There’s No Such Thing as Fostering to Adopt

Before you bristle too hard at the title, stick with me.
Back when Milkman and I started our journey to welcome non-biological children into our home, it was with one goal in mind: adoption.

We knew that we wanted to adopt, and we knew that private and international adoption was costly, and were familiar with fostering enough to know that it was a good thing, and thought of it as a means to an end. The end? To adopt a child.

When going through our training and our initial home study interviews, we made our goal clear to our agency from the onset. We were a “Foster to Adopt” home. Foster to adopt… that’s totally a thing, right?

 Our first placement was last July. We were asked to take 2 children for a 3 day stint. We agreed to it firstly because it meant our paperwork would be expedited, and secondly because it was so short term. Those 3 days turned into 3 months, and by the end of it, we informed our agency we were no longer looking strictly for “adoptable kids”, but that we were happy to foster with the intent of reunification. 

The next baby we fostered came into our home at 5 days old. He was an “open and shut adoption case”. Guess what? He left us to live with a distant relative 3 months later. Not so open and shut. It was really hard, but he was never ours to begin with. 

Our current fosterling is headed toward eventual reunification, and though we desire to one day have our forever child via the system, I’ve learned something really important: There is no such thing as Foster to Adopt.

The very point of foster care is to be a temporary caregiver. Your social worker could tell you all day that this is a for sure adoption case and even still, foster care should be looked at as a temporary thing. You are to welcome a child into your home, care for them, feed them, love them, protect them, all with the goal of them reunifying.

You then tell me, “Well, I have a friend who adopted through foster care! And I’ve seen all those cute pictures with families holding signs that say how long the child has been in foster care, posed next to their forever family on adoption day!” Yes, we all know people who have adopted from foster care. I hope to be one of those people one day. Some of those people didn’t intend on adoption, but it happened that way. For some, adoption was the initial hope. But let’s think about what has to happen for a child to become “adoptable”. 

If a child in foster care is supposed to be a temporary fix while their biological caregiver gets their ducks in a row, how is it that children are adopted through foster care every day? Because something has gone TERRIBLY wrong. 

“WRONG?? Adoption isn’t wrong!” I didn’t say that. For a child to become “adoptable” a parent’s rights have to be terminated. Let that sink in for just a second. This means that (in general, there are always exceptions) a parent has been given the tools they need to get their child back, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t use those tools in order to reunify. That’s tragic. Even if the foster family that is set to adopt them is the best family in the world, we cannot brush past the real and awful reality that parent and child have a tie that has been severed. Their flesh and blood has lost the legal right to raise and nurture that child. That’s a terrible thing to have to happen. 

Would you not agree, that assuming a parent has followed the steps they need to, and is safe, the best place for a child to be is with their biological family? When I say this I really mean “safe” not “my standards”. It’s easy to think you need to fight reunification because your house is bigger, you provide higher quality food, and you dress them nicer. Those aren’t qualifications for being a parent, though. Your job as a foster parent is to love and care for this child, all the while supporting reunification.

But what about the parents who are really far gone? Well, of course if a parent is abusive, neglectful, crippled with addiction, or can’t see their way out of a relationship with someone who is, those are the cases where adoption becomes necessary.

Am I saying adopting is bad? Absolutely not. It is still mine and Milkman’s deepest desire to adopt a child. But adopting via foster care is a bitter sweet act. One in which a child has to lose one family in order to gain another. 

And this is why I say, there is no foster to adopt. You foster to foster. You foster to reunify. To help this child and their parent get to a place that is safe enough to become a family again. Adoption, is merely a bittersweet tributary off the main course of foster care. A beautiful, yet tragic thing. 

So you still want to be a foster parent if it means giving every single child back to their family? If it means your heart is broken into a million pieces, so that a biological mother’s can be made whole again? So that a father can raise his child with his own culture and blood as their bond? If the answer is no, foster care may not be the right road for you. But if the answer is yes? Then you are in the right frame of mind. And maybe, just maybe, your family will grow through adoption one day. But let that not be your main goal in this journey, lest you be entirely disappointed and crushed. But if you’re willing to take the risk, I can promise you, it is worth every step if the journey.


Want to read more unpopular opinions, follow our foster care and bio parenting journey, take a look at our life living on a working farm, and laugh at the stupid memes I post? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook. 

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86 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as Fostering to Adopt

  1. Juniperbarry says:

    I understand your point and reunification should always be the first priority if it’s a possibility, but aren’t there a lot of children in foster care or group homes who parent’s rights were terminated years ago. I always hear how tragic the system is full of kids who need homes. Is that incorrect? Are there no orphans or family-less children? Do they really just need temporary homes? I thought you could specify to only take in children who were separated and then you’d “foster” them until adoption was final.

    • So, from my experience from talking to other FPs (each state and can each county is different) is that the state does not like to make orphans. So there are very few TRUE orphans in the US. Meaning children whose parents have had their rights terminated and they don’t have a forever home. Some of these kids are in limbo forever– which is also awful, and a huuuuuge problem with the system.

      I absolutely think in these cases, where bio parents haven’t done their services, that TPR (termination of parental rights) SHOULD happen so that kids and up in forever homes– whenever possible. There are a good many children with RAD so severe (thank you, foster system) that they cannot be safely integrated into families.

