Lately I've been getting frustrated with the process to become a foster parent. My life is moving on and moving quickly, and because I still have no idea if and when I will be getting a child, I can't make plans around a child's welfare. And I know I'm not the only one in this position. My friend Lindsay is going through a contested adoption over her youngest son. My friend, Sara, is in the process of adopting two little girls from Ethiopia. (Sidenote: Sara and Linds know each other as well. We all grew up in Oakton together.) And my friend, Richard Rieben and his darling wife, Valerie, who have "homemade" triplets, plus two "custom ordered" sons from Uzbekistan and Ukraine, are in the process of adopting two girls from Bulgaria. (each of the links go to each respective person's blog on their adoption journey)
As I read the blogs of each of these people, and I am overwhelmingly affected by how much we all have in common, in spite of the total differences in our situations. The major similarity in all of our cases is just how long this process takes, and how bureaucracy and red tape can screw things up.We all have good homes, and we have all been waiting forever to be cleared to receive our children.
I don't have many statistics on adoption. But I would like to share with you some stats on foster care here in Utah.
- More than 36,400 complaints of child abuse and neglect are made each year.
- Last year, approximately 19,878 complaints were investigated, and 8,268 were found to have some merit.
- The most common complaints involved children witnessing domestic violence and being sexually abused.
- Neglect accounts for 36 percent of children in custody.
- 1,758 children entered foster care.
- Substance abuse was a factor in 56 percent of children placed in foster care.
- Sixty-seven percent of families receiving services have their children living with them in their homes.
- There are 2,600 children under state care in Utah as of 9/22/09.
- Typically a foster family receives $15 per day for care for infants and children and $18 for a teenager. In comparison, the average doggy day care or kennel charges $20 per day for animal care.
- Latino/Hispanic children are over-represented in foster care. They comprise 25% of the children in custody.
I get asked a lot why I want to become a foster parent. This weekend I had someone very directly look me in the eye and say, "WHY?" I know it surprises and shocks some people. Why would a single woman want to become a foster mother? Why would I want to give up my freedom and single lifestyle to be tied down to a child? And why would anyone want to take in a troubled youth, who has been abused, and will need counseling and therapy?
I don't have a simple or easy answer to give you. I can tell you that my whole life I have known I would be a foster parent and adoptive parent someday. When I was 12 years old and other kids wanted to be astronauts and doctors, I wanted to be a foster parent (I may not have ever written an essay on the subject, but I always just *knew* I would be some day). I have always believed that if you have been blessed with much, you should share as much. I am grateful to have a good income, the time, and the ability to provide for someone else. I also personally feel that a single woman, on her own, taking care of herself, is the best possible role model for a teenage girl in the system who is about to age out and be stuck on her own.
I wanted to be Brangelina, before Brangelina was cool. I wanted to be the Duggars before the Duggars were cool. (Wait, are the Duggars cool? I think they are.) For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to adopt a dozen children from around the world. I just never expected to be in my mid-30's and still single. I never thought I'd be starting on those life dreams so late. I do believe that children deserve two parents- both a father and a mother. And as much as I want to adopt children from Ethiopia, Vietnam, China, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and many other places, I won't do it alone. At least not yet. I have decided that if I am still single at 40, I will revisit the idea. But for now, I will stick with foster parenting. In foster care, the child already has two parents; I make three. Its unfortunate that the first two parents suck and don't deserve their child.
So I just sit and wait for someone somewhere to finish reviewing my paperwork. And I just keep making plans assuming there won't be a child in my life. I'll go to NYC each month, plan a trip to Scotland, plan a trip to VA, start making Christmas plans, and commit myself to more and more projects. And all the time wonder if and when a child is going to arrive in my life and throw all of this off? Is it really going to take a full year from the point I had my first in-take interview to actual placement? If the child doesn't arrive before Christmas, then yes, it will have taken a full year. Isn't that sad?