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The history of the concept of Foster to Adopt & why it's not all bad.

As foster and adoptive mama’s, we live often in the tension.

The tension of wanting kids but also knowing that getting more kids will mean a family will fall apart for that to happen.

There’s been a lot of chatter about “foster to adopt” language that’s used and how wrong this is. And about our foster or adoptive children’s biological family.

Let’s dive into this concept shall we.

I should preface this article to say I’ve seen both sides of foster care. I’ve worked as a child and youth worker and a family support worker for private foster care agencies. And I’ve personally fostered and adopted.

“Foster to Adopt” was an initiative here in Canada that began with actually really good intentions. The idea behind the term was that each child would have one placement, one home while in care. You see at the time there was a lot of families who felt called into foster care but not into adoption. So children were placed in a foster home, whichever home said yes first and had an available bed. And then after their parents rights were terminated a worker would find out that the family they were with had no intentions of adoption. They would have to find an adoptive home and then the child who was bonded and attached to this family would be moved to another one. As we learned more and more about attachment and the damage that a removal is to a child, a better plan was needed. (I know that foster care in the US also uses the term "Foster to Adopt" and I believe it's likely for similar reasons. I will speak to the Canadian system since that's what I'm familiar with).

Now foster parents, in Canada who wish to adopt must be willing to foster. And foster parents must be willing to adopt. The best plan and the plan that is always concurrent is that the child is actually able to go home or go with birth family. But if that plan is deemed not safe for the child than they don’t have to move again.

I remember working in the field as these changes were taking place. And I do think that the changes were necessary and were a step in the right direction.

But foster to adopt parents should still be on the side of the biological family. They should still be rooting for them to go home. That should always be the goal of the foster care system.

Where do we go wrong then? What is the problem with the concept of foster to adopt?

I think the problem lies when we have prospective families that only want to use children’s services as a private adoption agency without the fees. They miss the entire point of what foster care is all about.

Foster care is about reunification. It’s about keeping families in tact.

Above your desire to grow your family.

Above your desire to adopt.

Above your desire to “help a child”.

And I think agencies need to do a better job at training prospective families on how many kids do go home and how to best work with biological families. It’s not us vs. them. And that mentality needs to change.

Let’s be about family preservation. Above all else.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and they were talking about how devastating it will be when their child is old enough to find their biological family and be curious about who they are. Where have we gone so wrong in our training? How heartbreaking it is to be that child raised in a family with that mentality.

Kids should have the answers to their questions.

Who do I look like? Why did I come into care? Whose personality do I take after? Why was I given up for adoption?

Adoptive parents shouldn’t fear giving them the space to find those answers. How dare you expect your child to be adopted and never question their biological family. Their adoption story. How could you lose your entire family when you were so young and not be curious about who they are and what they look like?

When I was a young adoptive mama and still learning about early trauma, I used to worry about what would happen when my kids turned eighteen. And then I heard the song, Roots and Wings. And I realized my job was to give my kids deep roots so they could have wings to fly when they are older.

And that may include developing relationships with their biological family.

I’m secure enough in my role as their parent now, to give them roots in the future.

We have to do better. We have to care about biological family more. We have to recognize that every adoption is full of loss.

You didn’t save your child, but if you pay attention, your child just may save you from your outdated opinions on adoption and biological family.

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