Friday, November 04, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - Waiting to foster after adoption

You'll remember in this post I talked about how excited we were that #7 & #8 were going home.  I also shared that we'd be taking a little bit of time off and that we were looking forward to adopting Little Miss.

Today's question comes from the comments on that post. 


As you see, I tried several times to respond at it kept getting erased.  If you don't see mie commenting on your blogs - please know I try to comment 3-5 times a day and for whatever reason they get deleted.  I have this problem where it keeps asking for my login credentials.  Argh.  It's probably a firewall thing at work.

A: You see my short answer- here's the long answer.

Several people have recommended that we wait to open our home again for at least a couple months after Summer's adoption is/was final, maybe all the way to the end of the year.  I'll say that everyone who has made this recommendation are parents but not foster parents, and their logic is similar to what you see above - take the time to solidify your family now that Summer is adopted before you bring in more kiddos.

This logic makes perfect sense in some scenarios and I can see it's value in some situations.  I think it feels right for someone who has biological kiddos and is used to the idea that it takes a while to get everything settled down after adding a newborn to your family.  There aren't that many new parents who bring home their baby from the hospital and immediately begin trying for another.  There's an adjustment period where you're consumed with this new life and, in the case of having other children, getting everyone used to being a family of 1+ more.  Totally understand why people would recommend waiting when their experience is primarily biological.

I can see waiting as a very rational approach for other types of "straight" adoptions - private-infant, international, adoption-only from foster care.  In all of these scenarios there is also a period of adjustment at least post placement.  Please remember that in most states (if not all - I'm just not knowledgeable about it...) there is a period of time that is mandated between placement and finalizing the adoption.  In our state it is 6 months.  Therefore, it is at least understandable that you'd wait until after the placement to get used to the children, get them used to you, and go through that whole adjustment period.  Then there is a period of 6 months before you can finalize - that finalization date (adoption day) really has nothing to do with whether or not your family is ready to accept other children.

There are a few exceptions to that statement and they primarily have to do with "older" children.  In this case, by older I mean children who are old enough to understand even at a very basic level what adoption day represents.  A 6 month old has no concept of adoption day.  They won't remember it.  They won't understand what it meant.  They might see pictures and hear stories and during some progression over their life begin to understand what adoption day was all about.  They may or may not like the fact that they were adopted when they get older, but for a 6-month old the day before adoption day is most likely going to look exactly like the day after adoption day.  For older children, and I don't know what older really means, this may not be the case.  Our daughter is 2 and also had no concept of adoption day.  To her it was something where we got all dressed up and there was more family there and she had to go for a car ride and had ice cream at 10am.  Mind you, she doesn't know what 10am is and probably doesn't even understand why THAT is a big deal let alone adoption day.  There is an age at which that changes though - it probably depends on the kid.  If they have even a remote concept of their bio parents vs. their adoptive parents, if they at any level recognize their loss or sense permanency, I feel the situation needs to be handled differently.  I think this could happen as young as 2 or 3, so I'd recommend parents try to be really in tune to their child's situation.

In these cases with older children, I might recommend waiting for two reasons.  First, adoption day becomes a "special day" so to speak.  I'd imagine most adoptive parents make a bigger deal about it than a regular non-adoption day, and for that reason I'd want the family to be able to celebrate the adoption and it's importance for a while.  One of the messages of adoption day is "we love you so much that we want you to be part of our family forever".  Due to the nature of a new placement, I'd hate to cut that sentiment short by adding a new placement that requires so much work.  Imagine getting a placement the night of adoption day and after having expressed for a long time how important the new addition is suddenly diverting all attention from adoption day festivities and presumably the newly adopted child to new foster placements.  The message inadvertantly sent could be "Yeah, yeah, you're very important to us but right now these new kiddos need me more than you do".  My recommendation in these cases would be to wait at least a little while to avoid sending that message and avoid cutting the "forever family" celebration short.

I'd also consider waiting for another maybe more critical reason for older children.  Though I'm in the camp that all who are adopted have experienced a loss on some level, the loss of their birth parents, there are arguably some who are more aware of that loss than others.  I do think it has something to do with the age at which a child was separated from his/her parents - the older the child was the more he/she will be aware of that specific loss.  With adoption, I think the goal shouldn't be to minimize that loss but to help the child process through it.  Separately the goal should be to provide a permanent home and family so that loss doesn't have to happen again and turn into 2 (or more) losses.  I think for children who have been separated from their birth parents and birth family it is really, really difficult to understand and internalize the concept of permanency.  There's no way to assure an adopted child that they won't be moved to a new family until that actually doesn't happen.  I think it's a long, long-term process to prove permanency.  For that reason, I'd recommend waiting for a little while after an adoption to take foster children.  Foster children could leave after a few days or weeks or months - you never know.  Having a foster child leave could rip open the healing scab adoption begins by making the child question - am I the next to leave too?  Of course, having a foster child leave and the adopted child stay has the potential to reinforce the fact that they will never be leaving, but it's a chance I wouldn't be willing to take at least not so close to adoption day.

