What I was trying to say

Last week I attempted to make a critique and because of my bad judgment in timing, botched my message up completely. I wanted now to clarify what I was trying to say. People incorrectly assumed that I am anti-adoption and anti-Christianity. There were two points I made in that post last week, and this post is expanding on point #1.

I really wanted to say that people don’t need to go overseas in order to help kids without parents. I felt that there was a lot of emphasis on the family’s organization promoting international adoption. I am a staunch advocate that we need to take care of our own kids too, and as a country we are failing at that. When the earthquakes in happened in China, adoption agencies were being flooded with people calling about how to adopt the orphans. It happened in with the tsunami in Indonesia and the southeast Asian countries in 2004. Yet there are thousands of children in foster care in the United States and these kids are just as "deserving" of families as kids in other countries.

I originally linked to one of the One Church One Child programs which was founded in Illinois. Basically, the One Church One Child program was to promote and recruit adoptive families within faith organizations. The premise and belief is that since there are more churches in the U.S. than there are children in foster care, that if every church congregation would be committed to supporting the adoption of one child or sibling group from foster care then there would be no children waiting for adoption.

I am NOT saying that children in other countries are less "deserving." I AM saying that children in THIS country are JUST AS "deserving."

What I get so frustrated by is the way our society has privileged the foreign "orphan" over the domestic foster care child. I believe (and this is just my opinion) that the continuation of our country’s participation in international adoptions has not just positively affected children in these countries, but has hurt those countries – and their future children too – by enabling these countries who don’t have to have child welfare services and/or programs to continue not caring for their children because international adoption BECOMES their child welfare program.

I also really think that when people from the U.S. (and other places too) adopt despite the warnings that children are being procured illegally that we really smear adoption and make it worse.

And I am so tired of the misinformation out there about adoptees and first parents.

We/they/all of us need to look at the
underlying reasons why children are parent-less and maybe that
preventative part makes us overwhelmed. We might feel we can’t eliminate poverty, or war. We can’t control natural disasters. We aren’t able to cure AIDS. We haven’t gotten rid of chemical dependency or mental illnesses.

But we can take in a child – that much we can do.

I’ve said it again, I’m sure you have all heard it over and over – adoption should be about finding families for kids, not finding kids for families. Children are not pets at the pound. Yet, I’ve had prospective and adoptive parents get angry at me, saying that this is a nice ideal but ultimately it should be the family’s choice who they want to adopt. Foreign adoptions are preferred and the reasons that are given are usually 1)because the myth about the birth parent coming back and taking the child away and that 2)American kids in foster care are more damaged.

We put up with those opinions and biases (and by "we" I mean those of us who work in the adoption profession/industry) because we have to. The social or adoption worker’s job depends on the adoptive parents so everything is tailored to accommodate them. And that’s when the demand for certain kinds of kids over others, and the justifications that are made for illegal adoptions, makes me feel like nothing is ever going to change and that adoption is just about this big old industry of parents buying babies.

We talk about the "best interests" of the child, but let’s be honest. Who are we really catering to?

It seems like a no-win situation sometimes.

Believe it or not, I think that adoptive parents often suffer just as much as the adoptees. When adoptive parents are told that kids from foreign countries are blank slates, they have been duped. When adoptive parents are informed that birth parents in foreign countries never come looking for their children, they have been misled. When adoptive parents are told that adopting kids from other races or cultures won’t impact their lives and the kids will never have any issues related to racism or racial identity, they have been lied to. When adoptive parents are told that all they need is love and their family life will be happily-ever-after, they have been deceived.

I come to the subject of adoption through the lens of my own experiences and those of friends I know and love. I have never said that I was unbiased or that I look at these things from a completely unemotional place. The thing is, I know that I have these biases. I know that I view life through my own frames. But there are many times when I do bite my lip. There are lots of times when I try to look at the adoptive parent from their perspective. I don’t always succeed, but I am always trying.

I think that adoptive parents must recognize their biases and look at things from the perspective of the adoptee. (edited to add, and the family of origin, including the mother, father, siblings and extended relatives who might all feel the grief and loss of the adopted individual).

