This past year saw a four percent increase in children entering the foster system—which means that there are many more kids who are potentially no longer a part of a forever family. We want those who are able to reunify with their birth parents to do just that (everyone deserves a chance to try again), but for those kids for whom their parental bond has been severed, their next best chance at a family of their own is through foster adoption.
I get it—it’s scary.
We think of all sorts of terrible scenarios, not helped by daytime television, news headlines, or stories that your mom’s friend’s grandma’s sister encountered. Here are some common misconceptions and concerns that may be holding you back from jumping in to the process:
Myth #1: “Special Needs”= “Disabilities and Major Issues.”
While there are many waiting children with disabilities (physical or emotional), the special needs category is often a label placed on sibling groups and older kids, kids of a specific racial background, or those with “simple” difficulties such as dyslexia, infants with a cleft palate, or hemangioma. Don’t let the labels scare you away—talk to your foster counselor about exactly WHAT those needs may be: You may be missing out on your forever family for an issue that doesn’t turn out to be an issue to you at all
Myth #2 “Older Kids Don’t Need Adoption.”
Did you know that children who “age out” (turn eighteen and become emancipated) of the foster system are less likely to go to college and MORE likely to be chronically unemployed, have PTSD, be homeless, or enter the prison system? Nine percent of youth in foster care last year (over 23,000 in 2014) achieved emancipation without finding that forever home*. Did you stop needing your parents when you turned eighteen? Neither did we. Maybe consider an older kid for your forever family.
Myth #3 Foster Care is Just That: Fostering.
While the goal of the child welfare system is family reunification, about 50% of kids in the foster system are eventually adopted by their foster families. Depending on the agency and your local laws, you may be able to request to only foster children who have had parental relinquishment or for whom foster adoption is the most likely outcome.
Myth #4 A Stay-At-Home Parent is Required.
Nope! You will work with your foster care agency to develop a plan that covers after-school care or babysitting if there is no parent in the home full-time. Many families choose foster care AND full-time employment. If you can manage it with bio kids, you can manage it with foster kids—there is no better parent than you!
Myth #5 Military Families Can’t Foster
While there certainly are challenges unique to the military family, as long as you are able to pass the home study in your current state, you may be able to foster. In addition, the military provides help through Military One Source and through an adoption reimbursement program. Start getting your home study ready, talk to your local agencies, and alert your commander that you have got a family plan in development!
* Source: Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2014 data
Have you started the foster care approval process? Do you have any tips or advice? Let us know in the comments!