When new families show interest in getting involved with The CALL, we inevitably have many is of them expressing that they want to apply to “foster to adopt”. That phrase has been thrown around for many years, but the truth is “foster to adopt” is nothing more than an urban myth of sorts.
When you fill out paperwork you either go through the process with the intent to foster OR with the intent to adopt. And the thing is you have to choose one or the other from the very beginning because switching once you’re open is difficult.
For many people, the revelation that this practice doesn’t actually exist is confusing. Here’s how things actually work…when you decide to foster the goal is for children to be in your home for the full extent of their care and not be bounced around from home to home. If parental rights are eventually terminated the foster family will be looked at first as a potential adoptive family if they’re interested.
The fact of the matter is you’re more likely to adopt quicker if you foster, but it’s not guaranteed. There are still a lot of other things that factor in, but foster families do have a higher chance of adopting.
What’s the difference in “foster to adopt” and what I just described because they sound pretty close to the same right?
When you choose to foster, you’re agreeing to work alongside the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as a team in the lives of foster children. The #1 goal of the team is reunification with the biological family. As the foster family you are responsible for caring for the child(ren) in care while the biological parents are getting the help they need in order to get their kids back. During that time you are supposed to love them like they’re your own with the intention and realization that they will probably go back home. It is your job to nurture the relationship between the foster child and their biological parents.
In the event that the biological parents are seen as unfit, you as the foster family will be asked if you’re interested in adopting. If you say yes, they will review your file and determine if you are the best fit. Everything leading up to this point was done with unified intentions among the team despite the fact that reunification wasn’t possible.
When you decide to foster with the #1 goal of eventually adopting that conflicts with the #1 goal of the team. The team will be working towards reunifying the original family unit, which means they need you to care for the kids and encourage a good working relationship between the kids and their parents.
If you keep thinking about adoption every time you get a placement, it’s going to make your role as a foster parent very difficult. When the team is working on reunification, you can’t help but silently hope that it falls apart so you get the chance to adopt them. That means when the team is working on how to cultivate a positive relationship between the biological parents and the children, your heart won’t be in it 100%. You may unintentionally overshare your biased feelings with the children, caseworker, or someone else involved in the case. This mentality is not a good one for anyone on the team to have.
Being a foster family who is open to the idea of adoption is MUCH different than a foster family with the goal of adopting in the eyes of DCFS. Because of this, DCFS and The CALL have to be leery about people who come into the fostering process with adoption at the forefront of their mind.
The bottom line is, check your motivation. Examine your heart. If you became a foster parent, would you be looking at each child as potentially being your own or would you be able to cultivate a good relationship between the children and biological family and love the children as if they were your own? If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry about. If you’re not sure or your answer is no, then you may need to think and pray a little bit more before throwing yourself fulling into the process.