When we got Lucy last December, it was the end of foster care for us. We wanted to have long peaceful time to bond with our new daughter. And we wanted to adopt another child as soon as bureaucracy allowed. Since foster care is so great a need, we always knew we would go back to it at some point, but only when all the kids were much older. Emergency care was too crazy a lifestyle for us to continue with three kids: so many visits, doctor appointments, phone calls, not to mention the uncertainty.
This was the plan until about a month ago. While we were driving to Point Lobos the day after Thanksgiving, we started talking about opening our home to emergency placements again. Mark, in particular, felt that our life was calm and secure enough that we could afford to stretch ourselves and invite more children into our home for a short-term basis.
After two weeks of prayer and discussion, we put ourselves back on the list as an ESH (Emergency Satellite Home). A few days later, we were called for a 3.5 year old girl, L. We had her for only a week, until she was reunited with her grandmother. Now we are taking a week off, and then will make ourselves available as an ESH again.
Through this process, I've realized that my thinking about foster care and adoption has changed from when we first started out as foster parents. We were taught in our classes about the county's ideal: that emergency placements would stay in their first foster home for as long as possible until they are either a) reunited with their family or b) adopted. And if they are adopted, it would ideally be by their very first (and only) foster family. Many studies, and common sense, show that each move to a new home harms children.
That mentality is called "concurrency". That is, when you take in a foster kid, you concurrently sign up to be their foster and potential adoptive parents. Mark and I did this our first few years of foster care. We were told it was in the child's best interest, and we figured we wouldn't mind adopting anyways. However, some of our experiences over the past two years in the system have led us to now only do non-concurrent foster care, while also on the adoption matching list. This is for two reasons.
First, if you take in a concurrent foster child, you have a conflict of interest. You should be doing everything to support the child's family to be re-united with their child and should work towards that goal. But in the back of your mind you know that if it doesn't work out, the child will be yours. Will this child be yours forever? Will they go away? Will you have a baby girl for nine months, told the whole time that it was 90% chance you would adopt her, and then have her go away at the last minute? Foster care is already an emotional roller coaster. Concurrency made us an emotional wreck.
The second reason is simply that you are taken off the adoption matching list if you have a concurrent child. And concurrent children are adopted only 1 in 10 times. So if you seriously want to adopt, as we do with one more child, you should not agree to be potential adoptive parents to the children you foster. It sounds crazy, but that is the truth, due to a government rule. So we are going to keep the processes separate. We are waiting for an adoption through the foster care system, while we help with non-concurrent, ESH foster care in the mean time.
We are still waiting for an adoption match at the moment. So far, we've been through two matchings (both were for four month old baby girls), but weren't chosen as the family for those children. We aren't in a big rush. We are enjoying our family. We're enjoying the calm between foster placements. And we're holding on tight when we're riding the crazy foster care roller coaster.