During my years working as a frontline case manager for children in state custody, I was appalled at the numbers of kids on my caseload, and fellow staff members’ caseloads, who had been adopted years prior and then were placed back into the system by their adoptive family. This is an unfortunate, almost unbelievable reality for too many children who were promised their “forever” home and had to learn the hard way that forever does not always mean what it is supposed to mean.
Because of this, families being approved for adoption (domestic, international, and foster care) are assessed in making a lifetime commitment for any child they adopt. If you are interested in adoption, you need to know that once the judge declares you as a child’s adoptive parent, it is (legally) as if you have given birth to them.
Here are some things to consider regarding making a lifetime commitment to a child.
1) Once the “newness” of the adoption wears off, and you find yourself without the support of agency staff, how will you handle crisis moments? It seems odd to think that there are crisis moments in adoption, but there are. Birthdays, other special holidays, the anniversary of when a child entered protective custody or in need of adoption, the death of a biological parent, and the adopted child graduating from high school can create a mixture of emotions. Be prepared for these times as they can get very rough.
2) What are your limits in terms of behavioral, emotional, and other mental health issues? Are there aspects of any of these things that would cause you to remove your child permanently from your home? This almost sounds too unbelievable to even question, but it has happened far too often. Consider the “worst case scenario” and then ponder on how you would react.
3) How would you feel if your child (age 18) decides to seek out biological family and then considers moving to where his or her biological family resides? This may seem far-fetched but it has happened. Would you still consider yourself as that child’s parent and stay committed to providing emotional support for him or her?
4) Assess what parenting through a lifetime looks like to you. Will you be there when your child is an adult and struggling with past trauma? Are you willing to pick up the pieces once again and advocate just as hard as you did when the child was younger?
The commitment level of adoptive families must be assessed with real honesty about the hardships that they might face in the future. Adoptive parenting is not meant to be just for the growing-up years, but neither is parenting a biological child. Families who find themselves filled with wonderment at the idea of adoption need to give serious consideration to what a lifetime of adoptive parenting might look like. Their commitment level matters immensely–especially to children who have already lost so much.