As if there were not enough adoption terms with which to become familiarized, here is yet another: interim care. So what is interim care, and why is it important? An apt description of interim care is a “short term foster care provided by qualified, loving families that have been approved to care for infants whose adoption plans are still being finalized. An interim care provider cares for the infant 24 hours per day (no daycare permitted). The average length of a stay in interim care is 2-24 days. …An interim care provider takes the baby to his or her pediatrician appointments, might meet with birth and adoptive families, communicates with social workers about the baby’s development, [and] meets federal and local background checks.” As is typical of foster care, the interim families are paid a nominal amount for their services, but it is nowhere near what they deserve.
Interim care is very important. It provides a safe place for babies to live while decisions regarding their permanency are being finalized. This service allows the birth families to not stress about how to care for the child once discharged and enables them to have needed time to solidify their adoption or parenting plans. For adoptive families, it gives a piece of mind that the child they are attempting to adopt is safe and cared for, and, in the event that adoption is not possible, the child is not taken out of their arms.
Our Experiences as an Adoptive Family
Our family has two experiences with interim care. Two experiences with two very different outcomes. The first one was when we were trying to adopt a little girl with whom we were matched. We made it through the six months of the match. I was in the delivery room when the baby was born. We named her Savannah. Her mother introduced me to all the nurses and doctors as the baby’s adoptive mother. Everything was going according to plan. Since this was a legal risk placement and the biological mother showed signs of wavering on her decision, our social worker suggested that Savannah go to interim care so that if her parents change their minds, the transition would be better for all instead of coming to our home to get the baby.
She left the hospital in the care of the social worker and went to the interim home where she would stay until the 10-day revocation period was over. We were invited to visit her at the interim home and start the bonding process. The day before we were going to make a middle of the week visit, we got a call that her birth family was seriously thinking about parenting instead of placing. On day 7 of the 10 day revocation period, they decided to parent her. Our hearts were broken.
Savannah never came to our home and having the interim home created a sort of buffer that helped to ease the pain of losing her. Do we wish we could have brought her home and loved on her for that brief period? Yes! However, God in his infinite knowledge knew that she was not meant to be our forever child and gave the wisdom to our social worker to have Savannah placed in an interim home. The interim home acted as a safe place and a shield while we waited out the time and helped us transition back into waiting for a match, which would happen a little over two months later.
Our second experience was far more pleasant. Because we already had our hearts broken, and the fact there were still some missing details in the adoption paperwork, our social worker opted for interim care before we even knew about our son. The social worker took our son from the hospital and met his interim family (at a Starbucks not more than five minutes from my house!).
The interim family took our boy home and loved on him. They read to him and played Christian music for him and cherished him just like we would have. They took pictures, took him to doctor appointments, and “named” him (because he was not given a name at birth.) They even took him on a family vacation with them. They had him for three and a half weeks before we were identified as his family and named him Joshua. They rejoiced with us on placement day. We fell in love with their family and still have a unique bond with them. To my knowledge, we are the only family that has kept in touch with them and sends them photos of Joshua. I treasure the memories and photos of the day we met that incredible family and were able to thank them for caring for our boy.
That experience with interim care was incredibly positive. I appreciate the fact that our social worker chose to put him in interim care in the event that something went wrong. Would we have wanted to have those three and a half weeks at our home with our Joshua? Yes! But since we did not, I am so very glad that he was placed in a home where he was loved and adored.
The Experiences of Interim Care Families
Who better to tell us what Interim care looks like than a family who has actually provided the care. I reached out to our son’s interim family to see if they would share their story, and they were delighted to help give us a well-rounded view and a unique perspective. As I mentioned prior, this family is incredibly special.
