590 days, 430 days, 390 days, 342 days, and 270 days. No, this is not a countdown of the number of days required for approval as a foster or adoptive parent, or to bring a child home. These are the average gestation days among selected animals starting with whales, giraffes, camels, horses, and lastly, humans, in that order.
Giving birth to a child is exciting. Nine months of waiting. But this experience may not always be someone’s reality; Enter foster care or adoptions.
You have been dreaming of this moment for a long time. You cannot remember exactly when it happened, but at some point, you decided you were going to open your heart and home to a child in need. Your heart overflowed with emotions as you thought of the prospect of bringing home a child, but you do not know whether to be fearful or to dance for joy. The emotions you experience are like a roller coaster in a theme park.
The decision was made, and you still remember why. It could have been the story of thousands of children in need of a home in the Inland Empire, California, where over 10,000 children are in out-of-home care in the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. This statistic moved you to action.
Or, it was a stirring sermon at church that convinced you that you could serve as a foster or adoptive parent for a child who had been rescued from a world of abuse and neglect.
Regardless of the initial reason, you made the decision to contact an agency specializing in foster care and adoptions.
You made the call or sent an email, and soon you were filling out paperwork. Nothing could have prepared you for the tons of questions you would be asked and that you had to answer. Not even applying for a mortgage could compare to the level of scrutiny that prospective foster or adoption parents go through.
You remember hearing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Justice (DOJ), in the news or in movies, but now your fingerprints were checked against their database, in addition to the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). You answered a health questionnaire and you were required to submit driver’s license, proof of car insurance, evidence of place of residency (do you really live where you say you live), and proof of “financial stability”, which included one or more of the following: bank statement, tax returns, or letter of employment.
Then you took hours of training, some of the content you barely remember now. You hear the terms trauma or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) but all of this seems like ages ago. In the corner of your brain you recall that children who experience trauma manifest their trauma in different ways and you are advised to not take the behavior personally.
Someone visited your home and inspected every corner. After checking your garage for any “hazardous materials”, you were asked to put a cover or an enclosure around your swimming pool. Putting away guns you understand, but you were even surprised that they asked you to cover electrical outlets and to lock your bleach and knives. Really? These people really care about their children, you thought.
And just when you believed you were coming to the end of the process, the agency worker called and informed you that you and your family members needed to have an interview as part of the “in depth risk and psycho-social assessment”. The only other time you used the word psycho was in describing the character in the horror movies. The interview was part of the “home study” or as is known in California, a Resource Family Evaluation and Written Report.
A friendly agency representative met with you and family members. Each of you interviewed separately and together. Although the interviewer was friendly, you could not help but think, how inquisitive. Have you ever been sexually molested? I have barely met you and this is the question you asked? You vaguely remember the questions but you do remember being asked about any adverse childhood experiences, how you were raised, your parenting practice, and what type of discipline strategies you used. The interview seemed quite intrusive, but you survived.
You made it. Congratulations, you have been approved as a Resource Family. You are happy because this means that you can foster or to adopt because in California, both foster and adoption candidates complete the same approval process. So, you are approved, now what?
At this moment, you are hoping and praying that you get a child as quickly as possible. You thought that the phone would start ringing with offers of children, but instead, you learn that before being able to get a child placed in your home, you must be “cleared” by your county of residence.
A cautionary note: The truth is, county clearance may take a while. Unfortunately, the counties appear to have a backlog, but they do their best in trying to clear families as soon as possible. Patience is a virtue! For some, clearance could happen within weeks and for others 3-6 months is not unusual.
You dream of the child, the little one you described in your application: 5-year-old, boy (or could be a girl also), with long but curly hair. Race/ethnicity: any, but preferably the same as mine so that “I do not have to explain to nosey folks in the supermarket”. Blue eyes preferred, although green is fine. No history of abuse or drug exposure. Perfect genes for someone who could eventually become an astronaut with NASA.
During this waiting time, it is important that you not give up or become frustrated. The agency is as frustrated with the delay as you are. The delay is not a reflection on you. Do not allow the inspiration or the motivation to care for children fizzle out.
If your goal was adoptions, during this time, you may actively research the various websites that publish profiles of children who are eligible for adoptions. You can also use the time to prepare your home. Maybe you were thinking of getting an additional bed or crib, or you were thinking of painting a bedroom, do it during this time. However, do not go overboard. Do not spend hundreds or thousands of dollars up front to celebrate the arrival of your child. Be reasonable.
Time flies by. You go about your business. At this point, you have forgotten that you even applied to become a foster or adoptive parent. And suddenly, at 10:00pm on a random Tuesday, your phone rings. You hear the voice on the other end saying that you have been matched or “we have a child that is a good fit for you”. Wait, I thought I had to be cleared by the county first. Yes, that is true, but now you realize that you could be called and then cleared to receive a specific child.
In a matter of hours, you either picked up the child at the county’s office or at the agency. Or someone took the child to your home. Either way, today is the day! You thought you would be happy, but you do not know what to think or how to feel. Deep down in your heart you say: I made it. I was born for this. I will do my best to be the best parent.
Although the narrative above is non-specific, the details apply to thousands of individuals, couples, and families who sign up to become foster parents or apply to become adoptive parents.
In deciding to apply to be a foster parent, keep in mind that the journey may be long and at times frustrating. Find an agency that not only promises to but has an exceptional track record of working with families and guiding them step by step. Find an agency that works with the same urgency that you have.
At Knotts Family Agency, we are committed to ensuring that prospective applicants are treated with respect and with the highest level of support. No matter what your initial motivation, agency representatives will hold you by the hand (literally at times) and will assure you that you are never alone. Yes, the approval process is long, but you will make it.
We invite you to join our community by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse.
What questions have you had about becoming a foster parent or adoptive parent?
What has been your experience as a parent by choice?
What have you been told about becoming a foster/adoptive parent?
What do you wish you were told when applying that you now know?
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