Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why Can't I Adopt a Young Child From Foster Care?? | Where are all the toddlers??

Q:  I hear people say that there are SOOOO many kids in the foster care system who need home, but when I ask if I can adopt a child 0-8 years old, the county says they don't have any adoptable kids that young.  Which one is true??  I'm a good person and all I want to do it provide a home for a child that needs one and I keep getting stonewalled!   So frustrating!       
 -wannaadopt3

A: Great question!  It is one you share with many, many others, I assure you.  There are many factors that go into an adoptive placement decision, but most social workers follow a general placement preference for a child in need of a permanent family.

Most of the time, this is the "list" a worker will go down when deciding who is best to adopt this child, deciding at every step if this is an option for a permanent family for this child based on the willingness of the adults to parent and their suitability to do so.

If you are hoping to adopt an unrelated child that you have no current connections to, you are at least 6th on this list.  For any child to be on a "waiting child" list, placement options #1-5 have either been inappropriate or they have said no to placement of this child.   And of course, each step of this process takes months and sometimes years, and all the while the child is getting older and most likely is experiencing further moves, trauma and stress in their little lives.

General Placement Preference:
  1. Birth Mom or Birth Dad
  2. Birth Relatives the child has a relationship with
  3. Birth Relatives the child does not have a relationship with
  4. Current Foster Parents
  5. Kin - people in the community or in the child's past that have/had a relationship with the child (past foster parents, school teachers, neighbors, sports coaches, etc)
  6. Unrelated foster/adopt family in the child's community
  7. Unrelated foster/adopt family in the child's state
  8. Unrelated foster/adopt family outside of the child's state

 For example:
  • 6.5 years, child comes into care (median age of entry in 2012).  
  • 8 years, birth parents rights are terminated, because birth mom & birth date have been deemed unsuitable to parent  (Most states  have legislation that reunification with birth parents can last about 15 months before rights can be terminated) and extended birth family begins to be looked at an option.
  • 8.5-9 years, extended birth family has all been contacted and either haven't shown interest, said no to placement or have been deemed unsuitable (due to past CPS involvement, drug/alcohol issues, felony charges).
  • 9 years, current foster family said no to adoption
  • 9.5 years, a search for kin is undertaken, but with high caseloads and new kids coming into care everyday, its difficult to do the exhaustive search for people who may have been in this child's life 5,6, 7 years ago...
  • If no extended family member, if not one current or foster parent, if no teacher or coach or friends parent said yes...  Child is posted on a WAITING CHILD listing.

Breaks my heart... but more importantly it breaks that child's heart.

If you are are wondering what you can do to help even one child,  consider becoming a concurrent foster placement for a child or sibling group.  

Be willing to take a that child(ren) on day they are removed from their birth parents and to be COMMITTED to adopting them if they can't return to their birth family.  

So when that 6.5 year old (or infant, or teen) is placed in your home, YOU are there, hugging, tucking in at night, dropping off at school, being there for the child, through every day of the 15 months of possible reunification and painful termination of parental rights.  YOU are there for the birth relative search.  YOU are there when the county gets to step 4 and YOU can say YES!  The steps stop here, with me, THIS child is home.

That helps.  That heals.  That is hope.

Yes, its risky for your heart.  Oh so risky.   I understand, I do.  I've done it.  I've lived it.  I've cried over kids returned to birth parents, I've ached.  But, I also know that it is worth it.  It is so worth it.

So if you find yourself wanting to adopt a younger child from foster care - that's okay, the simple answer is that there ARE infants & toddlers who need a home from foster care, but they need a special kind of family.  They need a family who can ride the roller coaster with them.  To support birth family as long as possible and to be in it for the long haul, for the child's good - no matter where they grow up.

33 comments :

  1. Oh wow. Thank you so much for this - I love that you are answering questions people may have. My husband and I hope to one day foster to adopt, so this is so helpful. Knowing how far a person will be to adopt though breaks my heart, but I think you are so right. It will be so worth it.

