The System

Adopting through private agencies, non-profit groups, privately between individuals and lawyers, state child welfare programs or other means all have their advantages. Finding babies to adopt can be difficult. Couples want to adopt babies.

Finding babies, that’s the issue. Part, and I repeat that, part of the problem is the system that exists when a baby is removed from the birth mother and/or father. Once that happens the process begins to find a foster family for the child. Usually relatives are searched for first. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, someone who is family and capable of caring for the child. When that doesn’t work out then a longer term foster care situation is searched for.

Foster parenting is an amazing call in life. It’s also a way to shoehorn into an adoption situation. Foster parenting doesn’t always lead to adoption.

The system is sometimes broken when it comes to balancing the welfare of the child with the rights of the biological parents. Until the parental rights are severed the child is a foster child and cannot be adopted.

Approaching this from two different viewpoints, as an adoptive parent and as a person who formerly worked in and around foster care provision and counseling services in Alabama I can tell you where I see the breakdown occurring.

Several years ago our agency hoped that what we were hearing from our State Department of Human Resources was true. The process of the judicial system severing parental rights was going to shorten and toughen up. No longer would biological parents be able to do less than a minimum of work towards reunification with their children and prolong their case for years. Shorter terms of foster care for the children, faster adoptions, stronger encouragement for biological parents sincerely interested in regaining custody of their children to prove their sincerity. It didn’t happen.

Becoming a biological parent seems so incredibly easy for some people. Any woman with an egg ready for fertilization and any man with sperm to provide that can become biological parents. But, biological parents aren’t always the people who can and will provide the best care for the child they’ve created, sometimes not even decent, reliable care.

Sometimes the biological parents recognize this and willingly surrender their rights. Sometimes they surrender them because they realize it is truly BEST for the child even though it BREAKS THEIR HEART.

Until those rights are severed or surrendered that child cannot be adopted. This means the child lives in a foster care situation, sometimes in the home of people who love and want to adopt the child, sometimes not. The child remains in limbo. On a day to day situation they are often bonding with and forming a deeper relationship with the people providing their day to day care. The people providing the child with parenting. People from whom they may be torn away from when they’ve been there so long it is home to them.

Through their day-to-day life is woven the biological parents attempts to become their child’s parents in every sense of the word. Some biological parents want to be good parents to their offspring. They want it but they can’t do it for one reason or another.

Addiction, poverty, martial situations and physical health issues are all reasons why a biological parent just can’t get it together well enough to be a parent to their child, but not the only ones. I know of many who have wanted it, but just haven’t been able to overcome one or more of these four issues to achieve it.

It’s my opinion that there has to be a way to clear these things up more quickly. Some issues preventing an adult from being able to get their own lives together well enough to parent can be helped with education, awareness, counseling, medication and support. Some just aren’t simple fixes. Addiction is, again in my opinion, the most challenging for a biological parent to overcome and it doesn’t matter what the addiction is to. Drugs (legal or illegal), sex, alcohol, gambling, hoarding are all examples of addictions that not only ruin a person’s life, but the lives of their families as well including leading to the termination of parental rights.

Meanwhile their biological children swing between the people they are the biological children of and those they are developing into a family with or waiting in limbo to be placed in a situation where they can be reclassified as “adoptable”. As the months tick off into years the child grows older and their chances of finding an adoptive home become smaller. This isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

Not for the child and not for the people who could adopt and especially are waiting to adopt. It’s disruptive. It creates a situation that can do far more damage than good to take a child from the (sometimes) only stable home they’ve ever known and place them back into or into a home they aren’t sure of with someone they aren’t bonded as well with. Even when the state stays involved now the child has the trauma of overcoming losing the home and family they were just pulled from.

These are the situations where children are harmed the most. As an adult woman I sat on a witness stand and answered the judge’s question, “Are you prepared to have your heart ripped out if the biological mother or father suddenly changes their mind and wants this child back?” with a very sure, “Yes”. It was my choice to lay my heart on the line. Children don’t get that choice. As adults, we have to make that choice for them and I’m of the opinion we don’t always do such a great job of making it.

If you’re considering adoption, I encourage you to consider adopting an older child and also to look into adopting through your state department over child welfare. The systems in place vary state to state and I’m sure some states have it down beautifully and some are sadly inadequate. But the kids in those systems are depending on us. Let’s not let them down.

–Faye

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