Childrearing

When Asked To Adopt Our Foster Daughter, The Answer Was Easily ‘Yes’

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child reaching for man's hand“I know this may not be the best time to ask but how would you like a daughter?” said my wife as I was preparing for a business trip.

My wife taught at an elementary school and knew many children who spent some time in foster care.  One family in particular had caught her eye as she had interacted with them over several years and their many children had been in and out of foster care.  The children were about to go back into foster care or “the system” and obviously they were going to need one or more homes in which to live.

We had been foster parents 20 years earlier in another county in the state.  We had cared for a sibling group of three children for about year.  At that point in time we had five children under the age of five – our two biological sons and three foster children, two girls and one boy.  Our household was quite busy but it was nevertheless a good experience for all of us.  We also cared for a teenage girl, a newborn who was about to be adopted, and two foreign exchange students during the few years during in which we were foster parents.

The idea of serving as foster parents was something we considered when I was in graduate school.  We had one child already so foster care was not a path through which we were trying expand our family. We really did not discuss adoption; we just felt that we could provide a good place for some children to live while they and their families were going through a difficult time.

Fast forward 20 plus years and three more biological children (four boys) and now we were being asked if we would be willing to serve as foster parents again.  Once my wife asked if I wanted a daughter I pretty much knew what was going to happen.  I asked if I could meet her before leaving town and we arranged for me to “happen to be at school” and “run into” her.  We held a family meeting with our boys and asked for their input.  They embraced the idea immediately and began figuring out how they were going to rearrange bedrooms so that she could have her own room. [tagbox tag=”foster care”]

She came to visit after I left on my business trip and quickly settled in to her new surroundings.  Prior to my return, I sent a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed animal addressed to “my two favorite girls” (my wife and my new foster daughter).

We did not know how long she would be with us.  Some children are reunited with parents or other family members quickly. Some languish in the foster care system for years and some are legally freed up for adoption.  As time went by, the system decided that she should be freed up for adoption and we were asked if we would consider adopting her.  For us there was no possible response other than “yes.”

That was the beginning of our journey to adoption, however, not the end.  There were multiple background checks, several visits from a social worker, interviews with each of our children, submitting letters of reference, meetings with the Guardian Ad Litem (appointed by the court to protect the best interest of the child), court status update hearings, a home study, meeting with the attorney and preparing paperwork.  It is not unusual for this process to take between six and 12 months.

Finally the day of the adoption arrived.  My wife and I were there along with our four boys, my wife’s parents, my parents, a half dozen extended family members, the case worker, the Guardian Ad Litem, our attorney and more.  The judge asked why we wanted to adopt her.  For us this day was just making true legally what was already true in our hearts – she was our daughter.

Has it all been a bed of roses?  No.  The child welfare system can be difficult to deal with – a lot of forms and paperwork, frequent turnover of case workers (we had five in less than two years), arcane rules and more.  We still have some interaction with the biological family and that presents some unique challenges.  We work as a family to keep her connected to her biological siblings who live in other homes but this is not always easy.  Has it been worth it?  Yes.  And now we have a daughter.

(photo: Shutterstock)