Adoption Awareness Month: Adoption from Foster Care

This will be the 2nd installment of my guest posts for Adoption Awareness Month! Today I have a good friend, fellow foster Mom and fellow little girl Momma sharing her heart on adopting from foster care!

Hannah has been such an inspiration to me as we walk through such similar paths, and yet such different paths. Hannah has a three week old baby girl, and so we decided to lay out this post as an interview. Please read along, and feel free to share!

 

1. Tell us a little bit about your family.

My husband and I met when he was in his early thirties, and I in my mid-twenties. We had mutual friends at our church, and once introduced, quickly started hanging out together. We were married 17 months later! We’ve been married 3.5 years, and have a baby girl, and a foster-to-adopt son who is 13 years old. We’ve also had a set of two teenage siblings who we fostered for 7 months and are now back with family.

  1. Why did you chose to do foster care? What were some of the deciding factors to choose a private agency and to foster teens? Why did you then chose to adopt from foster care?

Even though we got married “later” than most couples, we wanted to enjoy a few years as a couple before having kids (3 years was our goal). However, we also wanted to have foster and adoptive children along with our biological children. Adoption is very close to my husband’s heart as he was adopted by his step-father, and he has two adoptive siblings. I had always wanted to adopt since I was a young adult, so I was very excited about this. I’d not thought much about foster care as a means to adoption, but both my husband and I really wanted to help the children who were in our community as best we could. We quickly realized the “best” way for us to do this was through foster care. What better way to “minister to orphans and widows” than to do so in your own backyard! We wanted to impact the lives of many children without them necessarily being “ours”, so this was the perfect avenue for that desire.

We (mostly my husband) did a lot of research around the different foster care agencies in our area. Mostly, we were trying to decide whether to go with a private agency, or the county. In the end, we chose a private, Christian agency (The Bair Foundation). One isn’t better than the other, but we liked the relational and supportive aspects of the private agency over the county. Along with that, our decision to choose a Christian agency meant we would always have a Christian social worker advocating for us and our children. This was (and is) and huge blessing. It’s very helpful to be able to call our social worker (or our agency) and ask for advice and know we are going to be receiving Godly advice.

After beginning the foster care process, we discovered the possibility of adopting through foster care as well. We immediately decided that if a child’s file came across our email who needed to be adopted, we would say “yes”. We actually expected to foster the child first, and then have them go up for adoption. And honestly, I expected this child (and children) to be young (like 3-5 years old). God had different plans for us though. You see, among the many rules of foster care, one of them is the children (no matter what age) must have an adult present at all times. AND this adult must either be a licensed foster parent, or an approved alternative caregiver. We realized this meant we couldn’t have a child under the age of 12 (at least at this time) because we both worked, and preschool, kindergarten, and elementary schools all had shorter school days than our work days. However, with middle school or high school, the schedules were conducive for us to work our schedules around. This meant, yes….fostering teenagers! As soon as we told our agency this, they were VERY excited! Not many parents want to foster teenagers! I find this surprising, yet expected all at the same time. For us though, it was a perfect fit. We wanted to help kids that needed help, and the greatest need in our county is teenagers! We got a call about our foster-to-adopt son less than a week after we’d been licensed!! I was terrified of raising teenagers, and it is hard, I won’t lie. However, it is nice to have kids who can dress, bathe, and for the most part, take care of themselves.

 

  1. What is the process for adoption from foster care? I know it can be different for each placement, but in general, what is the process?

The process for adoption from foster care is in some ways, quicker than domestic or international adoption. If you have a child placed with you who is already up for adoption, everything can be done within 6 months of their placement in your home! Every case is different, however, so I’ll tell you our experience.

We were called in mid-December about a 12 year old boy who the county had recently gained permanent custody of. He had been in foster care for about 3 years prior to this. He’d been in several homes, and even more schools. They wanted this to be his last move in the system. We said “yes” immediately! Since this was a “foster-to-adopt” placement, we would have a 6 month “trial” period before we could adopt him. In addition to that, we had to undergo several “pre-placement” visits with him as well. We began these visits in early January. They started out with just meeting him for a meal or to go bowling. Then, in March, he was finally able to come stay with us for a night. Then it progressed to weekend visits, then finally, the first weekend of April, he moved in with us. We are now “legally” allowed to adopt him since we’ve undergone the 6 month trial, and both he and we still want to move forward. However, due to logistics of getting things together for a subsidy (since he is older than 12, the state will pay for his expecting expenses for the remainder of his childhood), and getting a court date. So, we’ll be officially adopting him in March!

