Questions to Ask about Foster Adoption - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 06-29-2010, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Today I spoke to someone at a local agency that deals exclusively in foster adoption. And set up a time to come in an attend an informational workshop. I'm excited and scared at the same time. The woman who worked at the agency was really great, but I didn't really know what to ask yet.

Our situation is this:

Me (mom), my husband and Z (our 3.5 year old boy)

We're looking to adopt someone younger than Z, based on what I've read about adopting within the birth order. We realize that there may not be children younger than Z and we might have to wait for a while until Z is older, but that's okay.

If you were me, what what things would ask or look for at the informational workshop? Ethical adoption is very important to me, but I might not know what to look for, YKWIM?

Any advice is very much appreciated.
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#2 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 12:47 AM
 
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I promise not to get on my fost-adopt terminology soapbox.

BUUUUT...

I think the very MAJOR thing *I* would ask would be: what is the case goal for the children that would be placed in my home through the fost-adopt program?

There are plenty of families whose goal is adoption and the states/agencies (or both) will tell those families "Well, on paper, the goal is reunification... but there's no way that's ever gonna happen," and/or "The goal is technically reunification but most of our kids wind up the adoptive route." It's very infuriating to watch families get their heart broken this way.

Definitely talk to other families who have used the agency and find out what their experiences are. Is there a local foster/adoptive parent support group (either through that agency or an independent support group) where you could get feedback on this agency and others in the area?

In my state, it's a very little known fact that we have two separate divisions of CPS: one for children whose goal is reunification with the family, and one for children whose goal is adoption (or at least termination of parental rights and then adoption). You CAN license with only one or the other, but the state doesn't really make that well-known.

And yes--there are definitely kids that wind up being adopted by their foster parents. No question. And yes, there are definitely kids whose case goal is reunification, but the parents can't manage to get it together and there is no other suitable or willing relative to take them--and they get adopted by their foster parents. It's not that these things never happen. It's just that in most places, it's the exception--not the rule.

We have had at least half of our foster cases come to us with the comment "they're never going home". And to be fair, two of those cases were ones with kids we would never adopt (they were outside of our profile for a permanent placement & we made that very clear). The third one, well--that one truly DID look hopeless for RU. They all went back to a parent or relative. Even the truly hopeless case (who went back to the parent!). Nobody ever knows what makes a parent get it together. It's not something they can predict.

I hope your family finds your forever child this way. I'm NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT saying you should avoid this route. But it CAN be a roller coaster ride and I'm just hoping to help you get on with a more realistic expectation so that your heartache might be minimized and you are able to stay on board till the end. It's well worth it.

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#3 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 05:05 AM
 
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Terminology can be confusing....

When you say "foster adoption"....do you mean "foster a child with the hopes of adoption" or do you mean "adopt a child out of foster care"...those are two different things. In my state, you can adopt a legally free child (parental rights already terminated and all other family resources exhausted as placement options), there is no chance the child will "go home", and that child is placed with you solely as an adoptive placement. Or you can foster a child, and if the child becomes available for adoption, you can adopt. Here, there really isnt a seperate "track" for kids who are likely to go to adoption, though individual agencies can choose to steer those kids to families seeking to adopt, if they feel its a potential adoptive placement (no guarantees though.) In my state you dont have to foster for the six month post-placement/prefinalization period, but in some states you are "technically" fostering the child during that time, even though you arent a 'typical' foster parent (no bio family visits, etc.)

There ARE legally free children younger than 3 to adopt (last year my adoption worker approached me with two different two yr old girls she was trying to place, i had to pass because i was fostering a 2 yr old already as well as parenting my adopted 2 yr old and i my state you can't have three kids under three)....but the chances are better if you foster first, as most kids (esp younger ones) are adopted by their foster parents and never make it to the adoption unit. In my 2.5 yrs or so of regular fostering, i was able to adopt my first placement (three wks at placement, four months at termination of parental rights, 11 months at finalization), he is a healthy "normal" 2 yr old now, and my third placement (almost 18 months at placement, 25 months at TPR, we are not finalized yet). I'm also adopting his 8 yr old sister. My second foster child went to live with relatives after two months with us (she was a year old), we expected she would leave, she had several sibs with other relatives and was placed as a temp. placement.

