Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adoption According to Brenda - Making Foster to Adopt Work.

Pictures of our final goodbyes to Ashanti before heading on a plane to Florida with her Dad
In 2006 Brad and I took classes to become foster parents.  The classes were great and we learned a great deal...more than I counted on. But one of the most important things I learned was the importance of being a positive Foster Parent.
This can be hard sometimes...especially when your ultimate goal is to adopt a child.
You don't want to have to say goodbye to a child you love and saying goodbye is even harder when you see that the level of care they are going back to is not the same level they get when they are with you.  
This is hard....there is no other way to say it... 
it is hard! 
Here are a few things you can do to help make your fostering experience better.
1.  Remember each child is a son or daughter of God.   No matter if they stay with you or go back to family what you do with them while they are in your care makes a difference in their life!   Each act of love and service you give to them is building a better future for them.
2.  Remember that a child is not "yours" until a judge tells you they are.   Take in each child with love and respect but also with the idea that they will leave.  Don't tell your other children that you "might" get to adopt this child.   Help them learn that it isn't a bad thing if they go back to their them plan on it happening.  Then if the child happens to stay with you then they will be excited.   If they go back to family your children will be prepared.   We continually told our children the different alternatives...but to plan on them going back home.  We learned when we went through saying goodbye to Ashanti how important it is not to set up expectations within yourself or in your children.   Even if a caseworker says that it is starting to look like the case is going to plan b (adoption) just move forward like you are still on plan a (reunification).   
3.  Think of the Bio parents in a positive light and develop a positive relationship with them.  Look for their good qualities.   This may seem impossible but it isn't.   When you can develop a positive relationship with the bio family you are helping not only the child but the parents too.   Some people just need someone to believe in them...believe that they can change.   I have a brother who changed from a drug addict of many many years to a very hard working citizen who loves life and is trusted once again by those around him and by his family.    It doesn't matter what drug they have been doing or the bad decisions they have been making....anyone can change.  If you are having a hard time finding something positive try to think of someone in your life who has struggled with addiction or something difficult and treat the bio parents as you would have wanted your family member or friend treated during their hard time.
(I realize there are a few situations where a good relationship will not happen and change will probably not is always number one when deciding how to interact with the bio parents.)
4.  Help the caseworker work the reunification plan.  Don't hinder the process.  Be as flexible as you can without jeopardizing your own family.   You will find your caseworkers appreciating you more.   We have had this experience and had caseworkers thank us for being flexible and for not causing problems with reunification.   They then told us they would keep our family in their minds if they had a child who needed an adoptive family.   When you are honest and are kind and follow the plans that are made it helps things move forward which is important to all involved.
5.  Keep in very regular contact with the child's attorney.  The court will appoint a "Guardian Ad Litem".   They are so very important to the child and the case..the ensure the best interest of the child are being met.  Email them once a week to give them and update.   Email (in my opinion) is better than calls or in person meetings because you have a record of what was addressed.   This would also be true for corresponding with caseworkers or anyone involved in the case.  
6.  Most of the time a child is placed in your care before you ever meet the Mom or Dad.   If this is the case write a letter to the parents telling a little bit about you.   How you will care for the child etc.    Then ask the caseworker to forward it on to the parents.  This will put the parents mind at rest and start a positive relationship from the beginning.

In the end you need to make your fostering experience a positive one for the child or children that come into your care and for your own family.
Not every situation is going to be easy or perfect.   You are dealing with hard issues and matters of the heart.   But I know if you focus on creating a good experience you will touch many lives....and your life will never been the same!

Last picture of Ashanti with my kids.
Isn't she beautiful!


Katrina said...

Very good advice Brenda. I know for me I started out thinking that we should end up with Nevaeh because her mother already had 4 other children taken away.

But I always treated her like I thought she would get Nevaeh back even though after about 8 months I desperately wanted it to be different.

One thing I learned was that by building a positive relationship with her parents they were able to feel good about their decision to relinquish their rights.

When I would go to the drug rehab place to take Nevaeh for her visits the other mom's there would comment about how they wished their foster moms were more like me. I ended up befriending a lot of them and helping them feel better about themselves.

I would, however, come home and complain about all the really dumb things her parents did to my husband and my private blog at the time. Unfortunately, I was still human.

The part about keeping in touch with Minor's Attorney is very important too. The social worker is there for both the parent and the child but the attorney's only interest is the child. There may be things the social worker will let slide that Minor's Attorney would never go for.

But I can testify that treating the parents with respect is the far better option even when a child has to go back to a not so good situation.

Thanks for your great post.

-Special Mothertivity- said...

Thanks so much for this post. We are not foster parents yet, but plan on being some in the future. This post would be worthy of a re-post in the future I think. I hope I can find it when we are finally foster parents!

#2 is great to keep in mind. So hard to have such a sweet baby you learned to love go from your care, even if it is to qualified family.

5&6 are things I had not even thought of. You are an experienced foster parent, I can tell!
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Mrs Brenda, I love your blog, and I love Matching Mondays!!! I am setting up a blog version of a foster care panel and am hoping you will want to be part of it.... please email me at and I will give you the details.