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29 thoughts on “What I was trying to say

  1. JR – I wanted to comment on the last one but could not as my muddled brain couldn’t figure out my typekey account information…
    The point I wanted to make on the last one is that, although I didn’t read the original post, I would have never jumped to any conclusions about your intentions, not only because I know you on a personal level, but also because I feel that your dedication, sense, and sensibility regarding adoption issues are evident via this blog. I also noted that the person who supposed that you said things that you wouldn’t dare say to the father’s face… also chose to not link her own blog. Pot – kettle, anyone? And I know that the lurkers coming out simply to ‘celebrate’ a human mistake you made of bad timing cannot be brushed away easily – personal attacks do hurt. As we bloggers know, there’re those who only wait around to see you make a misstep… and I think it speaks volumes regarding the importance of your work and voice that those lurkers do exist… but rarely have the chance.
    When one has traveled amidst not so “liberal” crowd, where the veiled civility and pretensions of non-bigotry are lifted, as I have, one hears many a times from prospective adotive parents that if they cannot get a “healthy American WHITE baby”, they’re going to international adoption as a second choice… I’ve even heard someone say that she’s thinking about Russia because there’s better chance of getting a white baby and that an Asian baby would be a second choice.
    Also, bigotry aside, I heartily agree with you – the children who need homes here in the US are JUST AS DESERVING. And I have always wondered when churches or any other institutions focus on and ‘showcase’ the good work they are doing for the poor children from other countries, whether they are doing the same for the children here.

  2. Having worked in the foster care system as a child advocate, the way I see it,(so take it for what it’s worth– I’m not an expert), there are three key things that would have to change to get more people to adopt from foster care. First, the system is very broken, and similar to the example you gave about curing AIDS, fixing it seems so out of reach for most PAP’s/ AP’s. Secondly, and more controversial, the objective of FC has shifted towards family reunification. Sometimes this works, but a lot of times it is the reason we have so many older children languishing in FC. Thirdly, foster care typically has older and/or special needs and /or sibling groups. This stands in stark contrast to many PAP’s request for wanting a healty child AYAP. My thinking is if #one could fix #two, then the #three barrier could possibly be removed for a lot of PAP’s (because there would be younger children available). But again, #2 is controversial. Some see it as the biggest obstacle while others think the parents’ right to potentially parent trumps everything else. It’s not an easy fix which I suspect is why people just walk away (back to #1).

  3. This is so well-put, JR. Thank you for continually putting into writing what I am often thinking but can’t seem to put down on paper (or blog). “Who are we really catering to?” is the question I am continually finding has one answer: APs. What bothers me, as you pointed out in this post is that while adoption seems to cater toward APs, it’s poor marketing – and yes, I’ll use that word in reference to adoption. There are so many false advertisements out there giving APs the idea that love will solve all problems.
    I could go on, but this is your post and I just had to comment that I fully agree with you.
    Thank you for continually contributing toward this discussion even though it seems you’re often outnumbered by people with defensive and ignorant viewpoints.

  4. Yea JR! I could not agree more (also about the MEPA critique). And you don’t owe anyone an apology for expressing the opinions you have formed over a lifetime of personal experience, education and practice. The truth you speak may make some uncomfortable; it is still truth.

  5. (I think I missed the post last week, so my apologies if this comment is totally off base!)
    If you’re comparing adopting an older child from a foreign country versus adopting from foster care in the U.S., then your criticism here is totally valid. I’m still pretty new to the adoption community (currently considering adopting), so I don’t know how common it is for people to prefer an older foreign child to one in the United States. However, I do know that the average age of children in U.S. foster care is about 10 years old and the typical non-special needs international adoptee is under 3 years at placement, so if that’s what you’re comparing I don’t think preferring the latter has much do with which child is more “deserving” or with any of the common myths you point out about domestic versus international adoption.
    Any older child (regardless of country) who has been in foster or institutional care, who has suffered neglect and abuse, is going to have some big challenges and not all prospective adoptive parents have the skills and resources to meet those needs. If an abundance of love and patience was all it took to successfully parent any child, adopting from U.S. foster care would absolutely be my first choice – but as a first time parent (and with no real experience working with troubled kids) I have to be realistic about what I can handle, not just for my own sake, but for the sake of any child I may adopt.
    Granted, adopting across cultural and racial lines also presents some significant challenges, but I think meeting those challenges is more likely to be within my parenting abilities than those of foster kids. I think you’re absolutely right that PAPs need to carefully examine their motives and prejudices, and to be fully informed about the realities of adoption – by sugarcoating things and telling people what they want to hear, the adoption industry isn’t so much catering to PAPs as it is to itself.

  6. I gave an example to my boyfriend about what international adoption has historically been.
    Imagine you (a white American) gave birth to a child. You’re poor. So you put the child up for adoption, and s/he gets sent to, say, a rich family in China. The child has a Chinese family, learns to speak only Chinese and not English, gets told that s/he is fully Chinese and anyone who tells him/her otherwise is foolish. Meanwhile, the child absorbs social attitudes toward America that perceive Americans as unhealthy (high rates of obesity and mental illness), individualistic values (no family piety), and abuse human rights (pre-emptive wars for oil).
    That is basically what we say about kids coming into the U.S. and other Western industrialized countries, but people are so used to it, they don’t challenge themselves. My boyfriend said that really altered his perception of the practice.

