Many people go into foster parenting or adoption, or both, without educating themselves fully about what they are getting involved in. Especially in adoption, it’s easy to believe it’s going to be all wonderful, much akin to giving birth yourself and raising a child. And in some ways, it is, but there are also challenges in raising an adopted child, even one adopted from birth, that adoptive parents would be wise to learn about and be ready for.
When I went back into fostering for the second time, after a 20 year break, I studied much more about the effect being taken away from their biological family was going to have on the children I would be caring for. I wanted to make it as easy on them as I possibly could, and in making it easier for them, I hoped to make it easier for my own family to have these children live with us. I was better able to understand why they sometimes didn’t respond to me the way I thought they should, why some of them had trouble becoming attached even after being here a while, why they were often sick, and what was probably behind the ‘melt downs’ they would often have.
Then I adopted a child who had been in our daughter’s foster home from birth, who was placed with us when he was 13 months old. He had always known us, and the transition from foster child to adopted child was easy. Next we adopted our own foster daughter who had come to live with us at two and a half, but was four before we were able to finalize her adoption. This child visited with her biological parents until she was three and a half, and has had a hard time. It has been very good for me to know some of what she is feeling, and has helped me be more understand and able to help her.
I educated myself in two ways besides the training I got before I was licensed: I joined two internet groups, one of foster and adoptive mothers, and the other is a group that has all members of the adoption triad, birth mothers, adoptive mothers, and adoptees. This has given me a lot of insight, and has enabled me to throw out the questions I had to people with different view points. I have also become an administrator on the adoption group. You can find these two groups under these addys:
Another way to educate yourself is by reading. There are many books that are wonderful to help you learn about foster/adoption. They are not hard to find, Amazon, Ebay, even your local bookstore or library will carry a large selection of books on this subject. I would like to include a few of the ones that have really helped me in this article.
First I’ll list the ones that are more self help, rather than the stories of different families who have adopted or foster. Here are some titles I highly recommend:
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.
The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, David R. Cross, Wendy Sunshine
Keys to Parenting an Adopted Child by Kathy Lancaster
Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child by Betsy Keefer, Jayne Schooler
Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child was by far the best book I have read in helping me to understand the things the children go through, and in giving advice on how to help them deal with the different issues. That one is a must read, in my opinion.
Then I found several books written by people who had been through foster parenting and adoption. Some were written by the parents, and some were written by the children themselves who had grown up in either foster care or as an adopted child. These were great eye openers, both in preparing me for what I was about to do, for helping me understand what was happening from a child’s viewpoint, and just for reading and saying “I know just how that feels!”
Here is a list of really good books to consider reading. I will say that Kathy Harrisons are by far my favorite, and I have read both of hers several times.
Another Place at the Table and One Small Boat by Kathy Harrison
Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge
Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
For This Child We Prayed by Thomas and Rhoda Bontrager
This is only a small portion of the books available, but in my opinion, the best I’ve read.
There are also books that may help you understand the mothers who gave their children up for adoption in domestic adoption situation. One is called “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. It will help you emphasize with what the birthmother has gone through. These stories would not apply to foster adoptions, however.
Sometimes it’s good to read books to the children themselves to help them understand the concept of fostering and adoption. I have found a few that I really like:
Families Change: a Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights by Julie Nelson and Mary Gallager
Emma’s Yucky Brother by Jean Little and Jennifer Plecas
Mama One, Mama Two by Patricia MacLachlan
Welcome Home, Forever Child by Christine Mitchell
These books are easy and interesting to read, although I’ll admit I cry every time I read “Welcome Home, Forever Child” and my little adopted daughter always wants to know why. You can find them all on Amazon.com, and many other places.
Reading and learning about the issues involved in fostering and adoption will go a long way in making what can be a surprisingly difficult situation a manageable, and therefore enjoyable way of life!