      Even if you get an “adoptable child” parental rights are often not terminated until you’ve had the child in your care for 6 months. Then begins the adoption process which can take anywhere from 1-2 years in a perfect case scenario. During that first 6 month period, that for sure adoptable kid can have other families that “claim” him or her, and that child can be taken from your home.

      The whole thing is so complex and so broken in so many ways. This post is merely a warning to those wanting to adopt only, and an encouragement to those in the thick of it to keep on keeping!

      • Liz says:

        RAD is often a result of parental care (well, lack of), not the removal of the child from the home.

      • Liz, I would love to see sources on that. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that. What I’ve seen instead is RAD showing up even in children adopted as babies, even from birth. It’s when an attachment is severed– and of course gets worse each time it is severed. However, I am very much interested to see sources on what you’ve stated. One can never learn too much!

      • Jill says:

        Parental rights can be terminated (or they can surrender) at any time. A child does have to be in your home for 6 months before the adoption can be legally finalized (whether private, international, or from foster care). My two adoptions from foster care took place in Tennessee. One was finalized after 8 months in my home, the other after 11 months. In both cases, the biological parents surrendered while the child was in my home, and the adoptions proceeded very quickly after that.

      • Wow, Jill, that is so incredibly rare! That’s quick!

      • Norma says:

        In my state we have plenty of adoptable children and no homes to take them. Most of the RAD cases that I have heard of have been because of parent neglect. CPS moving kids around often doesn’t help with it though!

      • Jan says:

        There are children who come into foster care with RAD. The children who’s parents leave them home alone for hours at a time when they are less than 6yo. The parents who don’t pick them up and nurture them, who overdoes and die in front of them, who leave them with random people for weeks, months, or years at a time. These children are so damaged by the time they come into the system their ability to form healthy attachments is impaired, sometimes for life.

      • Tiffany says:

        RAD is not from removing the child from the home. Children can have RAD from unhealthy pregnancies. It can stem from stress from the mom due to emotional or physical issues. The mother’s cortisol levels rise, causing the cortisol levels to rise in the fetus.

      • Luna says:

        There are 100,000 kids on the adoption only track, that is not “a few.” And no, they don’t wait 6 months for TPR, TPR will be granted upon placement into an adoptive home if family reunification services have already been terminated. And no do not perpetuate the lie that these kids will be claimed by someone else. They won’t, that’s the whole reason they are stuck in foster care – there no one one stepping up to be a forever family. Mostly because these are kids 8 and up or sibling groups.

        You are giving out bad information and should NOT be writing on a subject you are not properly educated on or experienced in. We have done this four different times in three different states (we are a military family). All our kids have been from various Heart Gallerys or Wednesday’s Child news specials. All took 8-12 months from the time of placement.

      • Hey Luna! Thanks for stopping by to read the blog.

        Perhaps you could take another read? I hope I made it clear than I am warning against the expectation that you can adopt any child from the system.

        This is not a peer reviewed article in a professional publication, this is something I typed out while rocking my foster baby, something that was on my heart. This is not meant to be an educational piece in the true sense of the term.

        My point is to show that foster care is so much more than getting a free baby.

        Thank you for reading, and. Less you for caring for kids from hard places!

    • Jorey says:

      In my state there are nearly 200 Legally Free children or youth who NEED an adoptive home. They did nothing to deserve to linger in foster care while they wait. Please look at national child listing websites and reach out. There are orphans whose parental rights were relinquished or terminated and they are waiting.

      • em says:

        RAD results from pathogenic (or insufficinet) care – abuse, neglect, and multiple caregivers prior to age 5 years would all be risk factors for a child developing RAD. RAD is an extreme on a continuum of attachment-based problems. Very few kids actually meet the diagnostic criteria as laid out in the DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual used by psychologists to render a diagnosis of RAD). A child adopted at birth who received appropriate, compassionate care would not be diagnosed with RAD, as he or she did not receive insuffient care.

    • Jill says:

      You are absolutely right. Thank you for pointing this out!
      There are more than 5,000 children registered on AdoptUSKids. Every one of them is in need of a safe, permanent home; however, their characteristics do not represent those of all of the more than 100,000 children and youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted.

  2. Robyn C says:

    This article does a great job of explaining the truths of foster care. We chose to adopt privately. As you probably know, parents who choose to adopt privately or through international adoption often face criticism: There are so many children who need homes right here. Why didn’t you adopt through foster care?

    Well, this article is why. I don’t want to be a foster parent, though I respect anyone who can be a good foster parent. I want to be a parent. So, private adoption! CPS isn’t a free adoption agency, and it pains me when people say “Adopt from foster care – it’s free!”

    Two thoughts that are contrary to the your opinion (I hope you don’t mind):
    “For a child to become “adoptable” a parent’s rights have to be terminated. … This means that (in general, there are always exceptions) a parent has been given the tools they need to get their child back, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t use those tools in order to reunify.” – I don’t think that this is true. I don’t think that CPS in most places really does anything to help parents get their kids back. They may offer services, but those services could be at times and places that cancel one another out, or that exist too far away, or that occur during the day when a parent is supposed to be holding down a steady job. That job may be another condition to get their kids back, too.

