Probably one of the most mind-numbingly obtuse excuses anti-marriage equality advocates have for opposing same sex couples getting married is that same sex couples “can’t procreate naturally”. They say that like it’s a bad thing.
They say it as if we are deeply afraid our population is dwindling and that rampant heterosexuality is not doing its job. Well, the bumper-to-bumper traffic I just went through says that it is.
Of course, it is not true that same sex couples are unable to procreate. We are fully capable of procreating with the help of surrogacy, or we can also pursue private adoption, which, while not biological procreation, is pro- creation of a family.
Another way allows same sex couples to be pro-creative of a family and help others. That is foster care/adoption. A number of weeks ago, I mentioned this societal benefit in an article about why Christians should support gay marriage. One of the reasons was to save disenfranchised children .
Both of my sons came into my family from foster care. For that alone, I owe the system a debt that I will never, ever be able to repay. There are over 100,000 children in the system that can be adopted instantly (and those adoption avoid some of the “reasons not to” below), and there are over 300,000 that are in foster care whose cases could lead to adoption. I do not wish to imply that the road through foster care is a cakewalk. It is daunting at times, but doable.
Here are five reasons that might make you not want to pursue this avenue. If you are discouraged from it, and It certainly is not for everyone, then you should not do it. No harm, no foul.
Foster care/adoption was the way for me. There are possibly some children out there that are hoping that it is the way for you as well. Here, however, are the reasons to avoid it:
(Disclosure: This is based on my experience in the California system. Other systems and your experience are likely to vary.)
- Paperwork and Training: The paperwork to get into the system, and the bureaucracy around it makes the IRS look fun by comparison. The paper work then leads to training classes. While those seem to be a nuisance and unrequired from other means of having children, I am of the opinion that training for parenthood is a good thing. You have to take classes and pass examines to operate a car, to operate another human being’s life should require nothing less.
- You will be judged: Then social workers check you out. The fear of their judgment is usually worse than the reality—they won’t care how you dust, or fold laundry, even though before their visit, you will run around doing both. Where you will be judged, and will have to fight the temptation to fight back , is from the birth parents. These are scared, angry and often defensive people who are on the verge of losing their children, for good reason. They often need a target at which to lash. It can easily be you.
- You will have no rights: When going to court for the birth parent’s case there are lots of lawyers. The birth parent has one (often a public defender), the state has one (the child is technically their ward), the child has one. YOU…do not have one. It can be frustrating, but the way to navigate is to maintain a good and cooperative relationship with your child’s representative and the one from the state.
- Your strength of character will be tested: Your child in many cases will be in need of emotional healing. Sometimes this plays out through bad behavior. Your good intentions are foreign and even though healthy, may not be embraced immediately or in the way you hope and expect. The process will demand patience and determination to get through. The process also demands that you care enough for a child who may become your permanent adoptive child, but also that you are lovingly detached enough to let go if the birth parent is successful in completing their reunification requirements. The system was designed to protect and be optimal for the child, which unfortunately may require super human qualities from the foster parent.
- You may have your heart broken: There are cases where the birth parent is a good person who made mistakes, gets their act together and everyone, including you, is cheering at their success in getting their child back. There are cases where the birth parent is so blatantly incapable of caring for the child that everyone knows that it is not a matter of if, but of when, that the child will be yours. The hardest cases are the ones in the middle. It is those where you have to give a child you have come to adore back to go into a situation with a parent that was successful in their requirements, but that you do not trust. You have to let go, and hope for the best.
There are the potential risks. They are not universal, and as I said before, they can vary. For some people, those reasons are enough to run. For other people who recognize that they can do it, here are even greater reasons to “go for it”, starting from the lesser reason to the best one:
5. There is no more economically reasonable way to start a family: Your adoption comes to you without the charges of private adoption. There is no surrogate to pay, there are no hospital costs. If this is your only reason for adopting through foster care, you need to re-think your motivation, but as a starter, it is at least a small reward for what it took to get there.
4. You will be doing probably the best thing you ever did in your life: Looking for purpose? A reason to feel good about yourself? There is virtually none better than this. While other parents are creating a life that would not be here, you are saving a life that would have died without you. You are taking a child who had no hope for a happy productive life and giving them a viable future. There are very few accomplishments that you could hope to have that measure up to this one.
3. It will change who you are: You will be somebody’s dad or mom. You will be indelible. Priceless. Wait until they call you that name for the first time… then call me and tell me if I was wrong.
2. Love will have new meaning: Before I had my kids, I romantically theorized about a man I would “die for”. Once I had them, I knew truly and deeply what that kind of love really meant. I truly was unaware that it was possible to love other human beings this completely with every ounce of my being.
And, most importantly:
- It will change your life forever: Whoever you thought you were, whoever you think you will be… this adventure will change you into a better you. You will not be a person, you will be a family. Life won’t necessarily always be easy, but it promises to always be interesting, enriched and ultimately… worth it.
When I was considering this choice in my own life, I decided to make a “pros” and “cons” list. I started with the “cons”. Was I too old? How would I afford college? Terrible twos? Teens with car keys? The list went on. Then I made the “pros” list. I wrote the first one down: “the look of my child’s eyes on Christmas morning”. I stopped and looked at it.
