Adoption

The Wise Guy-de to Foster Care Adoption

I know what you’re thinking. Some of you are watching our various adoption processes and waiting to see how they turn out. Maybe in the future you will adopt? And then you read my various emo blog posts and status updates and you realize that you would rather stab yourself in the eye with a rusty fork before undertaking this particular method for building your family.

For the record, I am not ashamed.

When we started these processes, we knew that it would be hard, but not this hard. We knew we would have to be vulnerable, but not this vulnerable. We knew it would be frustrating, but…well, you get the point.

Whenever I’m struggling, I always try to cling to the truth that God can use my hard times to help someone else. When I broke off that engagement, you’d better believe I learned a whole lot and I am not afraid to share it with friends who are having relationship problems.

My sincere hope is that those of you that are following our process (because you might feasibly adopt in the future) will understand that this isn’t something that you undertake lightly. Honestly, we didn’t have really good emotional guides at the beginning who could say, “Slow down, nelly. Don’t put your whole heart into this one basket because you’ll hear no 50 times before you hear yes.” I know that sounds like a downer, but it’s true. I’d rather you temper your enthusiasm at the beginning than have your heart crushed a million times over when your plans fall through.

Anyway, we went to a Christmas party this weekend with some of my college friends and I spent almost the entire evening talking about the foster care adoption process and adoption ethics. I realized, after the fact, that it’s probably not the most festive topic to be talking about children being trafficked out of their home countries and/or the disappointing statistics about race and adoption in the foster care system. Probably should have had more wassail….

I like to share information with people and I’ve done alot of research on adoption ethics and we’re obviously knee-deep in the adoption process so I’d like to disseminate a little information about what I understand about the foster care system in Texas and some terminology. (I’m not an expert by any means, we don’t even have kids yet for heaven’s sake)

Ready?

If you’re not adopting or fostering a family member, there are four kinds of licenses you can get from the state. Below is a little explanation of each license:

Type of State License

Explanation

Foster care For the most part, all kids that are taken into state custody go immediately into foster care. The primary goal of the foster care system is family reunification. The families get 12-18 months to work through parenting classes, get evaluations done by psychologists, go through rehab programs, etc. Foster families become the legal guardians of these kids; they are responsible for enrolling kids in school, shuttling them to doctors appointments and family visits, etc. Foster care, by definition, is meant to be temporary.Alex and I have talked and prayed ad nauseum about doing foster care but ultimately, it comes down to us really wanted to provide a permanent home for older children. It’s possible that we could do this in the future.
Foster to Adopt By my understanding, this designation simply means that you would be willing to adopt, if the opportunity arose. You still receive foster placements and the primary goal is still family reunification. However, if parental rights are terminated and if there aren’t any other biological family members willing to take the kids in, then you have “first dibs” on adopting these children.From what we’ve gathered, if you want to adopt a baby (or a child 3 or younger), you pretty much have to be willing to do foster care or foster to adopt first.
Legal Risk A legal risk placement means that CPS believes that parental rights will be terminated, but there is always a chance that they won’t. It’s a foster placement, but looking more towards finding a good adoptive home than reunifying the child with their birth family.  In legal risk placements, the families are examined more stringently than the above two licenses. Families might have to compete for placements and their home studies are taken into consideration because their home will most likely be where the child ultimately ends up.
Straight adopt This is what Alex and I are trying to do. The parental rights for these kids have already been terminated. No family has stepped forward and the foster families are not able to adopt them. When kids become available for adoption, their caseworker sends a broadcast to all the agencies in Texas with information about the kids.  If no adoptive families send in their home study, then the children are placed on a state photolisting and then  a national photolisting of children that are legally free for adoption. I’ll talk more a little bit more about this process below.

Regardless of which path you choose, the licensing process is essentially the same.

  • The application process involves family history, job verification, background checks, health and fire inspections of your home, a health report from your physician, letters of recommendation, letter from your health insurance company (shoot me), pictures of your home, your philosophy of life, your 3rd grade report card, your shoe size, and your life.
  • The training process is 35 hours of in-classroom training at your agency. Topics include: Psychotropic medication, Child Attachment, Loss and Grief, Childhood Sexual Abuse, Abuse and Neglect, Behavior Modification, Working with CPS. All in all, it’s a great big bundle of fun.

After you’ve done all your training and all the parts of your application are finished, you get a home study scheduled. A home study is when a case worker comes out to your home, looks for potential safety issues and makes sure you’re in line with the state standards, interviews you and your spouse separately and together. Basically, it’s a really really intense interview about your whole life- past, present, and future. The result of the home study is a report (also called a home study) that gives a whole picture about your family.  (This home study interview is what we have scheduled for December 27th!!)

Once the home study report is completed (about 4-6 weeks), your whole file goes before the staff at your agency and they make a final decision about whether you get licensed or not.

Once you are licensed, then you are able to start getting information about kids that are available for adoption. Here’s how this process works when you find a child that you’re interested in:

  1. You (or your agency case worker) send your home study to the case worker of the child that you might want to adopt.
  2. The child’s case worker combs through all of the submitted home study and chooses the top 3 families.
  3. The 3 families are brought in for an interview with CPS staff, the child’s CASA advocate, and other interested parties. Those stakeholders choose the top family.
  4. The #1 family is given the child’s case file, which is all of the documentation that the state has on that kid. This is where you get background information, behavior, school, medical, everything that they have on the kid.
  5. If the family wants to proceed, then they are brought in again to make sure that they understand all of the known issues for this kid.
  6. After that, the pre-placements visit start, where the family and child can get to know each other in a safe environment. These might occur over a few weekends or it might be a few months.
  7. When the child comes home, they are technically a foster placement for six months. Barring any craziness, the adoption should be finalized in about six months after they have been in your home.

That’s basically our understanding of the process right now. We’re on the home study step, which is very very close to being able to start asking about these kids we’ve been looking at on the state photolisting for MONTHS. We’re very excited to move into the next step of this process.

I’ll leave you with a few fun facts about adopting out of the CPS system:

  • Most children who are adopted out of the CPS system get free college tuition at state universities.
  • It’s free to adopt out of CPS.
  • It’s better for children to retain some connection to the birth families. While it’s difficult to maintain contact with birth parents (since their rights were terminated for a reason), many children want to keep in contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older or younger siblings. While this makes some adoptive parents a little uncomfortable, everything I’ve read about this has indicated that it’s overall an extremely positive thing for these kids!

Here are a few more resources:

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