By Laura Pitts
Foster Care Adoption Program Manager
It doesn’t take but a minute for me to rattle off a list of movies or shows that feature an older child being adopted by a great family and going on to have grand adventures. There’s Little Orphan Annie, 80’s Punky Brewster, the girls in Despicable Me, spunky Anne of Green Gables, Michael Oher in The Blind Side, and quirky Lewis in Meet the Robinsons. Most recently, I’ve written a blog post about Deja on NBC’s This is Us.
While I love seeing this type of adoption featured in the media, there are facts about the process of adopting from foster care that aren’t portrayed quite accurately. For one thing, we don’t have “orphanages” anymore, which is where you see most of these characters starting out before they end up in a family. While some youth experiencing foster care do live in group home settings, there are no longer situations where families show up at a building full of kids and “pick out” the cutest one, leaving behind the others to feel unwanted. There is a lot that goes into the matching process to ensure all kids find their forever family.
For anyone who’d like to consider welcoming a preteen or teen into their family, here’s a bit more to consider:
First, prospective families need to identify an agency to work with. CHS offers individual orientations to meet with interested families for about an hour and help them decide if this is a journey they want to take.
Second, prospective families attend hours of training classes and complete an intensive home study process mandated by the State before being approved to foster or adopt. Television might want you to think some foster parents are “in it for the money” or “looking for a teenager to clean the house and babysit the kids.” In fact, there are many wonderful folks who want to become loving, generous parents to a teen. CHS equips them with the skills and knowledge they need.
After that, CHS helps families to consider a variety of profiles of waiting youth. We consider background factors, individual needs and behaviors, and personalities/interests. No child meets a family until we all feel confident it could be a good fit. First meetings are often a lot of fun, and the family and child get to spend one-on-one time together. In addition, our young people have their very own social worker who they can give input to regard their hopes for an adoptive family. They are never moved against their will. Sometimes, amazing things happen and we see teachers, case workers, student aides, or best friends’ moms step forward to adopt a youth they already know and love, and we help them through the process too! Now that makes for good TV.
One great thing about the media is that they show us how any type of person can adopt and build a family: single dads (even the animated kind), single moms, older folks, younger folks, quirky folks (and time-traveling folks), families with kids, families without kids, families of all races and orientations – just about any type of family you can imagine! And that is the truth.
To learn more about adopting at CHS, visit our website: https://chsva.org/adopt-children/program-overview/