Who are the families who want to adopt?
There are many reasons families decide to adopt children who have been in foster care, but the one thing they all have in common is the desire to be permanent, loving, supportive families to children who have been through a lot in their lives. Recruited families can be any sort of family - a single man or woman, a married or gay couple, older or younger, all races and religions, with differing interests and professions. Some families have biological children, others have children they adopted as babies or internationally, and some have guardianship of their nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or other relatives.
What do families have to do to adopt?
Adoptive families go through a family assessment (also known as a homestudy) process almost exactly like what foster parents go through - they have to have background and fingerprint checks, have a worker assess their home to make sure it's safe for children to live in, and detailed narratives are written about their family history. Adoptive families have to take the same training classes as foster parents (PRIDE) and both have to be approved by licensing supervisors in private agencies or DHHS offices.
What does it mean if a family is inquiring about kids?
On both mare.org and adoptuskids.org, children from around the country who are waiting to be adopted have photolisting pages with a picture and narrative about them. Some children may also have a video on their photolisting to help prospective parents learn more about the kids. Parents who have completed, approved homestudies can go onto these webpages and search the children available. If they see a child they are interested in adopting, they "inquire" - this means that an email is sent to MARE that says the Smith Family is interested in learning more about Johnny. MARE staff work to get Johnny's adoption worker and the Smith Family's adoption worker talking to each other so they can decide if the Smith's would be a good fit for Johnny. If Johnny's worker decides that the Smith's might be a good family, the worker will send the child assessment to the Smith's adoption worker for them to read. If the Smith's worker decides that Johnny is a good fit, they will give the assessment to the Smith's to read in detail and decide.
If, after all of that, the Smith's are interested in adopting Johnny (and Johnny wants the Smith's to adopt him), visitations will start. Here's where it get's tricky:
- If the Smith's are a licensed foster family, Johnny can move into their home right away and have in-home visitations.
- If the Smith's do not have a foster care license, only an adoption homestudy, Johnny and the Smith's have to meet for around 6 months and have out-of-home visitations, and Johnny cannot live with the Smith's until the court allows the adoption to be finalized.
Can an adoptive family change their mind and "give the child back"?
Once the court has finalized an adoption, Johnny is legally the Smith's child. If the Smith's try and "give Johnny back" to the state, they can be brought up on child abandonment charges, just like what would happen with a biological child. That is why it's so important for both the Smith's and Johnny to have a lot of visitations before the adoption is final, so that everyone can make sure they're happy with this adoption and no one regrets the placement.
However, if the family changes their mind before the adoption is finalized, they can request the child be removed from the home and recruitment will have to start all over for the child. That's why workers spend so much time reading homestudies and child assessments before placing a child in a pre-adoptive home!
Photo by Kari Douma for the Michigan Heart Gallery
Dalton was matched with his Forever Family a few years ago and this year they participated in the 2010 Heart Gallery as a success story!