That being said, if you choose to go "straight adopt" (adoption of a legally free child) it is not uncommon to wait 1-2 yrs or longer, no matter what age child you are looking for and whether you are open to race/issues/etc. Its not an easy process and can get really depressing at times.

Katherine, single homeschooling mom to Boy Genius (17) geek.gif  Thing One (6) and Thing Two (6) fencing.gif and one outgoing Girl (12) bikenew.gif and hoping for more through foster care and adoption homebirth.jpgadoptionheart-1.gif 
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#4 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 08:34 AM
 
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I suggest that you ask if they are willing to help you pursue leads that you find yourself. In my experience, networking and internet photolistings are better ways to find a child than sitting back and waiting for your adoption worker to call. Ask if they are willing to submit your homestudy for you to other agencies or other states if you find a child that you are interested in. In my state, there is a 6 month waiting period before the Children's Division is willing to help you look outside the area. After that, my adoption worker was a saint about sending my homestudy all over the country to apply for kids I found online.
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#5 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 03:15 PM
 
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There are not going to be tons of healthy kids coming through for straight adoption through foster care. It's very rare that that happens. If you want to adopt a child younger than 3, I would go into regular foster care and wait for a placement which turns into adoption. You may foster many kids before one comes up for adoption, but that will be a blessing to those kids. Or consider children with special needs, who frequently are available under 3. Photolistings are great, but rarely do kids go on there unless they are older (like 8+), have significant special needs, or have very serious behavior issues. I have never once seen a healthy child under 5 on there, and under 8 is still rare.

Mom to 5 wonderful kids (9, 6, 4, 2 and 0), 1 adopted through foster care.

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#6 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 09:08 PM
 
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I think that with the economy as it is, more kids are available as foster parents choose not to adopt but rather keep fostering, and as fewer families are making the decision to adopt...i know last year, my adoption worker was asking around for leads to groups to speak to, to recruit for families willing to adopt kids....they were getting pretty desperate. The "straight adopt" only placements DO happen, but usually within the agency...there isnt usually a need to recruit outside the agency. And i'm seeing more and more younger kids posted on my state photolisting. A sib group of 1 yr old twin girls has been listed for awhile now, and there are several sib groups of 2-4 kids who are younger (under 8) listed. I wont say that they are all "healthy" in that thats a subjective term, but from the description they dont seem to have major needs. My friend is adopting a sib group of three (3 yo, 4yo, and 6yo) and there are some needs there, but nothing too extreme (well the middle child does have alot of behavior issues.)

Also, some states seem to have younger kids and willing to place them out of state....the Pacific Northwest (OR and WA) seem to regularly place younger, fairly healthy kids out of state, as well as Texas. My friend adopted a three yr old girl from TX (She lives in the Midwest), the little girl has grown by leaps and bounds developmentally. I have several friends in OR who have adopted young children w/o fostering (i think both kids were about a year old?) But yes, fostering is probably your best bet in terms of adopting a relatively healthy young child. Its just a pretty hard road. I've been really lucky, and yet there were still "nightmare" moments and i'm pretty much through with fostering at this point. And i know a few people who have had kids from birth until 2+ yrs old, and the case goal is STILL "reunification"...for those who get into fostering because they really hope to adopt, THAT can be an absolute nightmare, esp if you feel the baby you raised for two years and is "yours" is going home to an unsafe situation.

Katherine, single homeschooling mom to Boy Genius (17) geek.gif  Thing One (6) and Thing Two (6) fencing.gif and one outgoing Girl (12) bikenew.gif and hoping for more through foster care and adoption homebirth.jpgadoptionheart-1.gif 
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#7 of 13 Old 06-30-2010, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is all very informative. Our friends adopted a little boy out of foster care (but didn't foster first) at 16 months. (He's doing really well, by the way ) But I haven't a clue whether or not that is atypical. The organization I contacted was pretty helpful and honest. The woman I spoke to mentioned that it might be best to go directly through county services given the age of our son. Not necessarily to foster first, but she said that younger children tend to be referred to people registered with county services. We're planning to attend an informational meeting and see what's up.

