Three years ago, Trudi and I adopted two precious girls out of the Los Angeles County foster system. They are now 14 and 12 years old. We are deeply grateful for these precious young ladies God has brought into our family.
But we encountered a few things that we wish someone had told us about foster-adoptions before we started the process. Here is a short list of issues that might be helpful for you to know if you’re considering embarking on such an adventure.
· You have to be approved as a foster parent before you can adopt children from the foster system. This will take time and effort. You can’t simply adopt children who are in the system.
· You’ll have lots of visits to your home from social workers, case workers (if you’re with an external agency), and therapists until you sign adoption papers.
· There will almost certainly be court-mandated visits with biological relatives of your children after they are placed in your home, potentially including birth parent(s), siblings, and other relatives (such as a grandparent or aunt).
· The court’s goal is to (re)unite foster children with a birth parent or some other biological relative, as long as any of those family members expresses interest in the children and appears relatively stable. This means that until your children are adopted, you are always at risk of losing them. You should not embark on this journey unless you can handle that potentially heart-wrenching reality.
· There is a strong therapeutic orientation that permeates the social services sector of our government and extends to independent agencies as well. The key thing that Christian families need to know here is that the issue of sin is rarely discussed (as well as such related issues as repentance, forgiveness, and restoration).
· There are strict guidelines on what you will be allowed to do in disciplining these children. Discipline is usually limited to the giving of short time-outs and the taking away of privileges.
· With a few exceptions, you will almost always have to place your children into a public school as long as they are still categorized as foster children. Private religious schools—and especially homeschooling—are often either discouraged or not allowed as long as the children are still foster kids.
· There will be some financial support provided by your county (through your agency if you are with an agency) that will help defray some of your costs. (Older children and special needs children usually come with more money than younger children.) People working through an independent agency usually receive a bit more money than people going directly through a county’s department of children and family services. After adoption (depending on your state), you may still receive some money (less than when they were foster kids) each month directly from the government until a child reaches 18 years of age.
· You may be required to give pocket money to the kids every week. Depending upon your agency, it may constitute more money than you are comfortable with your children having in their pockets. In our case it amounted to one dollar every week corresponding to their age. Thus, our 11 year old was receiving 11 dollars a week! That’s more discretionary money than I get from my family budget…
· You have no legal standing as a foster-adopt parent—no more than a day-care worker has. (Sometimes you can apply for “defacto parental status” part way through the process and receive some rights.) This means that any really important decisions, such as whether your children need a particular medical procedure, whether they need counseling, or what their educational plan should be will be made by county social workers rather than by you.
· Social workers tend to be overworked, underpaid, and often under-appreciated. It is important to treat them with love and respect and seek to cultivate good working relationships with them.
· After your children are fully adopted, the government has no more rights over them than they would have over your biological children.
· There are some post-adoption services available if you’re inclined to seek them out.
But at the end of this list of practical comments, let me affirm the joy that it has been for my wife and me to join God in his mission of inviting into his family via our family two precious girls who themselves truly needed a family.
Is there anything you would like to add to this list that might help our readers who have begun the process of praying through whether to adopt foster kids?