SHOULD YOU ADOPT?
WHY I STRUGGLE IN SCHOOL
The saddest story of all is when a child ages out of the system. Now imagine a child that never gets adopted and ages out of the foster system. They will be thrust into a world where they will be alone and totally self-reliant. They will have no family to call if they need help. They have no place to come back to, no one to celebrate their graduation with and many times no one to share the birth of their child. They will have no place to go for Thanksgiving or Christmas until they start their own family. The loneliness of a foster child often leads them to make poor decisions in their attempt to belong. Thirty thousand foster children age out of the system every year. They leave hurt, lonely and scared. Most of them lack just simple life skills like how to cook, do laundry, how to write a check or even how to drive a car. We do not even kick our own kids out at eighteen. Four million people in the United States at some time between the ages of 25 and 41 get economical support from their parents. Aged out foster kids do not have that option. I wish there was an easy way to solve the problem of child abuse in our society. These children stumble into our lives and many times go unnoticed. There are thousands of children that need a good home in our country. Many of these children have given up on ever being adopted. Many children will take themselves off of the adoption list because they cannot take any more rejection. Many have given up hope that anyone will ever want them.
* 12 million Americans have been in foster care
*The United States spends 8 billion dollars a year on foster care
* A foster girl those ages out of the system is 600 times likely to become pregnant by the age of twenty. That is 71% of them
* 37% drop out of high school
*Forty-eight percent of children that age out of the system will be homeless within 72 hours. That is one in seven
* 50 % will be unemployed
* 90% of those that are employed will earn less than $10K a year
* 80% will be arrested
*20% of males will be criminals as opposed to the normal male at 5%. This will cost 4.8 billion dollars over their lifetime
*Twenty six percent of children that age out of foster care will be in prison
Eighty percent of all people in prison were in foster care at one time in their life
It will tear your heart out to go to an orphanage and see the children begging for your attention. They hope they can puncture your heart so you will take them home. They hope you can fill the hole that has been left in their lives and in their souls. They only want unconditional love and a place to call home for the rest of their lives. There are 104,000 children in foster care right now waiting to be adopted. These are truly “the invisible children”.
THE SADDEST STORY OF ALL
The question everyone wants to ask but is afraid to ask. How much do you get paid to be a foster parent? The following varies from state to state and I made it as accurate as I could. You get about six hundred dollars per month per child. You get more if the child has special needs. If you adopt a child, you get about four hundred per month per child, but only if they are a minority and above age two. If you adopt or foster, each child is provided medical insurance. A foster child’s college will be paid for if they enroll within two years of graduating high school in the same state. The neat thing about this is that they can go to college at any time for the rest of their lives as long as they enroll within those two years after high school. Sadly, most of these children do not have the academic skills or family support to graduate from college.
This sounds like plenty of money to take care of a foster child. A foster parent has to take off work many times to take the foster children to appointments. If you work, the state will not pay for after school care or summer care. If you adopt and make too much money, you will not qualify for free lunches. The state will not pay for any sport camps or extracurricular activities. Many foster homes have to use the money they get from foster care as their main source of income. In most cases, a foster parent is only allowed to keep four children. By the time they pay their mortgage, utilities, food and other living expenses there is not much left. This is why many foster children seem to appear poor. In many of our foster trainings some people are there for the wrong reasons. Many are only there because they have lost their job and are looking for an income source. Some are there because they are having a custody fight for children because both parents are in prison or deemed unfit parents by the courts. Some people are there because they cannot have children. Some couples are not able to afford the huge cost of adopting a baby. There are many great foster homes alongside many homes with a lot to be desired.
THE BIG QUESTION
SO WHAT DO I NEED?
When my daughter Jaylynn (age 4) and my son Jesiah (age 2) were found they were living in a shack with no electricity, no running water and no food. Their father was in prison and their mother could not support them. At this young age a child’s brain and body is growing at a rapid rate, and too many times this has a negative effect on a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development.