    “Would you not agree, that assuming a parent has followed the steps they need to, and is safe, the best place for a child to be is with their biological family?” – No, I would not.Biology isn’t best. A child shouldn’t have to suffer through something just because an adult doesn’t think it’s extreme. The definition of “safe” is too vague, and, I believe, is unevenly applied. Exhibit A? Children of color are removed from their homes at greater rates than white children. If my family had been black, I would probably have been removed from my home, which is all I really wanted growing up. But we lived in a middle class neighborhood and went to a good school, so the abuse didn’t matter as much to CPS, apparently.

    • Linda says:

      Actually – after almost 25 years of being a foster/adopt parent, I am inclined to agree. I really no longer believe in our countries “foster care” system and I think It needs to be entirely revamped. CPS/DHS varies from state to state and from county to county. We were lucky – our first decade or so we had a great department to work with in Ohio. Then we moved to a state down south and it was SO bad I cannot even explain. Most of the case workers we worked with didn’t even understand basic behaviors of abused and neglected children line attachment disorder etc, And they certainly didn’t seem to care. Children were moved around like pieces on a checker board. People who foster can call their case worker anytime, anywhere and say “this child isn’t working in our home – come get him/her”. And they do. We had a child placed with us once because a foster parent did just that. There were several children her home. The case worker put them all in her car, each with one bag of personal belongings. She drove to various foster homes in the are knocked on the door and said “can you take any of these kids?”. I think we were the last stop and took the last child she had – a young boy who had already been moved around so much it was ridiculous. We did end up adopting 4 children. Had to “unadopt” one as she consistently victimized everyone in our family ( including us). Most of these children have immense emotional issues and if you adopt you may have a lifetime of having to lend money, bail them out of jail, pay for professional help etc.. IMO if a child cannot be with a parent , second best choice would be another family member. Most agencies don’t even seem to try. I have seen birth parents have their parental rights taken away when they really probably didn’t deserve it. And others get their child back when they shouldn’t. The sad part is – if a child is adopted the entire family loses that child. So Grandma and Grandpa and aunts and uncles and often other siblings also lose that child. We always tried to maintain contact with suitable family members but it was never accomplished with help from CPS. And if you adopt older children – here is the saddest part. With todays social media anyone can find anyone. If they have not been connected with their birth family as a child in your home – at some point they will reconnect and once they are 18 years old a large number of them will simply walk away from you without hesitation and return to their birth families. Again – it depends on where you are and what your children’s services department is like but today – with the state I live in – I would not recommend either foster care or CPS adoption to anyone. After over a decade of LOVING what I did, when we moved to a new location it became a nightmare.

      • I am so sorry, and I wish your experience was unique, however, it’s all too common.

        Humanity is fallible, systems fail, people screw up. It’s just tragic that when it fails here, it’s literally ruining lives. Children, parents, and foster or adoptive parents and their bio families.

        Ten years is a long time. Bless you for your hard work and love. I continue to pray and hope that these stories will become fewer and farther between.

      • Forever Grace says:

        Hi Linda, without a word, I know exactly what state you are referring to and yes, you are fully on target, with accurate statements. I have experienced many children with issues so bad, the worker won’t even mention, like a 4 yr old that had been “dismissed from daycare” and had killed several animals. Yes, there is about a 3 month turnover for most kids, thankfully- after a huge learning curve I learned what questions and children that I could meet their needs until they are reunited. You just have to remember why you started in the first place, and it wasn’t for CPS. I encourage you to try again, don’t quit- we need you. The kiddos need you. And the rest, well, just try to let it roll off. I will be praying for you as we need experienced FP like you. Most don’t even last 2 years, and the workers are so overworked and taking children home with them, its a real crisis. Come Back Linda!!!

      • Jan says:

        In our state the parents are offered intensive services to parents and parents have ample opportunity to be reunified.

      • mary brown says:

        So many good points! It is interesting that so many DO want their family back. That being the case, CPS should spend more effort fixing the family instead of finding a new family and chasing after that ‘adoption bonus’.

        There needs to be more guidelines as to what ‘reasonable efforts’ are – the federal term – for family reunification. After all the feds pay out 8 BILLION a year for foster care and adoption. Child abuse is a huge problem, but the current system does nothing to solve it.. and in many ways makes it worse.

  3. tami says:

    Wow, your sure not going to encourage anyone to be a foster parent with a attitude like that! You make it sound horrible! I’m sure you would feel differently if you would have got to adopt. I totally support reunification but when you have bio parents who dont try at all, not one service done and just dissappear than there is not too much supporting that.

    • I am actually so very glad that we haven’t had a chance to adopt yet. It’s helped me see a whole new role as a foster parent. To support bio families and their children! Making it sound horrible is not my aim, I can assure you. I’m simply trying to shed some reality on the topic. This is the article I wish I had read before I began our journey as foster parents. It wouldn’t have changed my desire to foster, but it would have changed my expectations in a healthy way.

      We need foster parents who are in this for the kids, not for themselves. So if this discourages people, then I feel like they might not be cut out to be foster parents– and that’s okay! I definitely don’t think it is a calling for everyone. But hopefully this encourages people who really want to serve children who come from hard places, no matter the personal outcome.

