November is National Adoption Month. If you are considering fostering or adopting, here is some honest insight about the process and experience from an adoptive mom, herself.
Fostering/adopting is something that my husband and I envision doing one day but it’s a big decision and we have a lot of questions. Fortunately, my friend Rachel MacKay was happy to talk about her experience fostering and adopting. Rachel and her husband have four sons, the oldest two were adopted when she was 20 weeks pregnant. A fellow #BoyMom she fits in well with us at LittleGuide (and we both live in Livonia).
How did you and your husband come to the decision to adopt?
We decided we wanted to be foster parents shortly after we were married. It was something that him and I had both thought about separately before getting married and when we learned we both wanted to do it, it made sense to pursue it.
Did you do foster care first or always adoption?
We became licensed to be foster parents with the possibility to adopt. We didn’t go into foster just to adopt. We always believed (and still do) that reunification is important if at all possible. We only had one placement and ended up adopting our now sons. We haven’t had more placements since then due to lack of space and beds.
How long did the process take to get licensed?
We got licensed in February of 2012 and began the process the previous fall. I don’t remember exactly, but I would say roughly 4-5 months or so.
Did you have a support system (family, outside group, etc) that helped you navigate the process?
We didn’t have many people that we were helping us navigate the whole process. There were friends from church that knew we wanted to foster locally so they gave us names of local agencies, but we did the research. Our licensing worker was great. We did have a huge support system that encouraged us through the process and when we finally had a placement, most of the social workers were great. (Not all!)
How did you decide to adopt two kids instead of one?
We had room in our home for 2 kids so we marked off on the application that we could take a sibling group up tp 2 kids. Our boys are bio brothers and came to live with us at the same time.
Why did you adopt older kids? What was the adjustment period like for them and you? Did they see you as Mom + Dad from the start or was it over time?
We decided on older kids at the time because we were both working full time so we thought school age kids would be ideal so our day time schedules could adjust to theirs without the burden of childcare and daycare.
I will admit that it was quite an adjustment for all of us. The boys had always been with family prior to us. They were in a new city with new friends, most of whom did not look anything like them. I was 20 weeks pregnant so it took me about 2 weeks to accept that things were going to look different for an amount of time unknown to us (them).
They didn’t see us as mom and dad until they asked us to adopt them instead of the other party that was trying to adopt them. When we said yes, they started calling us mom and dad then. That was about 3-5 months after living with us (memory is foggy on exact time).
How has race played a role in your journey? Was in conscious or just how it worked out. Are there challenges or advice to parents as they make these decisions?
It wasn’t conscious for us at the time, no. We became disgustingly aware of the race issues in our community shortly after they came to live with us. When we go to eat in family diners in Livonia, we got very dirty looks from other tables. People made rude comments to us and them about us being their “sponsors” and things of the sort. The school would call home for every little offense made at school. We had no idea the history of the city when we moved to Livonia and then ultimately decided to adopt.
My advice to those looking to foster or adopt is please don’t look for children you feel you need to save. Children need love and guidance, not a savior. They don’t deserve to be used as a pawn to make adults feel good about themselves when they are able to accomplish giving them a “better” life. There will always be trauma when a child is adopted. There is loss there, no matter the circumstances. Be aware and commit to giving them life long tools such as therapy and support. If you feel that’s too much a burden to commit to, please reconsider adopting.
What lessons have you learned from having a blended (adopted and biological) family?
We’ve learned that having open conversations about who we all are and where we call came from creates a strong family unit. We can’t brush under the rug that our older boys are a different color than the rest of us. We also can’t take away from the older kids who they are and where they came from. Keep all dialogue open and don’t ever tell them what is or isn’t appropriate to talk about when it comes to who they are. It’s all appropriate because it’s normal to try to connect the dots of who we are. We’ve also learned that as long as parents are loving their kids unconditionally, parenting through the good and the bad can be joyous. We have great joy in raising all of our kids.
What questions should individuals/parents ask themselves before starting this process?
- Why are we doing this?
- What is my motive?
- Am I willing to carve hours out of days and weeks for social worker visits, calls, questions, etc?
- If or when your child becomes defiant or shows signs of mental health issues, are you able to commit to giving them all the tools necessary to overcome it? Sometimes those things don’t show up till they hit puberty.
- Are you willing to HELP your child learn all they can about their ancestry, background, family, etc?
Learn more about becoming a foster parent at the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services website, Raise Hope & Foster Dreams.
Photo credit: Rachel MacKay
About Carrie Budzinski
Carrie Budzinski is the Vice President of LittleGuide Detroit. She grew up in Livonia and Detroit and continues to live life in both cities. Carrie loves exploring the city and finding hidden gems in the suburbs..