Unique Challenges in Foster Adoption

Foster adoption, like all adoption, comes with it's own difficult challenges and stigmas.

Caroline Bailey October 17, 2016
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I was just about one week or so into my own fostering journey with a newborn when a lady at church approached me and said, “You are fostering, right?”

I said, “Yes.”

She then asked, “But…he’s not a foster child, right?”

I said, “Yes, he is.”

After all, she saw me just a week or two prior and I was not pregnant! Her innocent question has stayed with me through the years, and at the time, it caused me to pause a bit and wonder why she would think that the newborn I was caring for was not a foster child.

Adoption from foster is a unique experience, but also very rewarding. Here are a just a few examples of the challenges faced by families who adopt from foster care.

1. The approval process for a family to adopt from foster care can be quite lengthy.

In order for a family to adopt out of foster care, most states require licensure and preservice training which can take up to four months. This can be quite frustrating for families, but it allows for the agencies to ascertain whether or not the family is an appropriate fit for foster care and adoption. Families need to be patient and consider it a warm-up of sorts for their foster parenting/adoption journey.

2. Confidentiality is a part of life as a foster adoptive parent.

Families are required to abide by the confidentiality policies of their governing state or agency. Because of this, it can be hard to navigate the questions of others. The rules of confidentiality do not stop with questions,though. Foster families also need to be mindful of anything and everything they say or post on social media in regards to their foster parenting experience and their children.

3. The child’s history is extremely important.

With domestic newborn adoption, the primary history of the child is in the womb of the biological mother. However, with foster care adoption, the history of the child being adopted includes life with the biological family, past trauma, experiences in foster care, attachments to others and possible multiple moves while in the system. In other words, it can be quite complicated and certainly affects how the child functions. Being adopted offers the child stability and the love of a family, but it does not and should not erase the history of the child.

4. A good majority of adoptions out of foster care are of older children.

Because of this, attachment in adoption can present many challenges. Similar to number two of this list, families who adopt older children out of foster care need to familiarize themselves with the child’s history. Learn as much as possible and stay vigilant about ways to connect with an older child.

5. The federal law mandates for states to put all efforts and resources towards reunification.

 Legally, the law sets the time period as fifteen out of twenty-two months, but the case can take much longer. Families who are fostering children they hope to adopt need to be patient and allow for all legal processes to occur. For families who only want to adopt out of foster care, the wait can be just as long as it takes time for a family to be matched with a child. Remember, it is about the children and not about the foster/adoptive family!

6. After adoption, the decision to stay connected with biological family rests solely with the adoptive family.

This can be hard to wrestle with foster care adoption. Although biological parents can voluntarily terminate their rights which frees the child for adoption, the fact still remains that the vast majority did not choose to place their children into foster care. Staying connected with biological parents can be a wonderful thing for the child as he or she grows, but it can also involve grief, fear, confusion, and anger. If it is possible to stay in touch, then foster adoptive families should give serious consideration to it.

7. Sharing too little or too much about the child’s history and how he/she came into the adoptive family is also difficult to navigate.

For older children, they often recall why they were in foster care to begin with. For children who were placed as infants or toddlers into the system, it can be challenging to discern what to tell and when. Honesty is always the best avenue, but it should be dished out with respect to the child’s age and understanding. Sharing too little or too much with other people is also a challenge for foster adoptive families. While we want others to know about our family and how it came to be, there is always a time and place for this, and some people just do not need to know.

8. Although it is hard to swallow, we need to remember that there is still a bit of a stigma attached to adoption from foster care.

When my son was three-years- old, he was a bit on the rough side. He was impulsive and would lash out physically. A lady at his daycare approached me and questioned if he had witnessed domestic violence in his biological home. She knew he was adopted from foster care. The truth is that my son was not exposed to domestic violence. I realized that this question may not have even come up if he was my biological son or our adoption was considered a private, domestic one. Being adopted from foster care can carry stigmas and as parents to these children, we must do what we can to destigmatize it.

In all types of adoption, there are both blessings and burdens. Adoptive families know this. Choosing to adopt a child from foster care is an amazing act of love and commitment, but families need to understand that they are on a unique journey.

What are some challenges of foster care adoptions have you faced?

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Caroline Bailey

Caroline is a mother of three children through adoption and a strong advocate for the needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system in the United States. At the age of eleven (1983), she underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Caroline is the youngest person to have a hysterectomy. Her life has been profoundly affected by infertility. In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became licensed foster parents. They were blessed to adopt two of their children through foster care in 2008 and 2010. Their youngest child is a relative of Caroline, and they celebrated his adoption in 2013. Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. She has been a guest speaker at churches and conferences regarding adoption and is currently working on a memoir about the impact of illness, faith, foster care, and adoption in her life. Caroline is also an avid cyclist and enjoys cheering her children on in their various sporting activities. She shares her experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, parenting, and faith on her blog. She would love to hear from you! Contact her at barrentoblessed@gmail.com.


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