I am really bad at accepting compliments. I’m working on it. I’m better than I used to be, but still awful. I’ve managed to begin at least saying “thank you” instead of “no, I’m not really that nice thing that you said I was.” However, one compliment that I will never accept and one that breaks my heart is “You’re such a saint for what you’ve done for those kids.” There are layers of wrongness with this compliment, the least of which is that I couldn’t be further from a saint. I’m very, very human, very fallible, and if I listed out all the reasons why here, some of you would judge me harshly I assure you.
The next layer of wrongness is that my kids have given me so much more than I’ve given them. If you’ve read any of my other posts you might question that statement, because there have certainly been some very trying times. The whole “one kid in inpatient psychiatric care, followed by another kid in inpatient psychiatric care 3 months later, followed by my then husband leaving for what would be the last time” was certainly a bad patch for example. And, there were days I wondered aloud, using some choice words (words a saint doesn’t use) how in the hell I arrived at that moment. So, having said that, if I tell you unequivocally that my kids give me double or more what I give them, you know it has to be good to make up for all that bad.
Lastly, and most importantly, logic tells us that if I’m a saint for adopting my kiddos, then anyone who chooses to do what I do must be a saint as well. Most people don’t self-identify as saints. So, that tells me that people look at what I do and determine there’s no possible way, due to their lack of sainthood, that they could foster/adopt kiddos, which is tragic and heartbreaking and wrong to the nth degree, because on any given day there are 402,000 kids in the US who need homes. Not perfect homes – good enough homes. my home is a “good enough” home. You’re home is likely a “good enough” home, too.
So, I’m going to explain all the ways you, too, can become a foster/adoptive parent, or at least support a foster/adoptive parent.
- If you’re single, don’t be freaked out by the cost. I was freaked out by the cost and worked unfortunately as a car salesman for a bit, in addition to my day job, in an ill-advised effort to save up. What I actually did was make myself crazy and bump myself into the next tax bracket. Don’t do that.
- Though the subsidy I receive from my state is not what it actually costs to raise children, it is enough to pay my mortgage. Subsidies are different in different states and are based on things like the age of the child, the number of children, the special needs of the child, etc. They’re basically a supply/demand scenario. There are a lot of older children in foster care, and a lot of sibling groups, and states need people to adopt them. Unfortunately, a lot of people want infants and toddlers, and there just aren’t a lot of those to go around. I adopted a sibling group of three older, minority children, one of which was special needs, so I basically get all the money the State of Oklahoma can throw at me. I like to tell people I “outsourced” the up all night/breastfeeding/potty training years, which is clearly the most effective and fun way to become a parent. I highly recommend it. And, you get money to help raise them without the annoying parts that come along with a former spouse, for example. it’s a win-win. The North American Council on Adoptable Children has a ton of resources including this handy link to subsidies in all 50 states.
- My kids’ health insurance is paid until they’re 18. Each state receives funding from the federal government to be able to provide this, so wherever you live, this should be available. Without this assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to adopt.
- While my kids were in foster care, their childcare was paid for, and after I adopted them, their childcare was paid until they were school age. Childcare is amazingly expensive, so this is a big help. Again, the fabulous NACAC has great information for each state here.
- If you’re single/divorced/widowed/gay/transgender/old/young/disabled/cranky you are very eligible to foster or adopt, even in one of the most politically conservative states in the nation, which is where I live. I was never married when I fostered and then adopted. I have gay friends who have fostered/adopted. I have friends who were in their 60s when they adopted. The basic rule is that you need to be financially, emotionally, and physically healthy enough to support the kids into adulthood. If you meet that criteria, you can foster/adopt.
Though you may look at what I and other foster/adoptive parents do and think you never could, keep in mind that we are all just like you, and we thought we couldn’t do it either. The best explanation and advice I can give is that of the fabulous Tim Gunn – you just make it work. There are some fabulous resources around – the one that’s kept me going is Facebook, believe it or not. I can post on one of various Facebook foster/adoptive sites about what I and my family are going through at any given moment, and there’s always someone who has been there and done that before me, and can reassure me that it gets better, give me advice on what worked for him or her and/or just laugh their asses off with me about how absurd the whole thing is. There is tremendous reassurance in knowing you are not alone.
And, for those of you who really are not a good fit for foster/adoption, become a great resource for those who are doing it. Most of my foster/adoptive friends, especially the single ones, just need a break. Offer to watch their kids for an evening, or better yet a weekend. Or offer to pay the babysitter. Offer to mow a lawn, or do some laundry or pick up groceries. A couple of Christmases ago a fabulous friend had all of the Christmas gifts she’d put on layaway for her five foster/adoptive kids put back on the shelf by an unnamed retailer. it was December 20-something, quite a few of her kids are disabled, so she can’t just run right out to do errands. I picked up a Justin Bieber life-size cardboard cutout and some Project Runway kits for her kiddos, and relieved tremendous tension for her. What was absolutely no big deal to me was a big help for her. These are things almost anyone can do. And, if you can’t do any of those things, the biggest thing you can do to support a foster/adoptive family is offer a smile or a helping hand when you see them out and about. if you see a family struggling with an out-of-hand kiddo, give them a reassuring smile. If you see a family that is all colors of the rainbow a smile, a hello, and a bit of small talk is nice. One of the loveliest things I can ever hear from anyone is “what a beautiful family you have,” and I’m always grateful to hear that, especially on my worst days. Because we are beautiful in all of our brokenness, and you will be, too.