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...