  7. I agree with most everything you’re saying here, but I think there are a couple links that I’m pretty cynical about… one stated and one implied.
    1) That other countries rely on international adoption as their child welfare program, and would have better child welfare if they didn’t have international adoption. I think this is true for a few countries but not a strong correlation. There are plenty of countries with no international adoption that still have terrible child welfare systems.
    2) That international adoption in the U.S. hurts foster care adoption. I think if it all shut down tomorrow, children in foster care would still have horrible trouble getting placements. The bottleneck is still there. Right now intercounty adoptions, much less interstate adoptions, are insanely difficult and lengthy. I read stuff like this… http://busyintersection.blogspot.com/2008/05/129000-kids-are-waiting-for-permanent.html
    … and notice it’s pretty depressing. There are huge barriers to adopting from foster care, and the system is geared towards disqualifying parents, not recruiting them. My experience has been pretty bad, and it’s better than many others.
    I think both systems need drastic reforms. But those reforms are not going to come about by adoptive parents suddenly changing their minds and their attitudes. Their behavior makes perfect sense in a capitalistic society, so unless you change capitalism, you’ll be coming up with the same raw material. To form new patterns of behavior from the same raw material takes money, public will, marketing campaigns, new regulations. You need carrots and sticks to create behavior change.

  8. In theory, atlasien, I agree with you. First of all, I agree that some countries have terrible child welfare programs and don’t allow international adoptions. But I do know that at least in Korea, international adoption has become a proxy for child welfare programs. I never said that they would have *better* child welfare programs without IA, just that having IA has become their defacto system. And what would be the incentive? Spending government money to create a program when adoptive families sustain the orphanages and adoption agencies that house these kids? The money they receive from adoptions doesn’t necessarily mean much in their total economic spreadsheet but it saves them from having to create and fund programs and helps solve much of the problem what to do with their abandoned/orphaned children.
    Second, I don’t think that *everyone* who adopts internationally would just switch to foster care adoption if the option to adopt internationally went away. I know first hand that *some* would and hav – based on my current job where I get calls all the time from prospective adoptive parents who want to know how they can switch from international to domestic foster care adoption because it is becoming such a long wait and because of the increasing restrictions for a lot of the IA programs. So while maybe it wouldn’t make a huge difference, it would make some.
    I am sorry you had a hard time with your foster-care adoption experience, and I don’t think it’s a perfect system by any means. Reform on both counts does need to happen.
    I read that link and sorry, I disagree with a number of things that she states. Yes, there are biases. There are biases with every worker, every state in the US and I don’t like it either. But I bristle when I read things like, “Most adopted kids from other states that don’t have hang-ups about families or location: Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, New Jersey.” I can answer something about that. That’s because many of the home studies I have read from prospective adoptive parents in those areas she’s referring to (“They don’t place minorities up north”)refuse to recognize the needs of an African American child.
    You know, I think kids wait too long too. But believe me, the majority of the kids this blogger is referring to – it’s not that families are banging down the door for them. I know your son is young – younger than most of the kids that are in the system. When as an adoption worker I get 50 home studies for my case of sibs that are 4-9, I get maybe 1 or 2 for the ones who are 12 or older. Trust me, the young ones aren’t in the system that long. The minute the TPR happens, the adoption workers are inundated with home studies unless the child has very serious needs.

  9. Excellent post, Jae Ran. You can point the finger at me, because I am one of those parents who has chosen international adoption over domestic adoption. (It still doesn’t prevent me from agreeing with your points, though.)
    It’s so hard to say what might ‘fix’ the problems in the US child welfare system and encourage more aparents to choose domestic adoption. I almost feel a complete societal shift would have to take place; on scale with the social shift toward domestic adoption in Korea. I think Americans place undue value on raising their ‘own’ children, whether or not they are truly prepared to do so. I think this keeps children who would be better off in adoptive placements with parents who can’t care for them for whatever reason. How many times have you heard a mother declare, “I could never give up my baby- no matter what!”? We, as a culture, seem to disvalue self sacrifice for the betterment of others. I think these are just some of the ideals which prevent American first parents from choosing relinquishment, and aparents from choosing to adopt domestically.
    Lastly, the trend in human services to keep families together at all costs has hurt kids, in my opinion. Perhaps it is a myth, but when I read the profiles of US waiting kids (at NWAE.org regularly) I am amazed at the ‘glazed-over’, flowery language that sends red flags sailing over my head. It’s tragic, really. Blunt honesty might serve these kids better.
    Thanks for your post. I wish I had read your post about Shaohannah’s Hope. I’m sure I would have understood your POV.

