Adoption is an issue that is close to my heart, so in honor of November being National Adoption Month, I would like to share some stories and spread awareness about one adoption option in particular – fostering to adopt. Buckle up dear readers – this is going to be a long post.
Some of my favorite men in the world were brought into my family through fostering-to-adopt! Today I am going to share the stories of two families – one who adopted a newborn, and one who adopted older children through the foster care system, and then share some facts and dispel some myths about fostering to adopt.
Amie is a mom who adopted an infant. Here is her story in her words:
“In 2009 we started a journey that would take until 2013 to be completed. We completed foster parent training, but decided to wait. In early summer 2012 we decided we were ready to jump into the world of fostering. Since we had previously completed the classes they only had to come out and do a home study. Lots of paperwork, fire extinguishers, water safety courses later and in August of 2012, we were approved. On 09/01/2012 my husband comes to tell me that we have a call. For a little baby who was five weeks old and was in need of a foster home due to abuse. I am not one to cry, but I did, instantly. I wondered how someone could physically abuse/break bones on a five week old baby. He was being released from the hospital and needed a family. We said YES!! At about midnight a car pulled in and a really tall gentleman got out. I remember joking to my husband that “So, that is what the stork looks like!” He brought this little tiny baby in, a few diapers and some bottles the hospital sends home. A lot people have no idea that most kids that end up in a foster home come with very little or nothing at all. A lack of belongings is common with foster placements.
His case progressed, but his mother fought him coming into the system. The judge ruled that he was to stay in foster care and his mother had to prove she could take care of him and provide for him. We knew going into fostering that the goal is reunification and we supported that 150%. The foster care system is a roller coaster of meetings, doctors, court hearings. It seemed like every week his mom was doing great, or she was not doing so well. Just when you thought progress was being made – it was three steps back. What really shocked me were the accusations and complaints that were made against us . If he had a cold, a diaper rash, claims of mysterious lumps under his arm pits, red rash on legs… for every accusation we took him to the doctor, and nothing was found. We made a lot of unnecessary trips to the doctor to clear our name. His case workers knew we weren’t abusing him, but it still hurts your feelings when you are accused. We developed a thick skin and knew in our hearts that we couldn’t do a better job if we tried. It’s common for parents to point out anything about a foster home thinking it will help get the children back to them. Fast forward to June 2014 things were not going well for the biological mother in our case. She was not working the plan, stopped coming to visits, therapy appointments. The state changed the goal from reunification to adoption. They gave her a little more time and set a trial for what they call TPR (Termination of Parental Rights). We attended the trial and in the end the judge terminated the biological parents rights and cleared him to be adopted. On November 7, 2013 our son became our son forever.”
Amie’s story brought tears to my eyes. They do still have email contact with the biological mother, and regularly pray for her to pull her life together. I asked Amie what were a few facts she wished the general public knew about fostering to adopt. She said:
*Not all foster homes are the ones you see on the news
* We do NOT do it for the money. It costs way more to raise child than the pennies that the state provides.
* Foster kids should be treated exactly like biological kids.
* Fostering is incredibly hard. Take a foster family dinner, offer help.
*Foster parents can’t say why kids are in care or talk about their stories.
In 2008 my twin sister was engaged. My soon-to-be-brother-in-law’s two nephews were in and out of their biological mother’s custody because of serious issues with drugs. Eventually my sister and brother-in-law lost contact with the boys and spent 6 months trying to track them down, only to find them in the foster care system. After a lengthy, expensive legal battle they gained custody on March 7 of 2008 and the adoption was final on December 19, 2008. The boys were 8 and 12 when they were adopted. Their experience had its pros and cons.
Some of the positives of adopting older children are they were at “fun” ages, so the family was able to be very active from the beginning. The boys knew exactly what had happened with their biological family so the “you were adopted talk” wasn’t necessary. The boys were old enough to understand that their biological mother was not able to take care of them, so they were very happy to be adopted. Another plus was that my sister’s extended family was supportive and accepted them immediately.
That’s not to say there weren’t difficulties. There were attachment disorders, extreme behaviors, meddling biological family members … the worst being the rude comments from people who weren’t accepting of adopting older children, “Well, when you have REAL children …”
As their aunt I can attest that those boys have been a life changing blessing to our family. I couldn’t love them more if they were my own children, and I am so grateful to have been a part of their lives. I will never forget the first time I babysat them when someone set the microwave on fire trying to make popcorn, and when they came in bawling because one had accidentally clocked the other one in the mouth with a horseshoe. They have been responsible for a lot of stressful moments for their parents and the rest of the family, but they have grown up to be incredible young men who are a testament that the statistics are NOT a life sentence. My oldest nephew is flourishing while serving in the United States Army, and the youngest one has held two jobs as a sophomore in high school.
There are a lot of misconceptions about fostering to adopt, that sometimes cause people to dismiss the option. The one I hear the most is that people don’t want to foster to adopt because they don’t want to risk the parents taking the child back. When you become a foster parent you can stipulate that you are only interested in children available for adoption. That means the parental rights of the bio family have already been terminated, so the odds of losing the child is actually less than with traditional adoption.
Another misconception is that they can’t love both their biological and adoptive families. My sister explained to her boys that most people have two grandmas and they love both, the boys just had two moms. While they do not have contact with their biological mother because of the state’s stipulation, that isn’t the case with every adoption.
A lot of kids in the foster care system have special needs ranging from learning disabilities to attachment disorders. Unfortunately many people don’t want to adopt special needs kids, but those kids deserve loving homes just like anyone else. Fostering to adopt is not easy, and it is not for the faint of heart, but those kids have just as much to offer the world as anyone else.
I feel really strongly about this, not only because my nephews were adopted, but because there are thousands of kids in each state who don’t have homes. The Bible contains more than 2,000 verses commanding the church to care for the oppressed and poor. You may not be able to foster a child, we aren’t currently able because we don’t have room, but you can still pray, educate others, and advocate for those children in need.
The church is extremely vocal about pro-life issues, well guess what? These are where those unwanted kids who WEREN’T aborted end up, so staying silent on this issue is not an option. According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption “In the U.S. 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.” For more information on fostering to adopt, check here.
Do you have a story about adoption or foster care? Please share it in the comments below!