Step 14 - Switching to Fostering
Sometimes, you start a journey and you realize that the path you should be on is the path next to you, not your current trajectory. For me, that explains my switch from the adoption pathway to the fostering pathway. Every city is different, every person is different and every reason is different. In light of sharing my journey, here is why I chose to switch to fostering.
As with many unknown journeys, mine started with many misconceptions. One of the reasons I wanted to adopt teenagers instead of foster them is because I wanted them to see this placement as a forever commitment instead of just another temporary stop. Unfortunately, I learned that there are cases of failed adoptions in which a family adopts a child, it doesn’t work out and then they remove the child from the home and place them back into foster care. In my county, the odds are good that a teenager who has been in the system for a few years has either had a failed adoption or they know someone who has, so they don’t necessarily view the adoption in a permanent way.
Another misconception I had was thinking that all children listed as available for adoption on the various adoption websites wants to be adopted. I figured that if a 17-year-old wanted to be adopted, then they truly wanted the forever family that comes with adoption. During my class I learned that unfortunately even if children don’t want to be adopted, they are still placed up for adoption once their parental rights are terminated. There are many reasons for this and many of the reasons are positive, but it changed the way I look at the situation.
The main reason I switched from the adoption track to the fostering track was because of the process itself. In my county, the adoption process doesn’t provide as much support for the parents as the fostering process does. I noticed this from my first day at the initial orientation. When I said I was interested in teens, the orientation facilitators were excited. When I said I wanted to adopt instead of foster, they literally stopped the conversation and walked away.
Every city is different, but the one here has a very different process for fostering vs adopting from the very beginning. When you are fostering, you are set up with a licensing specialist during the same time period of your class. You complete your home studies and background checks and by the night of the last class you receive your fostering license. For the adoption process, you don’t even start the home studies and background checks until after the class is over. I have heard that the communication is lacking and the process is sometimes circular - you can't get a home study until you are matched with a child and you can't be matched with a child until you have your home study - this was one example that happened to a friend of mine.
Then there is the process of meeting your child. If you are fostering, you may get a call in the middle of the night when a child is removed from their home and they need a place to stay overnight. You may keep that child for just a night or for years. You may eventually adopt them. For teenagers in my county, the situation is a little different. There are not enough foster homes for teenagers, so they have group homes set up. Some children thrive in group homes and enjoy the environment. Others would prefer to live in a more traditional home life. When you start out to foster teenagers, the agency works to identify teenagers in group homes that may be interested in switching to your home. You may talk to them on the phone a couple of times and you may get to meet them a few times before they are placed with you. If their parental rights are terminated, then you could adopt them in the future, but the focus is just on providing a safe and loving home.
The adoption track for teenagers is very similar to online dating. Literally, the woman who runs pr for one of the adoption agencies compared it to dating. First, you look through online profiles to find a child that seems to be a good fit for your family. Then, you meet them a couple of times with their case manager in public places. If your family and the child are both comfortable moving forward then you may have some unsupervised visits, some overnight visits and then they move in. The must live with you for 90 days before you can legally adopt them.
After speaking with many other parents who foster teens, it seems more natural to me to foster. To have no expectations except a safe and loving living environment for the child. No expectations of adoption or legality, just the goal of mentorship and teaching them life skills to live their best life.
While fostering comes with new challenges, such as interacting with the bio parents and supervising visitations, it also allows me to help more children with less red tape and a more natural trajectory. I’m very excited for this new adventure!