  10. I think Torina has one side of the MN perspective and you have another, and it’s impossible to form a full picture without both. But one thing I do agree with, some states just don’t do interstate adoptions, even though they still photolist kids nationally, and I think that’s cruel and also hurtful to the dignity of the child. Example: Louisiana has one child (a 10-year-old) that I inquired about last year. It took me months to reach someone, and they told me the child had been placed for adoption 6 months ago. And that child is still photolisted today, a year later! Florida is also very, very bad, I think because they have taken the wrong-headed “privatize and outsource everything” approach. Also, I have heard from many other parents, besides Torina, that they had huge and unnecessary roadblocks in adopting older (12-up) children with major special needs. It’s such a roll of the dice. Some counties are great, some counties are horrible dysfunctional.
    Also, it’s hard to tell from homestudies what is really going on. For a long time, my worker was sending out an inaccurate homestudy. Not all families have even read their own homestudies. But they don’t get called and short-interviewed by social workers so the info in the homestudy is never confirmed or expanded on.
    I think our case is definitely on the better side of the things. But it’s still terrible that our son was photolisted for such a long, long time. He is young (6), so why couldn’t they match him quicker? I know many people on the case wanted to get him placed as soon as possible but it took much longer than anyone wanted.
    I’ll say this about Oregon… I enquired on a child in their special waiting program, and a woman CALLED ME BACK THE NEXT DAY. I couldn’t believe it. This was the first time anything like this happened. She gave me detailed information once she confirmed I was in the system and told me realistically what kind of family the children would do well in. I wish all states had the money and the manpower too do that kind of work.
    Most states, our agency doesn’t work with because compacts are not signed or the paperwork is too intense. Georgia and other southern states have plenty of African-American prospective adoptive parents, so it would seem be a great resource for Northern and Western states seeking to place African-American children… but there are so many barriers in place there.
    I think it also comes down to recruitment. I read the Evan B. Donaldson report on “barriers” and it made a lot of sense to me. Instead of starting out with the same population and disqualifying everyone until the right family is found, if state agencies actually could get out there and specifically TARGET the families that would be interested in taking 10-12 on up and higher, that would work much better as well. And this would probably mean older parents who have already had children. There are almost no new parents who feel confident enough to start with a 13-year-old as their first child. Or what about actually going out and targeting mature people who self-identify as autistic and talking to them about adopting an autistic older child, and how they would be supported and helped to do so? These things would all be great but they take a lot of money… ultimately social workers are not in charge of that, it comes down to funding and politics. So it’s the responsibility of all of us as citizens.
    I have actually thought about creating a website designed for prospective parents who started off in IA and are thinking about switching to domestic foster care. I run into them on forums sometimes. The site would dispel myths about foster care adoption but paint a realistic portrait. I gave up on the idea because it at first seemed exciting but I couldn’t see the ultimate point. These parents are interested in younger children anyway, and the system doesn’t need that, plus the bottleneck is so tight that more parents don’t necessarily mean more matches.
    Getting back to your first paragraph, I believe ANY international adoption agency should be allowed to do any charity work in countries where they operate. It seems like that’s how corruption spreads. It seems very innocent but like you say, it’s not. I am wary of agencies like WACAP (I’m wary of pretty much all agencies, actually). However, I think that in many poorer and nondemocratic countries, if international adoption stopped, things would not get better, simply because children are so easy to ignore. They are so powerless and easy to silence. I think in many countries, the effect of stopping IA would remove a de facto system and leave the country with no system at all.
    I don’t see that as an argument against shutting down IA, I just don’t see it as an argument FOR shutting down IA. Horrible things like flat-out baby kidnapping we’ve heard about recently are reasons enough to encourage countries to shut down or drastically reduce their IA. I just think countries should be encouraged to make child welfare a priority, but that can only be done by supporting native groups working within the country on self-sustaining initiatives.
    I think the situation, especially in Guatemala, is completely insane. I’m not shocked that a lot of IA parents can blind themselves and pretend nothing bad is going on. It’s simple denial, reaction to cognitive dissonance. I am shocked that their blindness is coddled and encouraged by the agencies.
    I was going to write a post about all this stuff so sorry for hijacking your blog with it… thanks for the long response.

