Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adoption is for Adulthood

One of the ideas that has really struck me over the past two weeks is that children do not need to be adopted for the sake of their childhood. Many foster homes can provide a great environment for a child... and teenagers are going to be teenagers regardless of where they are. They are going to test and fuss and talk back and make poor choices and go from one disaster to another in their own growing up years.

But adoption is for adulthood. It's when a child turns 18 and thinks they know everything and can do it all on their own that the need for parents kicks in. Actually it's a few weeks or months after that when they suddenly realize that they can't make it without their parents. It's then that kids need parents.

And so if the goal of caseworkers is to get the child to 18 we are doing them a great disservice. The goal should be that we need to find adults committed to them so that when they are 28 they will be ok.

I'm especially impressed with some of the casework being done for 16 and 17 year olds whose parental rights are not terminated. Workers, instead of saying "You are not allowed to see your birthfamily until you turn 18" are actually going with them to reconnect with healthy members of their birth family. They are introducing them to people who they might connect with who can be positive role models for the kids as the years go by.

In our own family we have seen that the need for family and support gets greater as the kids become adults. They hate to admit it, but they do need our support sometimes..... and as I've said many times, "An adult who has a parent to call from jail is better off than an adult in jail with nobody to call."

So I'm challenging workers to keep this in mind as we work towards permanency. It certainly matters where they are right now and that they are OK, but it is more important that they will continue to be OK after adulthood.

As parents it wouldn't hurt us to remember that too. All the challenges and stupid choices of the teenage years, if we can weather the storms and deal with the disappointments, can lead to them making better choices as adults. And that's what we're holding on to...

7 comments:

Linda said...

Good point. Well said.

Lee said...

So true! I think back to when I was 18 and knew it all. (and shudder!) I want to be there to help my kids find their way through that morass of confusing ideas, hopes dreams and all that with safety. If they don't think they can talk to me, it won't happen.

J. said...

well said and so very true.

Tom said...

I think you need to tweak that and submit it as a letter/commentary to the local paper.

Cyndi said...

Adoption is for life, just as family is. We all need each other in order for things to work out for the best. We have great relationships with our now grown kids. They do come back and say that if they had listened things could have been easier for them. One example of this we have going right now is a kid who chose to only work ten hours a week his junior and senior years in high school because he was going to just relax, now he has decided that he wants to study in Europe and take 3 majors but he has to work or he will not have the money to do what he wants to.

Kat said...

Amen, amen, amen. Even if they choose not to go home for the holidays - it's a whole lot better than having nowhere to go.

Same is true with kids who don't get adopted, but age out of foster care. I'd like to see some sort of network set up to match these kids with compatible families - a way to get to know each other and decide if it's a good fit for both sides before making a commitment that could turn into a long-term relationship.

GB's Mom said...

Absolutely! Couldn't have said it better :)