A Path To Adoption Through Foster Care
Several years ago, my husband and I began to feel a burden for orphaned children – at first, for those left behind as a result of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but eventually for children orphaned right here at home. In both cases, the need was vast – seemingly beyond our ability to make a difference. Where adoption seemed like the natural place to start – someday, when the time was right – it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we realized our path to adoption would likely lead us through our state’s foster care system.
According to AdoptUSKids, there are currently more than 100,000 children and youth in foster care who are eligible – and waiting – for adoption. Most of these kids have been abandoned, abused or neglected and have numerous trauma-based challenges as a result of their upbringing. These challenges are a large part of what keeps people from answering the call to foster care; years ago, we may have joined them in this fear-based line of thinking, not yet recognizing the need or our ability to help.
The Day Everything Changed
But not anymore – not since June 22, 2015 when Stephen (not his real name) changed our family’s story … and we changed his.
Stephen lived with our family 7 ½ months, a product of sexual abuse, neglect and numerous failed placements that eventually resulted in Stephen being separated from his siblings for seven of the last ten months they were in foster care. These were some of the hardest months we’ve ever experienced as a family; at times, Stephen flourished and thrived while other times, he (and we) struggled to make sense of difficult emotions and behaviors. It would have been easy to give up; I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider it on more than one occasion. But our perspective has always been “bigger picture,” and that didn’t change when things got tough.
It would have been easy to give up; I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider it on more than one occasion. But our perspective has always been “bigger picture,” and that didn’t change when things got tough.
In Defense of Foster Care
While many never consider it as a viable option for starting or growing their family, the benefits of fostering before adopting are numerous.
- Parents can begin making an impact on a child’s life right away. The process of waiting for an adoption match can be lengthy; that said, the need for strong foster placements is great and immediate which allows families to hit the ground running once the licensing process is complete.
- Fostering before adopting allows parents an opportunity to assess whether a familial bond exists with their child. Trust me when I say, this doesn’t always happen – and that’s okay. That said, the experience of parenting a child through trauma can be pivotal in determining whether you can have a successful bond should that child be available for adoption.
- Children find stability sooner. Foster parents who agree to adopt children who have experienced a termination of parental rights help to reduce the number of moves a child has to make before settling into their “forever home.”
- Parents gain valuable “on the job” training. Over the course of our foster care journey, we have found ourselves parenting through very specific situations and behaviors we had never before experienced with our two biological children. This is the reality of parenting children who have experienced trauma.
- Foster parents can establish relationships with a child’s family that could continue after the child is adopted. In some cases, adoptive families choose to maintain an open relationship with their child’s biological family even after an adoption is complete. Foster families have an important role in establishing healthy boundaries for their child when it comes to new and existing relationships.
Interested in learning more about starting the foster care process?
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Tonya is a wife and mom of four – two biological children, sons Javan (8) and Tiras (5), and two children by way of foster care. She is a Kansas City transplant from Aurora, Colorado (by way of MIZZOU and Jefferson City, Missouri) who enjoys BBQ, taco trucks, and sports of most every variety. She’s passionate about foster care, living organ donation, social media and its many uses, and movie theater popcorn. Love is best expressed to her in the form of Excel spreadsheets, cute office products, and fountain sodas from Quik Trip.