About 7 years ago my husband and I decided to adopt foster children (well really just one) through the foster care system. The process took over 2 years and a lot of heartbreak, but we wound up with 3 amazing kids! Here are my tips, truths and ideas for shortening up that process and making it much easier.
Our Foster Care Adoption Story!
I won't go into the whole darn thing, but functionally one day I asked my husband if he wanted to adopt a child from foster care. I had always had that in the back of my mind, especially when we weren't able to have kids of our own.
We jumped in with both feet, taking the courses (there were some people in there who I pray never became foster parents) and got “approved” after a home study.
We were different kinds of adopters because 1. we didn't want a baby and 2. we only wanted a child who was cleared to adopt. I am super not a baby mommy so we didn't wade into that fight for a little one. And I couldn't imagine getting a kid in our home, taking them to visit negligent parents and then maybe having to give them back.
We spent two years, got close a couple of times and almost gave up before we found our kids!
Along the way we made some mistakes and learned a few things we would do differently next time! Hopefully these will help you to have an easier time than we did!
Want more? Check out my review of Instant Family!
5 Tips To Help You Adopt Older Foster Kids
When you start the process you hear about how many kids are available to adopt and that they need homes and think, “this is going to take a couple of weeks and then we will have the best kid to adopt! ” Well, it didn't really work that way.. here are some things to think about when looking to adopt foster children.
It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know!
Just like real life, the more people you know, the more luck you will have with your efforts.
The people you want to know are caseworkers (at least where we adopted from). The caseworkers are the ones who deal with the kids and help them find the right homes.
And they are used to flaky foster parents who are not really sure about adopting. They are super tired because they are overworked and stressed because for the most part they are underpaid for the thousands of hours they work on each case.
You need to do everything you can to get to know caseworkers in the county you live in AND show them that you are super serious about adopting.
Go To All The Events
After you get approved they will send you all kind of invites to “meet and greets”, trainings and other foster care related events. When we started we only went to the required ones… sigh.
Honestly you have to go to ALL the events.
Meet and greets
As a potential adopter I KNOW you are there checking out all the kids and picturing Christmas with THAT KID beside the tree opening presents. But that is not how it worked for us.
We started focusing on meeting caseworkers at those events, and that was where we eventually met the one that who told us about our kids!
It can feel like doing training after training with no kid in your house is a waste of time. But many times there are foster parents at those trainings who have kids in their homes that need to be adopted. You could learn about a great kid or sibling group that aren't even on the website!
Checking The Website
One thing that drove us nuts was we kept hearing, “check the website” for kids to adopt. From the website you contact the caseworker at the same time as gagillion of other foster to adopt parents are, making it hard to stand out.
We did find two little guys from the website, going through “official” channels and got picked second to last once (it probably wouldn't have been a great fit) and picked to adopt “Sam”… yay! But then the foster parents decided to keep him. It was DEVASTATING!
Not that this can't work, but we just found meeting the caseworkers worked better!
Do Your Searches Concurrently
This was one of the reasons it took so darn long to find our kids. We would get a lead on a kid, spend months going through the vetting process and then find out that they weren't available to adopt for any number of reasons.
We lived in an area that had 3 close counties that we could easily reach. The different county caseworkers did events together so we met different caseworkers and found out about different kids. But then we went dark with the other counties while focusing on being approved for one child.
Now, you can't mess around with children's lives, so if you are dead set on one perfect child, maybe do one at a time. But we had the means to adopt more than one, so had we done searches concurrently and gotten two or even three “yesses” we could have done it!
Don't Buy The Bed
This was the most heartbreaking thing. When we were approved to adopt “Sam” we rushed out and got his bed and the room all ready for him! We were so excited, and then it fell through.
People over the years that have talked to us about adopting ask how he was when we met him. But we never “met” him in person. The way it worked in the county we were working with was that you were approved and then met the child.
If I had it to do all over again I would say that we would have waited to meet the kids before buying anything for their room.
Your Family Make Look Different Than What You Thought!
Here is the funny thing… we were super sure we wanted one boy, about 8 years old.
And then we met our caseworker and she asked if we had ever considered a three child sibling group… um, no! We had NOT considered a sibling group, our house was small, we had never had kids and hadn't really thought about 3 kids.
And this sibling group had 2 girls, one the “right age”… 7, one “too old”… 14 and a boy WAY “too young”… 5. What did we know about a 5 year old? (seriously, what did we know about kids in general, but a little one like that?)
So we said we would think about it overnight … and then she sent us their pictures and it was all over!
Life After Adoption
I would love to say that everything has been perfect… but it hasn't been. I would like to say that we all got along great right from the start and that there was never shouting and crying, but that isn't true either.
The one thing that was super true for us was … “it will take 2 years to settle in”. Johnny and I had heard that over and over, that it takes two years to become a family. BUT we were going to be great at it… there was NO WAY it would take 2 years!
Almost 2 years to the date that we all moved in together it got MUCH better!
My hope for you is that this will help you get through the process a little more easily than we did!
If I had it to do all over again I would in a heartbeat. We love all our kids so much that it would be unthinkable to have not gotten one or the other of them.
You can for sure do this, be patient (I KNOW, that is so hard) and so worth it in the end!
If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I will answer to the best of my ability.