This page was written by Nate Kemp, a foster-turned-adoptive parent and member of Grace Community Church.
Before I began the process of obtaining a license to foster and adopt, I had many misconceptions and fears. Here is a list of some of those things that I struggled with, and the answers that I found.
Misconception: There is a shortage of children to adopt domestically.
While there is a waiting list for infant adoption, there are over 6,800 children of all ages in Texas currently waiting to be adopted.
Misconception: Adoption is expensive.
Because of the demand, infant adoption can be very expensive. Overseas adoption also can have high costs. Foster-to-adopt, and domestic child adoption, however, is by comparison very inexpensive, and in many cases, stipends are available to cover legal costs. Many children who have been adopted out of foster care are also eligible for free Medicaid and college tuition.
Misconception: Crack baby myth.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a popular myth was reported that children exposed to drugs in the womb would have permanent disabilities and never reach their full potential. Years later, studies of these children have shown that, after correcting for circumstances, on average, these children did not show any signs of permanent disability.
Misconception: The problem is not that big in my community.
Drug abuse was a factor in an estimated 85% of cases resulting in the removal of a child from a home. As drug abuse continues to be a national and state epidemic, the need for foster parents is vital. Many Christians abhor abortion, but what if every woman considering abortion could know for certain that she had people who would love and support her, and that her child would be loved and provided for?
Fear: I don’t feel prepared to deal with damaged children.
Foster children are often victims of abuse and neglect and have trauma to work through, but as their primary care provider, you will receive excellent training through your agency, as well as support from a team of counselors and specialists to restore your child to their full potential.
From a spiritual perspective, we too were damaged and traumatized children until Christ died for our sins, allowing us to be adopted into God’s family. There is definitely a cost to sacrificing yourself for children in need, but the reward is infinitely greater.
Fear: I won’t be able to discipline a foster child the same as my other children or the way I believe in disciplining.
It’s true that there are very strict restrictions regarding corporal punishment of all kinds for foster children, but it’s not to make it harder to parent, it’s because in most cases, the children have experienced trauma due to excessive or inconsistent discipline. The primary responsibility of a foster parent is to rebuild a sense of safety and trust that their physical needs will be met, before introducing stricter discipline. It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to train the child, but the approach taken should account for their history and trauma.
Fear: I don’t think I can handle the risk of getting attached to a child and losing it, in the event that the child is returned to their family and not made available for adoption.
This is probably the biggest risk foster parents struggle with as they prepare for a placement. They want to love and develop an attachment with the child, but they are scared of the pain they will feel if that child is taken away from them. There’s no easy way around this, but internalizing some basic truths may help you see this risk as worth taking:
Foster children, like biological children, are not yours, they are God’s. They have been placed in your care for a time, predetermined by Him. It may be two weeks, it may be 18 years. The sadness you feel when they leave your home, in whatever manner, is generally indicative of the love you invested in them in that time, and serves as a reminder that you provided for them something that no one else was willing or able to provide at that time.
The Bible assures us that any Christian who is seeking God above comfort or material prosperity will endure trials and tribulations, but that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”...which means, that the emotional cost of risking your heart for an orphan ought to be seen by the believer as an investment, similar to a financial investment, where we forego a small, immediate pleasure, for a much larger, long-term benefit. When we truly internalize the concept of compound interest, it makes more sense to invest than to spend. Likewise, when we internalize the Gospel, it should make more sense to adopt than not.
Becoming a foster parent, like becoming a biological parent, should be a selfless act. The caseworkers and agencies are advocating for the child, first and foremost. The emotional needs of the foster parents are given no priority compared to the well being of the child. If you go into foster parenting, or biological parenting, for that matter, with the intent to fulfill your own emotional needs, it might behoove you to take a step back and reconsider your motives. Certainly, there is great fulfillment in helping a child grow to maturity as well as the blessing of an intimate relationship, but if we are truly seeking to serve God, these blessings should be seen as byproducts of sacrificial love, rather than the goal themselves.