      Also, if you read through once again, you’ll see that I absolutely support adoption for those whose parents haven’t been able to complete services or who are a danger to their children. This is written to those who think fostering=free adoption agency.

      Hope that clears some things up! Blessings to you, Tami!

      • Mom of many says:

        I’ve adopted from foster care twice. I still agree that there’s no such thing as “foster to adopt”. You cannot simultaneously support reunification (the goal of fostering) and hope the parents will fail beyond restoration (the necessity for adoption). You can foster while being open to adopt. That’s telling the broken family, “I really hope you get things together, but if you can’t yet, your child has a forever home with us.” It’s a very different outlook and leads to a much more compassionate adoption.

        I do have to confess that I jokingly say, “Adopt from foster care — it’s free! Except for the heartache.”

      • Good words, very true.

  4. Valerie says:

    I understand your point, but not every situation is cut & dry like that. We are in the middle of our first foster placement, and bio mom has passed, dad is having tpr, a stepbrother is being explored but her GAL is going to disagree if permanent placement is sought after for her. We’ve had her from day 1. She’s attached, bonded, healed from awful sicknesses, and all with us. That is what makes this so hard when you know what foster care is for, but you end up having a totally different situation. We hope we will get to adopt her. That might be wrong, but that’s where we are.

    • I think adoption is a necessary and good thing to do, as orphans need families.

      To clarify, this is a broad brush stroke. Every particular case has its intricacies and differences. There is no one perfect way to solve the issues, no one perfect way to get children help.

      This was written to put to rest this myth that foster care is a magical way to get a free child. It’s so much more than that.

      Bless you and your growing family.

  5. Monica says:

    In my state of Connecticut, we have foster homes and pre-adoptive foster homes. We have a foster unit and a pre-adoptive foster unit. Our state specifies which home the children need to be placed in. The pre-adoptive homes are the ones where a TPR date is due to be scheduled as the parents have usually been in the system for years without doing what they needed to do or the parents were incarcerated and no kinship family was able to be found. We are also at a therapeutic level vs. regular foster care so that may play into why it is like this. We are not called foster-to-adopt. We are pre-adoptive. It doesn’t mean all the children we get are guaranteed to be adoptable – that is always up to the judge on TPR day. But we have adopted two different sibling groups (4 children) so far.

    • I’m so thankful that you are opening your home to kids whose parents have been TPR’d. So few people want to risk an older child, and those are usually the ones who are already true orphans.

      My point is writing this is not to discourage, rather to give a more realistic picture. The stuff that’s not on the brochures, rather the nitty gritty of real life dealing with the system.

      Bless you for serving the children in your community, and being willing to risk.

      • Luna says:

        Using terms like “risk” when regarding an older child placement is an awful and frankly disgusting thing to say. Please stop perpetuating stereotypes that older kids have a bevy of issues. They don’t. A lot of the older kids are actually easier than the younger ones because they understand exactly why they came into care – and a good number of them actually called CPS themselves. All four of our kids have been between 12 and 15. I know a lot of people who got one teen placement and swore off younger kids because frankly they found them more stressful than a 14 year old.

  6. Kristy says:

    1000 times YES!!!!!! Standing O with excessive clapping from my neck of the woods! 💗 Having been a part of our local foster care community for over 7 years now, whenever someone asks us about fostering, this is one of the 1st things we address… MUST ask yourself what is your true intent, and anything outside of God’s plan for a child’s life (whatever that looks like and whether it includes you long term or not) should cause you to pause and think carefully before moving ahead. That’s not harsh….in fact, it’s the most compassionate wisdom a foster parent can share with another considering the unpredictable journey of foster care. Thank you for your post! God has placed the desire he has in your hearts with a purpose, and what a beautiful thing that He loves you so much to invest in your own personal growth! As for your family size growing permanently……while I’m glad that’s no longer your driving force, I’m thankful your heart is open… you know, it does happen! 2 of our 6 are adopted through foster care…..but I can’t quite remember which 2 now! 😉 May you feel Gods blessings in your life and home! Keep on keeping on!

    • Kristy, bless you for your encouragement and also for your willingness to open your home and heart to these kiddos.

      It’s so rad knowing there are likeminded families out there!

  7. Jackie says:

    Interesting… and being a foster parent for 5 years I would have to agree. I know numerous friends/foster parents who fostered several children. And finally did get to adopt. The adoptions have not been easy, due to trauma and lack of connections in the brain, but their is help through trauma-based congnitive behavior therapy and TBRI-Trust-based relational intervention. Anyone considering adopting, fostering or just wanting to be a great parent you should check those resources out. Check out Karen Purvis research and YouTube videos. Hope this helps someone. And if your fostering, you have the privilege to be your foster child’s biggest advocate!

  8. Summer Smith says:

    This is a horrible article and not even true I know plenty of people who have fostered to adopt successfully. They have given some children back and they have adopted some.
    The title and theme of this article is misleading and very negative! I don’t appreciate it at all!

    • Hey Summer! Sorry you feel that way. If you read the actual post you’ll see that I am not against adoption from foster care, rather giving a heads up to those wanting to adopt via foster care that your local county is not a free adoption agency, and if you go into it with that expectation you’ll be sorely disappointed.

