Introduction not what they could do for the

Introduction

            Adopting
a child or becoming a foster parent is an extremely selfless act that changes
lives for the better. In the United States, one-third of American citizens have
considered domestically adopting a child directly from a birth family or a
foster home, but less than two percent go through with their decision. Currently,
over four hundred and twenty-eight thousand children are in an American foster
home waiting to be adopted into a loving family who will provide them with the
necessities they need, show them true love, and give them a stable, happy, and
healthy home. One hundred and thirty-five thousand children are adopted in the
United States each year. On average, sixty percent of foster children will spend
anywhere from two to five years in foster care before getting adopted, but sadly,
some children will spend their whole life in foster care and never get adopted.

(The Adoption Network Law Center, 2017).

The History of Domestic Adoption

            According to American
Adoptions Inc. (2018), “The history
of adoption is extensive – in one form or another, it’s been in existence as
long as humans have. Even before it had an official term and was openly
celebrated, adoption provided a way for parents who could not care for their
children to place them in homes with willing and waiting parents.” (para. 1). Since before the nineteenth
century, domestic adoption and its process have changed dramatically. In her 2017
article “The Moments That Changed the
Meaning of Adoption in the U.S.,” Olivia B. Waxman states long ago, many
unmarried men would adopt male children to carry on their name, inherit their
property, and give a proper funeral. For a long time, adoptive parents would
look at their child for what the child could do for them, not what they could do
for the child. In Massachusetts during the year 1851, the first formal adoption
law was released in the United States. The law states that families must be
“fit and proper” to be considered as adoptive parents when placing children
with families.

            Throughout
the mid-nineteenth century, the number of homeless children increased as the
cities grew larger. At the time, sending children to the Midwest on “orphan
trains” seemed to be in the best interest of children, as they would be helping
families who were moving west to do farm work. The Displaced Persons Act of
1918 placed European children with families in the United States for the first
half of the twentieth century, and inter-country adoption is described as
almost non-existent until World War II, says Peter Conn (as cited in Waxman,
2017), author of Adoption: A Brief Social and Cultural History.

            The
peak of United States adoptions was right before the twenty-first century in
1970, which increased by one hundred and eighty thousand from just fifty thousand
in 1944. At the same time, middle class families and idealism had just
surfaced, so it opened up a lot of opportunities for young couples to consider
adoption. “In the twenty-first century, the number of Americans adopting a
child from another country has mostly declined.” (Waxman, 2017, para. 9). At
the same time, domestic adoption is declining too. In 1971, around ninety
thousand infants were put up for adoption compared to 2014, when only eighteen
thousand infants were put up for adoption, which is argued to have ties to
lower teen pregnancy rates.

Foster Care

            Talitha
Baker, author of “Everything You Need to
Know About Foster Care” informs readers that children often enter foster
homes in the United States when their current home environment is unsafe for
them to live there. (2017). In fact, most children who are placed in a foster
home come from families whose parents are struggling with drug abuse, alcohol
addiction, and/or mental disabilities. This can cause parents to neglect and
abuse their children, so the state removes the children from their homes and
places them with a foster family. Many children will enter foster homes with
siblings, all ranging in age from birth to eighteen years old. In most cases,
children who have experienced trauma may have learned certain behaviors or
habits to protect themselves. Because of this, children can become easily
angered and irritated.

The word “foster”
means to help someone or something grow and develop, and that is exactly what
foster families do. Each and every child deserves a family to take care of and
support them. Foster families take children in and provide them with a loving
home, a warm place to sleep, clothes, food, an education, and many more
necessities that children need to thrive. Often, children will spend multiple
years with their foster family until they can return home to their birth
parent(s), as that is the goal foster families aim to achieve, but that isn’t
always that case. Sometimes, a child’s parents will not receive the help they
need in order to better themselves and the home, and make a safe environment
for their child to return. In this case, the child may be placed with a trusted
relative who can provide them with a nurturing environment, otherwise they will
remain with their assigned foster family, who may be given the option to adopt
the child in their care.

How to Become a Foster
Parent?