  11. Oops, meant to say, “I don’t believe ANY international adoption agency should be allowed to do any charity work in countries where they operate.”

  12. I just read Ansley’s comment… at the risk of total blog hijacking I have to disagree strongly with two points and then that’s it for the night I promise…
    1. I don’t think the problem is that people aren’t relinquishing enough babies!!! Way too many mothers relinquish voluntarily for terrible reasons. Social pressure, stigma against single mothers and poverty are all terrible reasons to relinquish. I don’t blame those mothers necessarily but I do blame their families and their social systems and communities. White women, especially in certain subgroups, relinquish more because their extended families aren’t supportive… I think that’s a problem with certain white family structures, where adoption is valued and the extended family structure is not valued. My own mother was a single mother who lived a very nontraditional lifestyle, I am certainly glad she didn’t “self-sacrifice” for me, in fact the very thought was alien to me until I started researching the adoption world! I think the only good reason to relinquish a child is if you’ve got terminal disease or really severe mental or physical illness.
    2. The language at NWAE is actually very blunt and detailed compared to most photolisting sites. And that’s a good thing. Any more detail would give away too much confidential information. Full information should only be disclosed to people who are in the system, not to any stranger on the internet. Otherwise schoolmates and people in the communities could find it. Photolisting is a necessary evil… it’s terrible for the dignity of the child, people use it because it works, but past a certain point more information is not going to lead to more placement.

  13. Oh gosh, I should clarify. I didn’t mean not enough women are relinquishing! Not by any stretch. I just think American society discourages women who might want to make an adoption plan from relinquishing. I think there is a terrible amount of pressure to either abort or raise your kid. I don’t think alot of women view making an adoption plan as a viable option. That’s sad to me. Just as sad as knowing how many women who would like to try to raise their child abort or place them.
    I live in Oregon. One of the reasons the children photolisted are younger and that the SW called back immediately is because we have some of the most liberal human services laws in the country. Basically, it’s much easier for DHS to take your kid from you than it is in other states. Also, the priority is to get kids legally free sooner and into adoptive placements. Is that always better? I don;t it’s all so complicated.
    At any rate, sorry for sounding like such an a– in my previous comment. It’s not what I meant to do.

  14. Ansley, Atlasien, both of you have really highlighted many of the real huge complexities involved in this . . . sigh.
    I re-read Torina’s piece and I understand where she’s coming from better on a second read. Although I don’t agree with all of it, I definitely think I know why she is frustrated.
    Here is what I see as being a huge stumbling block in foster care adoption. We have 50 states and DC and that means 51 different sets of laws and policies about adoption practice. If that’s not confusing enough, in my state there are 87 counties and 11 tribes that interpret the state’s policies differently and practice very differently. Not all states are county run like Minnesota. So you have different states running things differently (like Illinois is state run) and some that are county run.
    And then the workers. There are, I am sure, great workers and there are a whole lot of not so great workers. I’ve worked with both kinds – those that call back prospective parents and those that don’t. Heck. some of the workers in my own county agency would not get back to me even after weeks of calls. So I get that frustration. There are also workers that are bold in expressing their biases and those that couch their biases in “code” words.
    In terms of interstate pap’s, all I can say is when I would get a home study from a family from another state and would bring it to the adoption worker, I would likely be told they wouldn’t even consider it. Even though that was against the policy. I learned that because we had some really, really bad experiences most adoption workers were very hesitant. Some of those bad experiences include really, really difficult transitions with the child(ren) and the PAP’s. It’s very difficult to do a good transition when PAP’s and the child live in different states. For example, how would a child from Florida do transitions with a family from Minnesota or vice versa? We also had experiences when PAP’s took custody of a child as a pre-adoptive placement and then a few months later called the social worker to tell them they were putting the kid on a plane back to us. As you can imagine, a few of those experiences makes it awfully difficult to have high expectations with an interstate. Plus, you have to deal with the different state’s wrangling of adoption assistance and MA coverage. Aiyiyi.
    It is also difficult dealing with home study workers. I was trying to work with a home study worker for a PAP for a sib group on my caseload who indicated they wanted to adopt. These were TOUGH kids, both teens. Would you know that this home study worker did not return my calls until I went to his supervisor and even then he left one message that did not respond to my questions and I chased this worker for months! I could only advise and advocate for this family up to a certain point.
    At every point along the way, there are breakdowns in practice, communication, and understanding the policies.
    Torina mentioned the few number of kids on Minnesota’s adoption exchange – that is because the workers do not register the kids on the exchange. Unless the child has an identified family they are required to register the child but as you can see they do not always follow that requirement. I had one child that I hounded the worker about registering him. Believe it or not, it took over 14 months to get him registered on the exchange.
    As for the child listings. In our state, families are on the exchange. When I worked at the county I checked every 2-3 months for new families for each of my kids and followed up with home study workers on many of the other families that were still on the exchange. But again, I know not every worker did. Also, the information was supposed to be updated by the workers for both children and families. They are mostly not updated.
    The agency where I worked, adoption workers had anywhere from 45-60 kids on their cases. In my position I could not have a case load of any more than 25. That tells you how much more I was able to recruit and prepare the kids and prospective families than the regular adoption workers. Unfortunately our county ran into a huge budget shortfall thanks to the federal legislation that cut targeted case management monies and my position was eliminated. You know what that means . . .