      I’m sorry you felt it was horrible.

      Have a blessed day, and thank you for taking the time to read the musings of a simple mama.

    • Tony says:

      Did you actually read the article? If you did and genuinely feel this way, your ability to discern the author’s intent is non-existent. Maybe chill out and try reading it again…

    • mary brown says:

      WOW!. Sorry but I think your attitude is horrible. Foster care is supposed to be loving and caring for a child while the parents work out issues. Anything else is a conflict of interest. Your attitude doesn’t portray what foster care is supposed to be AT ALL! Foster care is NOT about trying out kids and returning them until you get the one that you want. You do that with merchandise, not a child!

  9. Itslikemusic says:

    Dude. You’re awesome. I loved reading this, super eye-opening. I very much support people offering a real world view on things that are typically so overly romanticized. Yes, fostering and adopting is a beautiful, wonderful, selfless, and loving thing to do, but it’s also (from what I can tell!) freaking exhausting– emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally… honestly, this blog you wrote has taught me more about fostering than anything else I’ve seen, and it was just a small glimpse. You have educated me and continue to educate me on a very necessary and sensitive subject. I am forever grateful to you for these continuing lessons. Thank you!! 💜💜

  10. Melodie Cook says:

    Right on! I am both a foster and adoptive parent in Japan. Lucky to have adopted because the rate is so low here. If you’d like to read my stuff about my experiences, please go to Savvy Tokyo Melodie Cook.

  11. Todd BLAKELY says:

    Thank You so much for this blog post. My partner and I are fostering his great niece. She has been with us for almost two years now. Her parents rights have been terminated, which was a truly bittersweet day for all parties involved. They are still fighting to get her back. We have said all along that we want mom to be successful in her recovery(Dad is in jail so he is out of the picture). Do I believe that we can provide a better home for her, yes I do. But it will come with a price for us all. I really appreciate that you understand the price we all pay. She will grow up without her mother in the home and that is not a great thing no matter what. She will always wonder why. We have already started getting her support, so no matter what the outcome she will grow to be who she is meant to be in this world. But it is a truly complicated process and no matter the outcome someone will lose a lot. We want what is best for the child. I will say that we are fortunate because we have been able to maintain a relationship with her mother and will continue to do so no matter what happens. She also has a sister and it is important that she maintain that relationship as well. but the emotional turmoil is real for us all. Thanks for the honest assessment of fostering. You must have a big heart and a strong spirit. Blessings to you and yours.

  12. Beth says:

    It all depends. While I appreciate your attempt to represent some of the reality of what goes on in the foster and adoption community, this can Not be presented as a blanket statement. So much varies from state to state, from county to county, from adoption agency to agency, from year to year.
    We entered the adoption process 12 years ago with the intent to foster to adopt. Our case plan from the beginning was adoption. Our family specialist through the entire process remain focused on that plate case plan . It took some time to find kiddos in the system that fit our case plan and our desired child. We are very happy With our forever family of 12 years. Our kiddos were not or orphaned. There is much extended family that were just not appropriate at the time to adopt the children. They were our foster kids for one year until the adoption became final. We have gone through the common challenges of children who have experienced trauma or other situations which led them to become part of the foster care system. It is very possible for children who come into Care at at birth to experience attachment issues. Attachment issues can often begin in the uterus. It is a very complex issue. Google Nancy Thomas she has excellent books and resources as well as treatment options for these kids she has been in the field for many many years and has rehabilitated the most extreme cases. I agree it is important to educate people about the realities of the process but it is also important to clarify one’s personal experience versus the reality of many different experience is often which are and have been very positive in the long run.
    There are wonderful resources available as well as wonderful training. Sometimes it is difficult to access the necessary information. Sometimes you can receive excellent support. If someone is considering going down this road although definitely difficult it is definitely worthwhile. It is also almost free. Just because one adopts privately does not mean one avoids the pitfalls and difficulties of taking on Child who has been given up for adoption. My cousin was encouraged to spend thousands of dollars on a private adoption of a baby who was to be born addicted. If she had gone through with at that adoption she would not have the benefit of the financial and medical support that states typically offer. Many overseas adoptions also have children who experience RAD and other challenges. The bottom line is it is never simple and it can never be described in a blanket statement. It’s complicated it’s wonderful it’s rewarding it’s difficult it’s horrible. The most important thing is that it is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life and to have the experience of parenting and building one’s family if that is your desire. I write this not to criticize but to clarify and expand on the options. Never give up on reaching out for help it is out there it’s just sometimes difficult to find. It’s a hard job being a parental advocate but it’s also a huge blessing when you witness their growth their love and the joy of family.

  13. Candace says:

    My husband and I adopted 2 little girls from foster care, our first 2 placements actually. They are biological sisters, 13 months apart. Mom’s rights were terminated when both were about six months old. Unfortunately because of mom’s “low function”, she is unable to care for her own children without a strong support syste, which she doesn’t have. I loved your article because my husband and I started this process wanting to adopt and after taking the necessary training our hearts were changed and we desperately wanted reunification. It was very heartbreaking and we grieved when mom’s rights were terminated with our first. We had her from birth. She is 2 1/2 now, but we know the journey is only just beginning. The trauma from being taken from birth family and culture will be something we will all walk through together over the next several years. Our experience has been both beautiful and tragic, like you said. Thank you for serving the kiddos in your community and for writing a very necessary article.

