Brief article about adopting special needs children; Adopting Through Foster Care
Adopting Through Foster Care
What does it mean to adopt through the foster care system? It means hard work, lots of unknowns, and making a difference. Many of the children have had little stability in their lives. They have come into the system due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Often their family history is filled with addiction, mental health issues, and tragedy. They are hurting and are among societies most vulnerable. What the children need is a family to call their own. A family willing to face challenges with them, provide for their basic needs, and stay with them even when the going is rough. All members of the household must be on board with this decision. Children in the home need to have an understanding of why their parents are choosing to do this. They must have an age appropriate vested interest in making this successful too.
What is meant by special needs? Children may be described to have special needs when they are: Older than age 5; Part of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together; Have a trauma history; or are identified with physical, developmental, or emotional delays/disabilities. It is important to remember, they are not damaged goods, and must not be treated as such. They are children. They have needs and they can heal. They need love, attention, understanding, and a safe environment in which to grow. They need a family willing and able to commit to them for a life time.
Special Needs Adoption is not for everyone. If you are not willing or able to fully commit and love unconditionally then do not attempt it. You may say, “Of course I could and would do that.” Think about it carefully. A child steals from you, lies to you, kicks you and calls you names. A teenager or young adult does drugs, says “F…. You!”, and tests every limit there is. This wonderful child broke in to several area businesses and is facing 3 or more felony charges. Are you loving them unconditionally now? Are you still committed? Or are you going to give up and washing your hands of the situation? These are the true tests, not for the faint of heart. To commit will also mean not taking things personally and finding humor whenever possible. Remember, even children born to us biologically come with no guarantees and their own packet of issue toos. No matter how they come to us, we do not get instruction manuals. Many times we learn as we go and do the best we can.
Often in foster parent trainings much is left unsaid. Why? Most likely because those doing the trainings don’t want to scare perspective parents off. This is understandable. It can also dangerous. Dreams get dashed this way. Hearts get broke. They share there may be tough times, but it isn’t like living it. Know, up front, even when we do things right, it may not be enough or it may not seem like enough. When engaging in Special Needs Adoptions it is important to persevere. Individuals must know their limitations prior to making this commitment. They must be willing to make mistakes, learn, and grow. Please, don’t be foolish, know when to ask for help! Have a plan in place ahead of time. Don’t wait for a crisis. And be flexible. No matter how good we may be at parenting, we can all use help now and again. It is also important to remember we may not see the benefits of our invested efforts until years down the road, if ever.
So why do it? Good question. There is a whole other side to this adventure. The rewards are not of a financial or material nature. They are not often recognized by others. If anything, you may be considered crazy, foolish, or stupid. The rewards are not always tangible either. Think about it this way, with biological children we celebrate their learning to crawl, take first steps, learn first words and more. With children that come to us through adoption it may be seeing a first smile; getting a quick hug; or a teenager throwing a necklace at you which was bought as a yard sale, saying “Here, this is for you,” then they turn and walk away. These are just a few possibilities. Although we can’t “save them all”, we can do our part. Yes, I have been called crazy, I have been blamed from those outside of the family and within, and I have at times cried my eyes out. What I know with all my heart is that I have made a difference in the lives of the children brought to me and in the world. That is my reward. I am thankful to have had this opportunity. Through it I too have grown, not my intended purpose, but a bonus.