If it were only my husband and me, I wouldn't have reservations about fostering. But I worry about our 3.5 year old becoming attached to a child and then having that child leave our lives. Has anyone had experience with that? How did you handle it?

I'm really interested in hearing everything that people have to say. Stories, advice, etc. It's very helpful.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my newbie questions, I truly appreciate it.
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#8 of 13 Old 07-01-2010, 03:14 AM
 
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I can't offer much advice since I'm in the midst of it, not at the end of the process. I will say a couple things though...

For me, the hardest part so far is the fact that as a foster parent I am an agent of the state, not a true parent. Every now and then I feel frustrated by our limitations. For example, there were a few months where we could not choose our own pediatrician. And we can't up and leave on a family adventure out of the county, we need approval from our case worker first ( which can take a couple weeks). All these little ways that limit my parenting have an effect: it makes me feel less like a mom and more like a babysitter. At first, it made it more difficult for me to attach and bond.

When we started the process I asked my husband, "what if we have to foster ten kids before finally one becomes adoptable? What if we foster for years and years without ever adopting?" he said a beautiful thing. He said, "I can't think of a more important human experience than caring for a child." and then he said something like "it will happen eventually and I doubt we'll gave regrets.

I firmly believe this route to adoption is currently the best option for us. But ican imagine choosing another path in the future.
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#9 of 13 Old 07-01-2010, 10:04 AM
 
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It's so interesting how different things are in different places. I've never needed to get permission for a haircut (but I would if I thought that it would be important to the parents,) don't need permission to travel if we'll be gone two nights or less and have EXCELLENT Medicaid doctors, dentists, and therapists. I make most decisions about stuff at school and can sign just about any form that my kids bring home. In that respect, fostering has been a breeze for me.
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#10 of 13 Old 07-01-2010, 03:25 PM
 
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Yeah, not just different for different counties, but also different for different cases. Our first placement wasn't allowed to travel at all and our current placement couldn't travel for the first two months.

I had an idea for the OP: perhaps there's a way to get involved with foster care at another level where you could get to know the kids and develop some rapport but not be a foster parent, for example, working as a coach or assistant or volunteer.
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#11 of 13 Old 07-01-2010, 06:14 PM
 
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Quote:
If it were only my husband and me, I wouldn't have reservations about fostering. But I worry about our 3.5 year old becoming attached to a child and then having that child leave our lives. Has anyone had experience with that? How did you handle it?
This was a concern of mine, too, but all the research I've ever seen about it shows that it does nothing but increase empathy and love and kindness in your bio kids, and although it's painful it teaches them valuable lessons.

Mom to 5 wonderful kids (9, 6, 4, 2 and 0), 1 adopted through foster care.

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#12 of 13 Old 07-02-2010, 12:26 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Polarbearfish View Post
If it were only my husband and me, I wouldn't have reservations about fostering. But I worry about our 3.5 year old becoming attached to a child and then having that child leave our lives. Has anyone had experience with that? How did you handle it?
I think a lot of this really depends on the combo of your child's ability to handle change and how you manage the situation.

Our son was 3yo when we started fostering. My dh is a WAHP--so he was there to help if there was a situation where the foster child needed my full attention at the same time that my son did. With our first placement (two girls who were older--we didn't know any better) that didn't happen. The second placement was a 5-day-old little girl who went through methadone withdrawal in our home and that DID happen a few times.

When the first kids left, we really didn't handle it well; and my son got REALLY upset. But there was a LOT of stuff we didn't handle well--just for lack of knowledge and experience. We made the MONUMENTAL mistake of telling him that the baby's mother was sick (and I realized that was a mistake LITERALLY the moment it left my lips). Six months later, I had pneumonia and my son (just turning 4yo) thought that he'd have to be cared for by someone else.

