I wanted to write a post about foster care and how it functions. I have this tendency to obsessively research things that matter to me to feel like I'm actually doing something. I recently realized while talking to a friend that not everyone has researched adoption and foster care as obsessively as I have. I know, this is quite the revelation. Thus the reason for this post.
We have received many loving suggestions to try adopting from foster care to keep costs low and I have replied that we don't feel like this is right for us as this time, without any real explanation as to why we don't feel that foster care is necessarily right for us. As I have said in other posts, we are currently taking foster care classes and my heart has definitely been opened to these children, however the emotional cost of trying to adopt from foster care may be more than we can handle at this time. This does not mean that we won't consider this route in the future or that we won't accept a placement if it feels right for us at this time.
The first and most important part about foster care is that the goal of foster care is reunification with with the child's birth parents. Very few children enter foster care already free for adoption. Yes, children do become free for adoption while in foster care, but this is not the case with all children. All children enter foster care with a plan. The primary goal is usually reunite the child with his/her birth parent(s). There may even be a set time frame, such as 3 months, that they would like to try to aim for. For some children, they enter foster care with only one plan, which is reunification. Other children enter care with what is called a concurrent plan. In this case the foster parents have to work with the birth parents on making reunification possible, but if reunification is not possible the foster parents most likely are in agreement that they would be willing to adopt the child, or children in a case where there is sibling group. This means that we could have a child come into our home that has a high chance of being freed for adoption, but for a certain period of time we will have to work toward reunification and there is no guarantee that the child will actually become free for adoption.
Another part of foster care is that if a child has been in care for 15 of the most recent 22 months a petition has to be filled to terminate parental rights. This does not mean that this petition has to be granted. The situation, the birth parents, the judge and a number of other factors determine whether or not the petition will be granted.
So let's say that we had a newborn come to us that stays in our care for 15 consecutive months, a petition is then filed, but let's pretend like it's not granted. Maybe the birth parents have been trying really hard to get their child back and it's looking like that may be possible. But let's also say that it takes a long time time for that to happen, and the child is in our care for another year or more. Now this child has been in our care for 2-3 years, since he/she was a newborn. We are attached to the child and the child is attached to us, but we are not his/her birth parents and the birth parents are doing everything they need to do to have their child come back into their home. We have heard stories of situations like this happening and frankly they scare us. Yes, you have given a child a wonderful start to his/her life, but if the birth parents don't want a continued relationship with you once that child goes home, you may never see that child again. That is a huge loss!
The effects that our failed embryo transfers have had on us are pretty big. Foster care class has showed me that I have had to go through the five stages of grief with these failed transfers. To experience intense grief for months at a time several times over has been really difficult. To parent a child and then have that child go home and possibly never see him/her again sounds so overwhelming and almost more than we can handle. It would be different if we already had one or two children, it would still be painful, but it would be a little easier to accept. But to have that child be our first child and possibly only child, and to risk losing that child just doesn't sound like something we can take lightly. Like I said, we may have a situation that is presented to us that just feels right, but for our own emotional health at this point we have to be selective even if it sounds selfish. Thank you for caring enough to suggest adopting from foster care and please do not be offended if/when we say this isn't right for us as this time. We just have to protect our hearts at this time so that we can be fully ready to welcome a child into our home that is right for us.