(I’m blogging about our experience adopting a brother and sister, ages 12 & 10, from foster care. I hope it will inspire you to consider doing the same. I’m adjusting the names & details about our children to protect privacy. All of the details are true, they’re just not our kids’ personal stories. You can find the first post in the series here. The most recent post is here.)
Of course you don’t want to hear more about another sibling group! Your head is spinning with thoughts and questions about Jason & Jasmina. It feels heartless and disloyal to even consider other children. And yet you know, intellectually at least, that you should still be thinking about other children. You are not nearly far along enough yet in the process with J&J to commit fully, and so much can happen to change circumstances in these cases. For all you know, you could get a call tomorrow saying that DCF is sending them to live with a newly discovered Uncle in Des Moines.
In MAPP class they made it clear: you’re free to have simultaneous conversations about any children in whom you are genuinely interested. But once you accept an invitation to a Disclosure Meeting (which is sort of like an engagement – you’re presumed to be moving forward unless something truly problematic comes up) you are free to explore multiple options.
So you listen to the social worker describe this other sibling group.
There are three children: a twelve year old boy, his six year old sister, and a half brother who is almost two. They’re Caucasian, housed in two different foster homes, all on target developmentally. The older two are doing well in school, and the younger child shows positive signs of being able to attach to his foster parents.
“What is the legal risk?” you ask.
“The parents’ rights have not been terminated,” the worker says.
“Is there a court date set? What’s the plan?”
The worker avoids the question, and states that the courts are slow and she thinks it might speed things up if the children are in a pre-adoptive placement. She’s not wrong, you know. It’s just that, from her description, this case seems pretty slippery – like it lacks clear progress toward resolution, and stepping into it would simply catch you up in the swirl.
“There’s one other thing you should know,” the worker says. “Mom is pregnant again. Each child is treated as a new beginning as far as DCF is concerned, but given her current substance abuse status and history, there’s a chance that this new child will come into care, also. If you become the pre-adoptive placement for the older children, you would be approached about placing the new child with your family.
“For immediate adoption?”
“No,” she replied. “For foster care until the mother’s fitness to parent that particular child can be determined. It would probably be an entirely different termination process. If she shows signs of getting her act together, they’ll attempt to reunite her with the new baby.”
“So you’re asking me to consider adopting three children who aren’t yet free for adoption, and perhaps take in their unborn sibling later, knowing that the Department will likely attempt to reunite the baby – but not the brothers or sisters – with their mother, who has an extensive, documented history of drug use, abuse and/or neglect?”
You don’t know what to say. It’s unthinkable. “Um, I’ll talk to my husband. We’ll pray about it. But I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to work for us…”
You get of the phone, stunned. Your heart breaks for those kids. Who on earth is going to sign up for this sort of disaster? How will those kids get a new family if any possible family is faced with the possibility of having a potential new addition every couple of years? Who could be taken in and out with attempted reunifications, with no clear plan or timeline? Who would agree to that?
You pray that someone will. You can’t believe how broken this system is. It feels hopeless.
You think of an image you heard a pastor use once, about how he got sick of pulling drowning people out of the river, so he decided to go upstream and figure how what was pushing them into the water in the first place. You wish you could do that here. But you can’t. All you can do at this point is try to pull a couple of kids out of the churning waves.
You’re pretty sure who those kids are.
You email Janna and say, “Could you call us tomorrow when you have time? We have more questions…”