No Adoption for You, Foster Child

How do you explain reunification to a child who desperately wants to trade in his parents and be adopted by his foster parents?  You can’t blame him for rejecting abusive/neglectful parents and wanting parents who keep him safe.  But that’s not the court’s plan.

I was reading Maybe Days:  A Book for Kids in Foster Care to my 8-year-old foster son Watchful.  Maybe Days is a great book which explains in kid-friendly terms why children are in foster care, who are the people involved in foster care (like social workers, judges, etc.), what a child in foster care can expect to have happen, and how the foster child might feel about it.  It’s a fantastic book and I highly recommend it for any children you may be fostering.

So I read the part about the people involved in foster care and I asked Watchful to identify who in our home was in foster care.  He identified himself, his sister Joyful, and my son Silent One.  I gently explained that Silent One is adopted, which is different than being in foster care.  Adoption means Silent One was born to different parents, but is our forever son.  My husband and I will be Silent One’s parents forever, Silent One will live with us until he is a grown up, and nothing will ever change that relationship.

“I want to be adopted by you, too,” Watchful whispered to me.  He was snuggled up against me on the sofa.  Looking into his brown eyes, my heart melted.  Oh, how I wanted to say I could be his mom and keep him safe for the rest of his life!!!

Instead, I told him the truth of his foster care plan – reunification with his dad.

“I really like having you live with us, too,” I said and smiled at him with love welling up in my voice.  “But the judge decided the plan is for you and Joyful to live with your dad.  Right now, your dad is learning how to be a parent who can keep you safe.  If he can learn to do that, then you and your sister will go live with him again.”

“But I feel safe living here with you,” Watchful said.  He went on to explain why he didn’t think his dad would ever be a good parent.  Honestly, I have doubts, but my job as a foster mom is to help the whole family – foster kids and their parents – on a path of healing.  And somehow still be truthful.

So I said…

“Well, I don’t really know what your dad will do.  Hopefully, the class he is taking will teach him how to be the kind of dad who can keep you safe.  I know it can be really hard to imagine life being different than what it has been, but people can learn to act differently,” I said as gently as possible.  We went on to discuss how Watchful hadn’t known how to read when he was younger, but eventually, he learned how.

Telling Watchful the truth about the current reunification plan was tough.  I needed to let him know that it’s his dad’s actions that will ultimately determine Watchful’s fate.  I tried to be hopeful without guaranteeing a particular outcome.  I wrapped up by repeating how much I really love having Watchful live with us, so that he’d know I wasn’t rejecting him.

Because if I could be his mom forever, I would.

This post is part of Adoption Talk Link Up, where people interested in learning about adoption discuss a new topic every two weeks.  Check it out!

No Bohns About It

13 thoughts on “No Adoption for You, Foster Child

  1. Awww this post. Gosh. My heart. Foster care is so very painful sometimes. I’m glad he feels safe with you though, and I do hope his birth father is able to parent him. But what hard times. We loved the book Maybe Days too.

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  2. Wow. You did an awesome job with that conversation and I took notes for future reference. My experience thus far with an older child was the opposite of this. The child did NOT want to be adopted. She wanted HER mom, even though her birth mom was not an ideal situation by any means.

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    1. Glad the conversation may be helpful for you in the future. Yeah, I was really taken aback by how much Watchful and Joyful don’t want to live with their parents and want to live with us indefinitely. Hopefully, their dad will be able to turn their home into a safe place so that they’ll feel comfortable living with their parents in the future.

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    1. Maybe Days would be great for 3- and 4-year-olds. What’s great is you can help relate what is in the book to what’s happening in their lives. So if you can help little ones with their level of understanding.

      To start off before reading the book, I say something like “this book is about kids in foster care. Let’s see if foster care is the same or different for you.” Then, I’ll read a few pages. On the second page, it says “sometimes kids can’t live with their [parents],” and I say, “oh that’s like you.” On the third page, it says “some kids live in a foster home, where grown ups called foster parents take care of them,” and I say “our house is a foster home. Who are your foster parents?” This primes the pump, helping the children relate their personal experiences with the book and getting conversation going.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this story. Your response seems so beautiful, natural, and heartbreaking. Why isn’t there ever a solution that is simple, where everyone wins, and everyone is obviously safe? [While I ask that question, i believe every child should be with his/her birth family if that family can be a safe.]

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    1. Yeah, we’re really hoping dad can make home a safe place for Joyful and Watchful. We’ve already seen a little bit of progress, so fingers crossed. Yet, dad’s been given chances to receive services and learn to protect his children in the past but hasn’t been able to follow through. So, it’s hard to keep working towards this goal when Watchful and Joyful really need a place to feel loved and safe. You are so right – wish there was a solution where everyone wins and is obviously protected.

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