“It’s too expensive.”
“Children in foster care are too set in their ways to blend in with my family.”
“I’m not married, so I can’t adopt, right?”
“I don’t want to deal with the birth parents in my face about their child or deal with the child welfare system – it’s all just too complicated!”
We hear these and similar comments all the time. It’s good to consider all of the challenges and needs potential parents could face when creating or expanding a family through adoption – from financial implications to household dynamics. But opting out of the process based on myths or misperceptions about the children or the systems involved is simply a disservice to the 104,000 children waiting to be adopted.
So let’s address some of the myths:
1. It is too expensive to adopt. In reality, adoption from foster care is not expensive, typically averaging $0 to $1,500, and financial support is available to families who adopt from foster care. Subsidies follow most of the children in foster care until they are 18 years old, and many employers provide adoption benefits. Federal and state tax credits are available, and assistance for college expenses of older youth is increasingly available.
2. Children in foster care are juvenile delinquents. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children enter the foster care system through no fault of their own, usually as a result of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. More than half of the children waiting in foster care for permanent homes are 8 or older, 30 percent are 12 or older. Unfortunately, each year, nearly 30,000 of the children waiting to be adopted turn 18 and leave the system without families. These are the children who may fall back in to another state system without the support needed to grow and thrive. These children deserve our best efforts to find them the families we promised when they were permanently separated from their families of birth.
3. The family of origin can try to have the children returned. Once a child has been made legally free for adoption, birth parents cannot claim a child or petition for their return. Foster care adoption is permanent. The adoptive parents may decide to maintain contact with the child’s extended family of origin based on what is best for the child, but that is a choice of the permanent family.
4. Single individuals cannot adopt. Unmarried individuals are legally able to adopt in all 50 states. Nearly 30 percent of the children adopted from foster care last year were adopted by single parents.
5. Dealing with the child welfare system is too burdensome. Any system, from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to health care providers, can be frustrating and complex. And yes, sometimes working with the state or county child welfare system can seem as though it is fraught with rules, processes and sometimes unresponsiveness. It is a complex system, but the professionals involved are as committed as you are to finding homes for children and want to walk you through the process every step of the way. You can also call us at 800-ASK-DTFA when you need help, or order our Finding Forever Families: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adoption free of charge.
Remember Dave Thomas’ wise words: “These children are not someone else’s responsibility; they are our responsibility.” When children in foster care are permanently removed from their families of birth, we make what should be an unbreakable promise to them: we will find a family. And we will do it in a way that cherishes their childhood and their developmental needs so that they can grow and thrive within the birthright of every child – a safe and secure family of his or her own.
Take a moment to remember a time when, as a child, you were alone, or afraid, or distraught because one of your favorite comfort items – a stuffed animal, a blanket, a toy – was missing. Children in foster care waiting to be adopted feel that loss in a much more profound way. Each and every day.
Contemplating the challenges of foster care adoption is made a bit easier with the right information, a network of support, and knowing that our staff at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption stands ready to help in any way we can.