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U.S. Foster Adoption Waiting

Being Warned About Children on Waiting Child Lists


My wife and I are getting licensed through the state of Washington to foster and adopt.  It looks like we should have our license sometime in December.  Our intention is to adopt, not foster, and the reason we are getting licensed to foster is to make it easier to place the child/children with us during the interim time that we are waiting to get the adoption finalized.

We’ve been married for almost 23 years and have never had children due to infertility.  We did our best to accept that we weren’t going to be parents and were doing relatively well with it.  A few years ago, our teenage niece came to live with us.  Her home life was not good and she had run away a few times.  She had been hospitalized in the past because of trying to hurt herself.  We gave her a stable home life, taught her to drive, helped her work through her challenges, etc.  Over time, she got a good job, bought her own car without anyone’s help, and last year got married to a great guy.  After she got married and moved out, we started to realize that our house was empty and even though it’s what we were used to, we wanted life in our house again.  So here we are, looking to adopt.

We’ve read half a dozen books on adoption and trauma.  We’ve joined a foster parent support group where we’ve met people that are great resources through this process and will continue to be after we adopt.  We know that all kids removed from their bio-families will have trauma and other issues and frankly, we’re going into this process with fairly low expectations as far as behaviors and emotional/developmental challenges.  We’ve gotten past the part where wanting to be parents was all about us and one of the things that draws us to adopting from foster care is the opportunity to help a child work through and overcome their challenges and reach their potential.  We are looking for 1-3 kids (ideally post-potty-training and pre-puberty, but we’re open) and are self-aware enough to know what physical/emotional/medical issues we can handle and to what degree.  Deal-breakers for us are cruelty to animals, SAY, most likely fire-starters, and PAY that’s more than just a once or twice thing.

Because our goal is to adopt and not foster, we have been looking at the state and national photolisting websites to get an idea of what kids are out there that are legally free.  Once our licensing process is complete in a few more weeks, we’ll have access to more information on several of those sites and can get more detailed information on the children we’ve been looking at.  Obviously, the easy-to-place kids will already be adopted and not be “waiting children”.  We’re able to see some of the issues these kids have by looking at the wording in their descriptions (i.e. “can be respectful” = usually very disrespectful, “would do well with a strong male role model” = has serious issues with women, etc.)

Recently, we have been told by several people to avoid legally free children, because there’s a reason they’re not adopted and to stay away form those sites.  The thing is, if we don’t go with legally free, our alternative is fostering.  We’re not up to multiple children that we’re hoping to adopt being reunified (we understand that that is the purpose of the child welfare system and know that it’s typically better for the children when this happens).

Does anyone have experience with adopting kids from the waiting lists?  Should we avoid them?  Are all of them that much more difficult than a typical child in the foster system?

Replies

Yes. My partner and I adopted our son outside of our own state and out of the system and I found him on a Heart Gallery.

This was 8 years ago and he is soon to turn 20.

Was it easy?  No.

Did years in the system impact him?  Yes.

What was the worst part?  Me.

If there’s anything I can say through all of it is that I was the one who had to change. I had to change my expectations and especially learn to live with things that I in no way could change in my son.

There were rough times, especially in high school.

Living with two professional adults who both sought out advanced education and careers was not easy on a child who did not care about education in the way we did.

But for 12 years of his life, he had nobody pushing him in this or that direction, reinforcing him along certain paths, or trying to change the paths he was choosing.

He had none of what the majority of us take for granted in our lives.

When I changed my own expectations, our relationship improved dramatically and while there were rough spots, I was able to see him through high school and now he has a solid job in doing something he loves to do (auto mechanics).

He’ll be 20 in a few weeks and I think we did the best we could given all of the unknowns of his first 12 years, and when all is said and done I think we instilled in him some expectations for his own life that he can meet on his own terms… not ours.

I will be blunt as that is all I can be - it was not easy and sometimes I thought I was going to lose my mind.

But all of the problems, the anger, the frustrations, etc. were worth it in the end and if my own life made the life of my son that much easier now than so be it.

Every child will be different.

Every child will have baggage.

Some of that baggage will not be pretty.

But the end result in many cases justifies that hardships and the journey.

In many ways I suspect I am more changed than even my son is.

I was put through a crucible of life-shattering change for myself that I did not expect to happen.

