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All of Your Fears in adopting from foster Care
(And Why they don't Matter)
The caseworker’s van pulled up quickly on the street in front of my house, almost screeching to a stop. She was tired, and ready to be finished for the evening. I flipped on the porch light and cinched my robe. I should have been tired at this time of night, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore. This was the moment I had anxiously awaited for more than five years. Since I hung up the phone two hours ago, I had been pacing. Busily doing nothing simply unable to sit still. With bare feet I unsuccessfully attempted to walk slowly to the van that held my future. As the caseworker gathered one, seemingly empty, tattered diaper bag, she motioned to me that I could get the baby.
"What if" #1- What if the child has to go back?
Suddenly unsure of myself I slid open the door with shaking hands. What I saw next will forever be etched in my brain. The beautiful face of a five-month old baby boy was staring back at me. He reeked of cigarette smoke. His face, clothes, and hands were filthy, and he had one pink, swollen eye. Immediately, he smiled at me and time froze. It was as if we were in some cheesy movie where just for that moment, no-one else in the world existed but us- my son and me. Adopting is scary. Adopting from a broken foster care system is even scarier. The “What ifs” are never ending. I know the “what ifs”. I have spent many sleepless nights with them. If I’m being completely honest, I still have a few sleepless nights with them. This is not an easy road to travel, but oh is it worth every second.
This “what if” is not first on accident. This seems to be everyone’s biggest fear. None of us want to become attached to a child and create what we think will be a lifelong bond, only to have the child ripped from our arms to go back to their biological family. The only way to answer this question is to give the facts. According to creatingafamily.org, 51% of children who enter the foster care system go back to their biological parents. Another 8% of children end up with their extended family. Still another 7% are eventually placed with a guardian. When all is said and done, only 22% of children entering foster care are adopted by a non-relative. These numbers are not meant to scare you, but rather, prepare you for reality. When you enter the fostering world hoping to adopt, you may have heartbreaks. The system is designed for family reunification as it should be. If family reunification can be achieved, it is the best place for a child. If this scares you, you might be the perfect person for the “job”. If you are saying to yourself right now, “Oh I could never adopt from foster care. I would get too attached and not want to give the children back,” then you are the best person to adopt from foster care. These children need love. They need someone to get “too attached”. They need someone who “doesn’t ever want to let them go”. They need love more than you need to be protected from the heartache of losing them.
"What if" #2- What if I don’t have any money?
If you have looked into adopting by any means other than foster care, you have most likely found that it requires some pretty deep pockets. The average U.S. newborn adoption in 2016-2017 was $43,239 according to adoptivefamilies.org. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that much money hanging out in my bank account begging to be spent. Honestly, the first time I looked into adopting, my search ended in tears. If I had to have that much money to adopt a baby, I had better start liking cats. When a child is legally placed in your home as a foster child, you receive a daily rate to help offset the cost of caring for the child. This amount is different for each state, but according to childtrends.org, the rates for most states fall below the cost of caring for the child. In other words, you won’t be making any money by taking in foster children, but the state does help financially while they are still in legal custody of the state. We adopted our second child last month. The only cost of adopting we were responsible for was our attorney fee and court costs. In our case, that was an even $1,500. This amount is also tax deductible. I am not implying this is chump change by any means, but when compared to the average cost of adopting through an agency, it was much more attainable. We were able to set a goal and save until our adoption was final. For us, the financial assistance ended the day we adopted, but in many cases this assistance will continue in the form of an adoption subsidy. If the child you are adopting from foster care is a high risk adoptee as determined by the state based on age, race, mental and physical health, or other determining factors, then the state must enter an agreement with the adoptive family to provide monthly maintenance payments. These payments assist in meeting the children’s varied and often costly needs.
"What if" #3- What if I’m single?
have been asked this question several times, and the answer is simple---no one cares. Over 31% of foster to adopt families are single parent homes according to fostercoalition.com. Understandably, you may have concerns I would assume most single parents have. Can I do this all on my own? Will the child be emotionally harmed by not having a male/female figure in the home? Can I financially care for a child on my own? While I can’t answer all of these concerns for your personal situation, I can add this for you to ponder with these questions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married or single. It’s not about the amount of parents that are in the home. It’s about the amount of love, acceptance, and understanding the parent(s) can provide. Children in foster care are there for a reason. They have experienced some sort of trauma or neglect. They need love. The real question is; can you provide it?
"What if" #4- What if I only want to adopt a baby?
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. When we think of adopting through foster care, we think of the Lifetime Movie Special. We think of adopting an angry, delinquent teenager who has been through hell and back and won’t let anyone forget it. This is a big part of what adopting through foster care is about. There are many children who have been through so much trauma that they don’t even know how to develop an attachment to an adult anymore. They push away anyone who tries because it protects them from getting hurt again. These are the children who need you to love them through it. They need you to prove that no matter what they do, you are still there. One day, when my kids are grown and off doing their own thing, we want to adopt a teenager. There is just something about a bond that you really had to work for to achieve that calls our name. We aren’t ready yet, but one day we will be. Another commonly thought of stereotype of foster parents is the foster parent with 6 children lined up like stair steps. The parents are being dragged in every direction and aren’t sure what direction up is anymore. And while there are foster parents that (God bless them) can handle this calling, we aren't all like that. It is not a requirement of you as a foster parent to take on any child that needs a home. When a call comes in asking you to take on a child you can say yes, or you can say no. We have had to say no many times. It’s the nature of the beast. There are always more children than homes. When you become a foster parent, you are asked what ages of children to which you are willing to open your home. Most of the time, people either take small children only, or teens only. All age groups have a large need. Many times people enter foster care thinking they only want a baby, and then change their mind down the road. You will never be pressured to take on a child who may be out of your comfort zone. Caseworkers understand that you have to do what is right for you and your family first. In short, if you only want to adopt a baby- that’s okay.
"What if" #5- What if your perfect child is already out there waiting for you?
This is my “what if” to you. What if your perfect child is already out there waiting for you? According to adoptionnetwork.com there are
107,918 foster children in the system right now waiting to be adopted. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said it best when she said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they're not big enough.” Take the leap.
Change your life forever.
Change a child’s life forever.
-Story Submitted by Tara Rivera
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