This week I took Jamie to his 18 mo check-up. I had heard great things about the doctor. I did everything I could to have information there ahead of time. I even talked with them on the phone beforehand. Needless to say, I was prepared.
I got there early for the appointment to fill out paperwork. After completing all of the paperwork, I brought it up to the receptionist. As she was thumbing through, I mentioned to her in passing that the reason I didn’t fill out some of the medical history was because my son was adopted.
This got her attention and she asked for Jamie’s adoption paperwork. I was a little stunned. Legally, Jamie’s mine. His birth certificate shows us as his parents. He has a social security number that would also list us as his parents. This was not something our previous doctor had requested, so I didn’t even bring it with me.
She quickly got the office manager who very kindly informed me that according to HIPAA laws, they had to have a copy of the adoption paperwork on file in order to treat my son.
So we rescheduled for next week.
And I quickly gathered our stuff and left the office. And barely made it to the car before the tears started flowing. (Thank goodness for sunglasses!)
In that moment I felt myself at first angry and protective that someone would deny my son medical care. But that quickly subsided to embarrassment. You see, by this time the office was full and I felt fairly conspicuous.
And I’m pretty used to that. If you see the three of us together, it’s fairly obvious that Jamie is not our biological son. And, honestly, I love this about our family. I love my beautiful brown child. I love his long eye lashes, and curly hair. I love his soft, silky skin. I am so deeply in love with my son. I am so deeply proud to be his mom.
And I can’t quite explain how it feels for someone to require you to verify that with legal documentation. I can’t quite explain how hard it is for someone to deny me the right to take care of my son. Even now, almost 48 hours later, the tears are still pretty fresh when I replay the scene over in my mind.
You see, I’m an adoptive mom who has generally embraced the fact that Jamie’s medical history is fairly simple to fill out. I don’t mind at all that there are huge sections I just skip over. It makes paperwork easier. And I’m okay with that. To be honest, I enjoy it.
But this… this was different. It was much deeper. And I’m still trying to figure out how exactly to move forward. Here are a few thoughts:
I want to make it clear that the office staff was incredibly gracious. I’ve thought about sending them a thank you note. They handled a tricky situation well. Our doctor’s office in Wheaton never required such documentation, so I’m not sure who had it right. But whether they have interpreted the law correctly or not, they were kind. They were just doing their job.
And this made me realize that Jamie’s adoption paperwork will probably be used often in his life: new doctors, registering for school and who knows what else. Knowing that ahead of time will help.
But friends, this simply stings. My heart aches a little. We’ve experienced lots of insensitive comments about the way our family looks, and, honestly, I find them funny. We joke that we will probably always need to take family photos in natural light if we want everyone to look good. I’ve learned all sorts of things about taking care of Jamie’s hair that I didn’t know before. We enjoy the way God knit our family together. And we don’t mind that people comment.
But this…this was different. This wasn’t about the way our family looked. This felt like it was questioning the fact that we were a family. And it was done so matter-of-fact. To the office staff they were simply asking for paperwork. But for the adoptive mom, it wasn’t nearly so routine. For me, it was deeply, deeply personal.
And I’ve been trying to draw some great spiritual point from all of this. And I don’t know that I have one. Actually, that’s not totally true. Brandon will be preaching this weekend from Galatians, highlighting the fact that we are all adopted into God’s family. I’m excited for him to share what God has placed on his heart. There is such beautiful truth in that book, and I love seeing how God has woven together his church.
And I’ll let Brandon tell you about that.
But here is what I know: we worship a good God. He is faithful. He is loving. He is creative. And He has wonderfully and beautiful brought together our family. We may be fairly conspicuous, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
Thanks. Very moving. I appreciate that you were willing to be vulnerable and without all the answers. Thank God for your beautiful family! Alva
So sorry that happened! If it helps, IMO this is the office managers overzealous interpretation of the HIPPA laws. I have never worked anywhere or heard of anyone requiring this. Most of the time, the front office would have no idea he was adopted unless you said something. No one requires birth certificates to treat other kids and your situation should be no different. Foster care and guardianship papers are required, but not adoption. To be fair, the umpteen govt agencies regulating health care now have a lot of people confused- the doc may not even be aware what the front is doing. But I don’t think they are right. He is 100% yours- you are his mom legally and in every other sense. And you do not have to prove that any more than I do!
We love you, Amy!
Really surprised (and confused) that if Jamie’s SS # references you as parents, that there’s a need for the adoption papers. Sorry you had to go thru that, showing grace as you always do. LOVE your conspicuous family!!
Amy–we have been adoptive parents for 13 yrs now and have brought our children to at least 50 doctors through the years….and not one of them have asked for private information about our adoption–and the past history of our adopted children. I think this is very wrong….and I would fight this….really look into your rights. Your name is on his SS card and birth cert.==that makes you both his only legal parents….and this is all they need to know !!!
Reblogged this on shinycopperpig and commented:
I have such admiration for these friends and their words. Bravo, Amy.
Amy, I am so sorry for your hard day. Praying for you today as emotions may still surface. Your grace in handling it is teaching me so much and I’m genuinely so thankful for you going before so many of us!! and love that precious pic!
I enjoyed your comments…so “from the heart”! I too am an adoptive mother, and my child is Korean, so she looks different as well. I totally understand what you mean about enjoying the comments and explaining our family. Most of the time, people are just curious and want to be part of it. My daughter is 16, and in all the her years of growing up, no one has ever asked for her adoption paperwork in order to treat her. I am guessing it is because of our ever-chaning times. So glad our God never changes!!
I am an adoptive mom but have never had to provide an adoption decree or any kind of paperwork in the U.S. When we travel in Africa I have always carried a copy of our adoption decree with us. Just this summer had medical checkups in Wheaton and no one asked to see our adoption paper work. Never have. As far as I know and I also work in the field of adoption, you do not need to do what you were asked to do. I filled out the hippa paper work too, but no mention of needing her adoption papers.
I think someone did not know what they were doing, even though they did it graciously.
As an adoptive mom of a now 18-year-old, I can remember searching for validity that I really was my infant son’s mother. I may not have borne him, but I did bear the broken heart of knowing my child’s insecurities, of feeling his hurts – both physical and emotional, as well as the sheer joy of his successes. I love that passage from Galatians, and I have referred to it often throughout the years whenever my son struggled with the idea of being “adopted.” But God has put all of our families together according to His perfect plan, and I am grateful (as are you) for the opportunity to mother both of my sons, even when that means some painful experiences. I pray that our children are stronger and more confidant in knowing that they ARE special — and so are we.
I stumbled across your blog (I was searching for the poem by Ken Medema that I read it Sanctuary of the Soul…and your blog came up!)
I’m glad I did! I am also an adoptive mom to a boy with skin of a different color. I identified so much with those moments when tears come.
Thank you for sharing your heart.