"There is never so much love in the world that reaching out is a bad idea."
— an adopted child.
Currently, nearly 500,000 children and youth are in the United States foster care system. These children have all entered the system due to abuse, neglect or abandonment on the part of birth parent. Of those kids in foster care, between 120,000 and 130,000 are considered legal orphans and are awaiting adoption into a permanent family. For these kids, birth parent's rights had to be terminated because they were unable to provide a safe and secure home for the kids. Now they are waiting for someone to give them a second chance.
Often, prospective adoptive families disregard adoption from foster care for any number of reasons, but it's important to recognize these kids need help just as much as orphans anywhere else in the world. Because they are in foster care and not on the street somewhere, we have wrongly assumed they are getting all the care they need.
The reality is that kids in foster care move from home to home for any or no reason at all. Many feel unwanted and unloved as they have no permanency in their lives. The fact that they have their basic needs met — a roof over their heads and food to eat — pales in comparison to the need for a permanent and consistent family.
Many children in foster care may have one or more special needs. These needs include: siblings also in need of a family, prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, developmental delays, are older than five or are minorities. The sooner they find permanency, the better. For the majority of these kids, they have been given a label or a stigma that tends to identify them as "not good enough" or "second class." But we know the reality — these kids are as loved by God as any child.
Adoption from foster care costs virtually nothing and is often less than $500. In addition, many expenses may be reimbursed through the state. Most states also provide Medicaid coverage for a child until they are 18 regardless of when an adoption was finalized. A licensed agency in your state can specifically address the particular assistance available.
In some instances, the special needs of a child are not particularly difficult for a family to address as they may have insight or experience in a particular area. However, having lived through difficult circumstances that often lacked stability and consistency, many of these kids also struggle with emotional challenges. No matter the needs, being realistic about them and planning ahead on how to deal with them increases the likelihood of success.
Many children will frequently test their parents, often because it takes time for adoptive parents to prove that they are really in it for the long haul. Older child in particular may need help unlearning some of the "survival skills" they learned along the way. Remember, kids in foster care are frequently moved from home to home for any or no reason and lack the stability of a permanent family. If you're like the other families they've been placed with, kids figure they'll only be with you for a short time and will be hesitant to really form lasting connections. Again, it's about the needs of the child and providing what they need rather than letting the needs or wants of the adults interfere.
It's important to take time as a family to really evaluate if you are able to meet the child's needs — emotional, medical, physical, cultural, etc. Set aside time to talk and pray together about the changes your family will need to make. Attend counseling and support groups as much as necessary, and be sure to ask for help and support when needed.
Once you've made a decision to further pursue adoption, be sure to talk with other adoptive families as well as other families that have used the same agency you're considering. Then, begin praying about the specific child God wants to set into your family and prepare to welcome him or her home!
For more information on adoption from foster care in your state, visit iCareAboutOrphans.org/StateAdoptionRequirements.aspx.