What are the unique pitfalls and blessings of committing to Fost-Adopt status? Is it right for you? Since I consider it the most complicated of the three options (Adoptive Parenting, Foster Parenting, and Fost-Adopt Parenting) I’d like to focus on that today. Before we jump into this, let’s visit the concept of Concurrent Planning which is at the heart of Fost-Adoption.
In my opinion, Concurrent Planning is not for the newly licensed foster-family whose ultimate goal is to provide a permanent family for a child. Why? Because no amount of training is going to prove adequate to prepare you for the emotional turmoil implied by this arrangement. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea for DCS to cover their bases/hedge their bets (will this child ultimately return home after a brief stay in foster care or need permanency?). I just don’t think most fost-adopt families are truly ready to ride this particular roller coaster. Concurrent Planning is a fancy term that says, “We think this parent is not going to be able to successfully jump through the hoops we have set before them so, to avoid a series of placements, we will place the child/ren with someone interested in permanency. In the meantime, however, we will give the biological parent/s every chance to clear those hoops.” The Fost-Adopt parent/s are expected to love as if there will be no end to that love, even though there are no guarantees. The good news is that the child gets the blessing of that love; the bad news is that the fost-adopt parent may be facing grief of their own if the Concurrent Plan doesn’t go their way.
Consider this: You’ve spent the last 5 years trying to conceive and carry a child to term to start your family before you turn to adoption. Finding it extremely expensive considering what you’ve just spent on infertility treatments, you turn to the foster care system to grow your family. An alternative scenario is your commitment to providing a home for a child in need of one. Both are admirable and worthy of respect. But when you embark upon foster licensing, you are faced with a new set of hoops to jump through. In the first scenario, you’ve just come off a path fraught with other such hoops, so many of which were physically and emotionally grueling that the nuts-and-bolts type hoops of foster licensing are almost a breath of fresh air.
Keep in mind: since the family is the foundation of our society, it is very serious business to remove any child from their family of origin. Any time the state intervenes on behalf of a child’s welfare, hoop after hoop after hoop must be cleared before that child can be considered available for adoption. This can go on for a very long time and this is the Catch-22 of Concurrent Planning. You are lucky to be told up front that the case plan is Concurrent Planning. You are less lucky when, a year into your foster placement, the DCS worker casually asks you if you are interested in adopting the child you have come to love. Why less lucky? Because it ain’t over until it’s over but your heart doesn’t hear that. Your heart just hears that this child you have come to love is now to be part of your future.
This is when the legal hoops of removing a child from their biological parents and placing that child with you, an identified, newly licensed fost-adopt parent, come into conflict. This is when the new hoops of placement begin to feel a lot like those old hoops you encountered during those years of infertility treatment: Now? Can we be hopeful yet? Can we relax yet? Is it really happening?
Why does this happen? Because the child welfare system is not there to grow your family; it is there to protect the rights of the foundation of our society: the existing family, not the potential family (yours). You, the licensed fost-adopt family, having received the placement of a child into your home with the stated hope of loving them forever are hedging your bets, too. You think that your willingness to fost-adopt is a foot in the right door. But is it? In the eyes of DCS, you are a resource for safely meeting the day-to-day needs of that child. Period. Until the biological parental rights are severed/terminated, it is a rare DCS worker that will treat you like anything more than a glorified babysitter. Your opinion doesn’t count for much and your power is limited to the care you provide for the child in your home.
When all this goes optimally well, this time in fost-adopt status is also spent protecting the relationship between the child and their biological parent/s. This is such a tall order when your heart-of-heart agenda is adoption and the hope that this child will come to love and trust you. The gifts of doing this well, however, of finding empathy for parents whose addiction, violence or mental illness are obstacles to adequate parenting, cannot be over-emphasized: complicated attachment, anger and/or grief can be given attention (read: you get to lovingly pick up the pieces after a disappointing or cancelled visit); the child can be given a chance to reexperience the transition between caregivers; and/or when things go really well for older kids, the day can come when the child either gives up their fantasy for reunification, comes to recognize that the problem does not lie in their own behavior but in their parents’ challenges, or an independent decision to cease the visits can come from the child rather than the “system”.
If you can get your head right in this role, there is no end to the blessings available to all involved. Tall order, I know.
- Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
- Our Friday night Happy Hour and Tuesday afternoon Coffee Chat continue. Some find me and a single other participant; others find a conversation among 4 to 6 people. The topics range from the silly to what hobbies have us in their grip to what life has thrown in our path. If you ever find yourself wanting a bit of grown-up conversation, consider joining us (check your email for the unchanging link).
- Parent Mentor Partners: AZAFAP has trained volunteer parents as mentors who are ready to help support foster, kinship, and adoptive parents through one-to-one conversations. Interested? Fill out the form at https://www.azafap.org/family-support-services/
- Registration is also open for new, regional Circles of Supportive Families. Reach out to find another parent who understands.
- Though pandemic pressures are finally easing, reach out if you need an ear: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.pcaaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/B21-Insightful-Caregiving-Intimacy.pdf and at https://www.neurosequential.com.
Thanks for listening. Maintain yourself so you can be there reliably for others.