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Adopt from Where You Feel Led

November 28, 2010

I saw this post on Rage Against the Minivan recently. It is Kristen’s response to the question, “Why adopt from there when there are children here?” I agree with her – it is an irritating question. It implies that non-American children as less worthy of a loving family. Obviously, it is absurd (and probably, from some, racist and ethnocentric).

We chose to grow our family through the foster care system for many reasons. We always knew we would adopt and I had always just assumed it would mean traveling to another country and picking up a little baby. I know that I was so näive and uniformed until someone enlightened me about waiting kids in the United States. Once we knew, we could not deny the call we felt from God. We may still one day pursue an international adoption. It is something we still talk about from time to time but I am glad we learned more about the facts of our country and the potential challenges of adopting internationally before we jumped in to any adoption.

I want to say that I agreed with a lot of Kristen’s post and that I really respect her and appreciate her sharing her family’s story. I met her briefly at the Together for Adoption conference and she is one of very few mom/adoption blogs that I make a point to read.  But what didn’t sit right with me about her post is that it sort of implies that adopting from foster care in the United States is too hard. I asked her if this was her intention in the post and she said it wasn’t, that she was just pointing out the things that deter people from adopting through foster care. This is the excerpt of her post that sparked a few things I have already been thinking about for a while:

Having worked in group homes for many years, I can say that there is truly no comparison between US foster care and third world orphanage conditions.  And adopting from the US foster care system is an excruciating process.  Most DCFS offices are understaffed, underpaid and incompetent.  Even with the best-intentioned staff, it is simply not set up to adequately care for the number of children in state care, and the permanency of children is what hangs in the balance.  I could complain all day about how poorly foster parents are treated by the system . . . but the real injustice here is to the children, who sit for years in a limbo between family preservation and adoption…I don’t have easy answers, but I do know that the system is very broken, and it is failing children by making it so difficult for prospective parents to adopt kids in fostercare who need families.  If I wasn’t so exhausted from our own battle, I would pick up the torch and fight for reform.  Some day, I will.

The foster care system is messy, this is true (both international and private domestic adoption have their share of issues as well). It is easy to become frustrated and, from reading the comments on her post, you will see that people have had difficulties adopting through foster care. One commenter, in particular, called it a “nightmare.”

Personally, I just don’t believe that “because it is hard” is a good reason not to do something. I want to be honest about the foster care system – sometimes it will suck. Sometimes it will feel like it is not really working. Sometimes you will say goodbye to kids you are completely in love with.  But it is what we have to work with here in the United States and I really believe the best way to reform the system is good foster parents.  There are many but we need a lot more and abandoning the system does nothing.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:35-36 ESV)

If being treated poorly and dealing with incompetent people is what needs to be done to prevent a child from being one of the 19,000 who age out of the system every year, it is worth it.  There is a story I heard from a presenter at the Together for Adoption conference that has been haunting me. This is what he was told by one foster kid:

I’m 20 years old. I have a job. I’m going to college. I don’t need financial support. I just want some where to go for Christmas.

To me, this is the true “nightmare.” As a Christian, my goal is to continually model my life after Jesus Christ. I fail miserably all the time, specifically in the areas of patience and humility.  Maybe I am failing right now, feel free to let me know. But Jesus was treated unfairly, dealt with incompetent people, and felt great pain so that he could come and die for my sins and the sins of this world. Being a foster parent pales in comparison.

This is not my argument against international or private domestic adoption. I fully support both and rejoice when I hear of children coming in to families this way. But it feels like foster care gets a really bad rap in the adoption world sometimes, even in the Christian adoption world. I’m not saying it is for everyone but I am saying more people, specifically Christians, need to open up their hearts and minds to the possibility.

Since January, we have had six kids in our home. We were told that we would be adopting M & T but that did not happen. What did happen, though, was an amazing blessing that we never would have been a part of had we not been foster parents. We helped a family reunify. On paper, no one would have said it should or would have happened that way. I’m very confident that the right thing happened and now our family is bigger than we could have imagined. M & T’s mom calls us family – literally introduces us to people that way.

