By: Cambria Larson
A connection was made. A nearby county was working on placing an eighteen month-old and I knew the foster parents. They were doing what they could to support the biological family, working towards reunification, but it was looking unlikely. Tina took a call with the county social worker and foster mom, but within a week or so, an extended family member was identified as the best option for the sweet little guy's placement.
Shortly after, though, we got a call from that county social worker. There was a sibling group of 4 who had been awaiting placement. Did we have any couples interested in adopting older children or siblings?
These are the moments we work for. Answered prayers of the agency, of waiting couples, of foster parents, of children who want a forever home....
Don't get me wrong. This journey was long and the process was tough. The waiting family and foster parents did not agree on everything along the way. The county required different steps than possibly what CAS would have. Despite all of it, this forever family is together and happy.
Christian Adoption Services has not focused on foster-adoption. Though we collaborate with the foster care system and county offices, we have primarily served clients in the infant adoption process. Whether or not you feel called to pursue foster care in this season, we are all instructed to care for the widow and orphan. Whether or not you think you "have what it takes" to welcome an older child into your home, there are many ways you can support families who do. What might it look like for you?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
Two years ago, the *Olsons were preparing to grow their family through infant adoption at Christian Adoption Services. They kept a video journal of appointments, excitedly walked through each step of the process, and had a great community support from friends and employers as they raised funds to cover the costs of their adoption. Little did they know that the following spring, they would learn of 4 kids in foster care that needed a permanent home, and God would redirect them.
The bumps in the road made this month's finalization hearing an even sweeter celebration. A year of meetings with social workers, biological extended family, the previous foster family, and therapists displayed the Olson's investment of love & care. After about a year of the joys and trials inherent in parenting 4 children, the Olson's adoption was finalized with 27 people in attendance.
We have been honored to be part of their journey. During May, we are celebrating Foster Care awareness month. We are grateful to serve families whose path takes them towards foster-adoption.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
Natalie came to our office pregnant with her third child, and without a permanent job or housing. She didn’t have custody of her first two children and working with Christian Adoption Services was a proactive step toward making a loving decision to seek the best future for her child. Natalie met with us over several months and spoke with her case worker about what she would like to provide her child. She carefully selected a family to meet and invited them into the process of Doctor appointments and preparing for placement of the child in their home. She had an opportunity to grieve and discuss goals for her future and the relationship she would like to have with her son. This was a chance for Natalie to have options; she chose the parents her son would call mom & dad and she chose to provide for his needs in a way she did not foresee being able to herself. Natalie avoided having her rights involuntarily terminated and having little control in the placement and future of her son. She put aside her own desires out of love for him…
The parents we work with come from a wide range of circumstances and though multiple factors make them so different from each other, something they all have in common is that they love the baby and are thinking ahead to the life they want for their child. Natalie knew she didn't have the financial stability or supports to provide what she knew her little guy needed. Statistics show that the poverty rate for single-mother families in 2013 was 39.6%* and nearly 22% single mothers had no health coverage in 2013.^
It is hard to look ahead when you are stuck in the middle of a difficult situation. No one expects to have their rights involuntarily terminated and county social services to dictate who will care for their child. When a client has a history of working with social services, it is all the more crucial to understand the opportunity to choose a different future for their child and empower them to learn about creating an adoption plan. However, the most recent data** shows that over 400,000 kids are in the foster care system. We know this is a serious issue and we want to honor the families who welcome foster care placements. We encourage foster care adoption and support this month of awareness. It is an important effort in decreasing the number of kids waiting for placement.
As an agency, we wonder, how can we prevent more children from entering the foster care system? The root issues run so deep and we know there are many great organizations working towards these issues. Instances of addiction, unsafe relationships or trafficking may influence separating a child from their parents. For CAS, we see an opportunity to present these vulnerable families with the choice of adoption earlier. This is a choice to select what family raises their child, a choice to have some control over how often they communicate with or see their child, a choice to voluntarily terminate their rights to give their child a loving, two-parent forever family. It is important that individuals close to pregnant women who may not be able to meet their child's physical, emotional, spiritual needs share the option of adoption. Friends, family, teachers, medical professionals, church communities, and case workers all have an impact on how pregnant women perceive the choice of adoption. If it is seen as abandonment, women will not consider this choice even if they are on a path towards involuntary termination and having no control over their child's upbringing. Infant adoption is much more than a preventative measure. The discouraging statistics (infograph from Michigan Foster Care) about foster alumni make us feel even stronger about the need to share the loving choice of adoption with pregnant women considering their options. They don't have to parent if they choose life, they can offer to bring together a forever family.
Voluntary vs Involuntary termination: Both are legal processes involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. Generally in our agency's adoption practice the parents are choosing (voluntarily) to end their right so the adoptive couple has full parental rights. We seek to assist birth parents with that choice rather than have their rights (involuntarily) terminated later on when parenting is unsuccessful.
**US Dept of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Family: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf
Working with expectant parents who want to make a life-affirming decision. Preparing couples to grow their family through domestic infant adoption.