What to Expect When Adopting From the Foster Care System

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We have been foster parents for 5 years now. We recently adopted our daughter Rosie from the foster care system after fostering her from 1 day old. The journey was filled with ups and downs. Things we expected and lots of things we didn’t. I have the privilege of speaking into many foster and adoptive mamas lives here on the internet. It is a big passion of mine because I know first hand how hard and isolating this journey is. I firmly believe in a strong support system of other foster parents in order to be a thriving foster parent. Now that we have made it to the adoptive side of this journey I thought I would share more off our journey and what you might expect when adopting from the Foster Care System. I have been very open in our journey that our goal was to adopt from the foster care system. Not meaning we didn’t support reunification because we do but the statistics show that eventually a child is going to need a forever home and we knew we could provide that and wanted to provide that for a child in need.    
  1. Nothing is official until the judge signs that paper. We had so many ups and downs and I trusted the social workers statements and expected follow through on how they thought things were going. Social workers give you a guess based on past experience and the way they think the case is going. However there are so many people involved that things change often on a daily basis. A supervisor may have a different plan, the lawyer may have a different plan, the judge may make a different judgement than expected, or the bio family may have made some changes which cause an extension. So buckle up because this is a long bumpy journey. At 14 months old, with a completed and approved adoption home study we were told that our girl would be becoming a crown ward/ward of the state/available for adoption. I walked into court blindsided because at the last minute someone put in a plan for her and it took another 5 months before that was resolved and the plan turned back to us adopting her.
  2. The timeline is never what you expect This is one of the most frustrating part of the foster care system. It makes zero sense. Our girl has been with us since was 1 day old. It was evident pretty early on that reunification was not going to be an option, then it became pretty evident there was no kin for her to go to and it took 19 months for the decisions to be made that she would need to be adopted (when the law says that there should be an permanency plan by the 12 month mark) It took another 10 months from her becoming legally free for her to be adopted to her adoption finalization date. This was from everything from missing paperwork to supervisors on vacation and a loaded down court system.
  3. There is a lot of guilt. As happy as we were to adopt our girl, when the time came that it was finalized I felt rushed with guilt. Like did I do enough to support reunification, could I have done more, is she going to resent us one day? Should I be trying to hunt down more biological connections for her, do I trust that the agency did enough?  There is so much brokenness in the beauty and sometimes the guilt and hard thoughts were consuming. I felt guilty for being excited sometimes.
  4. Holding their story is hard. No child adopted from foster care has an easy story. And as much as my daughter will only known us and memories of us as her family there is a whole big story that I need to tell her one day. I wonder how I will tell her, what age I will tell her some off the harder details, how can I make her story easier to hear. It sits heavy in my heart daily. As much as I try not to worry holding that story is hard.
  5. The only thing certain is everything is uncertain.  This kind of ties in with point number one but this is more pertaining to the every day in and out. YOu must be comfortable living in the unknown because there is so much unknown. Medical history, who is the actual father, does their family even want the reunification being supported, will there be a visit, when will they get out of jail? When/will they be punished for the abuse. Can I forgive them? There is so many unknowns in every aspect of the child’s case.
  6. It’s easier than you think to love your child’s bio parents even when they have hurt your child. When I first started fostering I will admit I had very little compassion for the biological families that hurt these children. That changed very quickly when I met our first little guy’s parents. In fact we still chat over Instagram to this day. When you see the challenges they have and the histories they have come from, I for one feel flooded with compassion. And because you love their child so much you can’t not love them. Now don’t get me wrong in some cases there are evil people who have done horrible things and loving bio parents is not a blanket statement. But I would love nothing more than to get together with our girls bio parents and let them develop a relationship. It hurts my heart for both of them knowing their ties have been severed. She choose life for her I know she loves her.
  7. It will be the best thing you have ever done with your life. You have changed a child’s life forever. Knowing how much of foster care is cyclical, and knowing you put a stop to that cycle in itself is so rewarding. I know I can give our girl the best chances possible at a “normal” life. She will know how much God loves her even when she questions her story and asks God why her. My husband and I look at each other multiple times a day and just smile because of how much joy this little girl brings to our family. We went into battle for her. We went through the ringer for her. We almost lost her to a stranger. Nothing about our fostering and adoption journey with her was easy. But every single thing was worth it and I would do it all over again and then some.
  8. Biology means nothing when it comes to love. I love Rosie just as much as our biological daughters and honestly sometimes it feels like more, because of what we went through to have her be ours. For us having babies biologically was a relatively easy process. Love came easy, quick and naturally. With Rosie love came easy, quick and naturally and then we had to fight. Advocate for her best interests, help her overcome obstacles she has, at no fault of her own. Sometimes I think the vulnerability of kids in care makes a foster parents love extra strong. Maybe this is just me and what breaks my heart but the injustice served to so many of these kids makes loving and caring for them so easy.
  9. It will take a while for it to feel “real” We had to get permission for everything for her for so long, document every scrape, leave her behind when we left the country to visit family, have regular monthly meetings to keep her in our care, use a car seat chosen by someone else, go to court. For us after 2.5 years of this it took a while for it to sink it that we didn’t have to do any of that stuff anymore!
  10. You will probably want to do it again.  It has been the best experience and I love her so much, I can’t imagine not wanting to do it all over again. It has been such a joyous, fulfilling experience to adopt this precious little girl of ours. People say she’s lucky to have us but I say no way, we’re lucky to have her. It is an honor and a joy to be her mama.

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