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Adopting from foster care in ER
Old 05-23-2014, 10:05 AM   #1
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Adopting from foster care in ER

My husband and I have been talking about ER for several years, especially after my career as a lawyer deviated into the legislature for one term. After that, I had no desire to return to fighting with insurance companies, or starting a different legal career at 50 - although I've kept my license just in case. My husband has had the same job as a vendor to grocery stores for almost 30 years; he works way too many hours for what used to be good, but is now only mediocre pay, and diminishing benefits. Our "too large for two" house is mortgage-free, our health care is covered, we have enough saved to live on no less than we've gotten used to the last couple years since I've been home (per FIRE Calc), and (knock on wood) we enjoy great health. Our biggest problem with the idea of ER is figuring out what we really want to do. What I didn't want to do was sit at home, bored stiff, while my DH works himself to death before he ever has a chance to pursue his dreams - (more) hunting, trapping, woodworking, hobby farming, etc.

For about a year, I had my DH (sort of) convinced that we should sell the lake home where we live full time (and which we built with the notion that our four children and their children would be frequent visitors - NOT!), buy a fifth wheeler and travel until we were ran out of places we wanted to see. He was never totally sold on the idea of being rootless, though, and didn't want to leave the three grandsons who do spend quite a bit of time with us. After some real soul searching, a sermon one Sunday that was about following God's plan for us rather than meeting other people's expectations (which admittedly is a philosophy that could be used to bolster nearly anything), and researching the practical aspects (I'd be happy to share what I learned if anyone is thinking of this direction), we decided that the most fulfilling next stage of our lives would be to focus on raising another family by adopting a sibling group (or two) from foster care.

While I know that many (including some in our family), think we've gone looney (for most, it seems the point of retirement is to enjoy the fact you've finished raising your kids), when we thought about it, we decided the time we enjoyed most was the time we were spending with our grandsons. And even though we're in our fifties, we had the time and inclination to be more active "doing things" with the boys than their younger parents were doing. We may not be as "cool" as the younger parents of other kids, yet we think we can make up for that with the parenting experience and time we now have to devote. There was one more admittedly selfish thought - we'd each been married once before, and had two children apiece when we married. Though our kids got along with us and each other, we were excited about the idea of adopting kids together.

Adopting older children from foster care seemed like the best option for us - there are plenty of younger parents waiting in line to adopt healthy babies and honestly we weren't really up for the middle of the night feeding stuff anyway. Children in foster care do have special needs that can be challenging - through no fault of theirs, they've usually experienced abuse/neglect severe enough to warrant terminating their parents' rights. While it varies greatly, the scars left behind can cause mild to severe emotional and behavioral issues that may heal or may be lifelong. There also are many children with physical impairments or developmental delays, who require very special parents to give them the care they need.

Part of the process we began a year ago was attending trainings and talking at length to a foster and adoption caseworkers. Ultimately, we decided that we would like to adopt a larger sibling group, or maybe two smaller sibling groups. We felt strongly that children from one family should not be split up, and we had lots of room for many (DH says not TOO many). We didn't think we were up for the challenge of dealing with severe medical or developmental issues; because of our older age and active lifestyle, we hoped for children who could live independently as adults and enjoy with us all the outdoor activities we love.

Nowadays, social workers realize children are traumatized every time they have to be moved, so (except for family members), foster parents usually are given the first option to adopt children already in their care. So we got licensed last August (the process took about three months), had eleven children placed with us for short stays over the next two months, and by October got our three girls (4, 6 & 8) who we are in the process of adopting. We may or may not adopt one more sibling group, depending on whether the situation seems like it would be good for the girls we already have.

I won't claim it's been entirely sweetness and light. "The system" can be frustrating at times, dealing with the "hurts" of children you grow to love can be heart wrenching, your patience will be challenged in ways you never imagined, and you will have to put up with a lot of ignorant and even hurtful questions. But the rewards have been tremendous and the extra space in our lives has been filled to overflowing. I ALWAYS have enough to do! So if your heart really yearns for more children, and you can handle that there is quite a bit about the process you may not control, don't let concerns about affordability stand in your way. If you are already set for FIRE, adopting special needs children from foster care (sibling groups and most foster children are considered "special needs") is encouraged by federal and state governments with subsidies (that vary by state) to meet basic expenses, health coverage and tax credits (that can be invested to pay for college later). Adoption expenses are covered or minimal for special needs adoptions. Some states even offer free college tuition for children adopted from foster care.

I guess I took the time to write about this topic to encourage anyone who really wants to raise another child or children to give it serious consideration - explore all the realistic and practical considerations, but don't be discouraged or put off by anyone who thinks that life has to follow a particular sequence. There are thousands of children who need homes, so the only opinion that should count about whether you're the "right choice" for a particular child is yours (and the child's).

We'd love to connect with any other ERs/older-than-average parents who've adopted or are thinking about it. I'd be happy to share anything we've learned along the way.

Final note: I was watching an online video by a seventeen year old girl who still hoped to be adopted. What struck me was when she said that if no one adopted her before she "aged out" of foster care at 18, she would forever lose the chance to have a family of her own - someone to walk her down the aisle, or get excited with about a first grandchild.... How ignorant was I before watching that video to wonder why an older child would still want to be adopted?

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Old 05-23-2014, 11:55 AM   #2
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Your post brought tears to my eyes......what a blessing you and your husband are in the lives of those three little ones!!!

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Old 05-23-2014, 12:01 PM   #3
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Hi Mary,

Congratulations on finding your path! My sister and her husband adopted a 7 and 8 year old sibling group 6 years ago (two girls - half-sisters). Like you, they found the process difficult and emotional, but they, too, felt that helping harder-to-adopt children was what they wanted. They were mid-30s at the time.

I can tell you - depending on your kids' experiences, you definitely could be dealing with emotional/behavioral issues for many years. My nieces are good girls, but at 13 and 14, they can be a handful. The older one never bonded with her birth mother and although she is smart, outgoing, and curious about the world, doesn't really care about the consequences of her actions and does things to get attention. The younger one acts way younger than her age, and has ADHD, but is the sweetest girl.

My sister and her husband give them all the love, attention, and discipline they need, and we are all hoping for the best. Despite the issues, they have no regrets.

Best of luck to you.
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Old 05-23-2014, 02:45 PM   #4
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What a wonderful gift you are giving to these girls! There is no one right ER model for everyone, so thanks for pointing out something that most of us would never have thought of. All the best to your family!
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Old 05-23-2014, 03:25 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by MBAustin View Post
What a wonderful gift you are giving to these girls! There is no one right ER model for everyone, so thanks for pointing out something that most of us would never have thought of. All the best to your family!
A very big +1.
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Old 05-26-2014, 04:23 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the kind comments.....we feel we are the fortunate ones! Yes, our girls do have several "labels" as a result of learning how to cope with their former reality, but the difference after only seven months is really encouraging. We do realize we likely will face more hurdles at different stages of their lives, but we had quite a few with our other children too. Let me know if anyone out there has perfect kids (or thinks they are/were perfect parents.). What we do know is that we are enjoying being in each other's lives.

Again, thanks for the good wishes!
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Old 05-26-2014, 04:45 PM   #7
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Lucky girls, lucky you.
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Old 05-27-2014, 12:29 PM   #8
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That is awesome!!


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