We all have our buttons. One squeeze of the trigger, and we fire away.
One of the quickest ways to trigger a release in my momma bear persona is to hear or read an often used comment in regards to adoption. No, I’m not talking about the things we all hear as adoptive parents when people ask us if we have our hands full, if they all belong to us and similar go-to phrases.
What makes my blood boil is when someone opposes international adoption with the words, “foster to adopt, it’s free!”
Nothing in life is free, adoption is no different. No matter how adoption is approached, it is born from both brokenness and love. Neither is free. Imagine the adoption represented by our Savior into God’s family (Romans 8:15). An ultimate price was paid. Yes, freely given, but not free.
Granted, this statement is usually made in regards to the monetary cost to an adoptive family. In our state of Missouri, if you foster to adopt there are monetary resources to assist the adoptive family. A child adopted from foster care has the option of Medicaid or other sources of medical insurance until they are 18 years old. The families are provided childcare resources until the child is 12 years old, as well as a monthly stipend from the state which insures they have needs taken care of in their new family. Even attorney and court costs are at the hand of taxpayers rather than the adoptive family. (Note: nothing is free; it costs taxpayers as a whole rather than the individual adoptive families.)
At the surface, this seems like a sweet deal. However, we are not simply making a business transaction with regard to a child’s life and family. Yet, time and time again, I hear and read comments where adults will passionately urge families to consider fostering to adopt over international adoption solely based on fees. It is like comparing apples to oranges.
Yes, both are a fruit, but there are more differences than commonalities.
The comparison of routes toward adoption should be within the home of a family as they consider what route is best for their family. It should not be blasted in a heated debate on social media or in attempt to ridicule someone for the choice they made or are considering.
Don’t get me wrong. I know looking at a sizable chunk of the cost of international adoption can be a frightening concept to step through. Again, at the surface the monetary cost difference seems like a reasonable argument toward fostering. Not to mention, there are those who still believe adopting from another country is not taking care of “our own”.
However, I also know the cost of pursuing fostering to adopt as well. There is a cost. It isn’t in your wallet; it’s in your heart, efforts and uncertainty.
See, my husband and I have fostered for more than two years now. Of those two years, we have fostered four children long term. None of the cases have resulted in a child being adopted into our family. When you foster, your main goal cannot be adoption. Many states actually deny the phrase of fostering to adopt all together to emphasize the importance of reunifying children with their biological family.
While my heart is for children, the seed in it has always been for adoption. The desire I have for adoption has never detoured me from saying yes when a call comes for a foster placement. However, it has set me up for heartache. Much like a woman struggling with infertility peers into a crowd of mothers with their babies, I see a crowd of families who announced to the world their child leaving the foster status through adoption.
So, when the debate arises and everyone shouts how easy and free it is to foster to adopt, I know personally it is not.
My son through fostering spent more than a year living in our home. He had no connection to biological family until we helped facilitate a relationship with his grandmother several states away. The first week of 2017, my husband and I boarded a plane with our little guy. The night before, he begged to have just three more days with us. Yet, we boarded a plane and flew him to his grandparents for them to adopt. I said goodbye as he reached his little hand out toward me whimpering, “Mommy,” over and over. We returned home to sad little hearts that had lost a sibling.
Both love and brokenness.
It is with the grief we come to fully understand the value of adoption; value that cannot be measured in a monetary way.
Of course, our story isn’t full of painful thorns. We have our roses. Amidst our fostering journey, we decided to pursue my lifelong dream of adopting from China. We brought our son home from China in May of 2016 and have been immensely blessed through his adoption.
Because we have placed our lives in both of these worlds of serving and parenting children we have gained a greater perspective. We also continue to learn how we can reach out to these two avenues of adoption.
The first gained perspective is being on both sides of the adoption equation. Many times with adoption we see only the positive, happy smiles of those gaining a child. However, much is also lost.
There are people on the other side of the equation saying goodbye when we say hello. The nannies and other people involved in our child’s life before they are ours, they lose. They turn their faces from the new joyful mama and baba. They turn to allow tears to flow knowing they will probably never see the child again.