  14. Katie says:

    I was a foster child my parents lost they right cuz they didn’t want to stop taking drugs so my little brothers and I went into the system and I was with some bad foster parents cuz I was almost raped by they birth son and we only ate dinner and cereal for breakfest no lunch not to drink but water. I didn’t get to live my life as a teenager cuz I had to grow up living in care to take care of my brothers. I was I care for 4 years the foster mom told me all u gonna be in life is a hoe who lays on her back. Well when I graduate from high school I was packed and moved out. It’s been almost 10 years and I can say I got to reunited with one of my birth brothers with no help FROM CPS OR ANYTHING I was put thro alot as a teenager but I saw my brother for the first time a year ago and he has changed my life for the better

    • Katie, I can’t imagine the trauma you went through, and I’m so sorry for your experience in foster care. Stories like yours make me want to strive for better for kids in the system.

  15. I am an adopted adult from the old closed adoption era. Losing my family has been very painful for me. I suffer everyday because of the way infant adoptions were handled.

    Social workers, bio parents and adoptive parents all thought we were blank slates, and if the hand-over was done while we were young enough, we would never suffer. False.

    Biology is important. Fostering is fostering. Private adoption is buying children.

    True love is doing what’s right for the child, not what feels good for the adults.

    I admire you, your heart is in the right place. Any child is lucky to have someone like you in their lives.

    • Oh I’m so sorry to hear your story and how it adversely affected your entire life.

      I hope that we can change the conversation on fostering and adoption for healthier bio relationships when possible.

      Thank you for reading!

    • mary brown says:

      There is a reason the suicide rate for adoptees is 4 times that of the general population and you stated it well. Of course there are times where a family cannot be saved but adoption should be the last resort. You see all the time pictures of celebration in court rooms of adoption, and/or the signs but every time there is loss. Most children, sooner or later, feel it.

  16. Donelle Swain says:

    Let’s be careful not to label every child with trauma as “RAD” – Reactive Attachment Disorder is EXTREMELY rare, mostly found in children left in orphanages (think Eastern Europe) who had almost no physical touch or human care of any kind.
    Donelle Swain, MSW

  17. Sarina says:

    I wish people would foster and adopt teens. Not just young kids. Most people only want babies. It’s sad. Most kids that need a home are older kids and teens. There’s so many kids waiting for adoption. Please consider these kids.

    • It’s definitely a tough calling! Do you have any advice to offer those considering adopting a teen? It’s not feasible for our family due to my bio kids ages, but it is a desire when our little ones are grown!

      Thank you for your willingness to care for teens from hard places!

  18. Rosalyn says:

    I think you’re trying to be profound, and you just come off sounding ridiculous. As a foster to adopt mom of two, I get offended when people talk about what a TRAGEDY adoption is, how it all stems from LOSS….you just can’t throw out a blanket statement like that. Every child has their own story, and we shouldn’t put this type of pressure on them (What?? My birth circumstances were tragic??) Adoption is as beautiful as giving birth, and it should be celebrated as such.

    • Hey Rosalyn! I’m so sorry I came off sounding ridiculous. I think there is a lot of rhetoric surrounding the beautiful side of adoption– and well there should be, as it is a beautiful thing. But the tough side is seldom spoken about. Maybe if you read through one more time you will see that I never once said I was anti-adoption. Merely trying to show another side of the same coin.

      Bless you and thank you for caring for kids from hard places!

  19. We became foster parents to adopt. We already had one daughter. We got our daughter at six months of age. She had come into foster care at three months. We fostered her and her mother got her back at 15 months. Her mother messed up and we got her back at less than 20 months old. Her mother was MIA for 10 weeks and then only had sporadic visits. When daughter was 22 months old a three day old little boy was placed with us straight from the hospital. His mother never wanted to see him and when the case worker located her she signed away her rights when he was four months old. When our daughter was two years and two months old her little brother was born and he was placed with us straight from the hospital. The birth mother rarely showed up for visits and by the time the younger brother was eight months old the reunification plan had been changed to “termination of rights” she hadn’t seen the kids in two months and was not completing what had been asked of her for reunification. We became foster parents with the hopes of adopting one child and ended up adopting three. Our three adopted kids are now 14, 12, and almost 12. Our daughter and her biological brother have two older half sisters that we met back in 2009. They were adopted by different families. One of those girls was put up for adoption at birth by the birthmother and the other one was taken by the state at birth and adopted by her foster family. My kids see the older girls several times a year and keep in touch. Yes, you can foster to adopt. It does take longer. We adopted our son who’s birthmother surrendered him a couple of days after his second birthday. Our daughter was almost 4 1/2 and her brother was 2 yrs and 3 months old when their adoption was finalized. However, it didn’t cost us any money.

  20. hc says:

    We started fostering with the idea of adoption as a possibility, but also with the idea that we could be giving a parent the time they need to be able to work things out and be with their kid as a consistent parent. I think that is pretty awesome, actually. Everyone needs help sometime; some need more than others and some don’t haven’t had the same support in their lives as others.

