Recently, I have been digging through adoption research for background on kids adopted through foster care. There is so little research; it frustrates me. The best and most comprehensive research on adoption was done through SIBS at University of Minnesota; even this has limitations. Although it was the largest adoption study ever, the adopted children were all under age 2 at adoption and all were agency adoption. Many were international adoptions. I don’t know how many were foster kids, but I am betting few, if any.
Foster adoption is different, and I would love to see some good comprehensive studies on the topic. These need to be studies of kids who are over 2 years old when adopted; it would be great to have a thousand subjects. Foster kids come with the baggage of whatever brought them into protective service; if their needs– social, educational, and mental health– could be more broadly documented, it could make a huge difference to families. Foster parents who are contemplating adoption could have a better idea of what they need to consider prior to adoption. More importantly, parents would know what signs to look for in their children and be better-equipped to advocate for their kids to get their needs met.
I see a lot in the media about the “broken foster care” system. I agree that there are many flaws in the system and there are improvements to be made. On the other hand, the state is compelled to care for children whose primary caregivers are unable to do so. Group homes are definitely not the solution. With the current levels of drug addiction among young adults, I am guessing the foster care system will become more burdened. Since many children can never safely return home, foster care is here to stay. I would love to see more focus on how to quickly place children in foster-to-adopt homes to reduce the number of moves they have to make since those moves equal trauma to the child. I would also love to see more resources placed toward helping foster children overcome their rocky beginnings.
For now, however, we can do what adoptive parents– all parents, for that matter– have always done. Be sensitive to our children, listen to them as well as to what they are not saying, lean on the advice of teachers, doctors and other parents, and trust our instincts about what will help them. Often, love is not enough.