  15. As an adoptive parent I don’t think I would have adopted out of our system. I KNOW too many people with horrible, horrible stories. But I hear what you are saying and agree with you mostly. Our system needs reforms and better “marketing” for sure. But without a fix in the system its just not likely. We all shake our heads and wag our fingers but no one is fixing the problem. And where would we even start?

  16. As an adoptive parent I don’t think I would have adopted out of our system. I KNOW too many people with horrible, horrible stories. But I hear what you are saying and agree with you mostly. Our system needs reforms and better “marketing” for sure. But without a fix in the system its just not likely. We all shake our heads and wag our fingers but no one is fixing the problem. And where would we even start?

  17. We are trying to adopt from foster care in the U.S. It has been full of trials, but we are still trying. We are also adopting from Taiwan; we hope so very much that we will be able to not only meet the birthfamilies but also maintain an open relationship with them. We are so called “preferential” adopters; we can have biological children, in fact we have 3. We feel because we want more children and all children are so deserving of a family, why would we have more biologically when there are children who not only need a home but we need them? This does not make any of my children first or second choices… and I’m tired of people thinking I’m crazy for wanting to adopt even though I can birth children… what does that mean anyway? We are also a trans-racial extended family, through birth and step-nieces and nephews.
    I admit that I am beyond not perfect and will probably do and say things adoptees do not like, but I’m learning and trying and that is why I read here. I appreciate your openess and thought-provoking posts no matter how hard they are to hear at times, and can make me take a step back and ask myself where I stand.
    In response to fixing the foster system, I am trying to think of ways. I have written my senators & reps. every few months now for 2 years asking for legislation changes. I have attended caucuses just so I can fill out the paper that asks what issues you would like to see fixed. I badly want these children in loving homes, not just any home.
    In Nevada, I was told by our adoption recruiter that they push for reunification with the birthfamily for 5 years. 5 years is a very long time to be in foster care just waiting for your birthfamily to either relinquish their rights or create a stable environment to raise a child in. They told me rarely does it happen before that and some end up adopted by their foster families; 9 times out of 10 in our state, the drug of choice is meth and the child is born to a meth-addicted birth mother. We are open to that, but have yet to find a situation where we don’t end up with many children in and out of our home before we are allowed to adopt. How devastating not only for us but our children in the home to see a possible sibling come and go. I have yet to figure out if you can adopt through foster care across state lines… I guess I have much more research to do.
    I truly do not know where our child is, but I’m hoping by following many different paths, one may lead us to the child or children that need us as much as we need them.

  18. I don’t claim to know a thing about International Adoption πŸ™‚ I only adopt older kids from my state, Minnesota. From those experiences, come my urges to blog my frustrations. When I wrote that post, I was typing furiously, very PO’d after reading another future son’s history after TPR. My kids are adopted from foster care, bopped around from foster home to home to facility and back again. Five, six, and ten (I am including the new possibility) are the number of placements my kids had AFTER TPR.
    My 6 yr old son is African American and Ojibwe. I am very aware of how difficult an issue race is for him. I will never experience his feelings of racism myself. I am simply aware. However, I do know that in those 10 attempts to find him a home that was racially acceptable, we are the first place where he has been accepted for who he is as a person. We all look white, though I am white and Menominee (a white Indian). I totally get white privilege. I will never be able to experience what it is like to be the only person in a room with my color of skin (unless I go to a Harambee Conference). My son wishes he was white. We talk about it. It has got to suck to be 6 years old and so aware of the color of your skin. I know I never had to think about it. I will have to work extra hard to ensure that he has cultural connections and has confidence in who he is as a bi-racial man. But that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be in our family because we live in a predominantly white community and are white. If it weren’t for us, he would have continued to drift from foster care home to home. I know it, the workers know it, the tribe knows it.
    I believe very strongly that if the county that he came from got to select the family (a large one that starts with an H), we would have never been considered because we live in northern MN…and are white. I am so very thankful that his tribe is able to see that our family is a solid one. Heck, maybe it was out of pure desperation, but they still gave us a chance. So far, my guy has lasted longer than 9 of his previous placements and we think he is easy (though I am sure many would think and have thought differently).
    I know of older kids in MN who have been on the listings or simply waiting for over 5 years. I know people, from northern MN, and yes, white, who have submitted their homestudies for these kids (large sibling groups or teenagers who are also minorities) and these families never received a response. Not even a “No Thank You”. I KNOW that the workers don’t get wads of studies for those kids. Makes one wonder…
    I know that this isn’t what your post was about, but I just wanted to state my “reasoning”. I love your blog, by the way πŸ™‚ And I just figured out who you are in real life πŸ˜‰