We have had several social workers, lawyers, judges and therapists – all who work for the system – in and out of our lives this year. Two of them were incompetent. The many others were lovely to work with and deeply cared about the kids. Our current social worker is so ridiculously amazing that I’ve said thank you so many times that I think I have totally freaked her out. These people are not thanked often and their job is difficult. I would not want the pressure of deciding whether I should take away someone’s child or possibly leave them in a dangerous situation.

There are problems in foster care and in all forms of adoption. I wish all 163 million orphaned and vulnerable children in this world had a loving and safe home. Personally, we feel called to the half-million here in need right now. Adopt from where you feel you are being led (to me, that is the best answer to why you pursued any form over another). But, before you decide, please don’t write off the kids in foster care. At age three, we know the chances for adoption decrease for kids in the system. If you are non-white and male, those chances keep dropping. Both our boys fall into that category. There is still risk of losing them at this point but I fully believe my God gives abundant strength and peace even in the face of what seems too hard.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Meredith permalink
    November 29, 2010 12:21 am

    What a great point of view! Thank you for sharing your journey….the good parts, and the parts that are seemingly “too hard!” Love the hearts you both have to serve!

  2. November 29, 2010 1:41 am

    Amazing post! Thanks for sharing from your heart. It’s awesome that you are advocating for kids in the foster care system. I’ve heard so little about the system so it’s great to get first hand info from you.

  3. November 29, 2010 9:34 am

    Kevin and I are seriously considering foster care in the future thanks to you guys. Seriously–it would not have crossed my mind otherwise.

    Do you guys ever watch Detroit 1-8-7? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on one of the episodes called “Lost Child.” It dealt with the foster care system. It was heart-wrenching of course, but seems to be very related to what you wrote here.

    • November 29, 2010 12:29 pm

      I saw the first part & then fell asleep (that is kinda how it goes for me lately). D watched it though. I should go back & watch it on Hulu. Are you watching Detroit 1-8-7 regularly?

    • November 29, 2010 1:51 pm

      I did watch that episode of Detroit 1-8-7. K did not, because she never watches the show with me (she falls asleep instead). I don’t remember the episode all that much, but remember that at first I was annoyed at the typical storyline of the “bad foster family” that the child ended up at. But then I thought it did a good job of showing the messiness and craziness of the system which results in keeping kids in foster care for such a long time. I also liked that they had an African-American couple adopting a white child (if I remember it correctly).

      I just wish there was a way for a show like that to show foster parents in a positive light, which is difficult because it would probably make for a boring episode. I think they alluded to it, but that’s about it. After going to our agency’s foster parent appreciation dinner, we walked away very impressed by a lot of really amazing long term foster parents. Unfortunately those stories don’t make exciting homicide detective TV.

      • December 3, 2010 7:04 pm

        I’m finally getting back to replying to this. No, I don’t watch it regularly, but Kevin does. He specifically told me to watch this one. My frustration with it, in light of your post Krysta, is that it seemed meant to tug at our heartstrings without making it seem remotely possible for any good parents to get into the foster system. The people who “adopted” the little girl in the end were actually part of what they called an “underground railroad” for foster kids. They basically kidnapped kids out of foster homes and took them to homes in the suburbs. The parents seemed genuinely caring, but it communicated that there was no hope for the foster care situation.

  4. Mary permalink
    November 29, 2010 11:39 am

    Or…you end up adopting internationally because your state literally won’t approve you. We are military in one state, residents of another. Our state will not let us foster because we don’t live there, and the state where we’re stationed won’t let us in the system because we aren’t residents.

    I agree with what you’re saying. We feel very called to foster care (not necessarily adoption), and we’ll have to just wait and see how it all plays out. In the mean time, we’re finishing up our adoptions from China and Haiti and enjoying our growing family.

    • November 29, 2010 12:27 pm

      Congratulations on your impending arrivals! I hope it will eventually work out for you to foster. Sounds like your family has a big heart for kiddos.

  5. Wendy permalink
    November 29, 2010 11:48 am

    Great post!

