Someone had the balls to ask me this recently… “Do you think you’ll be able to love an adopted kid as much as you would love a biological kid?”
And here’s another comment I got a couple weeks ago… “Are you only fostering kids because you’ll get paid to foster?”
I was afraid of questions like this.
In fact, questions like this are the reason I haven’t shared many details about our foster/adopt journey… Sharing my feelings means I’m open to possible scrutiny, so my natural reaction is just to avoid talking about it completely.
But it just hit me… Maybe people ask these questions BECAUSE I’m not sharing my thoughts and feelings enough. 🤷♂️ To clear any confusion, maybe it’s better that I share more info, not less.
So, let’s talk about it.
Here’s some more background info on me and my wife’s overall mission, experience so far, and what we’ve learned on our path to becoming adoptive parents. I’m happy to answer any and all questions — but please remember I’m still learning myself and certainly not an expert on social services, or parenting in general!
**To be fair, I should also tell you we’ve received a large number of positive and encouraging comments/questions around fostering and adoption. The good feedback greatly outweighs the bad, so thank you to everyone who has been supportive. 🙏🙏🙏**
Why We’re Exploring the Foster → Adopt Route Instead of Having Our Own Kids
Do you know how many children are in the U.S. foster care system right now?… I think the number is around 400,000. That’s a lot of kids!
Do you know why these kids are in foster care?… It’s because their family is going through a crisis, and they need help. For whatever reason, these kids need a safe home to stay in while the Dept of Child & Family Services tries to figure out a path to strengthen and reunify the original family.
Sadly, sometimes reunification with the original family isn’t possible… About 75% of kids return back to their biological parents after foster care, and about 25% or so need to find a new home, permanently.
The main reason my wife and I want to adopt is to be part of the help. We want to be parents but never felt a strong urge to birth kids of our own. Knowing that there are already children out there who need a home, we think helping existing families is a win/win path vs. bringing new kids into the world.
I personally think kids are miracles, no matter how they come into your life. And I will wholeheartedly love whoever comes into my family, genetically or otherwise.
BTW — none of this adoption stuff was an “all of a sudden” decision. My wife and I have talked about the possibility of adoption ever since we got married, but mostly light conversations. Then last year I thought there’s no harm in taking a few steps forward, just to learn more and see if we have what it takes.
My thinking was that we could start the application process, expand our knowledge, talk to other experienced Resource Families and see where it leads. If we ever got too scared and didn’t think we could handle it, no worries, we could just back out of the process…
Well, it’s been about 18 months and nothing has scared us off so far! In fact, we’re finding that the deeper we get into the system, the more excited we are about helping these kids.
Foster Care System vs. Private Adoption Agencies
There are a few different ways you can adopt kids…
Private adoption agencies typically match domestic infants with adoptive parents. The process is shorter, can be quite expensive, and placements usually happen immediately when the baby is born.
International adoption is when you bring kids to the U.S. from overseas. It can also be quite expensive and a long process because several governments are involved in approvals, as well as overseas travel.
Then there’s the U.S. foster care system (my wife and I are going this route), which as I mentioned earlier has the primary goal of reunification first. But, for the kids who need to find new permanent homes, this is when adoption is possible. These are the kids that we’d like to help.
There is no right or wrong path to adoption, each process has its pros and cons. Here are some things that I’ve noticed while navigating the L.A. County system:
- The county process is pretty long. Our initial application was submitted in June 2020, and I believe our first Resource Family certificate approval came in around June this year. Right now we’re searching to be paired with kids, but even when we match with some (will explain more on this in a bit) it can be months before they actually move in with us.
- This application has cost us nothing so far. Other than setting up our house and buying a few provisions, we don’t have to pay anything to be a resource family. When kids get placed with us, we‘ll be eligible for monthly payments from the county as well as other services depending on the child’s needs. (I’ll discuss this more below, too.)
- From what I am learning, most of the kids who are eligible for adoption are older kids. Babies are extremely rare.
- Many kids still have ongoing contact with their original families. Even though reunification might not be possible, the parents may have some visitation rights, etc. which we have to plan for.
