During National Foster Care Month, we’ve been blogging about a number of children who wait for adoptive families in foster care. We encourage you to visit our Waiting Children blogs to learn more about them.
As an adoption social worker, I realize I ask families I work with to do some pretty incredibly difficult things. Caring for children with unknown outcomes. Giving of themselves in ways people outside the adoption world don’t often understand. And, working on themselves in order to prepare to be a parent for a child who may not show them love and affection in the way people dream about when they express a desire to have children. I put families through the intense and intrusive process that is a home study, all to ask them to do even more after the study is finished.
Why do I continue to push my families to do more? To meet the needs of kids who deserve a great family.
I realize this process doesn’t seem “fair” in regards to how families come to adoption. Some have experienced infertility; others have been drawn to adoption after learning about the children who wait. And the idea that people don’t go through a similar process to have biological children may seem unfair. Why do I continue to push my families to do more? To meet the needs of the kids in our system who deserve a great family.
When I talk to families about what these children need, some are surprised by how different parenting may look from case to case. From the traditional standpoint, families picture adopting a child in a way that includes bringing a new person into their home and family. And, for the most part, this is what we do in adoption. But the ways in which children may enter your home and family—how often the children live with you, who else might become a member of your extended family, etc.—can vary based on the needs of the children we serve.
For this reason, I ask my families to consider the following questions:
Could you be a resource for a child that does not live in your home?
Some of the youth waiting in foster care are not ready to live in a family household, but rather find strength in the structure found in residential homes. Yet, these youth and children are still in need of families. I ask my families to consider: are you able to commit to being a positive role model in the life of a child while they live in a Residential Treatment Facility? You might be asked to visit regularly at a facility that may or may not be close to your home. You might be involved in therapy sessions with him or be asked to come to various staffing meetings or court hearings to support him. Often times, a child may work to transition into your home if and when they are able to complete their treatment goals. Being a support to a child transitioning from the structured environment of a residential treatment facility into a home will help her thrive in the future, but it can bring additional challenges in the moment. Can you ride the wave?
How would you maintain sibling relationships if the siblings live in different homes?
I have worked with many families that come into the process with hopes of adopting a sibling group. Although rare, when it is in the best interest of the children, siblings are separated. I have worked with families that have adopted a child that has other siblings placed in separate homes. In some of the most positive instances, my families have gotten to know the families of their child’s biological sibling and have maintained an open relationship with them. The families have coordinated events and outings so that the children build shared memories and maintain their bond. This is essential to meeting the needs of some of our kids—these siblings are still able to know each other, grow together and never question if the other is “okay.”
I will tell you what makes my heart sing: when families tell me they are open to finding the right match.
Could you be open to…(whatever)?
This is not a list of tips on how to please your adoption social worker. But I will tell you what makes my heart sing: when families tell me they are open to finding the right match. That means they aren’t setting their sights on the “perfect” age, race, gender, behavior…you name it. They are open to learning and working through this process to identify their skill set. Now, I wouldn’t ask a family to support something in a child that they were not comfortable with or did not have the skills to handle. But, what I do hope is that families will look at their capabilities, be open to learning more about the kids who wait, and consider whether they are the family that meet the needs of a child. We couldn’t do our work without the help of families like yours: those willing to think outside of the box with a focus on how they can love and support children.
About the Author: Miriam Reisetter is an Adoption Social Worker serving families and youth in our Infant and Foster Care Adoption Programs.Learn About Foster Care AdoptionMeet Children Waiting for Adoption NowContact Us to Get Started