We have learned a lot preparing to adopt through the foster care system. Prior to our classes, the image I had of foster care adoption was what I had seen on TV or in movies. I envisioned visiting a facility where kids were playing, looking at the children, getting to play with them, and selecting the child we thought would be right for our family. I thought of all of our visits to the pound or pet stores, when it is hard to select just one animal. They all look so precious and cute and how would you ever choose. I don’t mean this in an insulting way, I do not think the children are like animals. I have so much love to share, I imagine myself wanting to take them all home and this is the same feeling I have when I look at my dogs. I love them to bits!
Recently in a TV show, “Army Wives”, they portrayed almost this exact image. The family went to the facility and met the children. The case worker had a child in mind for them but they did go to a facility where they saw children playing. I know it is a TV show but I found it frustrating how simple they made the process look. They decided to adopt and within a day or two were meeting kids, then within a very soon after they were bringing the boy home to live with them. There was no talk of classes, or preparation needed before bringing a child home.
There is a multi-step process to how you are selected to be the adoptive parents in the foster care system.
First I need to explain there are three different types of care through the foster care system. Fostering, Foster to Adopt, and Adoption. Fostering is when the court goal for the children is reunification with their birth family and the foster family cares for them during this time. If the court goal changes to termination of parental rights, the child’s case worker would ask the foster family if they would want to adopt the child. If not, the next step would be a foster/adoptive home. These parents want to adopt but are willing to take children who are not yet legally free for adoption. In this stage there is still a chance the children will go back to their birth family. When parental rights are terminated, if a child is not going to be adopted by their foster family, or has not already been placed in a foster/adopt home, this is when an adoptive family will be sought.
The process for a foster placement is different from for an adoptive placement. We are looking for a foster to adopt placement. I will explain the process we will be going through. Right now we are certified, on the adoption registry and waiting to be selected for a red file staffing.
THE RED FILE STAFFING
When looking for a foster/adopt family or adoptive family, the case worker will look through the registry for a family who is willing to take the age, sex, race, and specific needs the child has. They will pull the family files which are matches and look through the home studies. The case worker selects which families they feel may be a good fit and they want to learn more about.
The case worker contacts the licensing agency of the families to ask if the families are interested. At this point our licensing specialist will contact us, give us the minimal information they know about the child or children and ask if we are interested. Of course we are!! 🙂
The next step is the Red File Staffing Meeting. Our licensing specialist attends this meeting with the representatives for the other families, the case worker, and the foster family. Other people involved in the child’s care may be there as well, for example the GAL (Guardian Ad Litem), or CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), or anyone else the case worker feels should be there. Our licensing specialist brings our photo book and our file to this meeting to represent us and discuss why we would be a good fit for the child(ren).
After this meeting the case worker decides who is their first and second choice family for the child. Our licensing specialist will call us and let us know if we are selected. If we were selected, she will share any new information she learned about the child in the meeting. Then we will work together with her to create a list of all the questions we have about the child.
The next step is the Paper Presentation Meeting. We will attend this meeting with our licensing specialist, the case worker, the foster family, and anyone else the case worker this should attend. At this meeting we the case worker will tell us more about the child, we get to ask our list of questions, and at the end of the meeting we will get to see a picture of the child. After this meeting we will have to wait 24 hours to give our decision whether or not we feel the child is right for us.
If we decide the child is right for us, the next step is the Transition Period. The child will transition from the foster families home to our home. This is done through a series of visits starting with visiting the child in the foster home, taking the child out for a day trip, an overnight trip to our house and eventually coming home to live with us.
Usually the child has to be in the adoptive home for 6 months prior to the adoption finalization. Since we are doing foster to adopt and the children are not yet legally free it is still possible the child may return to the birth family and may be longer than six months before we are able to finalize the adoption.
Today I was watching TV and saw a commercial for GOOGLE, Chrome. It was about a dad who opened an email address for his daughter when she was born and was basically creating an online journal of her life, using Gmail, Picasa, and Youtube, sending messages to her to one day show her when she was older. It was wonderful, pictures, emails, notes, videos of her growing up. What a neat idea to save memories and share them. I love this idea. Check out the commercial!
We started our journey of building our family many years ago, when the time felt “right”. After we had time for just the two of us, we bought a house, I finished nursing school and we had good jobs. Things didn’t go as planned, we tried for awhile on our own, then tried fertility treatments, enduring many unsuccessful treatments and the loss of a pregnancy. We reached the point where we were told IVF was our only option. Unfortunately IVF is expensive and it comes with no guarantees. We just couldn’t see spending that much money with no guarantee.
We considered adoption but some our conceptions led us to believe it wasn’t the right fit for us. We thought the only way we would get a young child would be through private adoption which is very costly, in the range of $30-60K. We thought adoption through the foster care agency would only be older children with lots of problems or severe physical challenges. Due to these beliefs, we hadn’t pursued adoption. We just began to believe building our family wasn’t in the cards for us. We were trying fervently to embrace all of the wonderful blessings we do have in our lives and not concentrate on the unobtainable.
It is ironic how when something is weighing on our hearts we notice it around us more and more. It seems lots of TV shows are having stories about adoption, foster care, or infertility, including Brothers & Sisters, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and One Tree Hill. I find myself wondering if this is God’s way of showing us things are possible when we are feeling low. An outside way of gaining the encouragement we need.
Last year adoption started weighing on my heart heavily again. We started talking about it and decided we were going to look into it and contact agencies to obtain more information before ruling it out. We learned a lot and I want to dispel some of the misconceptions about adoption. The cost of private adoption varies widely from $20,000-$60,000 plus. Some companies offer adoption assistance and currently there is a adoption tax credit. These can help cut the costs of adoption. There are younger children available for adoption through the foster care system and although the children may have some challenges, they are not all severely disabled or challenged.
Benefits of adopting through the foster care system are the classes you take. The classes are informative. They teach you about the challenges the children face, understanding how the child feels, and finding empathy for the parents. We learned we have parenting skills we didn’t know we had. We feel informed and excited for the next step in this journey.