In this post, Lydia Carfagno, an adoptive parent, shares her difficult two-year journey that led to one of the greatest joys of her life—motherhood. She adopted her now-4-year-old son, Trevor, through Diakon Adoption & Foster Care’s legal-risk (foster-to-adopt) program. Legal-risk placements involve children and youths who are in the custody of a county’s children and youth services. Children are placed in foster homes with the intent of reuniting them with their birth families; however, if that does not occur, the foster family often seeks to adopt the child or youth.
As I was growing up, my mother worked and volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center. As a small child, I witnessed my mother counseling women and providing them with the necessary resources to maintain their pregnancy. When I was young, I would tell my mother that I wanted to grow up and take care of babies that did not have mommies and open my own orphanage. I remember frequently checking our front door to see if someone left me a baby to care for!
Fast forward: I grew up and obtained a college degree in recreational therapy. As a therapist, I worked in various pediatric hospitals. Throughout my work experience, I witnessed firsthand many children suffering from neglect, abuse and trauma. Each of these children made my desire to adopt grow even stronger; however I knew I was not currently in the position to do that.
Upon marrying, adoption was something we always said we would do “one day.” We struggled to get pregnant and even experienced a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. The topic of adoption that was once on the back burner quickly became a burning desire in my heart.
It was something I believed had to happen immediately. Because of my experience in the health-care field, I was aware of “foster-to-adopt” type programs and I quickly began researching agencies.
Tim and I have been incredibly blessed to have a positive relationship with our son’s birth family.
In fact, the absolute best piece of advice we received in resource family training was to be friendly with birth parents. In some cases, this is probably incredibly tough to do. But in our case, a little bit has gone a long way.
I think it’s easy to see birth parents as the enemy in the foster care system. But regardless of whatever mistakes parents have made, they almost always still love their kids. It is tough to try to connect with them, but all outcomes of success include benefit for the child, so it’s worth it!
Here are a few simple ideas to break the ice and extend an olive branch to birth parents:
A few months ago, I brought up the idea to my children to raise enough money for each of us to donate a filled duffel bag to a child in foster care.
You see, most of the children who have come to our home arrived with their items in a garbage bag.
After we decided to take on this project, we shared the idea with friends. We also presented it to our Sunday School program. And what began as a project to gather enough items for six bags turned into an amazing project that raised enough for 37 of them!
While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are now past us, this guest column reminds us about how we should celebrate—and wisely use—our time with (and as) both parents and children.
It’s as if a mirror is being held up.
That’s how I often describe the early days of having our foster daughter. Similar to when you invite a guest to, well, anything—you become hyper-aware of how things look through their eyes (if you’re of the pious persuasion, try taking a friend to church—you’ll see what I mean).
When you prepare a child for permanency, you come into contact with a lot of people—birth parents, foster parents, caseworkers, mental health providers, educational staff, and so on. It is a lot for a child to have so many people involved in this process. Certainly it can be hard to keep up with all of it and still manage to be a kid. There is no normalcy about the children’s or youths’ lives at this point.
Let me tell you about just one example, condensing the details considerably.
While the holidays are merry for many, children within the child welfare system may not feel quite the same way. In fact, some may feel acute grief and loss.
Many of the images we see during the holiday season are of family, friends and being home. Imagine not being able to get home to your family and friends? Children within the child welfare system typically face circumstances outside their control, circumstances that separate them from family, friends and home.