Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Domestic Adoption in the United States

Adoption is not just for babies !     (photo: )

 Kids of this age need help and parenting too in order to reach their own best level of function and in order to live a satisfying life. Many of them need a slower "launch sequence" than a child who spent all of his life with you.   This is not a photo of James, but he looks enough like him that he could play him "in the movie".
       Daniel always believed that loving families should step forward to provide homes to boys and girls who were somehow left without families.  He was four or five when he somehow learned that sometimes, children are separated from their mothers or fathers and that this separation sometimes results in the child going to foster care, or in the case of internationally, often to orphanages.  He wanted to share the family he loved so much with a child who, through no fault of his own, had not been so lucky. After his unexpected passing, his commitment to adoption still burned in the memory of our family.
           In the United States, 350,000 children remain in the US foster care system.  Most of these children are legally available for adoption. Most of them are aged 9-16 years of age.  Most of them, for many reasons, will grow up in foster care, and will never be adopted.  The largest number of available children are presently found in Texas and in California, though most states have children legally freed who are waiting.
           Adoption is not simple. Many of us talk about domestic adoption being potentially free of charge, but many times, it isn't in practice. All adoptions require a homestudy, and although most states will do a free homestudy for families, recent budget cuts have made waiting lists for the homestudy and for required pre-adoptive training very long, sometimes a couple of years.  Once your state homestudy and training is complete, many families complain that they become a dumping ground for foster children, and that they may not be offered a child who is legally free for adoption.  If you are committed to adoption and don't wish to foster some children first and then decide if you want to adopt one should he become legally available, there may be some alternatives.  It is possible in most states,  to seek a private agency and pay for your own homestudy and pay for your own training.  A homestudy is about $1600. and training is additional. If you pay for your own agency homestudy, then it is available to send  to all states where it can be considered for a broader variety of available children. **     Many times, the free state homestudy will be used within your home state, but the state which provided it at no charge,may well be unwilling to send the study to other states for consideration as a resource for other available children there.
         There may also be additional expenses. In many states, you advance the legal fees for adoption, and you pay your own hotel bills in order to visit and become comfortable and familiar with the child with whom you have been matched. Sometimes, these fees are reimbursed to you, and sometimes, they are not.
           The children available for adoption within US foster care are of course, a wide ranging group of children.  There are commonalities however. They all have known the devastating loss of, at least, their primary parent, for some reason, and this is not something that human beings "get over" in short order.  Some of them have been separated from siblings they cared for, or from grandparents who are not physically or mentally well enough to care for them, now that their parent is unavailable for some reason or has permanently lost parental rights in court.  Some of them have known erratic histories prior to that.  Some have grown up seeing domestic abuse, sexual abuse, drug dealing  or home drug manufacture, or alcoholism, , and the chaotic lifestyle these problems bring to family life.  Many of them have gorging, hoarding or other food issues which spring from the erratic availability of food in their homes of origin.  Some of them, who may be 9 or older, have toilet training issues, frankly because they were never really toilet trained.  Guilt and shame may have been used excessively by abusive parents, and some of these children have a difficult time with bedwetting or making it to the toilet, even when they may appear rather mature in other respects.  Sometimes, they have nightmares, and they often have pervasive trust issues which can make adaptation to a family later, even a loving and good family, difficult for them.  Some of them have mistrust for authority figures, often because they were so often, failed by them.
             It is a fallacy to believe that an older child you adopt becomes "just like a child to which  you gave birth ."  This simply will likely, never be true. A child you have biologically has the innate security of growing up with people who may resemble him, and whose talents may reflect his own.  A child who is adopted, particularly as an older child, often say that they forever feel a bit out of place.  Your own biologic child will certainly have some of his own baggage, as we all do, but an adopted child will always have more barriers to adaptation  within their new families than a child who did not experience his own level of abuse, loss, and grief.
             This said, although we must fully understand that it asks too much for an adopted child to fit like a puzzle piece within our families, there is hope.  With acceptance and acknowledgement of their difficulties, and often with a sense of humor, the child who comes to you as an intended "graft" to your family tree, eventually adapts and becomes a really valued family member in his or her own right.   A year after Daniel's passing, we adopted a boy about a year older than he.  Although our feelings for Daniel, and our feelings for our son who came to us as an adopted older addition, are not the same, and they each came to us in entirely different ways, each one of them is no less miraculous.   We are honored to have "James" with us now, and he is a very important family member here.
               I noticed this week that my internet listing (available to homestudied families) of the children available for adoption back when we adopted James, show most as still available. Most teens available for adoption in the United States, will never be adopted.  Without families, there are unlikely to complete college or substantive training for careers. They are unlikely, especially in our difficult economy to launch successfully.  They will therefore have higher chances of experiencing the same challenges their parents did which resulted in the loss of their children. We have to ask what the implications to our society, and to our culture, really are, to have 350,000 children not able to meet their potential, and for many of those to be helpless, hopeless and bitter.
               If you can complete a homestudy, complete training, and open your life to an older child or teen, then I commend you.  There will be worry, and sometimes there will be sorrow as you watch them struggle. However, there will also be joy as you watch the child who had few opportunities before you, begin to navigate the world in a positive way which might not have been possible without your own openness and generosity.  The journey might be hard, but it is worth every mile for the child you save. For a time, you might be, all that your child has.  Thank you for considering this.  Daniel would be so pleased !

* There is a benefit to fostering a child prior to adoption, to families. This way, you get the opportunity to know a child before he potentially becomes available for adoption. You receive a chance to see if you could parent this child permanently, or whether this child could benefit from a home elsewhere, rather than your own.

The artist to this song is: Suzanne Gomez

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