Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Question from a Prospective Parent

I have a question about foster/adoption and not sure if you can help or not.

My husband and I have been considering adopting from foster care. We have 4 children currently, 12,10,4 and 1 year old. (The older two are from our previous marriages)

My husband is hesitant about the cost and time more children would require. We would consider a boy or sibling group of two between the ages of 5-10 and race isn't an issue. The problem is we have heard a lot of negative stories about the children having severe problems and even the SW I spoke to again yesterday thinks we may want to wait until our younger two are a little older. I have a teaching degree in special ed. and am currently a stay at home mom so I feel the time now is right while I am at home. It is something I feel that we were meant to do and the path God has for us. The problem is I am not sure if it is realistic. I am aware that the children will have special needs from what they have been through. There are so many kids in need of loving homes, yet it seems that people are so negative about it, including the SW. Are there positive stories out there? Are there people willing to really help instead of trying to scare us away. I feel like it is the thing to do yet can't find much support. Any advice would be really appreciated. Thanks, Barb in Iowa


Blogger baggage said...

Some social workers and psychologists believe you should not adopt out of birth order. Because the kids you would adopt would be older than your younger two, the birth order would be changed.

There are a lot of success stories in foster care adoption. I'm one of them. True, almost all kids will have some sort of issues..they have been abused or neglected and have suffered a lot of loss. That doesn't mean that it will turn out bad.

You will just need to be extra careful to make sure that the needs of the new children are compatible with your existing family.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jennifer, an adoption worker in Missouri, writes:

I have seen many positive life long adoptions take place. This occurs when families have realistic expectations and think of the children as their own for better or worse. They go in knowing that these children have had different experiences than their children and all children are individuals but are treated as if they are their children. The negative stories I have experienced typically involve parent who never assumed "ownership" of the children and continued to act as if they were raising "the state's children" or doing someone a favor by adopting and they were "owed" something. Parent's who adopt should adopt because they want a child, not because they think they are saving the world.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelly, an adoptive parent in Maryland, writes:

This poster raises several good questions. First, will new children
require time, attention, and money? Absolutely. All children require
time, attention and money. However, it sounds like you have the time to
spend and the desire to provide the attention. My question back to you
is: Does you husband have the same level of interest and is he willing to
provide the same level of support? If you end up with a very disturbed
child, it will take two of you to provide adequate care.

There are days when I just need a break. My husband readily provides that
for me. I have a good friend, in a similar situation, who cannot get that
support from her husband. It has caused stress for her physically and
emotionally - and then there's the stress that has impacted their

The age issue is one that has been debated over and over. I can only
speak from personal experience. Our first three foster children (teens)
appeared on the scene when our bio son was a baby. Our second baby was
born about 8 months later. We ended up adopting all three of those girls.
For the older girls, having infants in the house provided incentive as to
why teenaged girls would not want to have babies. They valued their sleep
time too much.

Our most recent adoptions - 6 teens - were added to our family when our
youngest daughter was 2. We have seen problems - like toddlers who learn
"new words" that I'd rather they not know. But we have also seen miracles
- like the teenaged boy who was "too dangerous to be around little
children," bonding with the baby, even going so far to stop a front yard
football game to make sure she was safely out of the way. In fact, during
a trip to Disney World, he was the only one with enough patience and
energy to entertain our two youngest children at the end of a long, long
day. We all appreciated it.

One of the biggest benefits we have seen is that many kids are emotionally
delayed. They are unsure how to act in social situations, etc. They were
often denied the opportunity to experience childhood to its fullest.
We've had several kids experience childhood with a much younger sibling.
They can play baby games and act silly, but no one is going to criticize
because they are playing with a baby. The benefits have proven to be
immeasurable. They get the chance to "grow up" all over again.

If I had it to do all over again - and at some point I probably will - I
would not hesitate to bring foster kids into a situation where younger
children are present. I see no problem with mixing older children with
younger ones as long as you are prepared for the potential problems. You
need to make sure there is no sexual perpetration issue with any foster
child that you accept, for one thing.