And like I said… it was the expectations I had that ultimately needed to evolve and change. Once I gave up certain fantasies in my head that I thought I could some how overlay on a 12 year old who had so much robbed out of his formative years, our relationship changed and strengthened.

I got him to young adulthood. And he’s on the cusp of going out into the world on his own.

So all I can ultimately say is No, you should most definitely NOT avoid children on waiting lists in the system.

You should throw out any expectations and fantasies you may have because they will cause more harm than good.

You should be prepared to commit fully no matter how frustrated and angry you become.

You should prepare yourself to change in ways you never quite expected you would.

You should be prepared do do things and go in directions that prior to adoption you never would have thought you would approve of.

You should be prepared to do for your adopted child EXACTLY what you would do if they were your own flesh and blood because a moment will happen, regardless of all the hurdles and frustrations, when you look at the child and there is no “adopted” or “birth child” in front of you… there is only your child and you need to do whatever you need to do to make their life the best it possibly can be and get them through everything and anything they need to get through.

Posted by secher_nbiw on Oct 23, 2019 at 3:07pm

Most of the kids on those sites will have severe behaviors, especially if you are looking for preteens. The “easy” kids are almost always adopted by their foster families. I went into this thinking i was very trauma informed and open to significant behaviors. Then i provided respite a few times and realized I am just not able to handle the behaviors, my imagination just wasnt good enough to fully grasp how difficult it would be in real life. Some people do very well with managing the effects of trauma, but I just cant. If you are licensed to foster are you able to provide respite care and get your feet wet a bit? In the end I adopted 2 children, one was listed on the NWAE and the other was on adoptuskids.  Both have serious medical needs but neither have any behaviors at all.

Posted by rn4kidz on Oct 23, 2019 at 4:02pm

As a FFY, just want to tip my virtual hat to secher_nbiw.

Posted by NoraT on Oct 23, 2019 at 6:05pm

I strongly encourage you to consider adopting a child from the waiting list sites.  Here in Texas, they have a site called the TARE with some of the legally free kids on it.  Unfortunately, they say there are between 3,000 and 4,000 legally free adoptable children here, but only a tiny fraction of them are on the TARE.

I too am licensed as a foster / adopt home for the same reasons as you - to get the kids here faster.  My complaint is that there are a lot of families trying to adopt a child, but we can’t because we don’t know they exist and they don’t know we exist.  The waiting and uncertainty and everything going dark about information and what is going on in the process is daunting, and it happens every-single-time.  Don’t let it discourage you though, it does happen but at a snails pace most of the time.

Several of my sons (there are 9 of them - none of them siblings and none adopted at the same time) did come from the TARE as young teens, so if you are willing to try teens your chances of being matched increase dramatically, because many people do not want to try adopting teens.  A lot of people think the kids on the site are “damaged merchandise” and stay away, but I can tell you that my sons have developed into amazing young teen men.

Other people who have met them adore them and it has changed the attitude of a few families who are now looking to adopt for themselves. One of my sons just graduated from ASU earlier this year, so it can be a great experience with great success.

Give the sites a chance, insist on accurate information on the child from CPS and then make your decision.  I have turned down several boys who I had originally submitted an inquiry on and had considered because I know what I can and cannot deal with to make them part of our family and to succeed in life.

Good luck on your journey!  It will be trying many times, but so rewarding.

Posted by GangNet on Oct 23, 2019 at 8:13pm

And what if the one you get is not one who turns out to be a “success” story?
GangNet says she has successfully (in terms of what he/she defines as successful) raised 9 kids who are socially acceptable and even superior.
But what if the kid you get isn’t like that? He/she does admit that she turned town kids who didn’t fit the mold of what he/she wanted
Are you prepared to care for a child who will not “make them part of our family and to succeed in life?
There will always be some “success” stories about adopters who had children fit into their families. There will also always be horror stories about people who found out the kids didn’t fit in. Some of those stories result in kids being “rehomed.”
It’s just so hard as an FFY to keep reading about how what matters to the “parents” is their own egos and the accomplishments of the children as validation of themselves.

