Our birth children were very supportive of the idea of adoption, and our only daughter put in a request for a sister. The first step in learning about adoption was to take classes for all prospective foster and adoptive parents. The county wants to make sure prospective parents know what they are getting themselves into, because the worst thing for a child removed from home of their birth parents, is a failed adoption.
After fingerprinting and a background check, we then attended classes. The county tries to prepare prospective parents for adoption realities by informing them of every possible really horrible thing that could happen, and were so effective that we took two months afterwards to think and talk about what we had learned.
It is addiction and the accompanying neglect that results in so many children ending up in the foster care system. Active abuse is often inflicted upon the child by those involved in their care. Hunger, uncertainty, fear, and violence fill the life of a child removed to the foster care system. Dependence upon others is not seen as an option by these children. Children in the system have learned that they cannot depend upon adults, and the system designed to help them severs the fragile relationships that they still value. The result is a condition known as attachment disorder.
Family is the first option for foster care. The fortunate child will end up in the care of a grandparent. These foster parents also go through the classes, and learn more about what their grandchild may have experience, and learn ways to deal with emotional damage the child carries. Grandparents, like all foster parents, receive legal status as the primary caregiver for the child, jointly with the county, while fostering the child. Because separation from a birth parent is so traumatic, the primary goal of foster care is to reunify the child with the birth family. Foster parents often become mentors for birth parents, with the goal of reuniting the child’s family.
But often the effort to reunite the child with its birth family is not possible. Some parents are so involved with their addictions that they willingly sign away their parental rights. Certain crimes resulting in jail for the parent may cause the court to sever the parent’s rights. It can take up to two years to prepare these children for adoption.
The ground rules are simple.
1) The commitment to become a parent through adoption is permanent once you introduce yourself to your child. There is no turning back, no changing your mind. There are some cases where adoptions fail, but these are extreme situations, and very rare.
2) Never strike the child. No spanking, slap, swat, etc. What the child has experienced is far beyond anything a reasonable person would ever consider. Corporal punishment would only reinforce the view that adults cannot be trusted, and violence is the way to get people to do what you want. While persuasion is often difficult and time-consuming is it the way to win trust and respect.
3) Never leave your child alone. The child has been self-reliant for a long time already, and bonding takes time together. An older child will see this constant attention as a lack of trust. Trust of each other will come with time, but first parent and child must learn about each other. An abused child will not understand healthy expression of affection, so go slowly.