Maybe you have already started your foster care and/or adoption journey and feel like doors are slamming shut.
Maybe you’ve experienced a less than favorable response from caseworkers when you ask about infant adoption through foster care. Maybe you’ve even felt hopeless about “the system” working for your family and have considered quitting.
Well, I have great news for you – a life hack, if you will, for adopting an infant through foster care. Hang on, and be sure to read this through completely. The answer may be different than you expect!
What is a “life hack”?
It is a way to use an item or a system in a way it wasn’t originally intended to be used, but makes life a little easier for you.
Before I get into the life hack, I want to address a few important things.
I have been the Executive Director of Hope & Home, a foster care and adoption agency based in Colorado Springs, for over 20 years. I have met with hundreds of couples who would love to do infant adoption and each one of them has a different circumstance that has led them to pursue foster care as a way to grow their family.
Sadly, I’ve seen many of those families’ experience countless tears, deep disappointment, and broken dreams before they even begin their foster care journey.
This struggle becomes even more emotionally charged when you take into account that most of these families, before becoming foster parents, spent a large amount of hard-earned money trying various medical procedures in efforts to conceive – to no avail.
Infertility affects approximately 6.1 million couples who are of childbearing age. The sting is quite significant when it feel like nothing is panning out – month after month, year after year, reliving the heartache time and time again.
I understand your desire to adopt a baby. I don’t blame you for wanting to experience the beauty of being a mom or a dad starting from birth.
You are not a bad person for wanting to walk through every phase of parenthood including the innocent coos of infancy all the way through the “terrible two’s” and beyond.
You probably feel robbed, as it is, of the pregnancy and birth experience. Why should you be robbed of those precious early years, too?
I am sure you have heard a slew of well-intending friends and family say “You can always just adopt!” And you are probably finding out how difficult and/or expensive “just adopting” is.
Please don’t lose hope just yet because we have finally arrived! It’s time to talk about the life hack for infant adoption through foster care.
How do I hack the foster care system for infant adoption?
You might be thinking that the best way to do this would be to go into a local foster care agency, fill out the applicable paperwork, and be overtly clear that you are only interested in ages 0-1.
Or maybe you change course after your application is declined due to a narrow age range. So, you fudge some numbers, widen your age range on paper, but wait for the phone to ring with an infant – turning down all other placements.
Don’t do this. Here is why:
The best way to get an infant is to jump into foster care head first by serving boys and girls of all ages. I’m not saying you need to adopt all of these children as statistically 48% of them will be reunified with biological family or primary caregivers.
The “win” of this process is to build relationship and trust with your caseworkers, be a resource for your county and agency, and gain experience serving some amazing kids while you’re at it. Let the “powers that be” get to know you and fall in love with your family!
Who do you think is more likely to get a sought-after infant placement? Someone who the county knows, loves and respects? Or one of the dozens of couples who haven’t taken a placement and aren’t known by the county?
You guessed it – the department will give that baby to the ones who have earned their stripes. Hands down. I have personally received dozens of calls from the department asking me for a specific family by name because they KNOW that family and trust their reputation.
Now, you may be thinking, “doesn’t this mean I won’t have room for an infant placement?” The good news is that in Colorado, and most likely in your state as well, infants can sleep in a crib in your room until age 18 months, so that buys you some time to figure out the details of space in your home.
One more time – in a few steps: How to hack the foster care system for infant adoption:
- Go to a reputable foster care agency that has been around for a while. Make sure to find one that won’t charge you an arm and a leg to get certified and RE-certified. (Recertification happens annually)
- Talk to the agency. Be forthcoming and honest about what you want and how you plan to do it.
- Get licensed. Take all the classes, pay attention, take notes, etc. (Remember, even babies turn into teens! This training will be valuable down the road, even if it doesn’t apply immediately.)
- Start serving kids. Lots of kids of all ages. Do respite (plainly, overnight babysitting) for other foster parents. Get to know caseworkers, GAL’s (Guardian Ad Litem), judges, and placement workers.
Lastly, stay open. You never know who might capture your heart along the way. You may end up with that baby you have always dreamt of or maybe someone completely unexpected will be the one to complete your family.
The journey to the infant may be just as sweet and rewarding as the infant itself.