Saturday, January 7, 2017

Foster Care Does Not Mean Adoption

You guys...this. Look at these three babies. I just can't even. But I digress (yes, I know...I haven't even point is that time: it just flies...)

This picture was captured almost two years ago, as we fostered a sweet baby boy who had need of a safe, loving home. He was quite sickly when he arrived at our house a few months prior, but (clearly) by this point he was filling out into a happy, healthy 8 month-old baby boy who could obviously drop off to sleep wherever and whenever he felt the need.

At the time this image was captured, we didn't know what his future (or ours) would hold (and to be fair none of us ever do, but that's a tangent possibly for another post).  The case plan at this time was still reunification.

All we knew is that this Little Man (LM) needed us at that moment, and that we would do whatever we could, for as long as we could, to foster (see what I did there?) his good health and welfare. Regardless, we also knew however things turned out, he would always have a piece of our hearts...and we would always consider him part of the family, even if it meant he was reunified with his biological family.

(Hence the drive for some pictures with his brothers...)

I say all this to clear up any confusion people may have about foster care: foster care does not equal adoption.  
Just because you are a foster parent does not mean you will end up adopting a child. 

I know that some people think that adoption is always the goal of foster care (since the US no longer has orphanages, this must be the replacement system, right?), but it is definitely not. As instructors will make clear in any upstanding foster care licensing class, while many children do end up being adopted from the system, reunification with biological parents is virtually always the goal from the get-go. 

In fact, about 50% of children who come into care ARE reunified with their biological parents. And honestly we need to cheer that. If kiddos can be with the families they were born to, and can safely grow and thrive with them, well that's fantastic! 

Now obviously that leaves about half of the children who do NOT return to biological parents...which is why there are so many foster-to-adopt scenarios.  This means numerous children are adopted from foster care (about 25-30% who come into care are adopted by non-kinship homes; the remaining percentage of children are in a kinship placement, have guardianship granted by a third party, or some other situation, such as a group home or institution); as a result, many people begin a foster care journey with the intent to give a child (or several children) a much-needed forever home. That's awesome. I love love love that and there is a great need for it. Kudos to them!

By the same token, there are many other foster homes who ONLY foster and do not adopt...and their reasons for doing so are many. Often it is because they know an adoption might take them off the "table" to be able to continue to foster additional children, due to exceeding the allowable number of children in a home, or because committing to the medical/emotional/etc needs of a child for life would keep them from having time to appropriately care for additional foster children as well. And there is a terrific need for these homes as well so we applaud these homes too!

That's, actually, what we envisioned our family to be when we began foster care, with the caveat that we would consider an adoption should the opportunity be laid in our laps; we, ourselves, did not begin our foster care journey with the intent to adopt, although we were open to the possibility of it, should a child in our care need a forever family.  But adoption was NOT the driving goal behind our family's decision to foster. We just knew there were hundreds of kids coming into care each year who needed stable, loving homes and we felt we could provide that for at least one child (we actually thought we could foster two children at once, but realized quickly that was not something we could handle...some people can and thank you, Lord for them...we Parkers are not "some people"...don't judge).

I share all this for one simple reason: Even though we did not intend to adopt but ended up doing so, I know some of you out there are NOT.AT.ALL interested in adoption and do not want to adopt, but you also know (shall I go so far as to say you are convicted?) that there are children (and their families) you could bless through being foster parents. 

And to that let me tell you:! Adoption is not for everyone, and that is fabulous for you to do and be and fulfill what God intended you to do and be and fulfill. 

That said: You can be just the type of foster parent needed across the country right now...a TEMPORARY, safe, caring, nurturing environment for children while their parents pull themselves together. You don't have to adopt a child to make a difference in the life of a child.

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