After being removed, Jaylynn and Jesiah’s mother visited them one time and just never came back. This is when their journey through the system began. They first went into a temporary foster home. Next, they were moved into a relative’s home who decided not to keep them. Once again they went back into a different foster home. After this, they went on a short visit for a potential adoptive home in which the family decided it was not a good fit. Once again they returned back to their foster home which, fortunately, was a great foster home with loving parents. Then a forever home was found when a young couple decided to adopt them. In this home they were terribly abused and almost died. You can read this story in, “No White Horses”. Their next home was my home which will be their last home. This constant change can have a dramatic and negative effect on a child’s emotional and educational development. Jaylynn at age four stated, “No one wants me”. I have also noticed that almost every abused child tends to be immature for their age. An abused child has to deal with abandonment issues, malnutrition, instability and sometimes physical abuse all at the same time.
Just imagine the stress a foster child goes through because of the changing of schools. Every time they move they have to adjust and learn new rules in a new home and a new school. They have lost all of their old friends and now have to face a new challenge of making new ones. A foster child is not allowed to go over to or spend the night at a friend’s house. The child now has no control over his life. Then, sadly, foster kids are labeled as trouble makers and under- achievers. Many of these kids will get into fights and grow angry because they are frustrated because of the cards they have been dealt. To deal with these problems, we attempt to medicate these kids so that we can deal with them. Is this really a solution since we know the cause of their behavior or are we just masking the behaviors with medication? Many of these kids take up to twenty pills a day. What is going to happen when these kids age out of the system and can no longer get these medications to temper their behavior? We need to find a better solution to help these kids deal with demons from their pasts.
When these children came into my life, all of my priorities switched to a different passion to help these invisible children. If this website helps just one child or opens just opens the eyes of just one person it will all be worth it.
A foster child’s mobile life and neglect has a traumatic effect on their education and their ability to learn. Many of these kids get stereotyped as under- achievers, lower class, and trouble makers. Many people think the child did something wrong and that’s why they are in foster care. These children’s goal is not to be pitied, but to be the same as their friends. They move constantly from home to home and from school to school. Sometime these kids change schools three to four times a year. In these children’s biological homes they have suffered from malnutrition, abuse and just stress from an unstable life. Think about a child that is hungry all the time or worried about going home to an abusive home where they are surrounded by drug and alcohol abuse or even physical abuse.
THE JOURNEY OF A FOSTER CHILD
A foster child’s life is one of turbulence. It is not unusual for a foster child to live in up to eight homes by the age of sixteen. I read about a young girl that lived in fifty different homes. These children often move from home to home carrying all their belongings in a single black trash bag. This constant moving from home to home is usually not their fault. . The children many times will be reunited with their biological parents after their parents complete their re-education classes on how to be a better parent. In many cases the parent will start abusing or neglecting the child and this will result in the child going back into foster care. This can happen many times until the parents’ rights to the children have been terminated. Many times they have to leave a foster home because it may close. Other times, they have to leave a home they are assigned to because of the dynamics of the abused children can result in an unhealthy environment for all those involved.
Because of the constant changing of homes and constant feeling of rejection many foster children will develop an attachment disorder. This is when they become afraid to love and give their heart to someone because they have changed homes so many times. These children, in self-preservation, build a wall up and become more and more difficult to reach. As these children travel through the system they become angry, scared, blame themselves and lose self-worth. They wonder with each new placement if this will be their last home. Everyone they have trusted in their life has seemed to let them down. This includes the system, their case worker and even their foster parents. It is heart breaking to open up the door to a foster child and see them standing there with all of their belongings and memories smashed into a twenty-five cent plastic bag.
“Trash Bag Kids”
“Please Don’t Judge Me, You Can’t Handle Half of What I’ve Dealt With. There is a Reason I Do the Things I Do, There’s a Reason I am Who I am”
Here are a few things to help you decide if can or want to adopt from the foster system.