But after those first few mistakes, we knew to educate him on the need for kids to have a safe place to be for a little while and that when they left--it was a happy thing because they got to go back to their family. We never had one that left for an adoptive placement. We had three that left for other foster homes: two were infants, so we just told ds that they were going to their parents since the babies didn't understand; and the third had hurt my son--so we explained to my son that the child had to go to a foster home with no little kids that he could hurt until he learned how to handle his anger better. At that point, ds was 5yo and understood that.

I think the worst was that when our adoptive daughter was placed, he couldn't wrap his head around a child STAYING. "Doesn't her mommy want her? Did she throw the baby away? What if all the mommies threw all the babies away?" Again--we were completely unprepared. We had to explain it to him as if it were planned... like a surrogacy... so that he wouldn't panic. With time (it's been almost 2 years) we've been able to explain to him a little better about how dd's mommy made the decision to let her live with us and why.

At 4yo, he fully understood that we helped kids who couldn't be with their parents for a little while. In fact, a neighbor up the block with kids we knew REALLY well dropped the kids at our house in an emergency situation one afternoon (the husband had a heart attack) and the one that was my son's age was upset and on my lap. My son said to him "Don't worry... we'll be your family while your daddy gets better" and hugged his friend. I almost cried. He really got it.

My son is now 6-1/2yo and really well-adjusted. For all the ups and downs, I don't regret a second of it. And him having been an only child for so long, I wonder how he'd have adjusted to a new sibling without the fostering experience. He MIGHT have been totally fine, but I'm thankful for it.



As to the freedoms you have or don't have--yeah, that totally depends on the state, possibly county or case. I WILL say this: if you're a control freak, foster care will break you of that!

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#13 of 13 Old 07-06-2010, 04:59 PM
 
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We started fostering when DD was 18 months. We didn't know to try and stay with kids her age or younger. Our first kids were 6 and 9. It went ok. There were a few issues, but they were ones that I was expecting. The biggest thing I can say for this aspect of fostering is to make sure to spend time with your child each day. Hold them a lot. These other kids can eat up a tremendous amount of your time and energy before you know it. It's very easy for your kid who is not as special needs and demanding, to get shoved to the back burner. Not only in dealing with them in your home, but in school activities, doctor visits, mental health visits (required in my state, don't know about yours) and their family visits. In my state, I had to take them to any and all family visits, doctors, court, etc. We were gone 5-6 nights a week, plus any day stuff like court. My DD is now exceptional at dealing with office visits of whatever sort. It is so important to make sure your child is still getting what they need from you. Sometimes that requires putting the foster kids on the back burner for a few minutes or hours. But it's better than adding another child with issues to world. The foster kids have lots of people out there to help them. Your child has only you! Don't ever forget that!

That said, our DD did very well. She seemed to have no trouble with kids coming and going. WE were still there, still her 'security blanket'. As she got older we told her that these kids had parents who couldn't take care of them for one reason or another, so we were going to do it for a while until those parents or some others could. It was usually a little more specific, depending on each case, but that was the gist of it.

On another note, make sure your lifestyle is fully known to your SW. I don't mean every little juicy detail, but........ We homeschool. I never thought anything about it. I didn't hide it at all, but in retrospect, I never talked about with DFS either. It just never came up. Then DD hit school age, and stayed home. It turns out the local supervisor is vehemently against homeschooling. We lost the foster kids we had had for 3 years. We were 3 days away from the TPR hearing. The lady was harrassing us so badly, we finally moved out of state to protect our family and don't foster anymore. As much as I loved fostering and as much as we badly want to adopt, it's not worth losing our daughter. We always wanted a large family, and DD is apparently all we can have. So it goes.

If you decide your not comfortable with fostering, you might see about respite care. At least in our state, you could do just respite care while waiting to adopt. That gives you some exposure to these kids and what they're like on a small scale.

As long as all the bases are covered, it's the most wonderful experience! I don't regret our work with the kids at all! I miss it a lot.
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