I think the negativity comes from all the folks who say they want to
adopt, but then can't handle the situations once they arise. You,
however, have a better background than most. Your special ed training
will make you more sensitive to the variety of issues that will surface.
Any time a social worker hears hesitancy, they are appropriately concerned
about the strength of the committment being made. If you are really
ready, then make a strong statement to the workers. Next, find a strong
support system to help you through the rough patches - and there will be
rough patches. If you have any doubts, however, it's better to wait
until you both feel more comfortable with the decision.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kate writes:

I am a former social worker and adoptive Mom of 6, all adopted through foster care on separate occasions, ages they moved in were: 2 days, 10-1/2 years, 6 years, 7 years, 3-1/2 years, and 3-1/2 years; also raised a stepson full-time from age 5 to 18. So I feel qualified to address your question.
1. If you already have 4 kids, 2 more won't make a significant change in your lifestyle, which is presumably already hectic and child-oriented. However, there are a couple points to consider:
A) Is your vehicle large enough to transport everyone together? (It will be important to keep the family together for outings & vacations...splitting up the cars, with Mom driving one & Dad the other, will lead to a perceived split in the family that may become real. I know this SOUNDS trivial, and I'm not saying you should all be together 24/7 all the time, just that you need to be able to all travel together for important occasions.)
B) Sometimes it isn't the sheer numbers that get you down, it's the ages and stages of the kids. You already have a 4-year-old and a 10-year-old. Two more in the same general age group may work when they're little, but can you really handle a houseful of teenagers all at once? Think of it this way: imagine that you have a crying infant, a toddler who's into everything, a mentally challenged 8-year-old who tries hard but can't grasp academics, a 12-year-old girl who's going through puberty and seems to hate you, a 16-year-old boy who's sneaking out at night and hanging with possible gang members, & a 17-year-old girl soon to turn 18 who seems depressed and possibly suicidal and won't make plans for independent living. Are all these kids time-consuming and challenging? Yes! Can you solve all their problems? No! But can you handle it and keep your own sanity and sense of self-worth? Probably YES...because when you are tired and burned out and can't think of a solution to ONE of these scenarios, you will probably be able to come up with a way to improve two or three others. Different ages, different problems. As a parent, you won't feel like a complete failure because you will always be able to do SOMETHING to help SOMEONE feel better, even if you can't do it all. HOWEVER...what if you have six kids, all ages 13-17, all sneaking out & joining gangs? You are much more likely to burn out. Not to mention the expense...if you wind up with 2 or more in the same grade, that will be double or triple the expense for yearbooks, prom gowns, class trips, etc.With the ages of your current kids, I would honestly recommend getting a 3-year-old and a teenager.

2. It seems like your husband isn't as enthusiastic as you are. My husband & I did not believe in divorce...and yet, we wound up divorcing as a direct result of two of our kids' mental health issues...and we are far from the only ones. As a social worker, I saw the MAJORITY of fost-adopt couples break up, and it was always because the man wasn't as committed to the kids from the onset, and reached a point (number of kids, disabilities of kids) where he couldn't take it any more. If your husband isn't with you 100%, don't do it! Unless you are willing to lose him, and traumatize your kids, five years from now.

3. The social worker's advice to wait until your younger kids are older...ask her WHY she feels this is a good idea.
A) Is she concerned for the younger kids' safety? Unless a foster child has a known history of molesting other children, your foster child will NOT harm your other kids. Even the most hardcore foster children I've known are kind to babies and toddlers. They are much more likely to take out their anger on YOU (Mom); sometimes Dad. It is usually birthmom they perceive as hurting them, and they will act out against the new Mom. They have no reason to hurt little children.
B) Does she think the foster kids will be a bad example for your little kids, or your kids will resent the newcomers? In my experience, there is MUCH greater risk of this when you add new kids to a household that already has OLDER children. Look at it logically: You adopt a 12-year-old girl, & she has to share a room with your 4-year-old. The four-year-old probably won't care. The 4-year-old is too young to cut school or sneak out at night with the 12-year-old. The 4-year-old loves Mommy and will cheerfully tattle if big sis is doing something wrong. This could work. Contrast it with:
---You adopt a 12-year-old girl who has to share a room with your 12-year-old girl. They instantly hate each other. They fight, steal each other's things, compete for attention, and BOTH wind up hating YOU because you won't take sides. Even if you treat them equally, each will think you love the other best.
...or, they instantly bond. Now it's two against one. You won't let your new daughter pierce her nose, so she gets a needle & does it anyway. Your birthdaughter thinks it's cool and does the same thing. Cool new sis can influence a similar-age sibling far more than she can a tiny tot.
C) Does the social worker fear traumatizing your children if the new placements fail? Prechool children will usually adjust easily to new family members coming & going; after all, if they grow up with it, it's normal to them; they don't know any different. But children ages 8-15 are more vulnerable to being deeply hurt by loss, especially if they've already experienced loss through moving & divorce. If you want to add new kids, now might be better than later, when you have a houseful of teens who might already be feeling rejected by Mom & Dad, simply because of their ages. Adding younger, cuter kids when your own are teens may add to feelings of resentment.

