185,400 said they would adopt a child age 13 or older. There were 30,654 children age 13 or older in foster care -- or, six prospective parents for each waiting child. Additionally, 181,800 respondents said they would adopt children with severe disabilities, and 447,000 said they would adopt two or more siblings at once.
The article goes on to question why only 8,000 children in foster care were adopted last year. Well, I'm sure you know that I have many opinions about this, but let me simply state one possible reason.
Those 185,400 people (or the 181,800) don't know me. Now that sounds even more arrogant than I usually allow myself to be, but let me explain.
Matching is tricky. In fact there are so many different pieces of it that it is difficult to even begin an attempt to explain all the intricacies. if you've read my Series on Matching it articulates some of them. But most of those articles talk about the discrepancy between those who want small children with few issues and the fact that most children are older with severe issues. So what about these 185,400 people who want to adopt teens?
There is a difficult progression that must take place with each family. First, they must be adequately train and know what to expect. Secondly, they must be coached on the matching process. Third, they must be pushed the right amount and held back the right amount. Taking on kids who have difficult histories is not for the faint of heart. If I can see a family is taking the issues too seriously, I must explain. If I can see that they are not taking them seriously enough, I again must explain.
I have placed a lot of very difficult children into homes that have kept them. Knowing what might be ahead for the families makes it difficult sometimes for me to suggest it. But I must keep the children in mind and prepare the parents, while not discouraging them.
I don't know the 185,400 people. In fact, I may only know of about 20 or 30 families willing to take teens. I would love to know them all. But once I knew them, it would require a lot of effort to convince them to consider certain types of children. I would point out things that a lot of people don't realize:
1) Adopting a child who has an IQ of 65 and labeled "Mildly mentally retarded" may actually be wiser than adopting a child who has an IQ of 75, low average. Why? Because a child in that range will not get services in most states, but cannot live independently as an adult.
2) Adopting a child on probation might not be a bad idea. You have backup of the law if something happens and the probation officer can help with your parenting. You may make more progress with a child if you have that kind of support.
3) A child who has a horrible history (child A) and is doing very well now might be easier to parent than a child who at this time does not have a horrible history but may have one later (Child B). Child A may have been through their worst already while with Child B it might be to come.
4) In order for a child to receive therapuetic foster care services, children need a diagnosis. Different psychologists diagnose things differently. For example, children in MN are very seldom diagnosed as bipolar, even as teenagers. It is considered poor practice among psychiatrists here to do so. However, in other states, children as young as three are diagnosed with it regularly. Therefore, a child may have a long list of diagnosis, especially if they are older, that may or may not be accurate.
5) Children in foster care are often overmedicated. I have had several children placed in families that I serve who have gone from 6 or 7 medications upon arrival to only one or two within a year.
But most importantly, I tell parents that there is no way to predict how any child will make it in a family. Every situation is unique. All of the factors both in the family system and in the child interact together and there is no way to know. I have placed kids who were completely fine in foster care into families where they exploded. I have placed kids who were out of control in foster care and within weeks were fine in their adoptive homes. And I have placed and parented several kids who did very well when they were younger and freaked out as teens.
My guess is that many of the 185,000 have either been matched and declined, or are unwilling to consider kids that are tougher. I realize that not everyone is cut out to parent tough kids, but there is so much value it it. The approach however, must be different.
Going into the adoption of older kids requires an approach much different than any other kind of parenting. It has to be joining them to observe them making poor choices. It has to be riding along and offering advice, without being able to do much to control the outcome.
And yes, people put themselves in dangerous spots and maybe at risk by doing so. And certainly, there are families that cannot put their other children at risk. And, as readers of my blog have pointed out, there are many families that can't do this.
I'm sure that there may be negative comments about things that I have written and after a morning like I had with one of our sons, I'm in no mood to counter anyone's opinions that some kids are too difficult for anyone to parent.
But if you are one of the 185,000 willing to take a kid over 13, especially if you are one who is willing to take one with severe disabilities, email me.
I'll find you a match.