            Going through with
the decision to become a licensed foster parent is an amazing way to help
children in need, but it is a huge commitment. There are several steps to take,
and the process differs by state. On average, it takes about six to nine months
to complete this process. “You’ll need to fill out an inquiry form, attend an
information session, complete fingerprint and background checks, attend a
ten-week series of training classes called PS-MAPP and complete a home study
before DHS makes a decision on your approval or licensure.” (Four Oaks Foster
and Adoptive Family Connections, 2017, para.3). Again, foster care is a big
commitment, but if applicants have patience, flexibility, a big heart,
stability, and a good sense of humor, then that is a good sign that foster care
is something they will be able to commit to and love. If families still are
unsure of their decision in foster care, they must ask themselves if they are
ready to help support support a birth family in their journey to reunite with
their child, who they know may leave their home, even after becoming attached
to them. Seventy percent of foster children are reunited with their parents or
adopted by relatives.

Applicants must be
at least twenty-one years old to apply to be a foster parent. There is no
maximum age requirement, as long as they are physically and mentally able to
care for children. From here, anyone can become foster parents. Whether an
applicant is single, married, a same sex couple, catholic, Muslim, and they
currently have children of their own or have no experience in childcare
whatsoever – they are still eligible to become a foster parent.

            Fortunately,
foster families have a very wide variety of children to care for. Some families
just do not work well with infants and prefer to foster teenagers instead, and
that is perfectly OK! A licensing worker will ask applicants about the age,
gender, and special needs that they are interested in fostering. When a child
needs to be placed with a family, and they match the applicant’s interests,
matching staff will call the families and ask if they are willing to take in
the child. Families who do not feel comfortable with the child that is
described, they can decline the placement. (Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive
Family Connections, 2017).

            One
factor that may contribute to applicant’s backing out of their decision to
foster children is staying connected with the children’s birth families. Since
the goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families, it is
important to work together with the child, the child’s DHS officer, and the
child’s birth parents. Depending on the child’s background, this can cause
foster families to feel uncomfortable talking to the birth parents, but the
importance of family connections to the child is taught in Permanency and
Safety-Model Approach to Partnerships and Parenting (PS-MAPP) training.

            After
reviewing typical foster care duties, and applicants are ready to commit to a
lifetime of change, it is time to fill out an inquiry form! To do so, applicants
can visit any professional adoption organization online for their specific
state, such as Four Oaks Foster & Adoptive Family Connections, and fill out
their forms. This can be extensive, as there are many pages to fill out. Married
couples must each submit an inquiry form, and most adoption agencies also
require each family member in the home to fill out a form separately as well.                                             Now,
after successfully completing and submitting the inquiry form, agencies will
email or mail applicants an information packet if they have been accepted. After
receiving an information packet, applicants are required to attend a resource
orientation where they will be able to receive the answers to their questions
about foster parenting and possible adoption. Then, everyone in the home over
the age of sixteen will need to undergo background checks and fingerprinting,
which will be paid for by the agency. The fourth step is to participate in a
home study, or home visit. During a home study, members from the agency will
visit your home to ensure the home is suitable for children. They will be
looking for a room for a child to sleep, which must include a bed, a door that
opens and closes, and a window that opens from the inside. They will also be
looking for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the
home, a fire extinguisher, and any dangerous conditions that may be present
within the home.

            Next,
applicants will be required to attend thirty hours of basic core training. Important
information about the child protection system, grief and loss, positive
parenting, separation, transitions back to birth parents, and much more will be
covered within this training. After training is completed, applicants are
finally ready to receive their foster care license! A licensing worker will
submit the proper paperwork and applicants will receive a Community Care
License. They are now officially foster parents. They are eligible for children
to be placed in their home and are licensed by the state to bring a specific
number of children into their home within a certain age range. (Northwest
Resource Associates, 2017). Foster care licenses must be renewed yearly.