Posted by NoraT on Oct 23, 2019 at 9:08pm

Honestly, if your main goal is adoption, I think it’s better in a lot of ways to go with kids who are legally free for adoption.  Typically if they are on the “waiting children” photolisting then they are legally free and it’s already pretty much been established that there is no suitable blood family to take them in.  Additionally, it’s likely that most of their issues are “known” as opposed to kids who have just come into foster care who may still have behavioral issues or abuse issues that haven’t come out yet. 
That being said, while you wait to be matched, you should absolutely do respite foster placements for kids that are not necessarily legally free.  Take advantage of as much continuing education as possible, and you may even consider taking the training for therapeutic foster care.  Even if fostering and therapeutic foster care aren’t your main purpose, having the skills doesn’t hurt, will give you a better idea of what “challenging behavior” you might see.  Because so many kids in foster care have experienced substantial trauma, even if they don’t have “therapeutic foster care needs”, having the therapeutic training may give you a boost with the social workers who are placing kids. 
You will also have the advantage of having essentially adopted and finished raising your niece!  Even if it was unofficial, the fact that you’ve had that kind of parenting experience will help in your favor! 

Hubby and I just adopted our 15 year old daughter after fostering-to-adopt her for a little over a year.  She has a pretty horrific history even by foster care standards, and as a result she is not always as respectful of her own safety as I would like, but we’re working on it.  We are really proud of how she is doing overall, especially considering that at her age she’s at a stage where she should be pushing her parents away and asserting her own independence. It can’t be easy at all to have us trying to forge a parental relationship with her (when her experiences with parents and caregivers were traumatic) and simultaneously have her (normal) teenager brain yelling “OMG PARENTS THEY’RE THE WORST I WISH THEY WOULD LEAVE ME ALONE AND LET ME DO MY THING!”.  grin 
I tell people we skipped the literal diaper blowouts and went straight for the metaphorical ones.  grin  We love her dearly though, and she loves us, even though she still has difficulty with trust and caregiver relationships. 
I think some of the best books I’ve read have been Cathy Glass and also Casey Watson’s fostering memoirs.  While they are from the UK and the foster/adoption system over there is a bit different from the ones here in the US in some ways, the issues the children face and the reasons they come into care are not.

Posted by NPNFEEF on Oct 23, 2019 at 9:22pm

Thank you all for the great advice and input!  Today we needed the reassurance that what we’re trying to d isn’t impossible. 

We’re definitely seeing that there are ups and downs in this process.  We’ve been told contradictory things so many times (by people that should know better) that we’ve had a couple days that we didn’t think that this would work out and contemplated quitting.  Fortunately, we’re both used to dealing with public agencies and corporations and are used to the lack of helpfulness many are known for.  Fortunately, we’re fairly stubborn and good at figuring out how to get the information we need eventually.

I think the comments about our expectations are some of the most helpful.  We looked into foster-adoption several years ago after our final year-long go-round at the futility clinic.  At that time, we decided against it primarily because we knew it wouldn’t meet our expectations.  We’re in a different place now, and our expectations are so much different from what they used to be.  We’re pretty sure there are kids out there that we’d be able to give what they need.

I’m glad to hear that there are people out there that have had good experiences with adoptuskids, NWAE, and TARE.  These are where we’ve been looking, but anytime we’ve brought them up to other foster parents or agencies, it’s almost like they look down on the sites.  However, we’ve found a few kids on each of these sites that we want to get more info on once we have our license.  Once we get the full info, we’re going to go through it with one or two long-time foster parents in our support group so they can decode some of it for us and we can make a better decision.

Thank you for the respite suggestion NPFEEF.  We hadn’t thought if it in the past, but you make a good point.

Posted by IsaacC on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:48am

The majority of gifs on photolistings are there due to age. Many people don’t want teens and teens make up half on photolistings. Some kids might have specific needs but most kids on photolistings are hard to place. There are many awesome kids available for adoption. Don’t take the negative comments to heart.

Posted by Charming_Ell on Nov 29, 2019 at 8:29pm

And some of them aren’t awesome. If you are looking for an awesome child, please don’t go to a site and adopt expecting an awesome child. Seriously, it is not a child’s to be pleasing to you. FFY here

Posted by NoraT on Dec 01, 2019 at 11:38pm

And some of them aren’t awesome. If you are looking for an awesome child, please don’t go to a site and adopt expecting an awesome child. Seriously, it is not a child’s to be pleasing to you. FFY here

Posted by NoraT on Dec 01, 2019 at 11:38pm
Posted by NoraT on Dec 01, 2019 at 11:38pm
Posted by NoraT on Dec 01, 2019 at 11:38pm

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