Going Gahndi on Foster Care

by John Duffy
Originally Published: 

I’d always wanted to be a father.

I remember getting the call while I was at work. A little baby boy needed a home. Oh my God. It had been a tedious nine months of classes, paperwork, and emotional starts and stops – we were never really sure what we were doing. “We’re going to go get him from the hospital,” The woman on the phone explained, “and as soon as he’s here we’ll call you to come pick him up, so be ready.”

Little did I know the drama that lay ahead.

I raced home, called my partner Franky, and blitzed Publix grabbing anything and everything we would need for a baby. Diapers! Bottles! Formula! Sucky things! Shiny objects! Go! Then we ran home, got everything ready, sat down, and waited.

And waited.

And waited. Staring at my phone. Staring at his phone. Staring at my phone some more. Was it broken? Four o’clock rolled around, then five o’clock. I was worried. What the heck was going on? By six-thirty I finally called the agency to find out. It rang, after a few rings the scripted automated lady informed me they had closed.

We were bewildered. Apparently this whole process of becoming a new parent was slightly more important to me than the woman who’d called us. I called the next morning to find out what happened; the receptionist echoed the phrase she’d canned from making this call a hundred times before – the same thing she’d told us the day before. “Oh, baby Zachary?” She said her lines, “We’re going to go get him, and as soon as he’s here we’ll call you to come pick him up, so be ready.”

“Uh, I was ready YESTERDAY bitch!” is what I wanted to say, but I stayed cool and just thanked her. When I hung up the phone I started remembering things people had warned, how this agency is fragmented and disorganized not unlike the entire foster care industry, and I started getting frustrated wondering if that’s what this was. Like, was someone just “too busy” to pick up my son yesterday? I imagined some girl somewhere just procrasti-facebooking while her to-do list goes unfinished. That baby’ll be fine, she’d think, and that hospital is like, too far away, I’ll do it tomorrow. So as the day went on, hour after hour, I got more and more frustrated. Three o’clock came around again. Then four o’clock. Finally by five o’clock, I just thought, F#ck it, I’m taking matters into my own hands. “Franky, get in the car, we’re going to get our baby.” Mahatma Gandhi always preached nonviolent forms of protest, and I’d thought of a way to go all Gandhi on these bitches.

It was dark out by the time we were standing in front of lobby desk of Miss Thing. It was ten minutes before closing time and she was getting ready to leave.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“We’re here to pick up Zachary?”

“Oh. Did we… call you?”

“No, but no biggie, we know you’re busy. We can wait.” I sound super nice, like Mahatma would sound.

“Okay but,” She looked confused, “I don’t think he’s ready-…”

“…oh that’s okay, take your time, we know you all have a lot going on.” (Like leaving babies in hospitals).


“..Seriously, we don’t mind waiting.” I insisted, “We brought books. We’ll camp here all night. It’s no bother.”

“Oh. Um… okay.”

Welcome to my peaceful protest, you’ll be working late tonight.

She gets on her phone, clearly covering her annoyance with the best ‘customer service’ smile she can muster. She starts whisper-yelling to the people in back about “these people,” and “that baby!” Clearly someone’s plans were being ruined that night and they were not going to be mine.

So there we sat and read our books. An annoyed woman with tunnel vision walked out from the back of the office and left. About an hour passed.

Finally, I spotted the annoyed woman walking back towards the agency from the window. She seemed to be carrying a car seat with both hands. As she came closer, it looked like the car seat had just a jumbled up yellow blanket buckled in it. My heart was beating hard. She sat it down next to me and unbuckled it carefully. Suddenly, I could see the tiny fragile face.

Oh. My. Gandhi. It was the most beautiful, precious, delicate, amazing little peanut I’d ever seen.

It was an emotional experience to say the least. We were there for a couple of hours filling out paper work. I was a dad. You better watch out foster care agency, I thought, watch out world. I GOT this!

As soon as we got home I put Zachary inside and my thinking took a different turn, Oh no. Wait. What do we do when he wakes up? Oh my god, what the hell have I gotten myself into? What was I thinking?? HELP!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

For the record, I know now how hard a lot of these social workers work. These folks are underworked and overpaid, I just didn’t realize it then. The system is broken. The people aren’t.

But it all worked out. Eventually.

Related post: How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

This article was originally published on