    Although training in our state emphasizes that reunification is the goal, the subtext is foster-to-adopt, with all presentations by foster parents – in our training at least – being people who ended up adopting. Additionally, the dialog in the foster parent groups is almost dismissive of people who are fostering just to foster. It’s very interesting.

  21. Diane says:

    And even if you do adopt there is pain. We adopted 2 boys, then bios had 2 more. Fostered one 18 months then was reunified. The 6 yr old didn’t handle losing sister very well. In therapy. Trying to keep relationship with bio dad. Hard. Hard. Hard. Love those kiddos, but it requires counter-intuitive parenting techniques. Exhausting. Good article explaining the loss involved in gaining a child through fostering.

  22. Jasmine says:

    Thank you so much for this article and your points, I try to explain to families all the time that foster to adopt is not a thing and many times I get blank stares. Many parents decide to foster to be able to adopt a baby or a younger child and I try so hard to explain the pitfalls associated with that way of thinking. Loss and grief are huge with children whose parental rights have been terminated and while adopting is a wonderful thing, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies.

  23. Allistair P. says:

    This clickbait title and some of the rhetoric erases thousands of situations where reunification is dangerous and TPR has not happened yet. You are making your valuable point about emphasizing reunification off the backs of children and families. Without fost-adopt our child would have continued to languish in the system. This is sloppy and dangerous writing.

    • Hello Allistair,

      As someone who has only written for friends and family (and indeed his post was written from my phone while rocking our fosterling), I can assure you the title was and is not clickbait.

      Perhaps if you read past the title you will see that I absolutely advocate for adoption when RU is not possible.

      I wrote this because too many people view foster care as a risk free, one way ticket to a free baby. It simply doesn’t work like that MOST of the time.

      I am all for adoption. I can’t wait to adopt. But I don’t want to hear one more couple confused as to why RU happened when they thought they were a foster adopt only family.

      Thank you for reading and thank you for caring for kids from hard places!

  24. Steven says:

    My son was freed for adoption at the time we were matched. He was technically in foster care for 6 months before we could finalize. That period in NY was known as foster-to-adopt. So, although reunification is the goal of foster kids, at least in my state kids whose parental rights have been terminated and are placed in a new home are technically foster-to-adopt. He would never have been placed with me if my goal hadn’t been adoption. We had a social worker do monthly visits until we went to court.

  25. […] article originally appeared at She Rocks the Cradle. Want to read more unpopular opinions, follow our foster care and bio parenting journey, take a […]

  26. Joy Sauter says:

    I foster adopted. We became foster parents to adopt. Our first placement was 2 boys. We adopted them. So, my experience was different. I think each county is different. My boys were 1 and 2 and they were already in 2 foster homes. The court changed their goal from reunification to adoption. But our experience is not the norm. Our youngest, now 10 is severely disabled. Both boys have special needs.

  27. Thank you thank you thank you! Beautiful and perfectly said.

  28. Ashley says:

    With all due respect, my eyes popped out of my head reading, “So there are very few actual orphans in the United States.” As you tactfully replied to Liz, “I would love to see your sources on that … One can never learn too much.” Indeed. I think you should amend that part of your piece, as it is absolutely incorrect. Although in a later response, you mention this is not meant to be s scholarly, educational piece of writing, what you’ve written is completely inaccurate. I’m shocked you are a foster parent who has such limited understanding of the staggering number of US children who are, by definition, orphans.
    I bristled every time I read foster parents are needed who are “in it for the kids, not themselves … A fast way to get a free [baby].” I have this image of someone shouting out an apartment window, “Yo! They’re free!!! We’re taking a cruise with the money we saved!” Really!
    After an incredibly difficult five year period as FPs to three siblings, these kids were finally free to be adopted by us. Five. Years. By the way, our kids were in two previous foster homes before they were placed with us. So round up just a tad to a full six years in limbo – where do we live? Where do we belong? What does belonging even mean?

    It is absolutely true that being a “foster to adopt” parent does NOT guarantee you will be adopting the kids. I appreciate you making that point loud and clear. The term is used differently in different states. In our area, it is used as the expectation (not guarantee) of the agency, based on how the parents are doing on their case plan. (Not doing much or anything.) It was our experience that the courts and agency afforded the bio parents resources and lots of time to work on their case plan. The public agency MUST do all they can to assist the parents and I assure you, they did. Extensions for more time are given in 6 month increments. Hence the 5 plus years. Trust me, when the kids were told they were being adopted, they were truly happy! One son in particular went up to complete strangers in stores to say, “I’m getting adopted!” Of course, there is a sense of loss. Of course, it is tragic; it was tragic spent most of their childhoods not knowing where they belonged. We harbor no ill will toward the bio parents. But, we were the ones that held them as they screamed for years from night terrors and worse. We were the ones who bit our tongues when they told the kids they were “almost” coming home. We raised the kids for 5 years. (And it wasn’t because they were “free”!)
    One other thing – I think the tragedy started before parental rights were terminated. It started the moment the kids were placed in the foster care system; they were placed there because there was no one could be found in the family to take the kids. Or there were family members willing, but are “inappropriate” due to criminal backgrounds, etc. That speaks to tragic multi-generational issues; that was our experience.
    Thrilled Dr Karyn Purvis was mentioned. Wasn’t she the greatest? The gifted “child whisperer”! For anyone not familiar with her work, check out her talks on YouTube. She will give you hope and solid, do-able techniques based on real world experience for your foster kids or kids adopted from foster care.
    Judging by the number of ads on this blog, looks like you’re now writing for more than friends and family! Do keep rocking that baby and do tell us what is on your heart. I’m still rocking mine; they are 10, 11 and 13.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and input. Thank you all the more for caring for kids from hard places!