Again, this process looks different for all adoptions through foster care, but this is how ours has looked.

 

  1. Do you find that foster-to-adopt is much different from foster care?

For the most part, foster-to-adopt is the same as foster care in terms of the regular daily life. However, with just foster care, you don’t have any pre-placement visits with your future child. The two teenagers who we fostered for 7 months, we met two days before they came to live with us. Yes, two days. We had them over for dinner, we liked them, they liked us, they moved in. Ha! And with our son, we met him 4 months before he moved in with us. Another difference is since we will be adopting him, we have a little more freedom with the rules than strictly foster care. For example, we can take him out of state, he can go to camp, he can be left alone if approval has been granted prior, etc. Now, all of these “exceptions” are just that, exceptions. The case worker doesn’t have to grant them, but ours has since she knows eventually we will be his guardians.

  1. How do you set boundaries and rules in your foster home?

This is a big one. And an important one. We decided prior to our first placement (even respite placement) that we would have written rules posted in a public place for all of our children to see. We decided that we would review these rules with them upon the first meeting. Since we were having teenagers in the home, this was very important and also useful. A teenager can understand a rule like “knock on a door before entry”, and if they disobey the rule, you can bring them back to the rule list and remind them.

  1. What have been some of the best parts of fostering/adoption for you?

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with fostering or adopting! However, we’ve been able to see some amazing blessings from it! I think by far, the best part of foster care for us has been seeing the children grow and mature emotionally. For most kids, a foster home can be the first place they finally feel “safe”, and for us, that’s what we were for our kids. We have been able to see them come out of their shells, develop some self-confidence, and grow in responsibility! It’s been really cool to see!

  1. What have been some of the hardest parts of fostering/adoption for you?

Whew, so many hard things! BUT, the Lord has given us new mercies each day! I guess I would say the hardest part of fostering is having the kids leave. I don’t tend to open up emotionally very much, but having our two teenage “kids” leave us after 7 months was very hard. We grew to love them so much, and they truly became part of our family. However, they still call us multiple times a week, so we are grateful for that! The hardest part of adoption for us has been bonding with our child, and he bonding with us. When you adopt a teenager, it’s hard for them to see you as their parents. This will be something we will likely be working on for the rest of his childhood. Along with that, when adopting a teenager, they also come with “baggage” (as does anyone), so it’s hard to break through those walls and help him develop appropriate behaviors.

  1. Do you have any other tips/words of advice or wisdom that you want to share?

I would love to have a conversation with anyone who is interested in foster care or fostering-to-adopt! We’ve only been doing this for about a year now, but there’s a STEEP learning curve, so we’ve gotten a lot of experience! I guess I would say as far as general advice goes, I recommend doing a lot of research before choosing your form of adoption, or before choosing an agency to foster kids through. Make sure you’re making the right choice for you and your family. Then, if you choose foster care and/or foster-to-adopt, understand that there will be MANY trials, and MANY MANY hard days. But, remember that what you are doing is impacting these children for the rest of their lives! I encourage you to make the most of every day you have with them, and have them leave your home better than when they entered it!

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Hannah! As Hannah mentioned, she is always willing to talk/email if you have any questions!! Her email is and I’m positive that she will welcome any questions or discussions that you may have!

Hannah is also an incredible athlete, and blogs all about her athletic journey over at Stedge Racing. Check it out!

2 comments

  1. Kelli {A Deeper Joy} says:

    OH Hannah, I feel like I could have written this – your “story” part of it at least! You’re just a year and one month ahead of us in the process. This was so so encouraging! We know that we can’t even prepare for how hard it’s going to be but we’re trusting that since God is guiding us into this, it’s well worth it. Thank you for sharing! Thank you for serving through foster/adopt!

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