Thinking about adopting from foster care? Many people consider it because this type of adoption has little or no cost, and it forever impacts the life of an orphan. My husband John and I have adopted six children from foster care.
Before taking the plunge we asked ourselves a few questions. These are questions I urge you to consider, too:
1. Am I willing to put a child's needs ahead of my own?
Kids have needs, and kids coming from foster care have even more needs. There will be home visits at first, doctors and therapist appointments, and yet another person who requires time, love, and attention.
If you’re looking at adopting from foster because of what you can get out of it, then be prepared to be disappointed. Instead, it’s important to ask the “why” behind your decision. If your “why” is because you want to simply grow a family, your motivation may be more for yourself than a child. But if you want to give a child a better chance at life, and are willing to set aside some of your needs for the child’s, you’re on the right track.
2. Do I have a caring support system made up of friends and family?
You shouldn’t adopt from foster care as a lone ranger. It’s important to have a team of caring, trustworthy people by your side. You’ll need someone to call when you feel discouraged. You’ll need others to provide respite care. And sometime you might just need someone to pick up a gallon of milk from the store. A support system is a must. Your team will hold you up and keep you going.
3. Can you provide love to a child who might not love you back right away?
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Hurting people hurt people, and kids from hard places often find it easier to lash out than to open their hearts. The good news is that with the help from therapists and loving parents these children can find healing and learn to let down their defenses.
Like anything, learning to accept love and give it back is something that is learned over time as it is taught and modeled.
The hardest months are usually the first ones a child is in your home, and at times it may seem as if you’re pouring all your love into a bottomless pit. If you’re expecting thankfulness, gratitude and love from a child right from the beginning you’ll be greatly disappointed. Like anything, learning to accept love and give it back is something that is learned over time as it is taught and modeled. Your children will most likely grow to love you back, but it may take a while.
4. Is my marriage strong enough to handle this and are my children on board?
As admirable as adopting a child from foster care is, it’s important to remember that these children come from hard places. They are in foster care for a reason. Each child has some type of traumatic past.
It’s important to ask yourself, “Am I bringing children into a healthy environment? Am I in a committed marriage? Are our relationships with our children healthy and strong?” Parenting children with histories of trauma will take time, emotional energy, and resources. If your family dynamics aren’t strong, adding numerous needs and challenges can rock you to the core.
5. Am I financially prepared to meet a child's needs and take on extra expenses?
When you foster a child through the state, you are given a monthly stipend and special medical insurance to help with expenses. In some cases this stipend is continued after the adoption is finalized, primarily in the case of the adoption of a special needs’ child or a sibling group.
Yet even with financial help from state there are always unexpected expenses. Before you add another child to your home consider what you’re willing to sacrifice. It may be necessary to give up small luxurious for the sake of a child. But how can the small things you sacrifice compare to all that your new family member receives—namely a forever home? There is no comparison, still it’s important to know what to expect and make a plan to prepare.
Adopting from foster care if a beautiful thing, and the sooner we start asking questions the better prepared we will be. And when we consider our true motives, we’ll be able to prepare ourselves to love a child just as he or she needs.