    <3 Ash

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    1. So good that you are researching, reading and keeping an open heart as you prepare! Best of luck to you and your husband!

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    2. You are right! It is sooo worth it! We knew going into each foster situation that there was the potential for a broken heart but that the kids were much more important! We were willing to suffer so that they could have a home that loved them regardless if it was permanent or temporary. There wasn't a single placement that we didn't grieve over or a single child that we didn't miss. But they were worth it! You will have your heart broken. You will not agree with the states decisions regarding the children you are parenting. You will not have a voice in what happens to them long term. You will however change a life and be able to show unconditional love to a child that hadn't had that before. That relationship and experience is priceless!

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  2. Well done my friend. :-) You've lived it and explained the complicated process so simply.

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    1. Thanks, I always chuckle when people ask the question and expect a one sentence answer. :) CPS, foster care and adoption are anything but simple - but the sometimes the explanations can be simple-esk.

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  3. Hi there. I found your story via another adoption blog and as the foster adoptive mom to a little guy who came into my home at the age of 3, I can say I agree with much of this. Adopting babies and toddlers from foster care in my state is very difficult. Many younger children aren't released for adoption unless birth parents have a history of losing children to foster care. I was able to do it only because my son was a 4th child from a mom who lost custody of all her children. And he came with a lot of acronyms that no one else could manage (ADHD, ODD, PTSD, etc.). My son's doing great but like you wrote, you really do have to be in it for the long haul. I have multiple friends whose foster toddlers were reunified with birth parents long after they should have been adopted out and it's heartbreaking to see that happen. This is a job that requires a very thick skin unfortunately.

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    1. Yes, its is most definitely a long process that requires very thick skin. It makes me so happy though when the thick skin gets to be developed by adults and not by the kids. Glad you found my blog - look forward to getting to know you!

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  4. I have wanted to adopt for so long and I am oh so willing to be "on the roller coaster" until I get to say yes to that sweet child. But I have a question about my own children and their play in this. I have my own child of six months as well as a 5 yr old step son. Is it fair/unfair of me to commit my children to the risk of losinga foster child to their bbirth families? I want to be there for the heart of another child but I do not want to put my own children's heart on the line if it means lasting damage to them? What is your input on the pros vs cons in this situation?

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    1. That a great question too and one I have thought a lot about myself as well. When there are other kids in the home (by birth or by adoption) they need to be part of the decision making process. Maybe talking it over with your 5 year old, asking what he would think about having a child come stay with you for a while and then put a time limit or number of kid limit on it and the re-check with your child. Maybe say, "Hey buddy, what would you think about having 2-3 kids come and stay with us while their first Mommy & Daddy are getting healthy?" And then after those 2-3 kids come & stay or come and go, check back in with your kido again before opening up your house. Saying yes to foster care doesn't mean you HAVE to be committed for a lifetime to fostering - but it would be my hope that you'd stay in until the children either leave or their adoptions are finalized by you.

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    2. We have been in those shoes. We started fostering when our son was 3 and we didn't actually involve him in the decision at the time. Three things come to mind.

      First and foremost, we were not told by the state that we shouldn't take kids bigger or older than the youngest child in the house. MANY times, it is NOT a problem. But it only needs to be a problem once to cause lasting damage to the children that are in your home (foster, adopted or biological). In our case, the lesson learned wasn't as harsh as the others we heard of afterward. Keep in mind that when kids are removed from their homes, they are removed for what the state knows or learns about. Sometimes, there is more that has gone badly that the state is unaware of--and not through any incompetence or ineptitude. It just happens. We wound up taking in infants and toddlers--which was great for everyone because at the time, I was a stay at home mom and the newborns couldn't be in daycare until they were a few weeks old. So there was a need.

