One of my mentors told me years ago that it’s better to adopt sibling groups because it increases the odds of getting one that you like.
I love that because the idea of getting one that you like is in many ways at it’s core one of the many unspoken beliefs about adoption from foster care. The myth being “don’t adopt children from foster care because the children are too damaged.” The translation, they are too much work with not enough reward. There certainly is “work” but that’s where the high is and the rewards come everyday when you practice spotting them. ”Foster care has too much red tape and interference from birth relatives.” True enough but so what. You can’t get a puppy from the pound without a blood test, a medical and a ninety day waiting period. You wanna bring a stranger into your home/life forever and you don’t want think about it for a week or two? Who’s the needy one here?
It is nice when our children fit perfectly into our world and assume the roles that we ascribe to them. We can parade them around our friends regaling all who will listen with tales of achievement and excellence. They will smile up at us as we puff out our chests and feel primed for the next challenge. The fact is that adoptive and foster families cannot use the same measure of success or failure for that matter that “average” families use. Our children come from situations that are far from average; therefore we must follow a more deliberate, focused and intensified course of “normal.” We feel uncomfortable trying to force our above average experiences into average sensibilities.
Have no doubt that although our experiences are sometimes a strange kinda normal we are living that “family life” that we all dream about. Teach yourself to find solace in the inbetween times when alls right with the world. Learn to “catch” your kids being lovable and cute. The mental exercise will help you live longer as you recognize your blood pressure droppping.
Those of us who choose to be adoptive parents have to understand that we are not responsible for our children’s chaotic backgrounds. Yet we are choosing to be instrumental in helping them process the ramifications of those backgrounds. Sometime that choice is going to mean bearing the brunt of their anger/confusion and fear. When my wife and I invited our children into our lives we invited their histories and drama’s. We offered to share their burdens and to love them as best we could.
This is often easier said then done. When your life is in upheaval; when you feel that you must be on the defensive at all times; it’s hard to remember the damage of a chaotic background. You naturally become defensive and often hostile in response to the treatment you must endure. The feelings this generates in the parent can be crushing and debilitating. Yet we must try to remember that all this is our choice and in fact the true reason we’ve made that choice. We want most of all to help our children heal. We want the pain to stop and the wounds to close. Loading… Hide notes
Sitting alone in the center of my living room I realized that virtually every corner of my house bears witness to the people that occupy that space. Faces aging progressively in school photo’s. Soccer, softball, track and field trophy’s, medals, patches and pins lined up each tied to a moment, season or year. “My chair” beside the bookcase waits all week allowing trespassers to handle the remote and rest their feet on “my ottoman” until it embraces me again Friday nights.
The couch sits like form fitting shoes comfortable, each position shaped by it’s primary occupant not much to look at but perfectly suited through it’s history. Shoes stacked high against the bannister like supper at a Japanese Steak house. The old rug tells the story of birthdays and Steeler games. Every now and then I am struck by how little has changed it this room over the years yet I can’t help but smile. Sitting alone in my living room in the silence created by the absence of everything that breathed life into this room I smile. Lucky to have been so blessed by so many for so long.
Well there was a time when I was a hot headed, brash young advocate running around stomping my feet and demanding adoption or nothing. I ranted about the importance of folks coming forward and going all the way. My argument was legal adoption makes the clear statement that I am here for you/ you are no longer a foster child/you belong with me and mine. This seemed so clear to me that I could hardly stand to consider anything short of the judge and legal decree. I loved the fact that the legal adoption was a recognized change of status from motherless child to almost full fledged citizen of the world. The change is important. One of the side effects of living in limbo is that after a time it warps the thinking about self and others. Warped thinking about self and others is rarely a good thing and for foster kids with no hope of returning to birth family in any structured or sane fashion belonging no where or worst yet last class citizenship until the day they drop you like a hot rock is a recipe for disaster.
