My family has been blessed through the years with the adoption of three children from foster care. These three children have, in so many ways, brought joy to our lives in countless fashion, and I cannot imagine a life without any of them. To be sure, in my eyes, there is no difference between adopted or biological (as well as foster), as they are all my children, regardless of bloodlines. The act of adopting a child allows us to be God's hands and feet for those children who have no family to call their own. We also allow God to work through us to use our story of adoption to affect and touch the lives of others. After all, when we adopt a child from foster care, our friends, our family members, our church, and others are watching what we do. This act of changing our family for ever may inspire others to do the same. Indeed, I pray that my own children, both biological and adopted, both inspired and called to help others in need when they grow older.
Yet, there are those times when adoption through the foster care system does not go as planned. Sadly, sometimes an adoption from foster care is disrupted, leaving all involved hurt. Even though the last name on your newly adopted child's certificate of adoption reads the same as yours, there will still be many questions and concerns awaiting him, and you, in the future. In order for a healthy and successful transition from foster custody to legal adoption, there are a number of strategies you can use as an adoptive parent. To begin with, discuss with him frequently about the process, step-by-step, and encourage him to ask questions and share any concerns he might have with you about the process. He will most likely have concerns about never seeing his birth family again. It is important for you to remember that even though he now has your last name, he will still have very strong feelings about his biological family and background. The older he is, the stronger these binds to his biological family will be. It is very dangerous for adoptive families to discount this background and his feelings towards them. Instead, recognize them as an important of who he is, and try to incorporate them into his life.
If possible, and if everyone feels comfortable with the idea, consider having an Open Adoption. An Open Adoption allows open contact between the biological parents and the foster child, allowing for the potential of a one on one relationship between both sides, as they interact directly with each other. Communication may consist of letters, emails, social networking sites, phone calls, and even visits. Open adoption benefits both sides, especially the child, as it permits him to resolve any feelings of loss and relationship, and gives him access to information that he might seek later on in life. These types of adoption also allow the child to maintain relationships and connections with people who are important in his life. Open adoptions are not for everyone, and serious consideration needs to be made before making a decision either way. Adoptions that are open with biological parents and children need to be made on an individual basis, as each adoption situation is different and unique.
The adoption of your foster child is indeed a joyous and happy one. Yet, the internal process for all involved can be a challenging one, especially for your child. They may have a difficult time accepting the fact that they will never return to live with their biological parents or birth family members again. It is necessary for you, as an adoptive parent, to allow your child time to grieve the loss of connection with his birth family. He may very well need time to experience the stages of grief before he fully transfer attachment from his birth family to yours. Even though he may have lived in your home for some time as a foster child, he will likely re-experience feelings of loss during the adoption process. Allow him to discuss his feelings of grief and loss with you as you listen attentively to him, validating his feelings and emotions. If he should ask any questions about his biological parents or birth family, answer them as honestly as you can. At the same time, help him to transfer attachment from his birth family to yours by ensuring that he is included in all aspects of your family, and when possible, incorporate parts of his previous family's traditions into your own, as it helps him to feel more comfortable. After all, his birth family gave him his appearance and gender, his intelligence, his temperament, talents, and of course, his life. These, of course, will never change.
There will be difficult times during the adoption process, and afterwards too. It may seem, at times, that your relationship is going backwards. Yet, with time, love, and patience, adoptions are often one of the greatest gifts of love you can offer a child; a gift that will bless your family, as well.
Each child is unique, each child is special, and each child is deserving of such love.
Please join me. Together we can provide a home for more children. I need your help. They need your help. It is Never Too Late for a happy childhood. It is never too late for a child to start healing and find love.
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Find out more about adoption at The Voice of Adoption
***Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 13 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several foster care books, including the brand new book Love and Mayhem: One Big Happy Family's Story of Fostering and Adoption. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website.