      Second, with my kids being so young, having my husband readily available and able to fully care for our own children without my help was invaluable. Just feeding, bath time and bed time more than anything else. My husband could do those things fluently with my kids. So if I needed to tend to a foster child challenge, my kids had another parent who could step in and manage things relatively seamlessly--which helped a lot with their own stability and sense of security.

      Third, we were always honest about the situation with our son. We always explained that we were just a temporary home for these children while their parents tried to make things better back at their home. This was a lot easier to do when we were fostering infants. During the brief time we fostered elementary and middle school kids, the verbiage got more complicated because we couldn't always imply that they were GOING back to their parents.

      By the time my son got to be about 4 or 5, a friend from up the block dropped off her two young boys at our house (one was same age as my son) because her husband was rushed to the hospital. The one boy sat on my lap--needing comfort. He was clearly unsettled. My son came to him and said "It's okay. We'll help you until your parents are back." He really understood.

      Ultimately, we instilled a sense of service in our kids when it came to fostering. We also made sure that it was always a "celebration" (for lack of a better word) that the children were able to leave our home to go be with family or a forever home (or occasionally to a foster home that was better able to manage their care--usually a medically fragile provider if it happened). We totally allowed them to mourn the loss of sharing day to day life with someone; but we paired it with the understanding that the kids were mourning the losses while they were here--no matter how good it was in our home--and that now, that was going to be over for them (which was positive for them).

      I've spoken to other children of foster families--including ones that started fostering when that person was young. Much like the foster kids themselves, they simply normalize what they grow up with. So it's "just how it is" for them. These people are permanent and these people are temporary.

      Something I think that was extremely valuable for our forever family is that we made it a point to be without placements for a few weeks every 12-18 months so that we could have dedicated time with our young children. You don't realize you need it until you actually take a hiatus. But I would STRONGLY suggest this for any foster family. <3

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    3. Thank you, I think I needed to hear this. we have had the same kiddos for 3 years. finally going to their forever home and family needs a break. Not sure how our 3 year old is going to deal with her boys being gone. It's all she has ever known.

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  5. We just finished our 3rd class out of 10 to become foster parents in NY. This is really good info. I always wonder why people who are looking to adopt children from the FC system don't become foster parents to currant foster children.

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  6. Hello and thanks for this info. Here is my situation. I live in Kentucky and my brother in Florida. His child is in foster care and has been for 9 months. We have tried to take custody of her but because we live here it is not possible. I don't understand this. In September he lost his rights and an order is to go before the judge in November for a home visit from the state of Kentucky. I don't understand this process when we are here and wanting her and she has been placed with two different families so far. I'm just discouraged and wanting this to move quicker. We are here, have the room, love her and want her.

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    1. I so hope that this worked out for you, Anonymous! If you haven't made any progress, make sure to read up on ICPC--the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children so that crossing state lines can be done quicker and easier for your family--because you would definitely be a strong preference for placement, but they will not move the child without the ICPC in place and if the birthmother still has rights (and visitation) <3

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  7. Thank you very much for this!! I have been having a very difficult time finding detailed information about, well, anything in regards to adopting. This is particularly interesting as I am younger than seems to be average and have been concerned about the age difference between me and so many waiting children. Thank you so much for this piece and I hope you consider writing more!

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  8. Hi I was in foster care from the age of 2 till I aged out I got bounced from home to home program to program and some hospital stays as well I kept going back to my mother and she'd give me back up. I don't know if anyone remembers Wednesdays child but I was on there when I was 5 and my mom stopped this family from adopting me. My reason for this post is if you have a foster child in your home and want to adopt them don't give up like I was given up on they need you. I am now 26 with two children of my own but I still suffer from abandonment issues and trust issues please don't let kids go thru what I went thru.

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  9. I don't know who this will help. But check out a place coming to Atlanta soon called thehopebox.org If you are looking to adopt a new born babes.