3. Right now you are a stay-at-home Mom...believe me, this is VITAL. You can use your experience as a special ed teacher to help your new kids and still get a break when they're all asleep. But being a special ed teacher AND having special needs kids at home means you NEVER get a break. You're doing the same job, 24/7. Plus, you don't want to work outside the home until you're sure your new kids can tolerate all-day school. I have one who, for a whole year (until we completed the IEP and got him placed in an ED school) was being sent home EVERY DAY at 11 Am or noon, due to disruptive classroom behavior. Most jobs are NOT going to let you leave early every day at a moment's notice!

4. Afraid of horror stories of badly-behaving kids? The reality is that your birthkids might fail in school, shoplift, smoke marijuana, or get tattoos without your permission. It is also true that, despite these behaviors, they will probably NOT wind up homeless or in prison. Some people have a tendency to tolerate behaviors in their birthkids, and then absolutely freak out when their foster kids do the SAME things! Just because a behavior is inappropriate doesn't mean a child is evil or even emotionally disturbed (and if they ARE emotionally disturbed, counselling and medication can help a great deal...even if the counselling and medication are for YOU, not the child!)

No doubt my email has raised more questions than it the end, only you can decide what to do. I can assure you that, in my own case, fost/adopt has proven both worse, and at the same time much better and more rewarding, than I could have ever dreamed possible.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gina, an adoption worker in Texas, writes:

A family has to be very realistic to what they are able to handle as far as behaviors go. We have kids that were picked up at birth because of risk to kids who are very disturbed. The worst thing the can do is think that if they give the kids a little love, they will be like all the "normal" kids. If they see a kid or kids that they want, they need to ask lots and lots of questions. I always tell my friends and others that I think it is better to be a foster\adopt family verses a straight adopt one because you have the kid in your home for up to a year before the parents rights are terminated so you know if that child will fit into your family, and you know things about the child first hand.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deborah Hage writes:

The practice wisdom I communicated to my families contemplating adoption is that they not adopt a child out of birth order. If there are unforeseen problems it puts the younger child/ren at risk. The younger child/ren will also have more difficulty adapting to and maintaining the “family” culture when an older child enters the home who does not have that family culture internalized yet. Even though the foster child/ren may be chronologically older they tend to be emotionally younger and will want to play with the toys of the younger child/ren. This is fine if they are not destructive, however if is very difficult for a younger child/ren to bond to older siblings when that older sibling/s is breaking their toys, whether deliberately or accidentally. Resentment often ensues, to the detriment of developing a cohesive family unit.

Adopting a child/ren requires a huge amount of time and energy. That will have to come from somewhere. In this case it would come from the 4 and 1 year old who are currently used to having their mother to themselves during the day. Again, a potential source of resentment that will be counter to the development of a cohesive, happy family unit.

Because of learned interactional patterns children who enter a home via foster care after an early history of abuse and neglect often have negative ways of getting attention and/or “playing”. In the process younger children in the home are caught off guard and do not understand why the new child is hitting, screaming, breaking, disobeying, perpetrating, molesting, whatever. Mother and the older siblings become very protective of the younger children and can easily distance themselves from the new one/s. Dad, not seeing some of the behaviors, has a tendency to come to the defense of the adoptee and further family splits can occur.

It has certainly be found in some families that an older child/ren can be integrated successfully into a home with smaller/younger children but the risks outweigh the benefits. Mom and Dad need to visualize their young child being hurt or molested by another child and then see if the risk is worth it. They need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best! Visualizing the absolute worst thing that can happen might put the task more into perspective.

Since my practice deals exclusively with the worst things that can happen I would counsel against the family adopting a sibling group between the ages of 5 and 10 when their youngest children are 1 and 4. Once the younger children are in school all day then the family can take on adding children to the home via adoption. Mom will then have time to devote to the new children and the risks will be less for the older ones.

I shake in my shoes when I read of families wanting to adopt an older, emotionally scarred child when they still have toddlers in the home!

