According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, of the over 400,000 U.S.children are currently in foster care, and about 25% will be there for more than three years. Many never find homes at all. But a new kind of foster care program may be changing this. TIME magazine..
recently did a piece on St. Louis based foster care agency that “might pave the way to revolutionalize the foster care system in America.”
It is the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, Extreme Recruitment, which specializes in finding homes for the toughest foster kids—kids older than 10, kids with special needs, sibling groups, and African Americans.
They not only have a placement rate of 70% but find homes for kids in a fraction of the time these kinds of placements usually take. How? They have a coordination team that includes “detectives” who track down potential adoptive relatives. The team also includes a social worker, case worker, an educational advocate, therapist, and court-appointed special advocate. These professionals have traditionally been involved in the placement of foster kids, but have not coordinated so well. Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition makes team coordination a required part of the process.
But the detectives are the most interesting innovation. The organization believes that having contact with family is critical to a child’s identity, so tries to find family and extended family members first. And in many cases, there is a family member who ends up taking the child.
Not all cases end in “family” adoption, but the organization does not see this as a failure. “Ideally the child still develops relationships with family members without them living with them, and receives the family’s blessing for nonkinship adoption, thereby surmounting the uneasiness about disloyalty that can cause teens in particular to claim they don’t want to be adopted.”
As someone who decided she does not want to become a parent, learning about this kind of foster program gave me pause. What if one of the detectives knocked on my door one day and told me I had a relative I did not know about that was in foster care and needed a home? I would likely want to meet the child, but would I take him/her if I were the only family that could?
Of course it would depend on a number of factors, but I can’t say I would outright say “no” to parenthood under these conditions. Now, more than likely, I would become what I am to my godchildren—the kid’s loving, wacky aunt —and I’d ensure the child went to the right kinship or nonkinship home. But given the situation, maybe never say never?
What do you imagine you would do if that knock came to your door?
My husband and I have always maintained that on the off-chance that the switch flipped for us in the future and we suddenly decide we want children, our first course of action would be adoption, and likely the adoption of an older child. I am a huge supporter of the foster system (we’re in Canada, so I can’t relate our system to your article, but I am pleased with the progress that is being made and the family adoptions that are happening in the US). My grandmother, who had 7 children and 15 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren of her own, always had a steady stream of foster kids under her wing, and even ended up adopting one troubled kid who is now my uncle!
When it comes to people struggling to conceive and looking at other options, I’ve always been frustrated with the entire concept of IVF, and the concept of parents being dead set on “OUR BIOLOGICAL BABY” as being the only option. I find it a selfish attitude, when there are SO MANY (400,000!) kids out there without homes. Why isn’t someone else’s baby as good as one’s own? I guess the IVFers are firmly on the nature side of the nature vs nurture debate?
I know my opinions of IVF and adoption are inflammatory, and I don’t express them often except behind firmly closed doors, but I am a huge advocate for adoption – I wish it was an option that more people thought long and hard about when deciding if or when to start or add to their families.
That is such a tough question.
It would depend on so many factors – What does my spouse think? How old is child or children? Do they have any physically or mental health problems that would prevent them from living independently as adults? Would the rest of our families support us (emotionally, not financially)?
I could see myself saying yes in certain circumstances and no in others. Even if I wasn’t able to provide a permanent home for them, though, I would be very interested in being a part of their lives through visits, emotional support, email/picture exchanges and mentoring.
Adoption or permanent guardianship are wonderful things but there are many other ways to help someone in this situation!
That’s probably the only exception I would make to my “no kids ever” rule. I have no interest in seeking out adoption. But if someone knocked on my door saying they have a relative of mine, and no one else will take them in, I don’t think I could say “No,” and put them back in foster care. Perhaps it’s wrong or inconsistent of me to say “No,” to a non-relative who needs a home but “Yes,” to a relative. My family’s genes aren’t any more special or worthy of love than anyone else’s. Maybe it’s no more “wrong” to say “No” to a distant cousin than it is to say “No” to a nonrelative. Still, isn’t that what families are supposed to do? To take you in when the rest of the world casts you aside?
Christine, Lydia and Liz, I agree with so much of what all three of you say! ~L
I was adopted, and I think not enough people who want kids seriously think about this option.
That being said, I’ve never wanted kids, and I don’t know how much I’d appreciate a detective knocking on my door asking me to take in an orphaned relative. Would I take them in? I think I would feel terribly obligated, which may make me a little resentful. However, I think that would depend on what the other people have already commented. It would depend on whether my husband and I could afford it, or could put in the time. We’re pretty isolated from both of our families. If we took in a child, we’d really be taking care if him/her on our own with no emotional support base.
EXCELLENT! It makes me sad, mad and perplexed when people who want kids and can’t have them don’t adpot or foster because so many kids without homes are desperate for parents. Not that this approach pairs that scenario up, but thank goodness someone found a way to coordinate it to track down extended family to give these kids a sort of sense of place and belonging. What a positive story to share!