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  10. This is a great article to explain why things take so long! In Missouri, we begin looking for relatives and kin who might be willing to foster the child when they first come into care which is a lot easier on the child. This speeds things up a bit and allows us to place the child with family or kin very early in the process. Of course, we have to do all the background checks and home study on them just as though they were going to be regular unrelated foster parents and that places a huge load on workers.

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  11. I hope everyone else is under the same impression as me when I say adopting or becoming a foster parent to an 8-17 year old is equally as rewarding...? I'm noticing a lot of people have a certain criteria.

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  12. My husband and I are just starting the Foster Care training in our province and I was told there was great need for children under 3. We can only take on a child 0-2 because of our apartment, but I am really trying to stay away from the concept of doing this to adopt. We have one infant, I am a stay at home parent and I feel like this would be a wonderful opportunity to help a baby and hopefully a mother/father too by providing this separation and care while they get themselves together. I use to work at a newborn nursery, so maybe that makes me slightly more favorable for fostering newborns, but if you are going to foster I really think parents need to do it for the children and the expectation that it is temporary care. We aren't opposed to adopting, but for us, it's not our goal or mindset in the slightest.

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  13. I am actually fostering a now 9 months old little boy. His mother has lost all of her rights and the father does not want to take a paternity test. So, after fostering for 6 months then we will move forward with adoption. For anyone, in the process of fostering to adopt please be patience.The process took us almost 2 years. I think this is a great article.

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  14. I am in MO and we were told we could not foster because we wanted to adopt. That can not be the original goal of being a foster parent

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    1. not true... please try again to foster.... you don't even need to mention adoption... just know that you will if that time comes....

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  15. When we were foster parents a few years back, we told them we were interested in fostering to adopt infants and toddlers. A few years later, we had adopted 4 of them! They only placed children with us that were more than likely going to need to be adopted based on the history of the parents.

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    1. Wow. How long did it take? I would love an infant. But the majority of kids in my area are older and teens. I don't think I can deal with the baggage of an older kid. I would like to experience the baby stage,toddler stage,etc. I want to be a mom.

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  16. Great question and perfect answer. We wanted to adopt a 3 year old to a 9 year old or siblings since we never had any children of our own. We we started the classes only adopting on our minds. We learned that you are more likley to be chosen if you are fostering the child first. After parents lose their rights and no other family member comes foward. You are next in line. Be prepared for anything to happen. We fostered for 6 months expecting mom to get the children back and now within a year we are parents to 2 children.It is a roller coster with alot of ups and downs but so worth it.If you are married just remember both of you must have a strong bond to make it through the ride because it isn't easy. Our ride has been a constant learning experiance and has also been making lots of memories. Good luck to all who is just starting out.��☺

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  17. I suffer from infertility and would love to adopt from foster care. I just don't understand why the state would go through all this. Why give parents chance after chance? The child needs stability. After 6 months to a year the child will be bonded to the foster parents. Why put them through more trauma?

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  18. My experience was a bit different. I wanted to be a foster parent, but was unsure of adoption. I did not want a toddler or infant, but school age, eight or so. What I was blessed with was a twelve year old. I cannot express enough the joy a young teen can bring to a person. Difficulties? Sure. But my dear son is starting his senior year in HS and I have never felt more fulfilled than I have as his mom. Please don't overlook the older children. They are just a bigger bundle of love and joy.

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    1. Older children and teens have different needs. As much as I would love a teen, I want the experience of a baby. I wouldn't even know how to bond or attach with a teen. Teen need homes. I feel so bad for them. But as a woman who never had kids before, I want to go through each stage of parenting. I want a child that loves me back. I want to change diapers,wipe spit up, experience firsts. I don't think teens would be the right fit for young first time parents.

      I've also read from foster parents that teens are very difficult to deal with. Some actually recommend that you don't take one in. Which I find sad. There seems to be so much hate against this group.

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It'll be a pleasure hearing your thoughts. Alisa