Should You Grow Your Family Through Foster Care Adoption?

For many parents, deciding if, when or how to grow your family can be difficult. And when other factors—such as infertility or the heightened needs of your other children—come into play, the decision-making can be that much harder. Here’s this week’s Parental Advisory question:

Dear Meghan,

My husband and I are both in our mid-40’s and are head over heels in love with our 7-year-old kiddo, who is smart, adorable, sweet, hilarious, and a terrific sleeper to boot. He also has ADHD and gives us a run for the money. We have standing therapy appointments, specialists appointments, IEP plan at school, etc. I work a short week to accommodate most of it.

My husband and I both love babies and children. I can’t bear another biological child for medical reasons and I’ve dealt with my heartbreak about that. If we want to raise two kids close-ish in age we need to move forward with adoption, probably adoption from foster.

At the same time, sometimes my husband and I feel like we’re at capacity with our high-needs kiddo. We are often frustrated, exhausted, etc. He worries that it wouldn’t be fair to another child since our son takes up so much of our attention.

My question to you is this: Should we go for the bigger family or decide to be content with what we do have?


Mummy of 1

Mummy of 1,

I really want to give you an answer. This is an advice column, and you came to me with a very specific question, and I feel honoured to have been trusted with something so close to your heart. But that specific question is one I simply can’t answer for another parent. I don’t think anyone can.

I struggled to answer it for myself, in all honesty. I, too, have one biological son. I, too, was drawn to adoption through the foster care system (we had a few placements over a couple of years, none of which resulted in adoption). I, too, was ultimately unable to have a second biological child—or was unwilling to continue trying after a couple of losses.

I will say that now, I am content with one child. But being content with it didn’t happen naturally or quickly. I had to really work at it. I did want more children. I did want my son to have siblings. And I am content with my family of three. All of these things can be true, at least for me.

Part of what may be stalling you in terms of foster care adoption could be the unknown. You’ve had a baby; you have a decent idea of what that entails, even if the experience will vary from baby to baby. But parenting a child in foster care, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a very different experience.

You mentioned that your son has a host of regular therapy and specialist appointments and that he requires a lot of attention and emotional energy. Having parented kids in the foster care system, I would say the same is very likely to be true of any child who is placed in your home. It’s not an exaggeration to say each one of those children has experienced some type of trauma, whether it be abuse, neglect, the trauma of being separated from their biological family and/or having been moved among several different foster homes. They may also still have regular visitation with their biological parents or siblings, therapy appointments, social worker home visits and court dates.

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I don’t say any of this to discourage you—adoption from the foster care system is a wonderful thing. But having all the information and setting realistic expectations is key for success here. That’s why my best advice for you as you work toward making this decision is to go on a local fact-finding mission.

In Australia, fostering depends on which state you live in and is done through fostering agencies. For information on foster parent qualifications and a list of approved public and private foster and adoptive agencies, visit your state’s site for more information.

I think the missing piece for you and your husband right now is a clearer picture on what the process looks like and whether you have the time, resources and support in place to pursue adoption.

Wishing you all the best, as one “mummy of one” to another.

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