When we read or hear about adoption, we often think of domestic infant adoption or international adoption. However, there is also a real need for adoptive parents to make children who are in the foster care system a part of their family. In fact, 115,000 children in the foster care system available for adoption. As with any form of adoption, adopting from the foster care system brings highs and lows.
Marisa from New England, along with her wife, is an adoptive mom to her four year old son via domestic adoption and her 2 1/2 year old daughter via foster care adoption. She shares the highs, lows and other details of her family's process of adopting from foster care.
The timeline varies, but the process generally takes about a year. Approximately nine months after Marisa and her spouse began the paperwork, their daughter was placed in their home. She was 23 months old at the time of placement. They are finalizing their daughter's adoption on November 19, which is National Adoption Day. She will have been with her new -- and permanent -- family for just under eight months on that day.
Nobody will claim that navigating an adoption from the foster care system is without difficulty. Marisa shares a story involving a state worker interpreting a policy very differently than her adoption agency had. The resulting interpretation -- involving a requirement that a child placed in their home have a separate bedroom -- added months and significant expense (for construction) to their process. "There were many times…when we almost walked away, or were sure it was about to fall through," says Marissa.
However, the adoption journey was also sprinkled with positives. "There are many private agencies that subcontract through the state to train and homestudy foster and foster-to-adopt parents," explains Marisa. "These agencies tend to have more resources and smaller case loads than the state systems, and it's usually still free to use them. If you have the option, I definitely recommend it."
The private agency Marisa and her wife chose is what made their process more manageable. "They went to bat for us many times and were excellent advocates for us. I don't think we would have made it through without such a great worker and a really principled agency behind us."
The take home message, as with any type of adoption, is to research agencies very carefully so that you find an agency that both works for the children it places and that advocates for your family.
One clear advantage to adopting form the foster care system versus a private adoption is the medical insurance and support your child can receive from the state. Marisa's daughter is hearing impaired and so she has many appointments, including speech therapy. Marisa explains, "The state has been very helpful in providing support for her care, not just through health insurance (which is a huge blessing) but also through subsidies that cover many of the expenses associated with her care that aren't covered by insurance." If you are considering adopting a child with additional needs, ask about the support -- financial and otherwise -- that is available from the state.
Marisa highly recommends being proactive during the entire process. "Both before and since our daughter's placement, I had to ask the same questions over and over, request the same referrals over and over, leave voice mail after voice mail, but eventually it all got done because they got sick of hearing from me" she says. Ever heard the saying "The squeaky wheel gets the grease?" Marisa is proof that it's true!
She also stresses the importance of connecting with other families who are adopting and who have already adopted through foster care. "The foster-to-adopt families in our community gave us a huge amount of perspective and support through a difficult process," she says.
When asked for any final advice she would offer to other families just beginning the process of adopting from the foster care system, Marisa responds, "Patience, patience, patience! The child welfare system moves like molasses in winter and you better have some strategies in place to make the wait tolerable."
Do you have involvement with the foster care system? Please share your experiences and opinions in the comments section below.
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