Tag Archive: Deciding to Foster

The Realities of Adopting Through Foster Care

I’ve seen troubling messages about adopting through foster care. I’m not talking about the standard messages about adopting waiting children – kids who are free for adoption, but because of their age, significant medical or behavioral issues, or sibling group size, are in limbo in the foster care system. No, I’m talking about the Facebook pictures and blog posts that promote a very rose-colored outlook on adopting infants and very young children through the foster care system.

While it is probably not possible to overstate the need for more foster homes, I have a real problem with this trend of making adoption through foster care seem much easier than it is. Yes, there are children in the foster care system who NEED to be adopted – but they are not healthy babies. Yes, there are healthy babies in the foster care system, but they aren’t available for adoption – and most of them WON’T be freed for adoption.

The realities of adopting through foster careThere are so many wonderfully rewarding aspects of foster parenting – but instead of focusing on those to encourage potential foster parents, the trend seems to be to highlight the RARE cases where a foster parent picks up a newborn from the hospital and then ultimately adopts that child. Yes, it happens, but it’s NOT THE NORM! And when it does happen, it takes A LONG TIME!

When we talk to would-be adoptive parents, and minimize the emotional dangers of foster care, we’re not encouraging or recruiting FOSTER parents – and we’re not doing anyone any favors.

PLEASE do not get into foster care because you think that is an easy, inexpensive way to adopt a baby or young child!!!!!!

It is absolutely possible to get a newborn placement and ultimately adopt that child. But let me tell you what happens between that first call and the “Forever Day” pictures.

  1. You get the phone call: “We have a 2-day-old baby girl that needs to be picked up at the hospital. She tested positive and the shelter order’s already approved. Can you pick her up tonight?”
  2. You gleefully say yes and run to tell hubby as soon as you hang up the phone. While you wait for the call with further instructions, hubby gets the infant car seat out of the garage and gets it installed. You go through your “stash” for baby girl bedding and newborn baby girl clothing and begin to make up the nursery.
  3. The phone rings again. “Never mind. The mom realized we were sheltering and ran with the baby. We have no idea where they are, but the state is looking. We’ll let you know if they are found.”
  4. You had the tiny baby to your prayer list, but never hear anything further about the baby girl.
  5. A couple of weeks go by and you get an 11 pm call, “we have an 11-week-old Caucasian boy coming into care tonight. His mom already has several kids in care and we don’t know who the father is. The mom’s family was already disqualified for placement of the previous kids, and the people that have the siblings don’t want a baby. He’ll be a quick TPR and then available. I know you want to adopt a baby, so you were my first call. Do you want him?”
  6. See #2. Substitute boy for girl.
  7. Adorable baby boy shows up at 1 am. Instant captivation ensues. Pictures go out to extended family, everyone is overjoyed.
  8. A few weeks go by and the CM calls with an update – some guy has stepped forward claiming that he could be the father, so we need to take the baby for a cheek swab. There is no way this guy is the dad, so don’t worry about it.
  9. This guy is the dad. He has no criminal record, wants the baby and has the ability to care for the baby. The paperwork is a formality, so you begin to pack up his things and prepare to say good-bye.
  10. Paperwork goes through, baby boy goes to dad. You take some time to adjust to his absence and prepare for the next call.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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The Realities of Adopting Through Foster Care (Part 1)

I’ve been seeing a lot of troubling messages lately about adopting through foster care. I’m not talking about the standard messages about adopting waiting children – kids who are free for adoption, but because of their age, significant medical or behavioral issues, or sibling group size, are in limbo in the foster care system. No, I’m talking about the Facebook pictures and blog posts that promote a very rose-colored outlook on adopting infants and very young children through the foster care system.

While it is probably not possible to overstate the need for more foster homes, I have a real problem with this trend of making adoption through foster care seem much easier than it is. Yes, there are children in the foster care system who NEED to be adopted – but they are not healthy babies. Yes, there are healthy babies in the foster care system, but they aren’t available for adoption – and most of them WON’T be freed for adoption.

There are so many wonderfully rewarding aspects of foster parenting – but instead of focusing on those to encourage potential foster parents, the trend seems to be to highlight the RARE cases where a foster parent picks up a newborn from the hospital and then ultimately adopts that child. Yes, it happens, but it’s NOT THE NORM! And when it does happen, it takes A LONG TIME!

When we talk to would-be adoptive parents, and minimize the emotional dangers of foster care, we’re not encouraging or recruiting FOSTER parents – and we’re not doing anyone any favors.

PLEASE do not get into foster care because you think that is an easy, inexpensive way to adopt a baby or young child!!!!!!

It is absolutely possible to get a newborn placement and ultimately adopt that child. But let me tell you what happens between that first call and the “Forever Day” pictures.

