When You Want To Foster But Not Adopt

Before I was a foster parent, I used to say that if you were a foster parent long enough (and worked with an agency that licensed families for both foster care and adoption), eventually you would have the opportunity to adopt a child. While I’m sure there may be exceptions, I still believe that is true. And indeed, many people choose to foster because they are hoping to eventually build their family through adoption.

But what if you want to foster but don’t want to adopt? What follows are the stories of two foster families who don’t want to adopt (or, in one case, who don’t want to adopt any more). If you are in the same place, or even if you’re not sure you want to adopt, hopefully, their stories can be an encouragement to you. And if you are wanting to foster and adopt, perhaps their stories can provide another perspective. As Jackie says, “Both types of homes are beneficial, those who want to take care of those temporarily who need it and those who are looking for their forever children. God uses us in many ways.”

Rob and Deanna thought about becoming foster parents for a long time before they actually did it. “It took us 20 years,” Deanna says. “We started talking about fostering when we were in our early 20s and were having trouble conceiving our first child. Then I got pregnant. After that, fostering came up every three to four years. We would discuss it and there was always a reason it wasn’t the right time.”

Like Rob and Deanna, Jackie says that she and her husband Mike often thought about fostering but always talked themselves out of it. “Our children were grown,” she says. “We could come and go as we pleased. Why complicate things?”

Both families were eventually licensed, but even then, adoption wasn’t part of the plan. Deanna believes that as foster parents, she and her husband can provide a safe and healthy home for children while their parents work on the issues that brought their children into foster care. “I believe that just because a family is having problems, doesn’t mean it can’t be a good family. Sometimes all they need is a chance to deal with the problems,” Deanna says. Jackie agrees. “We have space, means, and compassion to provide a loving place for a child who needs it while their parents work out whatever issues they are experiencing,” she says.

Baby G was one of Rob and Deanna’s first placements. “I was the biggest cheerleader for G’s biological parents,” Deanna says. “I really wanted them to comply with the reunification plan and get her. Every time they had a setback, I was disappointed.” Eventually, though, G’s biological mother asked Deanna to consider adopting her. At that point, she says, adopting G was the right decision. “I just couldn’t imagine her with another family if she didn’t reunify with her original family,“ Deanna says. “I loved her from the start, I just didn’t allow myself to think about keeping her until then.”

After G’s adoption, though, Rob and Deanna decided they didn’t want to adopt any more children, though they did want to continue fostering. Since then, they’ve had several placements who have gone on to other adoptive homes when the plan for those children’s cases was changed from reunification to adoption. Asked if she has felt pressure to adopt any of these other placements, Deanna admits that some of the pressure has been from herself, especially for her current placement. “It is hard to give them up, and my husband and I struggled with the decision to let her go,” Deanna says. Deanna also says that conversations with friends and family, or with foster parents who want to adopt, are difficult. Still, Deanna says that her local county agency has been very supportive of their decision not to adopt.

While Jackie says she has always felt welcome at events with other foster families, she and Mike sometimes feel like adoptive families don’t understand their position. “We feel like we have raised our children to adulthood, and we want to be an oasis for children who need it until they can be reunited with their parents or moved to an adoptive family for their forever home,” she says. “For us, it is simple. We are called to look after those less fortunate than us. That is what we are doing.”

Deanna is quick to point out that no one should feel pressure to adopt a child. “Your decision needs to be based on what is best for the child, your family, and you. Your personal needs and desires are not less valid because you’re the mom. The needs and desires of your family (spouse and children) are not less valid because they already have a stable, safe home. If you decide not to adopt,” she says, “you are not being selfish.”