You’ve completed your homestudy. You know there must be a child waiting for you. But where is s/he? How do you find each other? And why is it taking so long? The following provides some tips on how to become more involved in the process and steps you can take to help speed things along.
First, you need to remember that in foster care there are fewer girls available than boys, and fewer younger kids than older. The majority are children of color, and many children need to be placed together with their sibling(s). The children who are waiting for adoptive families are mostly age eight or older, and some have handicapping conditions (medical, emotional challenges). The closer your interests match the characteristics of these children, the larger the pool of available children.
Although it is a hard pill to swallow (we know; every adoptive family’s been there!), keep in mind that the commitment is to finding a family for every child who needs one, not finding a child for every family that wants one. Therefore, it is important for you to make sure that what you bring to adoption is responsive to the needs of waiting children and what their caseworkers are looking for. That said, there are things you can do.
- Spread information about your interest in adopting as widely as possible. Reach out to agencies and exchanges throughout the country. Learn about the children featured on AdoptUSKids , the NYS Adoption Album, and similar photolistings in other states.
- Tell all your family members, your friends and neighbors and co-workers. The informal grapevine has been known to be very effective in adoption; you just never know what might result. Besides, it’s important that they know about your plans because you can benefit from their support, both during the adoption process and, especially, after your child arrives.
- Carefully review your homestudy to be sure all information is accurate and that it represents you well. It should include information that relates specifically to your ability to parent older children or other children you are interested in. It should describe your preparation, background, motivation, support circle, and relevant experience. If you have had any challenges in your own family, for example, the untimely death of a parent or loved one, an alcoholic parent or relative, or other negative experiences, be sure they are included in your homestudy. How you coped with and what you learned from these experiences is very valuable information and can demonstrate your ability to understand and empathize with children who have also experienced losses and negative experiences.
- Make sure you are listed in your state’s online registry of waiting families (ie. NYS’s Family Registry) and sign up for nationwide registries such as AdoptUsKids Site Membership.
- For every child you are interested in, telephone the caseworker to introduce yourself and to speak of your interest. Some workers may merely ask for your homestudy and share little or no information. Some will be glad to speak with you and share various information about the child. If you are still interested and want to be considered for the child, ask your caseworker to send your homestudy|.
- Keep thorough notes on every child you inquire about, the date of the call, whom you spoke to and contact information, substance of the conversation, and so on. Get yourself a nice bound notebook with blank pages. On the cover, decorate it with the words, “Our Child” or “My Child.” Record all information in this notebook. It will not only help you keep track of a lot of information, it will also be a place to record your feelings and experiences. (Adopted children like to hear how they became part of their family; this journal will help you tell the story and is valuable family history.)
- MAKE SURE your caseworker sends out copies of your homestudy. Keep track in your notebook of the dates they’re mailed. If your worker says s/he’s too busy to get the work done in a timely way, offer to come in and help. You can make the copies, get the addresses, do the cover letters, address the envelopes, and get them in the mail.
- If you have not had a response from the other agency in two weeks after the homestudy was sent, make a follow-up call to be sure they received it, to answer any questions, and to offer further information. Keep calling every couple of weeks. You need to be persistent! Use your notebook , and record details of all your contacts.
- Even if you have been turned down for a child, continue to monitor the child in the Adoption Album or other photolistings. If the child is still waiting after three months or so, contact the worker again to tell her/him of your continued interest. Circumstances may have changed, and they may be willing to reconsider you. Keep monitoring and calling back. Again, you must be persistent. You will either be responsible for getting that child adopted by someone else (usually the foster parent), or they will move ahead with your own homestudy. That’s exactly what happened to a friend. She and her husband expressed interest in adopting two sisters who had been waiting too long. The agency said they would be adopted by their foster parent. Time went by, and our friend kept calling, to check on their progress and to nudge. Finally, the agency conceded that the foster parent was not going to adopt, and guess who ended up with the two sisters? It was our friend, the advocate who wouldn’t let go. (Her advocacy skills and commitment to hang in there have continued to serve her well in the years of parenting those two little girls and getting the services they need.)
- You must be fully involved in every stage of the adoption process. Nobody, not even the most dedicated caseworker, has as much at stake as you do. We’re talking here about your FAMILY. Why would you leave anything as important as that up to someone else?
- Be persistent. (Can’t say it often enough!) However frustrated or impatient you may feel, consider it good practice for the challenges of parenthood!
- Remember, there IS a child who needs you. When you find each other, you’ll know the wait was worth it. Thank you for your committment to becoming an adoptive parent.