lost trying to use the service...
I wasn't thinking of a required ceremony at all (that doesn't even parse in my head); but we could put one up on a page of the site for people who want one. But first things first; we need to get the basic thing going! :)