One concern my dear wife and I received when we were exploring adoption was our inexperience as parents. That would be, some social workers told us, a potential flaw when our profile was matched up against others wanted to adopt a special needs child. It would serve us better if we consented to being foster parents to gain “experience.”
That was a difficult challenge. We waffled on it, going back and forth, First, not wanting to be foster parents, because it wasn’t part of our eventual goal: adopting children. Then we consenting during our training when we saw the need. At the end of our certification process, we declined because we started to see the reality of unfit parents tying up the legal and social work system for years to string out their un-parental behavior.
The State of Iowa stated that the goal of foster care was to return children to healthier birth parents. Anita and I foresaw the situation in which we knew this was not in the best interests of the child. So we went ahead and hoped for the best.
When we adopted our daughter, our profile was matched pretty well with a little girl who had floundered in foster homes with many children. We would be able to provide singular attention to one child. Anita and I had arranged our lives around my single income and her staying at home, so we could devote maximum care and attention to our child.
We were not very experienced in the nuances of parenting, but we learned fast. We were motivated out of love, and sometimes, a confused semi-desperation.
I don’t think adoption is promoted enough as an option for existing families with children. It is a mark of a certain adult narcissism that adoption is often promoted as a solution for childlessness rather than a solution for the child.
From the beginning, we approached adoption with our then-five-year-old daughter as a mutual choice. We adopted her. She adopted us. When we were in the courthouse in December 2001, the judge questioned Brittany on her wishes, and he emphasized adoption was the mutual building of a family.
The emphasis on adopting infants, even needy infants from abroad, can mask at times, the great need for domestic adoptions. Adopting older children is a risk, no doubt. Our daughter’s godparents adopted eight older children, and their family is large, rich, and full of grandchildren. We know other families who have taken children into the home along with birth children. While there are obstacles to overcome there, we know such families–few as they are–are strong and supportive not just to the adoptive children, but to all the members.
One important pro-life approach Catholic Charities departments in dioceses can implement is promoting adoption of older children to families that already include birth children. Let’s keep in mind that a marriage can thrive without children, but almost all children will need parents in order to thrive. The need is far greater on the child’s end of adoption. Let’s keep the focus on the kids, where it belongs.