            Now
that a foster family is ready to care for a child within their home, what they
do next? The Department of Human Services (DHS) and Four Oaks Foster and
Adoptive Family Connections work together to place children with their best
family match. When DHS decides that a child needs to be removed from their home
and placed into foster care, they make a referral to the Cedar Rapids Four Oaks
matching department. From here, the Four Oaks staff works with families in
every county in Iowa. When matching children to families, the staff takes into
account the foster families skills and preferences, along with the child’s
needs, gender, and age and decides if they are a good match for each other. In
the case that the family and child are a good match, Four Oaks’ team will
contact the family and give you information about the child. Then, the family
makes a decision regarding whether or not they feel comfortable bringing the
child into their home. If the family agrees to take in the child, Four Oaks
will contact DHS and notify them of the possible match. DHS makes the final
decision to place the child with the family. If the child is placed with the
family, a support specialist will check in within three days and see how the
placement is going. (Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections, 2017).

Adopting a Child in the United States

There are three popular types of domestic
adoption in the United States – private adoption, adoption using an adoption
agency, and foster care adoption. In her book, “Adoption and Foster
Care,” Kathlyn Gay
(1990) informs readers about independent, or private, adoptions. In this
situation, adoption agencies are not usually involved with the placement of the
child, and families will hire a lawyer. (p. 54). Although, families may
still need to complete a home study. To do this, they may hire a social worker
or work with an adoption agency. Still, most aspects related to private
adoptions are linked to a lawyer, or attorney, and not an agency.

 “Twenty years ago, virtually all adoptions
were “closed” – meaning that records were sealed and birth parents never had
contact with the new parents, or with their children, after the adoption.”
States Gina Shaw in her 2007 article “This
is what adoption feels like”. (para. 9). Today, most domestic adoptions are
“open,” or at least “semi-open,” meaning there will be contact between birth
and adoptive families. Open adoptions give birth parents the reassurance that
their child was placed with a good family and allows adoptive families to learn
about their child’s history and background, such as ethnicity and medical
history. Open adoptions also allow for adopted children to stay connected to
their biological family and roots.

            While
using an adoption agency, Adoptive families have the greatest likelihood of
bringing home an infant when choosing domestic adoption, but it can take
anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to be matched with a birth family.

Birth families are usually given the option to choose the adoptive family
themselves, so there truly is no way to know how soon it will be until a family
is selected.

            Once
an adoptive family is selected, they and the birth family will generally spend
time getting to know each other. Once the child is born, birth families are
given the chance to immediately turn over their parental rights. Unfortunately,
once a birth family picks an adoptive family, both families are allowed to back
out at any given time. This is especially sad when the adoptive family has
waited the entire nine-month term for the child to be born and the birth family
decides to back out at last minute.

            As
for foster adoption, families who have child who is currently in foster care
are required to attend a court hearing. At the hearing, the judge decides if
their parental rights are terminated or if their child may return home. If a
birth family’s parental rights are terminated, then the child is legally up for
adoption. In this case, the foster family may be given the option to adopt the
child. If the foster family declines the adoption, then the child is available
to be adopted by another adoptive family. To adopt from a foster family, a
licensure in foster care or an approved adoptive family is required.  In 2005, more than half a million children
were in foster care. Of those children, fifty-two thousand of them were
adopted. Working with the state’s department of family and child services is
usually the case, but there are also private foster agencies that assist in adopting
from a foster family. Dealing with the foster care bureaucracies of the state
can be extremely frustrating because many children in foster care have special
physical and/or medical needs. (Shaw, 2007).

The Cost

In Eliza Newlin
Carney’s 2017 article “The Truth About
Domestic Infant Adoption” she informs readers about her experience with
private domestic adoption. “The cost of a domestic adoption varies widely, from
under $15,000 to more that $50,000.” (para. 4). Considerably less than
international adoption, the median total cost of of a domestic adoption is
thirty thousand dollars to forty-five thousand dollars.

Adopting from
foster care can be much less expensive compared to domestic adoption, and in
some cases, it will not cost a dime. Private agencies are more likely to be
expensive, while state agencies don’t typically charge adoption fees. All
states do have adoption-assistance programs which are designed to help adoptive
parents with the legal fees involved with adopting from foster care.