According to current data, there are approximately 440,000 children, birth to age 18 living in the U.S. foster care system. Approximately 125,00 of these children are adoptable or potentially adoptable. Here in the state of Georgia where I live, there are currently around 12,000 children in foster care—down from approximately 17,000 ten years ago. This reduction is encouraging, but the numbers remain overwhelming. The ongoing opioid crisis, abuse and neglect, and parental incarceration or death are some of the main contributors to the high numbers of children in the system.
You may be among the couples or individuals who have already adopted a child from the foster system; or you may be someone considering doing so. As with international adoption, there are important factors to think about as you ponder or prepare to adopt domestically:
1. There has always been a high demand among prospective parents to adopt an infant. Because of this, the wait may be very long for a placement. Instead, are you willing to adopt an older child, or an older sibling group of two or three children? Child Protective Services and DFCS organizations are placing more emphasis than ever on not splitting up siblings. Of course, prospective parents certainly have to be “wired” for this.
2. As with international (intercountry) adoption you must be prepared for question marks and gaps in the child’s history. Just because you are adopting domestically does not mean you will receive full or even adequate information on the child’s individual and family background. Factors such as his or her biological family’s mental and physical health history, as well as important factors surrounding abuse and neglect may be incomplete or even missing. In fact, many foster and adoptive parents, as well as foster care caseworkers have shared with me that they strongly believe that in some cases Child Protective Services and DFCS intentionally withholds critical and troubling family history in order that the child will be easier to place in a home. This sounds troubling, but it certainly does not mean you should not adopt. Although most adopted children have more than the average share of social, intellectual and emotional challenges, this does not mean that they cannot flourish in the right family setting. I’ve seen many adopted kids blossom in their new adoptive home despite many odds against them in life.
3. Do your homework! Talk to other parents who have both fostered and adopted. Ask the hard questions. Be open to their stories of not just success but struggle. As with any parenting—and even more so with the adopted child—the journey is not a sprint but a marathon. Research about how the domestic adoption process works in your state. Read good resources on adoption—there are great books and articles aplenty.
More to come on this topic in my next blog—thanks for reading!