When Adoption is Needed

Over the years, my own family has been blessed with the gift of adopting three children from foster care. These have been joyous events for my family, but there were also times of great anxiety, too, when it appeared that the adoptions might not go through as first planned. Fortunately, all three adoptions did take place, and my wife and I are now loving parents of six children. Three of these are biological, three are adopted. Three children are considered “white” by today’s society, while the other three are considered “black.” In our home, though, there is no difference in color, as we believe that we are all the same color; just different shades of God’s skin.

When a child is placed into foster care, the initial goal is to have the child reunified with his birth parents, or a member of his biological family. To be sure, the initial intent of placing a child into care is that the placement be a temporary, with reunification the main objective.

Yet, there are those instances when reunification is not possible, and the child is placed through the court system for adoption.

Of the over 560,000 children placed in foster care in 2010, it is estimated that 107,000 of these foster children became eligible for adoption. Sadly, only around 53,000 of these children were adopted during that year, with over half of these children being adopted by foster parents, with the rest being adopted by family members, and a small percentage being adopted by non relatives. Nearly 60% of children in foster care in America wait 2 or more years before being adopted.

For those children who are not adopted, many remain in the foster care system for extended periods of time. Some of these children are moved to group homes, while others simply age out of the foster care system, never truly finding a family of their own and a place to call home. (The Foster Parenting Manual, Jessica Kinglsey Publishers, DeGarmo 2013).

There are several reasons why a foster child might be placed up for adoption. First, the custody rights of the birth parents are voluntarily terminated; secondly, the custody rights of the birth parents are terminated by a court order; and third, the child is up for adoption due to the death of birth parents.

As foster parents, there are many reasons why we are the ideal choice to adopt a foster child. Many times when a child from foster care has his rights terminated, he has already been living in a loving and stable home with his foster family. When we care for foster children, we raise them as our own for an extended amount of time, meeting his needs, and nurturing him since he was removed from his birth parent’s home. Perhaps you are a foster family that cares for children with special needs. If so, you are the ones most familiar with these needs, and have gained valuable insight and resources how to best meet them and care for your foster child.

Far too many foster children struggle with school, as they move from home to home, and from school to school. When we adopt our foster children, we allow them to remain in the same school system, benefitting from having the same teachers who are already familiar with him and his needs. Often times, we have formed strong, loving, and important attachments with our foster children while they are placed in our home. If you are like me, our foster children often become a member of our family, and when they are be able to legally stay with us, there is a time of rejoicing.

Recently, child welfare agencies have found that foster parents are the ideal people to adopt a foster child. After all, the foster family has been raising the child for an extended amount of time, meeting his needs, and nurturing him since he was removed from his birth parent’s home. If he has special needs, the foster parents are familiar with these, and have gained valuable insight and resources how to best meet these needs. Adoption by his foster parents will also allow him to remain in the same school system, benefitting from having the same teachers who are already familiar with him and his needs. The child is familiar with his foster parents, and has formed a strong and meaningful attachment to them during the course of his placement within their home. As the child has come to live, laugh, and love with the family, he has likely become a member of the family, and will be able to legally stay with a family he has come to know and trust.

Indeed, there are advantages to adopting a child through the foster care system, and as a foster parent considering the adoption of a foster child, you will find these advantages most helpful. As a foster parent, you will have had no legal rights with your foster child, as the child has been a ward of the state, and under the state’s custody. In fact, such simple tasks as having the child’s hair cut may have been a decision that was out of your hands. As an adoptive parent, you gain full legal rights to the child, the same legal and parental rights you would have if the he were a birth child of yours. Furthermore, all questions about medical, religious, educational, travel arrangements, and all other parental decisions will now become fully yours; no longer will you have to share decision making with the birth parents, caseworker, child welfare agency, and the state. All responsibilities of decision making will become yours with the adoption of your foster child.

Many times, adoption can be a very expensive. Adoption agencies both inside our nation and around the world often charge large fees that are beyond most families. Adopting through the foster care system, though, is free of these high expensive. In most states, both federal and state assistance programs are available to foster parents during the adopting process. Many states provide an attorney for the foster parents, thus making it even more financially beneficial. Even more helpful for adoptive foster parents is that most children under foster care supervision are already covered by the federal Medicaid assistance program, and may also become eligible for the same assistance from the state after the adoption process is complete.

Another advantage that adoptive foster parents have is that of time. They have had the time to become very familiar with their foster child. Any learning disabilities, emotional difficulties, and behavioral issues are known to the family, as well as his family background. Valuable insight and information may have been received from birth parents from previous meetings. Foster parents have had time to become aware of any concerns regarding the foster child, and respond to them accordingly. Along with this, the foster child has become familiar with the rules and expectations within his foster home, and has had time to better adjust to his new home and new family. If adopted by his foster parents, he will not have to face the emotional turmoil associated with moving to yet another home. His friends, foster siblings, school, and even pets remain the same. All that he has come to know while placed in a foster home will remain consistent, helping to ease the transition that comes with every adoption.

With all the positive differences in adopting a foster child, there are some challenges associated with the process. To begin with, adoptive foster parents will find that the adoption financial assistance they received each month when fostering no longer available once the child becomes a legal part of the family. Indeed, once the child is adopted, these former foster parents will become responsible for all financial obligations; day care, clothing, extracurricular activities will no longer be supplemented by the state.

Adoption can be an emotionally difficult time for a foster child. No longer will the child be able to hope for possible reunification with his biological parents, or even with other members of his birth family. Instead, the termination of rights by his birth parents might produce feelings of grief and loss within him, fears he had kept bottled within himself during the length of his stay in foster care. He may even feel that he has betrayed his biological family as he legally takes the adoptive parents’ last name, as well as becoming a permanent member of the family. You may find that the child revisits the stages of grief again, both during and after the adoption process. Indeed, it can be an emotionally traumatic time for all involved.

To be sure, there are challenges involved when adopting from foster care. Yet, these challenges are far outweighed by the gifts of love each brings to our homes, and to our lives. Thousands continue to foster children in need, and continue to love each biological, adoptive, and foster child with as much unconditional love as possible. Each child is unique, each child is special, and each child is deserving of love.