Before they cared for Joshua, they fostered many babies. After Joshua, they were asked to provide interim care for a little girl who was older than an infant. Typically, interim care does not include toddlers, but this was a special situation. In this instance, interim care became more of a transitional care when the little girl became available for adoption. The family was asked if they would like to adopt her, and they said yes. She had already stolen their hearts! Not long after, she was joyfully added to their family of six. Though they no longer provide interim care, they were very eager to share some thoughts as they reflected on their experiences in interim care, as well as the unexpected outcome of their journey.
The interim care mom stated that the reason they became involved with interim care was that they felt “called by God” to grow their family of six. At first, they did not know what that would look like so they began exploring the various options that were possible.
She wrote, “As I was looking into adoption, I read about interim care, but my husband and I agreed that it would be really hard to temporarily care for a child that we knew would eventually leave our home for another. It wasn’t until we had a clearer understanding of our calling several years later that we revisited this idea of interim care. I was no longer practicing as a NICU nurse, as I had left the profession to care for and homeschool our four children. God had laid it on our hearts to consider opening our home to more children, and again, we assumed that meant biological children. When we began to consider my nursing skills and our love for children, we began to see where we could invest in this ministry of transitional care for newborns. We saw it as a unique opportunity to involve our children in missions without having to travel across the world. We knew that it would stretch us emotionally and physically, but we felt the rewards would be worth the sacrifices. So we said yes!”
She recollected that “the first baby that came into our home stayed for only six days. Her birth mom, whom my husband and I had met and prayed with at the hospital, decided to parent her before the revocation period was up. That was hard for us, as we had understood that our babies would be placed with their ‘forever families’ once they left our home. It hadn’t occurred to us that the birth mom might be God’s forever plan for that baby. But as we placed her in the arms of her loving mom, we realized that we had given her mom the gift of time to re-evaluate her situation and begin to see her child as a treasure, not a burden. We saw the importance of the role we had been asked to play, and we were thankful to be a part of God’s beautiful plan for that baby.”
The next two babies for whom they cared had similar stories. They each were in their home for under a week, during which time they had the opportunity to pray over them and love on them when their families could not. This interim family realized how vital their role was as they provided a safe space for the babies to reside while their birth mother made hard decisions. They also acted as a buffer as adoptive families were protected from disappointment when birth moms had a change of heart.
The next baby they cared for had a different story, as did the next two after her. All of these babies, for one reason or another, were permanently placed in forever homes with adoptive families. The interim family cared for each of these babies for several weeks. She mused that their “children became very good at rocking, bottle feeding, and even changing diapers! It was a family affair for sure! We then had the amazing and rewarding experience of handing the babies over to families who had been waiting for this moment for years! There are no words to express the joy we felt, again, to be a part of God’s perfect plan and to see adoption stories unfold before our very eyes! It brought the gospel story to life and transformed us in ways we never imagined it would.”
“Since then,” she wrote, “and through some very unique circumstances, God gave us the opportunity to experience the joy of being united with our own adopted child! Our family of six did grow after all, but not before we laid down our own expectations and embraced God’s plan above our own. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:9, ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
I greatly appreciate her sharing their story, especially since my son was one of the babies that they cared for and whom they placed in our arms on adoption day. Their story shows the far-reaching effects that interim care can have on a child, a birth family, an adoptive family, and the interim family. The child had a safe and loving place to go until decisions could be made. Birth families had time to reflect, change their minds, or move forward with the adoption plan. Adoptive families were protected from the heartbreak of having a child taken from their arms. Interim families are touched by the love that they see in the adoptive and birth families, as well as the selflessness it takes to care for a child.
Interim or transitional care is very important to the well-being of the baby, the birth family, and the adoptive family. The interim caregivers are special people who are willing to let their hearts be broken for the joy of knowing the child is in a loving forever home. I am grateful for special families, who are willing to love on the small ones for a little while before they go back to their biological families or are placed with their adoptive families. Their job cares for the most venerable little lives at a crucial point of their lives. They offer love and care and give the gift of space and time for important, life-changing decisions to be made and solidified. Interim care givers are the unsung heroes of the adoption and foster worlds.