      (And those ads are paying WordPress! I don’t pay for the ad-free version, so they place ads all over the place. Alas, I make no money blogging. ;))

      • Ashley says:

        And those ads are paying WordPress! I don’t pay for the ad-free version, so they place ads all over the place. Alas, I make no money blogging. ;))

        Well, you should! Maybe that will change in the future. Good luck!

  29. VC says:

    This should be required reading for all foster parents, especially foster parents who volunteer to become foster parents when their true intention is to adopt. I am an attorney representing foster children, and having worked with thousands and thousands of children/families and actually knowing how the system works legally and practically for ALL the people involved, I can say that this article gets it spot on. People who want to adopt from foster care absolutely must, must, must keep the child’s best interests first and foremost, and that includes being selfless and fully, honestly supporting reunification and biological parents while keeping an open heart and being willing to step in and provide permanency if it doesn’t work out with bio mom or dad.

    Thank you for writing this article. This is something that I wish a lot of my young clients’ foster parents would understand.

  30. I am so impressed with your article and the perspective you offer in it. I agree with you completely. After practicing for 11 years as a child welfare attorney for foster children and 9 years as an adoption attorney, I realize that there is a bittersweet aspect to every adoption. While we can rejoice in an adoption for a child in need it is still the result of a disruption in what could have been. A piece of that child broken. I run a nonprofit now and I LOVE the foster families that we work with but it always gives me pause when I hear a foster family working against loving biological parents because they want to adopt. To be sure it is the most painful position for a foster family so I have compassion for them too. Thank you for your humility and the love you show to the kids in your care.

  31. mary brown says:

    I have thought for years ‘foster to adopt’ is a conflict of interest – and the child is smack in the middle of the foster family and the bio parents. How to foster parents work against the parents? By making snide comments, comparing themselves to the child’s parents, or even worse, telling the child the parents ‘don’t want them’ or they’d get their stuff together. I see on some FB sites hundreds of foster parents trashing the bio parents. One was even a state senator from Oklahoma, making comments that the kinship relatives ‘smelled and she felt she needed a shower’. I can’t help but think, how many parents FAIL because of attitudes from the foster parents.

    • Ashley says:

      Wow, that’s lot of FBk reading!
      Since you see have read these outrageous things, I suggest you contact the county office where these ya-hoo foster parents are trashing the bio parents, etc. These comments should be reported to the Social Services agency. If the FPs are dense enough to write their comments, one wonders if they have the most basic sense to care for a child who has no one to step forward to care for him/her.

      I’m not sure where you live or how familiar with the process you are. The foster parents have no – repeat – NO -legal rights over the child. The AGENCY had to go to a judge to get temporary custody of the kids. Their job is to care for the kids, take them to whatever appts the county requires. FPs are pretty powerless in the whole nightmarish process.
      The bio parents and the social worker make a case plan, detailing what must be changed. The plan also must include HOW the agency has helped the bios complete the plan. (They can’t say -“Get a job.” They will help you find a job.)
      There is no big mystery here. There were very compelling reasons the kids were removed from the bio home.
      With respect, I’ll just say it sounds like you were hurt somewhere in this system & I’m sorry.
      I’ll also add that we had a cordial relationship with the BPs.
      Best wishes to you.

  32. […] and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician […]

  33. gsmwc02 says:

    While I agree with most of this piece the one part I disagree with is that someone who Fosters must love that child. From what I understand a Foster Parent is a provider. They aren’t family. Their role is to provide a safe temporary home for that child(ren). If anything providing love and having an attachment with that child I would think makes reunification harder and confusing to a child if they go back with their parents.

    • Unfortunately, if you do not love that child s/he may not be able to form attachments down the line. It is essential that you show them love so they can love others.

      • gsmwc02 says:

        But that’s not the role of a Foster Parent. Essentially they are supposed to be providers. Not that they should be abusive because that’s wrong but their role isn’t to provide love or a bond.

  34. Wendy says:

    I could have written this!… coming from a “foster to adopt” mom! No truer words could be said. After many placements we were honored to adopt two little girls …one in 2009 and one in 2010. It is a journey in process and I wish we would have started this journey earlier in life to be able to adopt more children.
    My advice after 8 years of fostering to adopt in the state system… have a strong relationship with your spouse first,your Family Support helps, and watch the pecking order!☺

  35. Jane says:

    I see it as a means to an end. We had 20-something kids we intemded to keep and the result was that all of them were blessed by being covered in prayer for whatever path they went on. We finally adopted one boy that wasn’t at all what we dreamed of, but God has some bigger plans for us than we knew. Please keep up your hope and know that every child you dress, feed and hug is being tremendously blessed with moments of love that can be memories for a lifetime.

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