I heard the noise of paper being tightly crumpled. It was the “cons” list in my other hand.
Want to know more? Check out your local agency, or see the Raise A Child Facebook page. If you are in northern or southern California, or New York City, please check out the information events here.
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Wonderful article. I really enjoyed reading your points. I have adopted seven children through the foster care systems in both New Mexico and California and indeed almost every experience was different. I do have three siblings that were from the same birthparents. Each one of my children as a source of joy and pride and love. Allof my children are special needs children, and they are the best thing that’s ever happened in my life, they’ve made me a mom, we are a family.
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I took on two 11 year olds about a year apart, and while it was the hardest and most painful thing I have ever chosen, it was still worth it. My worst fear, outside of death or illness for my children, was that they would choose the lifestyle of their birth parents, specifically meth. Unfortunately that is exactly what they have chosen for themselves at this point. Watching the children I have lived for become adults I don’t know has made me question every single choice I’ve made, every single parenting decision, and ultimately I always come back to one idea. I gave them a stable, safe, loving relationship with a parent. No matter what they choose, or how they end up, they will always know that one person looked at them and said “You are worth it” and then showed them it was true by trying to show up in their lives every single day. I went in to parenting high-risk kids with my eyes wide open, and I came out of it with a heart that’s been shattered in a hundred different ways, and over and over I always come back to the fact that I gave them something invaluable, and I am a richer human being because of it. Knowing how this part turns out, and knowing that all the tools I tried to instill are being pushed to the side in favor of the coping skills of their birth parents, I would still choose it again, over and over. Every human being deserves a safe and loving beginning, and I feel humbled and grateful that I got the chance to help two fellow humans have theirs.
Such a great post! I had to read it twice. c:
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Great post – wholeheartedly agree. We have adopted 3 children via the California Foster System. What you didn’t mention however, is the fact that sometimes, things can go very wrong post adoption and the new parents are left with very few resources. Once the adoption is final, all of the promised support and help sometimes disappear. In California, all children in foster care are classified as special needs adoptions. This gives them some financial support until age 18. But, in our case, our oldest (adopted at age 6) has a serious psychiatric disorder that was not disclosed to us nor obviously evident (the diagnosis was tricky). CPS knew….they lied. I am talking about Reactive Attachment Disorder and every parent who is contemplating adoption needs to understand this disorder and how devastating it can be to the child and the family. In our case, it became a family safety issue after years of living with locked cabinets, doors, video cameras, etc. It turned our lives into a nightmare, but one which we felt we were called to see through. So many of the parents with children with RAD don’t understand that these children do not form bonds with their birth family and live in a constant “survival mode”. Recently, one parent of a RAD child that we are friends with was murdered by her child. I know many more that have had their child attempt to kill them. I’m no saying this to scare people — just so that they really look at the risk factors of the child having this disorder and to go into the situation with their eyes wide open. You can’t LOVE RAD away. No amount of regular parenting skills work or prepare you for this type of parenting. In our case, our child went to a residential program and remains there today. The costs of this are not always covered by the state and can exceed $12,000/month. Our other two children are absolute success stories — both well bonded and incredibly resilient kids. I wouldn’t trade ANY of my kids for the world, but it has been a very rough road with our oldest.
Eyes WIDE open – very good advice. Because RAD is also one of those things where recognizing it early and getting help can make a HUGE difference. And the workers and ‘professionals’ might be in denial at first, too, so you might have to really ADVOCATE for your child!
As someone who choose to have my right to have children removed due to a medical condition and constantly being told by the doctors I was too young to do so. My answer was if things change, I will go through the adoption route… give a child a home who needs one, rather than bring another into the world. For me adoption and fostering is far more beneficial, caring and productive than reproducing for the sake of it
Beautifully written and so informative. I’m sharing it on my Facebook page!
I too have adopted in the California system, three times, and each one was a completely different experience. The one thing to keep in mind is that when you go for your initial interview you can insist that you only take low risk children whose parent rights have already been terminated and thereby negate some of the risks you mention.
Adoption is the most amazing life fulfilling thing I have ever done and I tell my story to whomever will listen.
Great points smrisme. Congratulations on your adoptions. One additional advantage to the foster care route to family is that you can specify what you are equipped to handle both in the nature of the child’s case, age group and situation. Your specifications can determine how easily you can be matched with existing cases, but no one should be placed in a situation you can’t handle.
In the case of children whose birth parents are receiving the reunification process, even though it is difficult for the foster parents, it is potentially the best for the child. While their situation legally can go from custody of their birth parent who endangered them, to ward of the state, to prospective adoptee, to fully adopted– they only know and bond with one set of parents. Depending on their age (especially if they are newborn), the other is unrelated to their bonding and emotional development. When I went through it, focusing on what was best for my sons helped keep me sane :). (A relative term!)
This is a great post. Way to grab attention by telling people not to do something ;). This, in particular, is beautiful and thought-provoking: A number of weeks ago, I mentioned this societal benefit in an article about why Christians should support gay marriage. One of the reasons was to save disenfranchised children .
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