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are issues to consider that are independent of the needs or difficult behaviors so common in children who have been through foster care.

Let me say first that I am a foster a parent and I started when my biological children were barely 6 and almost 11. I would not go back and change that if I could. There were some circumstances about our situation that made it easier.

Are you thinking about babies only? If you are, then there concerns are not so great. I've been doing research and here are some things to consider:

- Children under 10 tend to think that kids are in foster care because they were given away for being bad.
- Generally fostering children have more positive experiences with fostered children at least 2 years younger than they are.
- Parents greatly underestimate how much fostered/adopted children will share. If you don't think that your children are ready to learn the truth about what happens to kids in this world, then wait.
- All children do better when they understand in what ways the fostered child is and is not a member of the family. Younger children in particular have a hard time with "ours, but not ours."
-Children of all ages suffer significant grief and loss when they get close to a child who is then taken away.

Doing foster care has been an important part of our lives, I would not do it differently.

I generally recommend that people wait until their bio kids are at least 6 and seriously consider waiting until they are 10.

11:38 AM  
Blogger QueenBee said...

I'm going to take a different approach to your question. Although we are currently adopting two children through foster care, we have no other childre so I can't speak to you from that perspective. I can, however, speak to you from a spiritual perspective. You said, "It is something I feel that we were meant to do and the path God has for us. The problem is I am not sure if it is realistic."

If this is truly something God is calling you to, He will get you and your husband on the same page. And if it is truly what God wants you to do, it doesn't matter if it is realistic. He'll work out the details. Wasn't it Moses that had a problem with stuttering? And look what David did to Goliath!

I have no idea what is right for you and your family. But if you and your husband decide God is calling you to this, don't let anyone talk you out of it. You'll miss out on what He has for you.

:) :) :)

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faye Hall writes:

Please "google" Van der Kolk's complex trauma. Articles at this site will identify the domains of impairment from early trauma. Maybe you can use this "season" of your life to prepare to help in the future-while you are instilling in your own children a "healthy sense of self".

Speaking from experience-I wouldn't recommend bringing a foster/adoptive child into the home with younger children. Foster and adoptive children are removed from their birth home because of abuse, neglect, abandonment..given children learn from experiences and modeling, these children carry the past with them. Typically, they recreate the chaos of their past. Your children may be placed in danger with this chaos. (I have an education degree and was successfully parenting our 3 birth kids-but the way we parented the birth kids was counterproductive to our adopted son-parenting for him resembled "parenting backwards").

Families are needed to help these children heal-so planning for the future is a viable option.

Please contact me if you have any questions,

Faye Hall
Consultant, Connection Resources
Author of Re-parenting 23/7 and other materials.
Visit us on the web -
Phone - 717.235.1885

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There are a lot of good questions in your posting. Since so many folks have touched upon many of them, please let me address the issue of cost. Children who are adopted from the foster care system are often children with special needs. In many cases, these children are eligible for state or federal adoption assistance, which takes the form of medical assistance and/or a monthly financial payment, and in some cases social services. Congress created adoption subsidies in the early 1980s in order to encourage the adoption of children with special needs into loving homes. Iowa has a strong program of supporting its children. You can learn more by going to our website -- Just click on Iowa and you can read about the different benefits available through adoption. And, don’t forget the federal tax credit available for adopting children with special needs --

In addition, the Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parent Association has a strong post-adopt program by providing parent liaisons to talk with, encourage, and support new parents (1-800-277-8145).

While tax credits and adoption subsidies don’t pay for the entire cost of raising a child adopted from foster care, it can ease the financial burden.

Good luck!

Jeanette Wiedemeier Bower
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
Project Manager
Adoption Subsidy Resource Center
Transracial Parenting Project

11:03 AM  
Blogger colorful veggies said...

There are many excellent resources out there that didn't exist 25 years ago when we first adopted.

Books like Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Forbes and Post, Adoption Parenting by EMK Publishing, Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens by Debbie Riley, M.S., Attaching in Adoption by Deborah D. Gray, and Adopting The Hurt Child by Keck and Kupecky.

Also there are online support and interest groups like:

Adopt Older Kids

Christian Older Child Adoption

GAARP · Gracefully Aging Adoptive Refined Parents

Waiting To Adopt

You can "listen" to other parents dealing with everyday situations and ask questions to those on the "front lines."

4:01 PM  

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