  19. I agree with atlasien’s comment, “the system is geared towards disqualifying parents, not recruiting them”. We looked into domestic adoption twice, once through social services and once through an adoption agency (these were in two different states). Both times we were treated as if we were unacceptable to adopt these chidlren. The first time we were “too white” to adopt a child of a different race, and the second time we were told to choose a specific race when we applied and when we did chose a race as directed we were told we were unlikely to get a child of that race, and they’d call us back in the future. They never did.
    As we were getting older, we turned to international adoption, and felt guilty doing so. We’ve had “why don’t you adopt American children” thrown at us numerous times, just like most IA parents we know. It gets old, and opens old wounds. We did try, just like many IA parents, and we essentially had doors closed in our faces.
    The system is broken. If all the IA parents I know, who first persued domestic adoption, were actively recruited and trained rather then shunned, there would be quite a few more FC children in American homes. I still resent “the system”.

  20. I really appreciate hearing from people who have tried to adopt through the state foster care system but were discouraged or actively refused. My experience has been the opposite so I am learning from hearing from people who have had this experience. The majority of the cases I dealt with the prospective parents had a long wait because they wanted young children or children with “mild” special needs only and so few of the kids in our system fit that. Also, we’ve had the problems of the bias towards African American families being “screened out” more than comparable White families. I can only think of a small handful of White PAP’s whose home studies were not approved at the county I worked at and those who were had some significant issues (criminal back ground or chemical dependence issues).
    It is enlightening to know that so many IA AP’s tried foster care first. I have seriously never heard of this.

  21. As a parent who has adopted internationally twice, I have been frustrated by people who blithely suggest that we did not consider domestic foster adoption. In our case, I was discouraged from pursuing this route due to the experiences of my siblings.
    My sister and her husband fostered a young boy (one of 7 children removed from the birth parents’ home) and then later two additional boys from the same family. All of the children had been in multiple foster homes before my sister took custody of them. The youngest had been in 5 separate homes within a year, none with his siblings. At that time, none of the boys were legally free for adoption. Without going into all the gory details, it took almost 3 years before my sister was able to finalize their adoption, and many, many court appearances, social worker visits, heartache and anxiety. Oh yes, they ended up hiring their own attorney to represent their rights so it cost quite a bit of money as well. It really was stressful for the entire family because we did not know if they would end up losing the kids at any given point.
    My brother and his wife started the process last year. Given what my sister went through, they were careful to stress that they wanted only a ‘low-risk’ placement, i.e. one where the likelihood was very good that they would be able to eventually adopt the child. However, one week after their foster daughter was placed with them, their county decided to offer services (rehab, housing, etc) to the child’s mother. They have now had their foster daughter for over a year. It is not clear if they will ever be allowed to adopt her. They have twice been given dates where the mom would take custody of her daughter again, but then those dates are rescinded. In their county, termination of foster children’s parental rights is not pursued until there is a foster family ready to adopt. So you have to open your home and heart to a child, and hope desperately that you will be allowed to be that child’s parent. But the child could be removed at any time, with barely any notice.
    I did not want to bring a child home without some guarantee that the child would get to stay. I also didn’t want my daughter to attach to her brother or sister, and then have to say good-bye to her. So for those reasons, we decided to adopt internationally.
    Yes, I know there are many, many older children and teenagers who are already free for adoption and waiting for families. However, we did not feel comfortable adopting a teenager, we wanted a preschool age child. I do not think that legally-free U.S. children of this age wait long for a family, but please correct me if I am wrong.
    I also didn’t want to feel like we were competing for a child, so we adopted slightly older (ages 5.75 and 2.5 at the time of their adoptions) children who have mild physical special needs. We don’t think our children came to us with ‘blank slates’. On the contrary, they are very much affected by their lives in an orphanage, the experiences they went through before they came to us and by being transracial, transnational adoptees. We certainly are not perfect parents by any means but we are trying our best to help our kids work through any issues caused by our choice to bring them halfway around the world and make them our children. And you know, it’s a work in progress. It probably always will be.