1. Is it expensive to adopt? Adoption from foster care is not expensive. It typically costs from $0 to $ 1500. In many cases, there is financial support and it may cost nothing. Most children adopted out of foster care get a subsidy from the government until the child turns 18. Also, their health care is usually provided and their college is paid for in many cases.
2. Are children in foster care juvenile delinquents? Nothing could be further from the truth. Children in foster care enter the system through no fault of their own. Fifty percent of children in foster care are over the age of 8 and 30% are over the age of 12.
3. Can the biological parents try to have the children returned? Once a child has been made legally free for adoption, a birth parent cannot claim a child. It is the adoptive parent’s choice if they want to maintain contact with the biological family.
4. Can a single individual adopt a child?Unmarried individuals are legally able to adopt in all 50 states. Nearly 30% of the children adopted from foster care last year were single parents.
5. Is dealing with the child welfare system burdensome? Yes, the system is fraught with rules, processes and unresponsiveness. It is a complex system, but the professionals involved are as committed as you are to finding homes for children.
6. Can you choose your child? Yes, you can choose the age, race and sex of the child you adopt.
7. Are you too old to adopt a child? There is a story of a young girl, age fourteen, that had been in her sixth foster home. She was ready to give up hope of ever having a family she could call her own when they put her in the “home of an angel”. The girl states, “She was in her sixties and gave me a true life until the day she passed away”.
ALL CHILDREN HAVE POTENTIAL
8. Some Famous foster kids - Eddie Murphy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Willie Nelson, Marylyn Monroe, Dr. Ruth, Alonzo Mourning, Cher, Ice T, John Lennon, James Dean, Babe Ruth, Daunte Culpepper, Harry Potter, and Superman.
All children can be challenging at one time or another whether they are foster children or your biological children. I would like to tell if you adopt a child it will be easy with a story book ending. My wife and I adopted our first children when we were almost fifty. I have not had a single regret, even though some days have been challenging. “I never imagined these children in my life, now I cannot imagine them not in my life”.
If you’re having trouble deciding if you want to be a foster parent, you need to educate yourself and study the process. Forty-two to sixty- two percent quit in the first year. Foster parents over the age of thirty tend to have a greater length of service. Foster parents leave for a variety of reasons. They may leave because they are frustrated and exhausted. Some parents leave because they have little voice in decisions affecting children in their care. Some leave because the caseworkers are inaccessible and slow to respond to the needs of the foster parents and the children. Others may leave because of false allegations of abuse and neglect made by the children.
What do you need to be a successful foster parent? You need to realize you are part of a team. You’re on a team with the caseworker, relatives, therapists, psychologists, and doctors. Remember, you have support so use the resources available to you. You will need to learn the needs of a foster child and how to deal with their backgrounds and behaviors. Identify your own limits and which behaviors you can and cannot deal with. Please do not let all this information intimidate you; just remember they are all kids at the end of each day who need a loving soul to help them put all their broken pieces back together.
Make sure your own family is ready to accept this new responsibility. It is not just about the foster parent, but your own biological children and relatives. Do not be surprised at the number of people discouraging you not to do this. Be careful not to ignore your own children and put all your focus on the foster children. You will get positive and negative reactions in your decision to foster; just follow your heart. In the end, what does it take to be a good foster parent? It takes a good sense of humor, strong values, a good marriage, consistent and reasonable discipline and incredible patience. Most of all, you need the spirit not to give up on a child and to be able to provide unconditional love.
CAN YOU BE A FOSTER PARENT?
In my experiences foster parents also suffer from a negative stereotype. Forty- two percent of the people think we foster because we care for the children, twenty -nine percent of the people believe we do it for financial gain. The rest of the people believe we do it for both good heartedness and for the monthly payments. A good foster parent will give a child unconditional love and not treat their parenting as a job.
In bad foster homes, the parents use the stipend they receive for personal needs. The biological family may wear fancy clothes and drive nice cars while the foster children are dressed in old clothing and appears unkempt. Some foster homes feed their biological family different food than the foster children. The foster children may eat Ramon Noodles and bologna sandwiches daily, while the biological family will eat fine meals in and out of the home.
