Sarah and James* married with the hopes of adopting a child from foster care. However that idea seemed vague and far into their future as they eased into marriage and eventually became pregnant. Devastatingly, that precious child was lost in the womb and after processing their grief, the dream of adopting from foster care began to rise to the surface.
Many discussions turned into passing years as the couple waited until the timing felt just right. When it did, they worked directly with Tennessee Department of Children’s Services** to complete their home study and become foster care ready. It was a longer than normal process for a host of reasons, but Sarah and James remained committed and after seven months their home was ready to accept foster care referrals. Surprisingly, they received a phone call for their first placement just thirty minutes after they learned that they were foster care ready!
They choose to serve short term and respite placements only, so that they wouldn’t be committed, should a referral come for a foster-to-adopt placement. After about thirty placements had passed in and out of their home, they switched services to Youth Villages. Sarah became familiar with one of the Youth Villages Adoption Placement Coordinators and discussed their heart for adoption. She also spent time reviewing online photo listings of children available for adoption. But as it turned out, the referral they had been waiting for, came from neither one of these sources.
After reviewing Sarah and James’ home study and foster care experience, a social worker out of Nashville, contacted them about a sibling group available for adoption. This sibling group of three (8, 11 and 12) had been placed in three pre-adoptive homes already, with dead-end results. Needless to say, these children were hurting and distrustful of anyone coming forward with an interest to adopt. But Sarah and James pressed on. They were friendly and engaging at their visits with the kids and used ice-breaker conversation pieces, to draw the children into conversation.
Eventually the children moved in with Sarah and James and their journey began. Sarah shares that although the transition wasn’t easy, it was worth it! She can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain consistency and follow-thru. It is vital that you always do what you say you’re going to do, and that you show your commitment to foster youth with proof in your consistent actions.
In this case, Sarah shares that it wasn’t until they signed the intent to adopt forms, that the kids began to recognize and truly believe that Sarah and James were fully committed to them. Just eight months after the kids moved into their home, Sarah and James were officially able to call them their children, on February 12, 2016, when the adoption finalized.
After the court hearing Sarah and James took all the kids and a huge group of friends and family to celebrate. With a big party and loads of fun and games at a family fun center, the kids were able to rejoice in their newfound family.
Sarah’s tips for adopting from foster care:
- Although you enter the system with a heart to adopt, spend time giving back through fostering other children. It builds up your experience base and helps out others while you wait for the right match.
- What is the right match? In adopting from foster care, Sarah shares this important point she had to learn…matching is more than just finding the right child for you. It is also about finding the right parents for the child(ren). It has to work for both parties in order to be a successful match.
- Be patient. That isn’t always easy when you look through photo listings of hundreds of available kids online and hear the horrible statistics of all the waiting kids. Yet it comes down to being the right match for all parties involved, so be patient.
- When you first meet a child(ren), keep in mind it’s not a date, in which you need to share your whole life story up front. Kids aren’t interested in knowing every detail about you at this point. Ease into conversation and establishing a relationship. And remember that as nervous as you are about meeting a child for the first time, they are just as nervous, if not more so!
*Names changed to protect their privacy.
**When becoming a licensed foster parent, there’s also the option of working with a private agency