  6. November 29, 2010 2:01 pm

    We researched foster care, but decided it wasn’t for us. The agency told us that we may have to update our house and put egress windows in our basement…um, what?? Besides, we would have the wrong motive…we simply want to adopt. And we were told that we would have to become foster care certified in order to adopt a child, even from the “adoptable right away” list. And there were so many rules! It seemed intrusive. However, my parents fostered two children when we were younger, one that we keep in touch with and still see from time to time. I agree that we, as the Church, have failed these kids more so than the government.

    Instead God called us to adopt internationally. We got some of the “looks” and questions about why we didn’t adopt “in the US”. My response was always “Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the WORLD. Red and Yellow, Black and White. They are precious in His sight.”

    • November 29, 2010 3:26 pm

      He certainly does love them all!

      Yep, we had an egress window installed. We knew that would be an expense based on information we received at our orientation class & just saved up over the course of the year. Now that we have it, I actually kind of love that it is there. I’ve heard of churches who are forming adoption funds to help people with these types of expenses which is a great way that those who are not called to adopt can participate in caring for orphans or children in need.

      We really didn’t find the process to be intrusive. I am actually pretty glad that there is a screening process in place to protect kids.

      • November 30, 2010 3:57 pm

        I didn’t mean the process, because the home study and paperwork process is very similar to international adoption in that way. I also appreciate the thorough background checks, and the inspection of the home. Better to be safe than sorry! I guess I was a little intimidated by all the rules once the child would be in my care. I tend to lean toward being a rigid rule follower…it makes me anxious to break a rule! However, my husband and I haven’t totally closed the door on this option, nor do we discourage others from pursuing foster care. I can see the compassion my son has (even at only 4!) and I can see him being a great big brother to some children who need temporary care in the future, but it isn’t where God has led us just yet.

  7. November 29, 2010 6:15 pm

    I’m glad you addressed this specific post. I also read Kristin’s blog regularly and felt not quite right after reading that one. You put your finger on it. It IS hard to love a child and let them go (and we only had our last kids for one month!) but they still need to be loved. I felt like we were taking on the burden of God’s heart by loving these kids when they needed care from Him. It is amazing to be His hands to the children He loves. His heart breaks for all abused and neglected children, here and abroad. To me, adopting is hard no matter where you do it. People need to weigh the pros and cons of BOTH adoption scenarios before moving forward. And you’re right to say that we should serve wherever we feel called.

    I hope people don’t write off the kids who need us here just because the system isn’t perfect and your heart very well could get broken. Also, I didn’t think going through the foster process was overly intrusive?! Changing our hot water temperature and hanging a fire extinguisher in our kitchen (yuck! ugly!) and going through months of classes was worth it to us because God wanted us in the fostering community. Anyway, this is too long and not really to the point, but I do appreciate you addressing the US fostering idea in a positive way. Best of luck to you with your boys.

  8. November 29, 2010 8:17 pm

    I love this post, too. Totally agree with your perspective.

    • November 29, 2010 8:25 pm

      Thank you, Kristen! That means a lot.

  9. Rebecca permalink
    November 30, 2010 12:39 am

    Love this post! I am a foster parent, and I love reading other FP blogs! I had not come across your blog until someone linked this post on FB today, and I’m so glad I “found” you guys! Look forward to following along!

  10. November 30, 2010 1:21 pm

    K, thank you for being so resourceful. The simple things you shared with me (and D, with Josh) last night are already proving to be so helpful (for both of us). I am so thankful we can depend on God through every step of this process, and trust He will pave the path before us. His faithfulness brings such pure comfort. I love that He has raised up such a beautiful support system for you guys. Thank you for your vulnerablity, and also, especially, for the acknowledgment that this is all for, through, and by His grace and power alone. He is able; He makes all things new. The verse that has repeatedly come to mind from Day 1 of this journey in becoming FP’s is “go, for I AM with you always”… Amen.

    I hope you’re having a splendid day with your cutipies!

    ps. Sorry we stayed so late last night! I literally had no idea what time it was. Thank goodness for coffee, right? 🙂

    • December 1, 2010 1:39 pm

      It was great talking to you guys. I didn’t know what time it was either so don’t worry about it. Looking forward to hearing about the next steps for your family.

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  1. Grown In My Heart » Adopting from Foster Care: Is It Worth It?

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