- There can be some employees who are frustrating to work with (what the French call “les incompetents” 😉 — sorry, it’s a Home Alone reference ’cause I watched it recently). But, I must say that we have a rockstar social worker assigned to us currently that we enjoy working with!!! We are lucky.
Training, Home Inspections, etc.
Hey all you parents out there… When you had your babies, did anyone from the government come out to inspect your house before you brought the baby home from the hospital? Haha! My guess is probably not. 😊
Well, I’ve had 3 home inspections so far, and we don’t even have any kids yet! My house is baby-proofed to the max. Haha. I actually feel great about it. The more help we get the better.
Part of being approved as a Resource Family for L.A. County is home inspections, background checks, personal interviews, and training for kids that have dealt with trauma.
My wife and I went through a few weeks of coaching. This was done via Zoom calls because of covid. Most of it was exposing us to the backgrounds and situations these kids come from and how we can best help them move forward. And there was also a lot of talk about the resources and help we’ll have access to if the child needs it.
There’s a ton more I could talk about here, but I guess what I’m trying to say is the county has done its best to prepare us for what we might face as adoptive parents. My wife and I definitely don’t feel prepared enough, but then again I don’t think any new parent knows exactly what they’re getting into when they have a child. So I’m lucky for the coaching and workbooks we did get!
Regarding Money, Support Services, Health Care
There are a plethora of support services that children have access to in the foster care system. Many of these services continue until they are 18, even after they have been adopted.
From what I understand, a base payment of $1,037 a month per child is the current foster care funding rate for Los Angeles. This is to assist with child care and ongoing expenses, and it can even be higher depending on if the kid has specific needs. My wife and I have no clue what our future kids will need and cost, but even if the payment were $0 we would still pursue adoption.
It’s really difficult to estimate how kids might affect us financially. It depends on the age and needs of the child.
For example, if we get a 3-year-old who attends daycare (and should continue as to not disrupt routine and integration with other kids, etc), I already know we’d be looking at $1,500 per month minimum for part-time day care in my area. Then there are all the other costs to house/chothe/feed kids. Bottom line is it’s nice to have a payment from the county, but I have no clue how far it will stretch! It depends on what the child needs.
Health care is provided until the child is 18. This is free, full-scope MediCal. It’s nice to know this is provided because it’s one of the biggest unknown costs and pain points for us.
And probably the most important thing the kids get access to is county services, like speech therapy, OT, counselling, special education services, and anything they need to support any difficulties they are facing. Many kids in the foster system are behind in learning (and ALL of the kids have some form of trauma — chiefly neglect).
As far as our timeline to financial independence, I have no clue what the overall impact will be, but it’s safe to say we’re probably adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to our FI number, maybe even over a million. Whatever it is, I have confidence we can figure it out. We’re no stranger to our FI number changing consistently to cater to life changes.
Matching With Our Future Kids
Now that my wife and I are approved and have an assigned rockstar social worker, we are starting to review possible matches with kids that suit us. In a perfect world, we’d like 2 kids, hopefully siblings, between the ages of 0-6. We have no preference for gender or race. This isn’t strict criteria, more just initial preferences.
Although we have preferences, we’re actually more concerned with the children’s needs matching our parenting strengths. This is why the matching process takes a long time. The county process is quite selective to make sure the kids are set up for the best possible chance of success with the family they live with.
From here, once we get matched with kids, there is a series of approvals, internal meetings, then finally we’ll get to have a supervised visit with the kids. This will probably take place at the home they are being fostered at right now. All the social workers would be present and whatnot. After that, we can have more visits, then slightly longer ones, perhaps some field trips, then maybe a 1 night sleep over… Then finally we can invite the kids to come and live with us!
As you can see, it’s a long process and we’re happy taking our time to make sure we are a good match.
It’s been an emotional rollercoaster so far, but one we’re happy to ride on as long as kids are being helped in the end.
Sorry for the long post. And thank you for reading. More to come another time. :)
Hope you’re having a long and lovely Thanksgiving weekend.