Post-Adoption Contact with Foster Family
We adopted from the state foster care system. It was risky, the outcome unknown. We found our child from a single page narrative written by her caseworker. The first paragraph was about what had brought her into the state system– a few sentences about neglectful parenting. The second covered her placements. The next had a brief description of her foster household. Then, a few statements about the current lack of medical conditions or developmental concerns. At the end, there was a descriptive sentence of a preferred permanent home. The caseworker was hoping for a loving, non-violent home where the caregivers are willing to provide to the child’s needs.
Any child removed from their initial environment and placed in another home is likely to have an adverse reaction. A kid with multiple placements is more likely to be traumatized. The age of the child can be an additional major factor. Our child was removed from her biological parents when she was an infant. She was placed briefly with a relative, then lived in the same foster home for 3+ years. When we read that she had been in this one home I figured we were getting a less traumatized, less problematic child. I was wrong.
When you adopt from the state foster system, you are adopting a child that will be susceptible to emotional disturbances related to the disruptions in their home life. You are also adopting a kid that was raised by others. Yet, no one tells you in detail about the nurturing and child caring practices used in the foster home. I made assumptions about them. No one told us what we had to do or should do or what is expected when it comes to contact with the foster family. I was not prepared for how different we could be.
Soon after we were informed that we were matched to our child, the foster mother emailed us. Mrs. Foster informed us of their daily schedule of activities– wake up time, breakfast, one tv show, outdoor time, lunch and so forth. I was told by the caseworker to try and follow the schedule as closely as possible when she was in our home.
The Actual Domestic Adoption Process that We Endured
We plowed into researching options for domestic adoption. After making the decision to pass on international adoption, I called the 1-800 number and had a lovely conversation with a worker about adopting from the foster care system in Oregon. It was a little strange to call the Department of Human Services. There had been a number of years when as a social worker I had been a mandated reporter and had to call the DHS hotline. I had this conversation in December. The next step was to take classes, another round was scheduled for January.
We took several hours of classes at the local DHS site. The classes were in the evenings. At first we took turns attending, then we hired a sitter for the boys and went together. Alone or together, it didn’t matter, these classes were boring, painful, and dry. As a former social worker and as a decent parent, I could not believe the course content for these classes AND the questions from the class. One class was devoted to logistics of being a foster parent. The dos and don’ts. I did not get why I had to listen to countless questions of: when I buy a pair of shoes for my foster kid, what form do I use to get reimbursed. Or, when we go on a weekend trip to another state, why do I have to get approval?
I really felt like so much of the coursework should have been divided between foster families, kinship homes and adoptive families. The fosters had different questions than the kinships, the kinships had all sorts of issues related to their kin being the children’s failing parents, and us adoptive people just wanted to get a kid into our home. Finally we completed the course work and had permission to get assigned to an adoption worker. His name was Mike. He came to our house several times to interview us. We also had to fill out piles of paperwork, including essay style questionnaires on our childhoods, family of origin, interpersonal conflicts, methods for handling stress and childrearing. He did a thorough walk through of our house checking off boxes on his list: bedrooms, smoke alarms, stairs and so forth. He interviewed the boys. He interviewed three personal references on us as parents. We both got background checks done. A part of me was impressed by how thorough the inquiries were, another part of me nervous. Would we pass the test?
Adoption Options: Domestic or International Adoption?
There were a few different adoption options. However, the day after we discussed moving forward with adoption, I was on the internet exploring international adoption. While the boys were in school, I spent h-o-u-r-s viewing websites of adoption agencies. The number of agencies, the countries each agency covered, the different timelines, and the varying financial costs were overwhelming to me. I poured over countless websites of agencies — local, in state, nearby states, and across the States. We narrowed down our search to a few in state agencies that covered Asian adoptions.
Each country had specific guidelines. We reviewed the qualifying requirements. For a number of countries, we were at the older end of the age limit. We had two biological children. With these two factors, already we were not identified as a highly desirable adoptive couple. I felt guilty when thinking about childless couples struggling with infertility. We considered adopting a child with special needs — a child with a medical or emotional condition, a child with a physical impairment. We started sharing our dream with others, talking openly about our desire to adopt and our efforts. We sold our second car to raise funds. Then we were told no.
My husband does not drink, smoke, or use recreational drugs. He makes a decent income as our primary breadwinner. He has a health body mass index. He does take an anti-anxiety medication. We were informed that most Asian countries flat out refuse applicants who were prescribed psychotropic medications for emotional conditions.
Before You Make the Decision to Adopt, Think About This…
The decision to adopt. Hmm, it started years ago. Pretty much after my second son’s birth. Maybe we’ll adopt our third. Maybe adopt from Asia, so she and I have some similarities. She. I went through two healthy pregnancies and uneventful deliveries. My boys are close in age. My body went through two and a half years of being prenatal, postnatal and back again. I l-o-v-e-d the experiences of having babies. But I did not want to go through it a third time. I just did not have the desire to go through another pregnancy and delivery. I felt blessed that everything had happened normally and in a healthy manner. I was worried about jinxing things.
We decided I would not return to work. I stayed at home with the boys. We moved a few times, packed up our belongings, unpacked, got settled. We went through the milestones– breastfeeding, moms groups, sleep deprivation, weaning, solid foods, crawling, walking, teething, temper tantrums, potty training, setting limits, nightmares. The boys got older. And yet, the thought, the wish, the need did not go away. I did not feel like I was done. One day at the beginning of a school year my son said, “When am I getting a little sister?” I think he was six. He explained that all his friends had one, when was he getting one?
That started the dialogue with my husband. Was it two-way? I had so much to say on the matter. He was no longer gung ho about the idea. All those times we met a family who had adopted and he inquired about the process. All those times he said: we’re going to do that some day. Now, he said he felt our family was complete and we were evenly matched with two boys, why rock the boat? We went through months of talking. I agonized over this. I wanted this so badly. I wanted more kids, I wanted to go through the preschool years again, I wanted a daughter.