Its Adoption Awareness Month: Know The Facts, Get Involved
Welcome to November! This month is Adoption Awareness Month, and we wanted to share with you some information that we find helpful on the topic of adoption and foster care. I sat down with Janelle Von Storch, a licensed professional counselor at Arkansas Families First to talk about adoption and the some of the ideas surrounding it. Read on!
Let’s start off with some statistics that will give you a little bit of background on the current state of the system. In 2015, 428,000 children across the country were in foster care. The average age of the child was 8. The goal of about 55% of those cases was to reunify them with their family. 25% of the cases, their goal was adoption. In Arkansas, there are currently about 5,137 children in foster care. The numbers show that adoption as a whole is shrinking, while international adoption has somewhat plateaued. There has been an increase in special needs adoptions, and it has almost doubled- from 42.4% in 2007 to 88.5% in 2014. NFCA defines special needs as older children, sibling groups, children of minority background, physical mental and emotional conditions.
Now that we have some groundwork, let’s take a look at the different ways to get involved in the system. Ms. Von Storch described several adoption or fostering systems, which include domestic adoption (infant and special needs), international adoption, foster care, and foster to adopt. There is also respite care, which is a family that opens up their home for children, allowing foster parents some downtime. If you're interested in getting involved, consider what you can do, what you're capable of and what expectations you have for yourself and the child(ren). If you're considering adoption or fostering, you should also consider what type of support you have to assist in childrearing.
The next topic we talked about was how to integrate a family and how to meet the needs of the foster or adoptive child. Janelle mentioned that biological children should be told at the very beginning of the process and it should be discussed as a family. They can be involved in planning and learn how to incorporate kids into their family who has had the rug pulled under them. The foster/adoptive children should learn the rules of the family, share their background, and talk about their needs. Janelle says having space, such as a bedroom, for a new child in the house to decorate or make their own is very important. They need to know they are safe, and parents should provide clear structure and guidelines so they know what to expect. Ms. Von Storch says a child in a new home needs a safe place to talk about their experiences. Parents should not go in with the mindset that they are receiving ‘issues’, but rather they are a place where emotions can be held and expressed safely. They should understand the context of this child, by asking “what happened to him/her” instead of “what is wrong with him/her.”
So, now that we have covered a bit about how to integrate kids, how does one go about becoming a foster/adoptive parent? Ms. Von Storch had some more great info to share with me. First of all, they need to do their homework. Often fostering and adopting can be born out of loss and the idea is that a child will make one feel whole again. Families must understand to look at loss, the context of their situation, and understand their motivations. Their expectation can turn out to be much different than the reality. Families also may come to fostering/adoption out of an emotional response and desire to help. This sometimes leads to disappointment or anger when the foster/adoptive experience proves to be more challenging than their initial thoughts and expectations. Both examples come from good places and are not inherently bad. Families should educate themselves, start small by joining organizations to learn about adoption, try respite care, or volunteer with organizations to help reunite families. Organizations like Immerse Arkansas help families come alongside kids coming out of the foster system. These types of programs are a great way start getting involved and provide a meaning service to children.
Connecting with others in the foster care community can also help families learn and grow while making a big decision. When a family decides they are ready, DCFS Foster Arkansas and The Call (both in Arkansas) can walk them through the fostering training and accreditation.
The mental health of the child is important to think about when considering foster or adoptive care. A family needs to recognize issues when they exist and reach out for help. There are many great therapists versed in adoption and foster care that may be able to help navigate the family journey through your mental health concern. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community of support.
Thanks so much for reading! We hope this information has been helpful and you know a little more about adoption in celebration of this month. Special thanks to Janelle Von Storch for taking the time to talk with us! If you want to learn more or get involved, check out the resources below.
- www.Fosterarkansas.org www.callinarkansas.org