Foster Care Adoption: One Mom's Story of Her Journey to a Baby Girl

Christie Haskell

My friend "Melissa" (not her real name) has two boys, and she and her husband have decided they want one more child -- a girl, and want to adopt through the foster care system.

I talked to her about the process, her thoughts and feelings, and how foster care adoption works, and I'm very excited to revisit with her once she has her new baby in her arms.

Tell me a little about you and your family.

My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We live in northern California with our two biological sons -- 6 and almost 5. We enjoy spending time together doing outdoorsy stuff (camping, hiking, taking fun little day trips). The boys just started school (1st and pre-k) and are looking forward to soccer starting. We're all looking forward to adding a little girl to our family.

Why did you decide to adopt?

I have had infertility issues in the past and have high-risk/bedrest pregnancies. We ultimately decided that we just wanted another baby, but not the stress of trying to get and then stay pregnant. I have wanted to adopt for as long as I can remember, it's just something I've always known we would do.

How does adoption through the foster care system differ from private adoption?

Well, the biggest difference is there is a greater risk of reunification with the birth parents. With a private adoption, there is that initial risk where the birth parents can change their mind, but with foster care adoption, that risk is there until parental rights are terminated (TPR), which can take 6-18 months depending on the situation. There is also the risk of family members taking the baby. There are pros also -- after all, we're not completely crazy! The major pro is that adopting through the foster care system is virtually free!

Aren't you worried that the child would go back to their biological parents?

That's always in the back of your mind. I do have to say, though, that it's worth the risk. Every state is different, but in California there are different risk levels. There's low- to no-risk (wait is up to 3 years for an infant); low- to medium-risk (where we are); and then high-risk (regular fosters).

There is almost always a permanency plan in place for children under 3, so when a child comes in they always try to place in a concurrent planning family. Concurrent meaning, first and foremost, they will work towards reunification, but if bio-Mom and Dad don't follow through with their plan, those foster parents are willing to adopt if necessary. It's a great system because you don't have kids bouncing around from foster home to foster home and it allows small children to bond.

In the state of California, bio-parents really only have 6 months to work their plan. If they are not doing what they need to do, then the state moves towards TPR (terminating parental rights). It can be frustrating though because if bio mom/dad come back at 5 months, 29 days and say, "Hey, I want to do what I need to do to get my kids back!" then those 6 months can be extended (usually up to 18 months, in 6 month increments).

What do you have to do to be able to adopt this way?

Again, it's different in each state, but in most states you contact your county CPS or protective services and let them know you're interested in adopting through the county. Then you attend an informational meeting and 11 weeks of "PRIDE" training. PRIDE training provides prospective foster/adoptive parents with the resources to cope with foster kids and bio parents and some of the situations that can arise. To adopt through the county, you have to become a licensed foster parent. After the 11-week class, you are required to be fingerprinted, have a physical, CPR and first aid certified, and then there is the foster license home inspection. They have a list of requirements (the list depends on your state) and you have to comply in order to be licensed. After becoming a licensed foster family, you're eligible to turn in an application to become an adoptive family and there's an adoptive home-study that you complete. Then you wait for "the call."

What has the journey been like so far?

Luckily it's gone by fairly quickly but it has been very difficult waiting. It's hard for all of us, but the boys ask me (almost every day) when we're getting the baby! We just have to be patient and cross our fingers that it happens soon!!

How do your boys feel about it, and what have you told them?

They know we are going to "get a baby," that's about as far as it has gone. They know about adoption and are comfortable with having a new sister! They are very excited!

What would you tell someone considering adoption?

I would tell them to consider going through your county and adopting through the foster care system! Unless you have an unlimited supply of money laying around, it just makes sense. I personally couldn't afford to take out a second mortgage or fly overseas to adopt when there are plenty of newborns, babies, and toddlers right here in my "backyard."

Thank you Melissa, and I can't wait to talk to you again once you have your new family member!


Image via handmaidenbymaria/Flickr

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