Saturday, July 30, 2005

Houseguest, you have room for one more?

I have a little house guest for awhile. 

S came to stay with me on Thursday… I’m not sure how long she’ll be here. 

She’s 11 and in foster care, and I’m providing emergency respite care for her foster parents. S can be a challenging kid, but she also breaks my heart. Like so many other older kids, she is in the system waiting for an adoptive home that will probably never come.  

Often when people find out we’ve adopted (pretty easy to figure out since R is Black, and the rest of us aren’t!) I get the comment that they always wanted to adopt… but coudn’t for some reason (too expensive, don’t know how to get started, etc).  So think of this as my blanket reply to all those people who have said they have thought about adopting…

If you really want to adopt, there are literally thousands of children waiting in the foster care system for you. If there are age requirements, they are generally very relaxed (I know a couple in their 50’s who recently adopted a young child), and single parents can adopt. 

You can adopt if you have other children… in fact that parenting experience is often seen as a plus. 

It’s not expensive to adopt through the system, often all or part of the adoption expenses are subsidized by the agency you are adopting through, and many of these kids come with health insurance… some even come with monthly stipends to offset the financial costs of raising them.  

Once the child is available for adoption, there is virtually no chance of birth parents coming back to reclaim the child. Unless you agree to a “legal risk” adoption, all parental rights are terminated before the child is ever placed for adoption.  

There are children of all ages available for adoption, although as the child gets older they become harder to place (most people would rather adopt a little one)… so there are more older children then younger ones available.

So, do you have room for one more?Adopting from the system isn’t for the faint of heart. It usually means making a “do or die” commitment to a child because you love them, it’s the right thing to do, and because you know that you may be their last hope. (I’ve found that adopting out of the foster care system almost guarantees that you’ll be spending lots of time in prayer!) 

These kids bring their own baggage with them, of course… My little friend S (sitting next to me on the floor as I type, combing her toy horse’s mane) is here because of a 2 1/2 hour rage she had Thursday afternoon. During the rage she screamed herself hoarse and threw her things all around her bedroom. A long rage like that is unusual for S, but her foster parents are worn out…  and that long rage was the last straw… so I was asked if she could stay here for awhile. 

I’ve known S for four years, so she is comfortable here and her foster parents know we’ll take good care of her. She hasn’t raged since she’s been here… but I know it’s a possibility. 

In a funny way though, I understand her anger. S is cognitively delayed (she’s 11 going on about 7), and she spent her first 6 years bouncing back and forth from grandma’s house to the streets. This is a child who remembers living in seedy hotels and standing around a fire in a trashcan trying to stay warm in a snowstorm.. because she and her mother were homeless. Eventually… mom abandoned her, and the system stepped in and placed her in a foster home.  

Most foster parents are very good people, but some aren’t… and she was badly abused, for over a year, in her first foster home.  She’s safe now, but will never be adopted…have a “forever family”, and I guess I really don’t blame her for raging from time to time. I think I’d rage too, if I’d been through all that she’s been through.

Despite the misery she’s lived through, she is still just a kid. She’s been doing school with us (and is a little confused because our schooltime looks so much different from the public school classes she’s used to!). Right now my “classroom” is a wreck of beans, construction paper and glue… but I have a really nice new piece of artwork . (blue construction paper with “I love horses” spelled out with beans) S and R have been playing dress up and Barbies and visited a friend with me yesterday and spent a happy hour with her horses.  

So, if you are one of those people who has thought they might like to adopt someday, I would ask you to seriously consider whether you have room for just one more…  and if you decide you do, contact your county social service agency and ask about their adoption program.  

You and your family could be a miracle for some child like S…