Families can be formed in many different ways. A family is a unit of people related by blood, marriage, or adoption. It can consist of parents and biological children, step children, foster children, and/or adopted children. Dennis Lehane is quoted as saying,
“Your first family is your blood family and you’ll always be true to that. That means something. But there’s another family and that’s the kind you go out and find. Maybe even by accident sometimes. And they’re as much blood as your first family. Maybe even more so, because they don’t have to look out for you and they don’t have to love you. They choose to.”
Adoption is one way of building a family. Often couples or individuals turn to adoption after years of infertility, but sometimes they choose to adopt simply because they want to.
1. Determine if adoption is right for you.
If you are in a relationship, make sure that both of you agree on adoption. Adopting a child is a big step. Adoption is permanent. In rare cases, dissolution can occur. This is when an adoption ends after it has been legally finalized. In this situation, the child, or children return to foster care or to an alternative potential adoptive family.
2. Have a support system in place.
Whether it is family members, church members, or friends, a strong support system is vital. They can help you make crucial decisions and give counsel along the adoption journey. There can be highs and lows that you may need help getting through.
3. Choose the kind of adoption you want.
Adoption agencies offer counselors that can assist in making decisions such as open adoption, closed adoption, semi-open adoption, domestic adoption, or international adoption. The choices can be overwhelming. It can be helpful to work with someone who is experienced and can answer your questions.
4. Complete a home study.
A home study is required for any type of adoption. Before you can be considered as a potential adoptive home, necessary paperwork and inspections must be completed. A background check will be conducted and a home study will be done to gather details about your family, personal, and professional life. Your lifestyle and personal values along with your medical history will be part of the home study process. If you choose open adoption, an adoption profile will also need to be prepared to introduce yourself to the prospective birth parent. This will help the parent to get acquainted with you and determine if you are a good match for the child.
Once you have all paperwork and your home study completed, you can begin the next step of finding a possible connection to a child as a potential addition to your family. This process can take some time. Depending on how you choose to adopt, the time may vary. It is important to stay calm and focused during this time and keep in mind the ultimate goal of adding to your family.
6. Meet agency requirements.
Once a match has been made then you will need to complete any additional state or international requirements leading up to the final legalization of the adoption.
7. Finalize the adoption.
When the adoption is legally final, you will have all rights to the child or children you have adopted as if they had been biologically born to you. Likewise, they are entitled to all privileges, monetary and physical comforts as if born to you.
Foster care is the temporary placement of a child or group of children in your home during a period of time when the biological parent(s) are unable to provide safe and adequate care.
Foster care differs from adoption, in that you are not given legal rights to the child. Though there are similar steps taken to begin the process, the end result is not the same. Adoption may be an option if the biological parents’ rights are terminated by a judge over the time of the foster care placement.
1. Complete paperwork.
Complete any necessary paperwork and courses required by your state Health and Welfare Department.
2. Complete home study.
Pass a home inspection and legal background check. Each state has its own requirements in regard to the living situation in your home. (example: number of bedrooms, size of home,etc.)
3. Prepare for placement.
Once you are accepted as a foster parent, get ready for the phone calls. Each time the phone rings you will anticipate who will be coming into your life and heart next.
Being a foster parent can be a roller coaster of emotions. Over the four years that we were a foster family, we had 34 children in our home either as respite care or long-term placements. Each child leaves a permanent mark on your heart—even if it is just overnight. I would close my eyes at night and see the faces of all the children needing to be loved. At the end of those four years, we were able to adopt a two-and-a-half-year-old little girl and adopt her permanently. Over the years I have wondered what has become of all of those children that we loved, even briefly. I know where a couple of them are, but the rest are long gone into the unknown. I pray that they are safe and well and hope that we had some sort of positive impact on their lives.
A poem written by fellow storyteller, Rachel Lutrell, sums up the grieving part of foster care.
I thought I grieved them all.
From the castles built in the sand to jumping leaf piles in the fall
From little hands wrapped tightly around mine
as I soothed their fears away.
To placing a child in his father’s arms, as he sobbed for me to stay.
I thought I’ve grieved the frustration of another pushed back court date.
Leaving the child once again, in a limbo state.
Not sure of what tomorrow will hold, their future still unknown.
Loving them until goodbye, begging God to grow the seeds I’d sown.
I thought I could smile when a Facebook memory shows me a chubby cheeked grin.
Yet my heart aches for that time all over again.
Just because these children are a part of my past.
Does not mean I do not grieve them when a memory is cast.
I say a prayer and shed some tears and keep myself from the rabbit hole.
Of searching God for why this is how my stories unfold.
Precious children that were a part of me for such a short time.
Precious souls that belong to God no matter how hard I wished they were mine.
Now I have my daughter and she is here to stay.
What a gift my little girl is who brings me joy in my day to day.
Though there is still this aching love I have for all my borrowed children.
How much more are they fiercely loved by him.
So I lift each one up and pray over them by name.
And give this grief again to God, who is the healer of earthly pain.
Adoption and foster care offer families the opportunity to love and share life with those we may not have had the chance to love in other circumstances. I have had the privilege of doing both. Though it wasn’t the path I thought my life would take, both experiences have taught me many life lessons that I would not have learned otherwise.