  22. Jae Ran,
    I would not know what the real numbers are, but I think the net impact of what you said in your last comment reaches more widely.
    People in the adoption community (at least the adoptive parent community) know one another very well- everyone knows someone who’s gone through various adoption experiences. For instance, we have 2 relatively close friends who went through foster-adopt and both had grueling experiences dealing with various agencies and courts. In one, case, a family was simply got fed up with having kids (sometimes the same kids) in and out of their home with no regard for permanency over the period of 5-6 years, all the while being mistreated by the county agency.
    For other friends, we’re talking about CA family adopting AA siblings, with the youngest exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. It was literally up to a judge to decide the fate of these kids, with all the uncertainty and painfully failed attempts at reunification. It took almost 4 years for TPR. It was emotionally grueling to watch, I can’t imagine what it felt like to experience.
    Of course, this is just an example, and perhaps an exception. This is not the primary reason we chose IA for our first child, but it was on my mind. I do not believe it wise for me to attempt this route as a first time parent, KWIM? I believe the primary reason people choose IA over the American foster-adopt system has way more to do with process than any perception of the children. I don’t know if that’s true overall, but among the people I know in SE Pennsylvania, that’s a certainty.

  23. I tried. For two years I tried to adopt a child from foster care. I took multiple classes, went through home studies, filled out a one hundred and twelve question application, etc. etc. Because I have an older bio child and wanted to keep an adoption in birth order, I applied to adopt several foster children who were five years of age and younger. I was open to emotional special needs and physical needs as well, and I was open to any race/ethnicity. I was also willing to foster with the chance of adopting at a later time – willing to risk becoming attached to a child that might have been returned to birth parents. I would also have been happy to have maintained connections with the birth family. But because I am single, I was told – directly – that married couples would have priority over any application I put in. Umm… okay. Never mind that I could have worked very well with a child with attachment issues or trauma, as I have an M.Ed. in counseling and have worked with children with a history of sexual abuse and mental health issues professionally. Never mind that I have great health insurance and could have provided excellent health care. Never mind that I have a job that is flexible and well paying. Never mind that I lived in a diverse community with many mixed race families and that I could have maintained connections with communities of color. Didn’t matter. I was single. So I went overseas, adopted a child with special needs, both medical and emotional who had been waiting to be adopted for over a year, worked with her attachment and learning issues, and am left completely in awe of the density the system here in the U.S. that makes so many policies which manage to keep adoptive parents OUT.

  24. I really appreciate hearing from those who tried to adopt from the foster care system. Since I work closely with adoption workers and administrators from the state and counties, you can be sure I am going to bring this up – the hypocrisy involved is unconscionable.
    Having worked in the system, I know that adoption workers care about these kids – by and large – and for the most part it isn’t that they don’t want kids to be adopted. Workers do care about the interests of these children – I believe they just have biases against what they believe is best. I know that is something *I* struggled with all the time as a county workers. Tammy, I would have been hounding you.

  25. Wow, what a lot of comments! (waves at Torina). Here are some good sources I have found for study about barriers to adoption from foster care.
    The Adoptuskids.org blog recently solicited feedback from prospective parents and they are already at 173 comments. About 10% of the complaints are off-base and trivial, the rest are very serious and important and hopefully state administrators will take them as such.
    http://adoptuskids.blogspot.com/2008/03/adoption-in-your-state.html
    Then the Evan B. Donaldson report:
    http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2005_jeffkatz_report.html
    And another report on the same subject:
    http://www.adoptuskids.org/images/resourcecenter/barriersuccessfactors.pdf
    I’ve been browsing through that last one. It’s rather dense. What does jump out at me is the parents and adoption workers may use different words, but they recognize the same problems, such as interjurisdictional barriers.
    I realized early on that the process is like a grueling marathon and only the most dedicated are going to reach the finish line (unless they happen to be very lucky and are in a good location, that is). I would have quit a long time ago if I didn’t know other local parents who had already done it.

  26. Regarding adoption from foster care, my sister and her husband, who at the time had two biological sons, fostered a brother and sister who had been abused and neglected by their biological mother. They were about to adopt the two children, but suddenly the kids’ biological father showed up after being gone from their lives since infancy and decided he wanted custody of them. And he got it. So I really can’t blame anyone who prefers to adopt internationally rather than go through the foster care system.

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