A sad fact I have learned is that many foster children who have been in the system refer to themselves as a paycheck. As a child grows older they will learn that you are getting paid to keep them and this will leave doubt in their heart that your love is unconditional. Children often feel like they’re alone even while living in a foster home. Many kids feel no one in that home loves or cares for them. In many cases the children are right and often feel like second class citizens in their own homes. There are foster homes that padlock their refrigerators and lock the pantries. When asked if they could have their childhood back, most of the children said no. Fifty percent of foster children are re - abused in foster care.
You are now wondering why Child Protective Services allows some of these people to foster children. Fostering can be difficult and many people quit. They often quit because it is frustrating to help a frustrated and angry child. Many foster parents expect these children to be grateful for letting them live in their home. This will never happen until that child believes that you love them unconditionally and will never send them away. There are just not enough good homes available for the growing number of abused and neglected children. I try not to get frustrated at even the bad foster homes, because they are necessary until a solution is found. Our society has a growing problem and we need to find a better solution.
The problem is that there is too much abuse and not enough good homes to place these children in. The Children’s Homes or orphanages are always running at near capacity. Too many people become foster parents only because it’s an income source. There are just not enough good places for these children and not enough people getting involved for the right reason. I do believe that there are many amazing foster homes. In fact, most of them are good, but we only seem to hear about the bad ones. We need to make it easier for good people to become foster parents. In a society where in most homes both parents work it is almost impossible to complete the duties of a foster parent. A foster parent has to take foster children to doctor appointments, therapist appointments, and parental visitations and most people cannot take off work that amount to complete the foster systems requirements. That may not sound like much but now multiply by the number of foster kids in your care.
WE ARE NOT GETTING RICH
They need a plan. In many states their college is completely paid for but only two percent will ever graduate. The reason is that most of these children's tumultuous lives have not given them the skills they need to succeed. How could they possibly keep up academically when they keep changing schools? Each teacher teaches differently and are at different stages of a subject when a foster child arrives. If a teacher at a child’s old school is at step two and then the child moves, the new teacher may be on step four. Now imagine this happening four times a year while the child is in care. This will create huge gaps in a child’s educational learning. Child Protective Services has improved a great deal to prevent children from changing homes and schools unless it is absolutely necessary.
My new daughter, Jaylynn, is in second grade. Even though she attended first grade, it feels like she skipped that whole year. During her first grade year, she was being starved and physically and emotionally brutalized by her adoptive parents to be. Almost no learning took place even though she attended classes all year long. On one of Jaylynn’s math papers she made a 61. She wrote to her teacher, “I m vary sori, I love yoo”. It breaks my heart that my little girl thinks it is her fault she cannot do math. She was separated from her biological mother at age four; she lived in many different homes in three years. She was tortured by her adoptive parents to be, even though they promised to love and protect her. I sat Jaylynn on my lap and told her she does not have to apologize or feel bad for making a 61. I said, “If a 61 is the best you can do, mom and I will still love you”. She looked me in the eyes and gave me a big hug. I am not expecting teachers to make exceptions for foster children, but maybe be a little more patient and understanding. If they would just consider the abused child’s behavior is a result from his or her troubled past which was no fault of their own.