Adoption we have decided is also a mindset. A mindset based on the idea that one adult can decide to “adopt” a youngster whether they are “free” for adoption or not. The adoption takes place when the adult decides to commit to being this child’s parent. That process begins in the adult mind and need only be recognized/sanctioned by the adult. The funny thing is when you talk like a parent/act like a parent/think like a parent/ folks begin to respond to you as a parent.
What if… Patricia doesn’t want to be adopted? She’s a teen and adoption is a betrayal best left for the helpless or uninformed. What if she doesn’t want to change her name? What if she won’t take my name or call me Daddy? Why adopt a sixteen year old who’s only gonna be home for two more years? Why go through all the trouble for a kid who doesn’t seem to care?
Etc, etc, etc we need to keep our focus on the fact that what children in foster care need most is someone to claim them regardless of the status of their case.
When foster kids hear “adoption” they hear about everything that they have to give up or lose in order to be adopted. Why would anyone “want’ to be adopted?
Adults/prospective parents need to understand that ”adoption” is a mindset. I “adopt” you by commiting myself to your well being for the rest of my life. Sometime that commitment takes legal form with papers and court hoopla. Othertimes that commitment goes unrecognized by any official, sanctioning body and that’s just as real and binding on the adult. My decision to parent you is the defacto “adoption.”
Listen to Pat & Chester on that July 4th radio broadcast: http://www.kjoy.com/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=4778372
Okay so you’ve made the decision to adopt through your state’s foster care system. First thing is to come to grips with the fact that first you will be a foster parent. Now put whatever that means to you aside and begin to accept that this is a process. You will need to connect with/and be certified/approved/sanctioned by your local Department of Social Services or private foster/adoption agency.
A couple things to consider, thing one, when you make the call pay attention to how they respond. Did you talk to a machine, if so how long before a human being returned your call? Did the person seem interested after you informed them that you want to adopt? How did you feel after the conversation? These are important things to consider. If you feel like your getting the run around or that you are being patronized or dismissed you probably are. That’s good to know up front. If they treat you poorly as an inquiry know that it won’t get any better later.
Now that you’ve figured out what the procedure is and where you will be certified/approved/cleared/trained this is the beginning of the indoctrination into the “foster care head.” The “foster care head” is a belief system that foster care agencies use to make the disposal of children palpable. It’s ”the deal” the money back garantee, the return to sender policy that makes foster care a sad never never land for multi-abandoned and re-re-rejected children. It is a necessary tool when baby sitting is sold as “parenting.” The good news is this is not a terminal condition and FCH can be cured and is often reversable if caught early. With deligence and chutzpah FCH can be combated and dare I say overcome. Don’t forget that parents don’t reject their children when the work begins. And for the record, the chaos is what you’re signing up for when you choose to bring traumatized children into your home. Promise me you’ll try to remember that you came forward to be a part of the solution not just another pot hole in the road to good intentions.
To be continued….
Why adopt from the foster care system? Several really good reasons. If you’re seriously thinking about adoption you have no doubt been considering this decision for some time. You might have explored a little bit and discovered that private adoption can be a very costly proposition, financially and otherwise.
If you’ve been considering adoption for a while you might have given great consideration to your individual and family needs. You have probably asked yourself a thousand times why do I need/want to adopt from foster care? Is this option the right one for me?
Is what I want/need to do tied more closely to becoming and being a parent or having and raising a baby? These are important considerations as they are not the same questions needs or/desires. Am I attracted to the notion of contributing to making this world a kinder, gentler place? How about giving back for all the blessings in your life? Maybe you remember a kindly foster mom down the road from you growing up. What ever your reason I urge you to follow through and explore this option. Where do I go?
When the end of our lives draws near we will consider the decisions that we have made; those which have brought us the most joy and we will thank goodness the opportunity was present and that we had the courage to act.
If you decide to parent through adoption you will learn the power of the spirit of love and the true meaning of the word commitment. Nothing in your life will seem as vibrant and no challenge so profound. Remember always that you make this decision willingly and that only you can determine the definition of its success or failure.
