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)