The best way to help these children is to go back and fill the gaps in their education. This is easier said than done. We took my daughter Kylee to a special school to help fill the gaps in her education created by her mobile and unstable home life. After extensive testing we were able to pin point her gaps in her education. We learned it will take 120 to 160 hours of specialized classes to fill her gaps. These are just the gaps created in her kindergarten to second grade year. We thought holding Kylee back in the second grade would help fill those gaps and would help her catch up with her classmates. This did not help at all and now she is flunking the second grade for the second time. In retrospect what we did made no sense at all. How can a child be expected to do second grade work when she did not obtain the skills she needed in kindergarten and first grade. Even if Kylee repeats second grade for a third time it would not help. The only chance Kylee has is for us to go back and reteach the skills she missed. Education is like climbing a ladder and each rung on a ladder is a grade level and you cannot start climbing a ladder in the middle. Kylee has only moved three times in her educational life. Now imagine a typical foster child that has moved 15 times in their educational life. How can we possibly expect these children to fill those gaps and function academically at grade level. The frustration these children have in academics often results in them being behavior problems and under achievers. The only chance these children have academically for our educational system is to close these gaps.Let’s be realistic we cannot catch all these kids up to grade level. We need to develop them a backup plan for these kids to succeed.
Educators do the best they can to catch these children academically up to their peers. Maybe we should not push them all towards college. Instead, lead them towards their strengths and passions. We can use the money we give them to go to college to help them learn a trade. For example, we could teach them bookkeeping, business management, teach them how to start a business or how to be a mechanic or be a welder. We can teach them how to be a good employee and how to provide good customer service. When most of these kids leave they do not even know how to drive a car or even know how to fill out a job application.
Our society has taught our entire generation that you are not a success if you do not obtain a degree. I personally know more successful people without degrees than ones with degrees. This does not mean we should rule out college, but offer them more options. We cannot try to fit all these kids into the same size box. We are not all created equal. Some people are stronger than others, while others are smarter. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We need to help these children figure out what their strengths are and focus on these while helping them overcome their weaknesses
Crusade for the Invisible Foster Child
12 Million Americans Have Been in Foster Care The United States Spends 8 Billion Dollars a Year on Foster Care
A foster child’s life is one of confusion, sadness and pain. These children are not only abused physically, but also emotionally, by the turbulent lives in which they have been thrown into. These children blend into our communities, churches and our schools going unnoticed. Most people do not realize these children have no real home and no true mommies and daddies. I wish everyone could put themselves in a foster child’s shoes to walk in their everyday struggles; and just imagine how their lives would have been different if they had been a foster child.
When a foster child is taken from their home and put into the system everything that the child knows is turned upside down. Even if it is a bad and abusive home it is still all they know and are familiar with. The child is frightened and does not understand why this is happening or where they are going and why. When they show up to a stranger’s home they are not sure if the people are nice or mean. They may have been separated from their brothers and sisters. They are not sure what has happened to their parents or if they will ever see them again. Now just imagine you or your children being ripped from all they know and put in a place they have never been before and think about the insecurity this instills in their heart and mind.
I often hear people criticize Child Protective Services. I believe these people have one of the most difficult jobs. They are called out at all hours of the night and are one of the first ones on the scene. They have to make snap decisions to insure the safety of the children. The parents are lying to protect their children or to save their own skin. The children are afraid and confused and will often lie to protect their parents or are afraid of their parents. The scene is often chaotic, so just picture a Jerry Springer episode at three in the morning.
Child Protective Services is often criticized on how it returns children back over to their parents or places them in bad foster homes. Our state policy has proclaimed its main goal is reunification with the family. I am sure this is an economic decision because it is much cheaper to put children back with the family than to pay for foster care. Child Protective Services, as far I can tell, do everything in their power to check out foster homes. They require lots of training and do random home inspections. Many times there are too many homes and not enough workers for the amount of checking needed. We need to remember that a bad foster parent is going to lie and hide evidence of abuse. In many cases, the children are going to lie because they are afraid of their foster parents. Once a home’s door closes, it is difficult or close to impossible to tell what is going on behind closed doors. The job at Child Protective Services is so difficult and stressful the average the turnover rate is 9 to 18 months before they find another job. In my opinion, Child Protective Service workers are heroes that are given an impossible job. They fight on the front line for abused children. Sometimes they make mistakes but they still deserve our respect and admiration. Child Protective Services is absolutely necessary, it is the only government entity set up to protect these children and remove them from a dangerous situation. The system may have its faults and we need to keep improving it.