There are many ways a family can grow, and two of those ways are through adoption or foster care. With adoption, the goal is for the child to find a permanent home. With foster care, the goal is for the child to be temporarily cared for by the foster family until the child can return to their birthparents, or be adopted.
The thought of bringing a child into your home, whether through adoption or foster care, can be exhilarating, and can also raise a number of questions. You may be wondering if you are ready to welcome a child into your family through adoption, or if foster care may be a better option for you.
Paul Hemminger, assistant director at Isaiah’s Place in Troy, and Sarah Feine, youth specialist and family assessor at Focus on Youth in West Chester, offer tips for families considering taking this exciting, life-changing step toward adoption.
What should parents consider when thinking about adopting?
Feine: Parents should start with motivation. What is the motivation behind wanting to adopt? If their motivation is to grow their family, then adoption might be the right choice. Parents should consider the ongoing education they will need in order to be equipped to handle trauma responses from the child’s past. Just because a child is adopted does not mean they will not undergo stress, anxiety and behavioral concerns due to separation and loss. Parents should consider talking to their support systems to ensure they can provide a “village” for the child they welcome into their home.
Hemminger: Adoption can be difficult. What happens in the womb and beyond determines a lot of the stress resiliency and attachment levels. The bio-family of the adoptee is still in the background genetically, and sometimes physically or emotionally, influencing the child. There is a homing device in most, if not all, adoptees. They might be wondering, “Why didn’t you keep me?” or “Who are you?”
I would have long conversations with other parents who have adopted, and listen to podcasts about the ups and downs of adoption. This will help give you the highest probability of creating the best attachment for you and your future family member.
What are some first steps to take if you want to adopt?
Feine: Our agency is a foster care and adoption agency. We license families to foster to adopt, as well as adopt children who the county already has custody of in the community. If families are not wanting to foster, or not willing to accept siblings or older children, we would recommend they get licensed through a private adoption agency.
Hemminger: Look for an adoption agency, domestic or international, to begin the process. Through whichever entity you work with, you will decide all the characteristics of the child you are looking for. You can be very strict or very open.
How do you know if you are ready to adopt or become a foster parent?
Hemminger: No one really knows if they are ready. Ask lots of questions and begin by providing support to other foster families through Care Communities [teams of people who provide emotional, physical or financial support to a foster family]. Not everyone can foster, but everyone can do something for kids from hard places. Right now, the system is defined by “not enough.” We are here to work until there is more than enough.
Feine: If families are ready to adopt, parents will be on the same page about expectations and what’s ahead. Families will complete all training requirements, paperwork and interviews. Once a family is provided with a license, they are ready to foster or adopt.
“Every county has a number of children who need love, care and a home, whether that’s temporary or permanently,” Hemminger says. “We can solve the foster care crisis if we believe it’s possible, do our part and do it together. We can love those kids and guide them to healing. We need to understand the world of trauma-informed and trauma-skilled care. It’s imperative we lean into that wisdom shared by some of the greatest leaders and researchers of our time. This is a movement that requires all of us. Children are deeply suffering, and in whatever way we can, we can help. Just a meal, transportation, mentoring, tutoring or a place to lay their heads — you can lean in. You and the world will be better and transformed for it.”