“But are you going to adopt her?” The question I anticipate with both glee in hopes of educating and dread because of the response the educating will bring.
The short answer is no, but the follow up questions that come are as predictable as flies landing on feces.
“Did you not want her?”
“Does he have ‘issues’?”
“Oh you’re planning on sending her home? Is that a… good thing?”
“Is someone else going to adopt him? Can I adopt him?”
“Don’t you think he would be better off with you than his parents?”
Adoption is viewed by the general public as the ultimate goal in the foster care process. The last, but most important part. The beautiful part. The happy part. The “living the dream” part. It is because of this that I have begun to become hugely outspoken in my defense of fostering to reunify. I feel like some sort of wild and fanatic preacher on the topic that everyone looks sideways at.
No, there are no reunifying parties, there are no special pictures with the judge and a stuffed animal signifying a child’s return home. There are few viral posts that number a child’s days in foster care, followed not by an adoption announcement, but by a reunification announcement.
And foster parents? Well I’m here to tell you that personally, I don’t want accolades. (In fact, I think it’s weird when people give them.) But! Foster parents are often portrayed as people who want to soak money out of a crappy system in order to furnish the high life (and all the foster parents being paid a dollar and 14 cents an hour laughed a great laugh!) while adoptive parents are seen as selfless saviors rescuing a child from an evil drug addict.
Listen, let’s cut to the chase. When I smile and answer your question with a “No, we aren’t adopting. The purpose of foster care is always reunification unless (and only unless) it is deemed too unsafe for a child to return home. So it’s actually a really great thing that his parents are doing so well and working so hard to get him back.” And you give me a bewildered and disappointed look because I am not adopting this “poor child”, it kinda makes me wanna scream until that sympathetic look off your face disappears.
Let’s hear it again: THE 📢 GOAL 📢 OF📢 FOSTER CARE📢 IS📢 REUNIFICATION.
I don’t care if I sound like a cult leader by saying it, I don’t care if I make you uncomfortable by beating this drum, I don’t care if it doesn’t fit your perfect world narrative.
Children belong with their families (full stop.)
When that is not a safe option, then adoption becomes a necessary part of that story. It is the fail safe, not the modus operandi.
End note: Before you come at me defensively with why your adoption is justified, or sharing that your friend had to adopt because the child’s mother was a crack dealer, you’ve missed the point. This post is not to degrade adoption— I am thankful for adoption. Adoption is a very important fail safe. This point of this post is to educate those unfamiliar with the system on what the actual point of the foster care system is about.