In these two situations, I don't know what the right time period to wait would be.  I'd say at the very minimum a few months.  Most agencies won't license you if you've had a significant event, including a birth or adoption, within the past 12 months.  Some agencies (so I've heard, not true for us) won't allow people who are currently licensed to receive a new placement until a certain period of time has passed after an adoption. 

In our situation, our daughter neither understands the significance of adoption day nor realizes that we aren't her birth parents.  She has no concept of birth parents at this point.  She has no concept of adoptive parents.  Let's pretend she did.  We have had her for 16 months now, almost double the time she was with her birth parents.  Time in and of itself doesn't hold the key to healing or proving permanency.  What's telling with us is how bonded she is with us as her family: my husband is daddy, I am mommy, and Logan is her brother.  She doesn't know any different.  The day before adoption day looked similar to the day after adoption day.  Nothing really changed.  We have a semi-open adoption agreement so we plan on being open with her about her birth parents, encouraging some contact, etc.  Adoption will not be a secret.  But the day in and of itself didn't change anything for her daily life. 

On top of that, she is our 4th child, our 3rd placement. Since she's come we've had 1 child leave and then 4 children come and go. She's stayed. She is getting older now and will be more likely to realize other children are going home/are gone and that is a concern for us but it has nothing to do, in her case, with her adoption day. Our biological son thought he was leaving when our first children go home and he was never on the list of kiddos to potentially leave.

All to say that yes, I can see there being good reasons to wait for a period after an adoption to accept new foster children but in our situation they don't really apply.

So what benefits are there to getting back on the list?

First and foremost there are kiddos who need homes. There will be a child or a group of children who get moved from their home over the next few weeks/months and they will need us to be their parents, whether or not that is a permanent placement. We're good at being parents. We can help. By not going back on the list those children who could be in our home might end up in a shelter. They might end up with another family that is less-equipped or loving than we are. We have a home. We have a family. We are equipped. We need to open our home for these kiddos in their time of need.

The first reason is by far the primary reason to open up again. There are two more related to our last placement that need to be mentioned. Truthfully, and this is usually something I'd only share with other foster parents who'd truely understand the sentiment, I think they're placement really scarred me. Please understand I know it scarred them worse than it scarred me, well the placement didn't but the whole situation probably did and I'm sensitive to that, but now that they're home I can be free to think about me and my family a little bit and I know at least I am traumatized as a mom having gone through that experience. So, reason #1 - I've been grateful for this break, but it's almost like needing to get back on the horse after having been bucked - I need to do it otherwise I may not ever open up again! Reason #2, considering reason #1 and my feelings about being a bit gun-shy after the last placement, we believe that its possible if not highly likely that #7 and #8 will come back into care at some point in the future. We are torn as to whether or not to take them back if they come into care again and the longer we are without them the longer we're enjoying not having them in our home. We miss them but that is not the point. I don't know if they are a good fit for us. I don't know if we're the best fit for them (aside from their healthy bio-parents). I have friends who have adopted children with similar characteristics and seen their outcomes and frankly, I'm not sure we'd be able to handle that permanently. It's a scary thing. However, if we have new kiddos and our house is full if/when they come back into care it will make our decision a bit more easy for us - if we're full we can't take them back. Honestly this whole thought process feels plain wrong, but it's from the gut right now and it's the ugly truth. I pray that if God wants us to take these kiddos back if they do come into care that He'd make it obvious to us and change our hearts.

Who knows what will happen. It will be what it will be and we've gotten pretty used to change around here. Change is constant in our home. That's ok. Speaking of, we did officially go on "the list" on Halloween so technically we have 3 open positions right now and could get a call at any moment. I don't know when our next call will be - our next adventure awaits!


CandCFamily said...

We finalized our adoption August last year and went active again in January assuming we might wait a bit as we narrowed our choices to a girl 0-4 or boy 4-6 or a sibling set in that range, (i.e. boy and girl). We only waited 6 days to get a call, so we fostered again pretty quickly. We now will have three kids and will likely wait a long while and possibly even be done. I think it is an individual decision for each family to make with what works for them.

Penelope {Foster2Forever} said...

We are waiting for another placement just because of our Stinkpot's adjustment issues. Otherwise, we'd have a newborn right now. :)

p.s. It's probably the word verification that is messing up the comments. Try disabling it for a bit and see if that helps.