|by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
With the economy in turmoil and the opportunities to adopt children from other countries tightening, National Adoption Month comes at a difficult time this year. If you are considering adoption, the foster care system could provide an attractive alternative.
International adoption costs the average American $11,325-$23,275, according to www.adoption.com, with secondary costs potentially adding thousands more. Adoption through the foster care system, on the other hand, actually pays the adoptive family a stipend.
“Foster care isn’t for everyone,” says Laura Fox, a Delaware Valley foster parent. “You really get a feel for just what so many of our nation’s children live through. Much of it is so sad, yet
Laura and her husband Joel finished foster parent training in April 2006. They were called two weeks later with their first placement, an unborn baby due in June. That baby has their last name today after a transition from foster care to adoption.
Any child from birth to age 18 can be removed from the home and placed into protective custody if the home is deemed unable to safely provide the needs of the child. Some unfit homes have had their utilities shut off, some are roach-infested and some are only inhabited by an adult periodically.
Many children are left to fend for themselves at a very young age. Some are abused physically, emotionally and sexually. Some are addicted to drugs at birth and some have mental and emotional deficiencies due to poor prenatal care and/or genetic disorders.
All of the children are starving for someone to love them and to fulfill basic needs. Most of these kids will always love their birth parents and have an innate loyalty to them regardless of what their home life was like, which can make the transition into foster care a rocky one.
Foster parents are trained thoroughly and must become licensed. Training includes how to make the child’s transition smooth. The process also involves substantial paperwork, child abuse and criminal background checks and a home study. Families can specify which age group they prefer, from infants all the way to teenagers.
After placement, foster parents usually receive an initial sum for expenses such as clothing, school supplies and toiletries, and for infants, formula and diapers. The county then issues foster parents a monthly check based on a scale that includes medical and other factors. In a typical county, the stipend for a child who needs little to no medical or psychological attention may be $17 per day; a teen who needs extensive therapy or a newborn with medical issues may receive $30 per day.
If the foster parents decide to adopt the child, court costs and legal fees to finalize the adoption are covered. After adoption, smaller monthly payments continue until the child reaches age 18.
A biological child can have issues with a stranger moving into her home. Says foster mom Lori Rohrbach, “We have all learned to be extra compassionate. My husband and I learned what big hearts our biological children have.”
County foster care coordinators assist with the transition and usually will come to the home and speak to the family if asked.
Later, visits sometimes become unsupervised sessions in the child’s home. Reunification can occur if the biological parents complete their court-ordered counseling and random testing, parenting classes or therapy.
If the children returns home, it can be hard on the foster parents. “Giving them back can be very difficult sometimes,” says foster mom Wanda VanRaden.
“When they leave my home, they are usually too young to remember me. But I still know that I have made an impact on their lives.” Many foster families keep in touch with children who have passed through their lives.
Foster Care to Adoption
Thousands of kids, from
infants to teens, need
homes. About half