The word adoption seems to have many meanings these days as we celebrate the adoption of pets, highways, classrooms and ways of dressing. We can adopt internationally, locally, privately, informally and for the purposes of this writing older “children” from the foster care system.
There are a few things in life that I am so certain about that I spout them every chance I get with the certainty of a man of faith. One such thing is the truth about adopting or even fostering teens. The truth is parenting teens from foster care is often one of the most incredible, life changing and remarkable experiences that anyone who wishes to call themselves’ a parent can endure.
Is it easy? No, parenting often isn’t. Will there be ordeals and challenges? Yes, sometime the very sky will seem to be falling. Can these experiences leave us burnt out and emotionally depleted? Yes absolutely, especially if we insist on fighting on all fronts at the same time. If we are fighting emotional firestorms at school, home and in their individual relationships any parent is going to have periods of despair. Skirmishes will break out at every turn seemingly over nothing at all. All one need do is utter the word teenager and the collective minds of adoptive and foster parents everywhere roll their eyes, suck their teeth and turn away from the photo listing. This article no doubt just lost more than a few readers in the last two lines; no worries I have faith. Faith in the fact that for many of us travelers down the road to adoption someday we will find ourselves drawn to the road we are culturally warned to avoid.
“I want somebody that I can mold.”
“You don’t want teenagers…there’re trouble.”
“They will wanna run your house.”
“They don’t want parents… they are just set in their ways.”
Some of you will hear those voices and many of you will be those voices. I am here to tell those of you still listening that after nearly twenty years of placing older children and teens into permanent homes, younger is not better, just longer.
Teenagers are unique creatures in the midst of awe inspiring changes and not only capable of being molded but desperately seeking mold models to reject and later impersonate. Parenting teenagers is the ultimate investment in tomorrow. We know that when teens begin to push us away and distance themselves from our shadow we are providing something crucial to their development and psychological well being. I speak of someone’s specific way of life; a frame work around which a future can be carved and shaped.
When we consider why it is that we find ourselves on the road to teen adoption, experience has taught me that the most likely candidates for teens are folks who have come to or are willing to embrace the “C” word in two key ways. First is the understanding that the big “C” has to come first.
Commitment to living the role of parent without regard to the still imaginary child is a key element in making the decision to ignore rampant teen bias. Once parenthood thinking is activated and infused into the search, socially constructed barriers often fall away.
I believe the foundation of all parenting is not some “unconditional” illusion as much as it is the parent’s willingness and need to sacrifice in the spirit that our children will be better for and the world will be better for it. In no other arena is this concept more prevalent than in the very idea of adoption. Claiming another mother’s child in the name of some uncertain future is a dynamic and earth changing event. Don’t waste a moment of your precious time wondering if the sacrifices that you will inevitably have to make will be worth the trouble. You and the teens that you have decided to claim are worth the challenges ten fold. Adoptive parents of teens and preteens are blessed to witness an express journey through the developmental stages with great intensity until the need to test is overridden by the immense sense of connectedness that belonging engenders. When the young person begins to feel that you might just be a needs fulfilling person, a miraculous key turn happens and your child will finally begin to give back. Suddenly the blame and angry banter will subside and grass will begin to grow again. The ride will be bumpy as one’s life experiences don’t always translate into neat, orderly displays and prompts. Triggers are everywhere and family life is a virtual mine field where one false move could feed on itself over and over leaving poor mom and dad feeling like hapless failures in a rigged game of hide the joy.
That’s A-OKAY. Parenting is about the full body of work, not the individual failures or triumphs. Your child will remember above all else that when the chips were down and every other “parent” had failed them, you never did. This I money back guarantee because the only test parents must pass in order to be granted parent status is the no matter what I did she/he/they never gave up on me. That is it. Everything else from this point forward is about how to maximize your enjoyment, minimize your trauma and super size your take away points while you raise your family.
To be continued…