It is one thing to acknowledge the loss others endure; it is another thing to have gone through the experience.
Another area we are learning is in how to make our voice known and to fight opposition within the adoption realm.
With fostering, there is a team of people you must work with encompassing a child’s case. You work with attorneys, caseworkers and other adults not living with a child who have a great deal of power in their hands when it comes to the decisions for that child. Similarly, in international adoption you are working with many adults and at different areas of the world making decisions regarding a child’s fate.
Recently, we learned new legislation continues to be presented for further regulations with adoption. While some restrictions and regulations seek to benefit the children being adopted, many of these regulations end up ultimately hurting the number of children able to be adopted. Both adoptions within the United States and Intercountry adoptions continue to see a decrease.
In 2012, there were 119,514 children adopted within the 50 states, a 14% decrease from 2008. Likewise, the number of Intercountry adoptions continues to drop and with more severity. In 2008, there were 17,449 adoptions compared to 8,667 adoptions in 2012. These figures and more can be found at ChildWelfare.Gov and TravelState.Gov.
At the end of 2016, the Department of State (DOS) made a proposal for several new changes to intercountry adoption. One area was in attempt to link fostering and international adoption together at the parenting training level.
The DOS proposal seeks to utilize the state’s parenting classes from the foster care system for some prospective adoptive parents. They estimate as many as 20 percent of adoptive families will be permitted to receive the required training through existing state training programs. If this were in place during our son’s adoption, maybe we would have gotten a free pass through the additional parenting training we did online. However, the parent training my husband and I did together for our international adoption was probably the most enjoyable part of our preparations.
While the grief training through foster care would be a huge benefit, especially for first time parents, I am concerned about the blending. The DOS estimate the cost of time and resources to provide the training to families in their proposal, but place the cost of the training at the hands of the state. The DOS fails to realize the magnitude of time constraint that traveling to classes weekly will have on prospective adoptive families. Not to mention, childcare is nearly impossible to find.
Typically, state classes are offered over an 8 to 10 week period. The classes we took for our international adoption were online and easily done after our children were in bed each night within a week or two.
Opening a door allowing training to overlap should also introduce a more likely area of savings which would be within the home study process. If they are allowing training to overlap, why not allow home study material to overlap to save costs? We were required to take our home study from foster care to our international adoption home study agency to use as a guide. They were able to use this material for our international home study, but a discount for provided material was denied.
The proposal goes on to provide details on new regulations for strengthening standards related to disclosure fees, accreditation, and approval requirements for the provision of adoption services, as well as other areas of the adoption process. In hindsight, extensive regulations seem beneficial in some respects. You can learn more here.
There are those who would like the protection from unethical practices occurring within adoption, but many have voiced their concerns and do not believe additional regulations are the right step. A docket was open to the public for comments until November 22, 2016. While I did not read every single comment, the several I did read opposed the new regulations with all one joining consequential fear. These regulations might very well be another slash to the number of children coming into a family. With numbers as low as they are now, intercountry adoption cannot take another big hit.
Last year, there were only around 5,600 adoptions internationally. While thousands of children were adopted into a family, hundreds of thousands remain in a system rather than a home.
Remember, these are children and not a transaction. More regulations could very well mean more costs, longer waits and some agencies being faded out.
Adoption is born of brokenness and love. The systems we reach through to hold the hand of our child are broken. Both fostering to adopt and international adoption have downfalls. There will always be faults found within programs made up of imperfect people. We know there is brokenness. Yet, the love we are offering has the power to heal the brokenness, and that’s worth fighting for.
Instead of comments that create division among the different routes to growing a family in adoption, our voice would be better used to speak to the means necessary in reaching more children, no matter where they are from.
Instead of jumping on a thread to share your opinions comparing international to more local adoptions, our voice would be better used writing letters to our government officials in efforts to preserve and possible increase the number of adoptions of children all over the world.
– guest post by Melissa