  1. You get the phone call: “We have a 2-day-old baby girl that needs to be picked up at the hospital. She tested positive and the shelter order’s already approved. Can you pick her up tonight?”
  2. You gleefully say yes and run to tell hubby as soon as you hang up the phone. While you wait for the call with further instructions, hubby gets the infant car seat out of the garage and gets it installed. You go through your “stash” for baby girl bedding and newborn baby girl clothing and begin to make up the nursery.
  3. The phone rings again. “Never mind. The mom realized we were sheltering and ran with the baby. We have no idea where they are, but the state is looking. We’ll let you know if they are found.”
  4. You had a tiny duckling to your prayer list, but never hear anything further about the baby girl.
  5. A couple of weeks go by and you get an 11 pm call, “we have an 11-week-old Caucasian boy coming into care tonight. His mom already has several kids in care and we don’t know who the father is. The mom’s family was already disqualified for placement of the previous kids, and the people that have the siblings don’t want a baby. He’ll be a quick TPR and then available. I know you want to adopt a baby, so you were my first call. Do you want him?”
  6. See #2. Substitute boy for girl.
  7. Adorable baby boy shows up at 1 am. Instant captivation ensues. Pictures go out to extended family, everyone is overjoyed.
  8. A few weeks go by and the CM calls with an update – some guy has stepped forward claiming that he could be the father, so we need to take the baby for a cheek swab. There is no way this guy is the dad, so don’t worry about it.
  9. This guy is the dad. He has no criminal record, wants the baby and has the ability to care for the baby. The paperwork is a formality, so you begin to pack up his things and prepare to say good-bye.
  10. Paperwork goes through, baby boy goes to dad. You take some time to adjust to his absence and prepare for the next call.

TO BE CONTINUED….

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The Unfortunate Sequel to “What to Do If Your Family Isn’t Supportive”

This post is going to be tough, because I’m pretty sure a door is closing. It’s one that probably needs to close, but it’s still painful. However, I feel obligated to report on a grave error in judgment that *luckily* wasn’t disastrous for my kids. In my first post about dealing with less-than-supportive family members, I told you about how my mom wasn’t excited about us fostering, but went all-in with being a foster grandma… So much so that when I got news that meant Lady Bug would probably be leaving us soon, she decided to hop on a plane to come meet her.

I just hope that my babies weren’t harmed by my wishful thinking. They seem fine, but I introduced even more strangers into their lives who disappeared without saying good-bye and subjected the kids to a very tense environment for about 24 hours. I did my best to minimize the impact to the ducklings, but I did lose my cool at one point – luckily the boys were asleep, so I think they missed the whole thing.

I don’t want to get into the gory details here, I just feel like I need to revisit what I said about giving people the chance to surprise you. That’s still a good thing to do… But make sure you’re protecting your Ducklings at the same time, and paying attention.

I wanted my mom’s support so badly that I ignored many, *many* warning signs:

  • She was *far* from supportive of my infertility struggles:
    • even after I told her several times it was hurtful when she told me to “just relax”, she still made it clear that she was certain that’s what the problem was. She would say, “Well, you don’t want me to say what I think, so I won’t say it, but…” Seriously – that’s a direct quote that I heard many times.
    • when I hit rock-bottom, and begged her to come out to Florida because I needed my mommy, she couldn’t make it. She made a couple of pleasure jaunts to Colorado that summer, but couldn’t afford to come to Florida.
    • she was incessantly very vocal about her disappointment with our decision not to pursue IVF.
  • When I called to tell her we had decided to foster, she was adamantly opposed.
    • She said, “it would be different if you were calling to tell me you’re pregnant.”
    • She point-blank said that I shouldn’t foster because I shouldn’t take on other people’s problems, and foster kids come with a lot of baggage.
    • I know that one of the reasons she was against me fostering was because she was afraid of getting close to the kids and then having her heart broken when they leave. She never said so, and would never admit it, but I’m certain this is the case based on family history.
  • I mentioned in my previous post that she sent recordable story books for Christmas and balloons for birthdays. Only for Lady Bug. In all fairness, we didn’t have Squirm at Christmas, and Squish spent Christmas with his bio-dad and was being reunified any minute. But she didn’t even acknowledge the boys’ birthday.
  • Since we started fostering, her calls are much less frequent, and she almost never asks about the Ducklings. She never asks for pictures or to talk to them on the phone – even though she knows Lady Bug *loves* to talk on the phone.

The biggest sign I missed that I really wish I’d paid attention to: I’ve asked her to come meet my Ducklings more than a half-dozen times over the last year. But it’s just never convenient…. There’s always something more important. That alone would’ve spoken volumes if I’d slowed down and listened….

My mom refuses to accept that foster ducklings have underlying trauma that sometimes requires allowances. I’m not talking about giving a kid what they want because they throw a tantrum, or letting them be rude or violent. I’m talking about giving a 2-year-old time to come to you because she’s had far too many strangers walk into her life and disrupt it.

My mom thinks that I should trust her – the fact that she’s raised a few kids and been around kids and worked with learning-disable students means she’s perfectly capable of deciding how to approach a foster duckling – even though *none* of her experience includes foster children. And even though she rushed Lady Bug even after being given a heads-up about her needs and boundaries. Since Lady Bug didn’t seem upset to HER (the woman who just laid eyes on her for the first time ever), meaning she didn’t pull away and run screaming, Mom is convinced that I’m being unreasonable because… well, I won’t go into all the things wrong with me – we’ll just say it’s because I’m a horrible person and leave it at that.

There’s more – an argument about who gets to decide what toys are allowed in my house (me or my mom), old arguments about how ungrateful and selfish I am… But there’s no need really to get into all of that.

The crux of the matter is that I could have caused further harm to my Ducklings by introducing them to someone who is incapable or unwilling to set the Ducklings’ needs above her own. She was against us fostering in the first place, and has never actually been supportive. The Ducklings weren’t harmed (I don’t think), but if I’d listened better and paid closer attention, I could’ve avoided the risk.

So if you have family and friends who aren’t supportive while you’re making the decision to foster, weigh their words and actions very carefully before determining whether they’ll be good or bad for your Ducklings.