Prepare Yourself Emotionally
Parents who seek to adopt through the foster care system are the true saints in the U.S. child welfare system. They place a child's needs above not only their convenience, but also their emotions. When you become a foster parent who is seeking to adopt, you can fall in love with a beautiful baby, a baby you want with every fiber of your being, a baby whom you're positive belongs with you. Yet your responsibility is to stand by and say goodbye to that child if she is reunited with her parents. As difficult as this is, you have the satisfaction of knowing you provided a stable home for a child who desperately needed one. Even though that child moves on, you have made a lasting impression on her.
There is certainly nothing easy about being a foster parent or a foster/adopt parent. Those that do it do so because they deeply believe it is an important job that benefits everyone in our society, and that they're strong enough to do it.
If you are considering foster care or a foster care adoption, you must prepare yourself emotionally. There are no guarantees and you may become bonded to a child who will not be staying with you. If you are not sure if you would like to adopt a foster care child, you can first become a foster parent and experience what the system is like and what the children are like who are in it. This allows you to get your feet wet and make a difference without entering into a permanent arrangement.
If you sign up to be licensed as foster/adopt, you agree to put yourself in an emotionally precarious position for the sake of children. Sometimes, the birth parents fulfill court-ordered requirements and are reunited with their children; however, a large proportion of those reunions fail. A child you are bonded to may be sent back to her original home, and it's also possible she will end up back in foster care again at a later date.
Another risk in foster/adopt situations is that a suitable biological family member will be found and the child will be removed from your home and placed there. This can happen even if you've had the child for a year or more. Although the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 attempts to guarantee that children under five are “temporary” for no more than six to eight months (exact time varies by state), lack of sufficient personnel to conduct home studies and the fact that parents sometimes move to other states to try to find a friendlier judge all contribute to stretching out the time.
When considering the best interest of the child, some courts rule in favor of allowing the child to stay with the parent figure with whom the child has developed a trusting attachment, this frequently being the foster parents. It is important for foster/adopt parents to understand that this is not the norm or most common outcome of court rulings regarding permanent placement.
The Court of Appeals of Ohio affirmed a trial court's decision that awarded legal custody to foster parents rather than a qualified relative. The court held that considerations related to stability and continuity of care were overriding factors, even though both parties seeking legal custody appeared to be suitable custodians. This case is important because in general, relatives are given priority over foster parents, even when the foster parents have a deep bond with the child. In cases like these, the compelling factor is often not whether the foster parent or relative is more committed to the child, but whether the child has formed a secure attachment with the foster parent.