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Adopting through Foster Care; Questions You Should Ask

Updated on June 11, 2016

Questions You Should Ask

My intention is not to scare you away from adopting through foster care, but rather make you aware of the questions you should ask, and encourage you to stick by your "placed" child, even when things might get extremely difficult.

If you are in the process of adopting through foster care, here are some questions you definitely should ask, prior to placement of a child (but at the matching point):

1. How long has this child been in foster care?

Our child was in foster care for a little over a year before she came to us, and we were already her third foster home. In our state, children must be in foster care for 15 months before their goal can be changed to "adoption," and planning for "termination of rights," or "TPR," of the biological parents, and/or adoption hearings can begin.

2. Is this child separated from any siblings? If so, how many? Also, why was this child separated from his/her siblings, and when did this separation take place?

It was not until after we met our child (only once) that we had to make a quick decision about whether or not we would accept her as our placement. It was not until she was at our house, with her bags, that I was handed her paperwork. She was actually separated from six biological siblings, and she was the second oldest. She and her older sister were the ones who had actually parented all of their younger siblings, for their entire young childhood, and what she got in return was immediate separation from them... on the first day they all went into foster care. While her biological parents were provided chance... after chance...after chance... to follow their plans, and failed, our daughter was the one suffering from sibling separation, given no chance for reunification with them. This separation was frequently the cause of extreme behaviors, emotions, and aggression.

3. Has this child ever done anything violent? If so, what were the circumstances?

It was not until our child was dropped off at our house that I was handed her paperwork. As I was making some copies, I discovered that she had done something that was worded as "violent," and for a year, I could not get answers from the caseworkers about the circumstances surrounding this incident. It was not until about a week before the adoption that I received the truth: it was not "violent" at all. She had held a knife up to her perpetrator, in an effort to protect herself and her siblings. This was not what her paperwork had said, and I have a feeling that the inaccuracy of this paperwork was what actually led to her sibling separation (although I do not know this for sure). The only reason I got any answers,from the county, was because I told the county, "I've been asking for answers about this incident since the day she came to us. We want to adopt her, but we are not signing the papers until we find out the truth. Put me in a room with her biological mother, if you have to. We've met. We'll be civil, and I'll ask her myself." A caseworker called me the next day, explaining that they asked her biological mother for me, and that our daughter had actually done this to her perpetrator! Therefore, for the entire previous year, my husband and I were hiding sharp objects for basically nothing (although it doesn't hurt).

4. Has the child ever been in a psychiatric hospital? If so, which ones, and how many times?

We were told that our child had been in the psychiatric hospital once. We later had found out that she had been in and out of several psychiatric hospitals. I ask that this one piece of information does not scare you away immediately. These children are in foster care for a reason, and many experience sibling separation, are pulled out of biological homes and/or foster homes, and relocated with little or no warning, which results in uncontrollable emotions, which can lead to extreme behaviors (hitting, kicking, etc.). I know I would probably "go crazy" if this were to have happened to me, even as an adult, but this was a young child. What made me keep going is that I knew that if I was suffering emotionally, she must be suffering at least 100 times more, and that I needed to be there for her in anyway that I could.

5. Once a placement has been agreed upon, make sure you ask: Is this child on any medication? If so, which ones, and what dosages? Also, for what is she/he on this medication?

When the caseworker initially dropped off our daughter, she handed me a pill bottle or two, with only a few pills in it/each. When I asked if it was the only medication she was on, the caseworker said "I'm not sure." I should have responded "find out," but instead, I took her word for it. I did, however, call each doctor that was listed on the medications. That was only slightly useful, as in the doctor's office's system, the previous foster parents were listed as the contacts, so they felt they could not legally tell me much information (until I would bring paperwork that stated she was now in our care). It is at this point that you need to get on the caseworker's case to get the information you need, and make sure you present paperwork to these doctors to update information as soon as possible.

Why You Should NOT Give UP!

The above questions are questions that I wish we would have thought to ask. We might not have said "no," even knowing all of the correct information, but we definitely would have been more prepared. We weren't told that our seven-year-old, potential child was separated from six biological siblings. We weren't told that our potential child had several behavioral disorders (we were told she had two). We weren't told that she had been in several psychiatric hospitals (we were told she had been in one...once). We weren't told a key thing that was in her profile, but was actually factually inaccurate. We weren't told that she could be extremely aggressive. We adopted her anyway, and two years after her initial placement with us, she is thriving! She rarely is aggressive, and she is SO much happier! She used to draw all of her pictures with sad faces, but now they are drawn with smiles. :)

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      LouiseTeach 14 months ago

      Thank you, and I agree with your last statement/comment.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 14 months ago from the short journey

      To be fair, I know the system isn't fair to the social workers who are trying to do their job right, as well as foster parents, but especially to too many children. Open discussions are crucial to solutions, so again, thanks for sharing something of your experience.

    • profile image
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      LouiseTeach 14 months ago

      Thank you for your reply, RTalloni. While I agree that social workers should be held accountable for purposely withholding information, I think arresting them and marking them as "child abusers" may be a bit harsh, as I believe, most of them THINK they are withholding this information to help secure a better home for these children, especially children with "extreme" behaviors, however, what many caseworkers seem not to realize is this is actually more likely to result in a "failed placement," because the foster parents were not prepared to deal with the behaviors of the child/children. Furthermore, I must say, I purposefully withheld some specific information, about my daughter, in this piece, but that was purely to protect her identity and safety. I did want to write the article, though, because I feel it's important that people know this occurs in the US foster care system. Thank you for reading, and commenting on, my article. It is sincerely appreciated.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 14 months ago from the short journey

      Thank you for sharing some of your experience with these questions that need to be asked. I have come to believe that when social workers do not make sure they provide information to foster/adoptive parents that will aid in the well-being and crucial care of the children they are supposed to protect they should be arrested, lose their jobs, and marked as child abusers. We need to hold them as accountable as they hold parents, if not more since the children they are dealing with are in critical circumstances.