Fostering to Adopt: What It’s Really Like
Maybe I am luckier than most parents waiting to adopt. My little girl, a beautiful and adventurous two-year-old, lives in my home already and has been since she came to us as a foster child at three months old. For the past twenty-three months, I have been able to love and mother her as if she is my own. I did not begin fostering with the intention to adopt. I fell in love. After only a few months with this precious little girl, I knew I wanted to adopt her. I hoped of course for the best for her family, that bio-mom would deal with her addictions and the family could be reunited, but always feeling that letting go would be next to impossible.
As the months passed, it became obvious to everyone involved that bio-mom was making little to no effort to deal with her problems. Each temporary court order was replaced with another longer protection order, and the original three months we had been asked to foster (C) turned into a year and then two. My husband and I began to discuss the reality of committing another eighteen years to child raising and decided that, although this was not something we had planned, we just could not let her go. We wanted this little girl to be ours. And we were the only family she knew.
The wait has been agonizing and laced with fear of loss. In our area, biological parents are usually given two years to make improvement and show they are able to provide a safe home for their children. At the end of the two years, social workers apply to the court for permanent wardship. Before permanent wardship can be granted, the social worker must show they have tried all other available options, including all relatives and in the case of aboriginal children, which (C) is on her biological mother’s side, the family reservation. Biological family is always given priority over the foster family whether they have a relationship with the child or not, as is the child’s band.
In the midst of this waiting, we have suffered moments of terror. Bio-mom has come forward with the names of distant relatives on numerous occasions and each time we feared this would be the day we would lose our little girl to strangers. As fate would have it, though, these relatives have either not been willing to commit to raising a child not their own, nor have been unable to pass the home study. For two years we lived with the hope that everything would turn out for the best, while at the same time knowing we could lose (C) at anytime.
At the end of March of this year came our first real ray of hope. (C) was made a permanent ward. Following the court decision, bio-mom announced to the social worker that she wanted my husband and I to adopt. Now that (C) has been made a permanent ward, the fear of unknown distant relatives coming forward to lay claim has lessened. If it does happen, they will have to go through the same adoption process as us. They are no longer automatically granted priority. However, the fact remains that they can go through the same adoption process as us, which would mean a lengthy battle in court.
Permanency has been granted, but this does not yet mean we are able to adopt. Once a child is made a permanent ward their file is moved from protective services to a long-term worker. The long-term worker prepares the file for the adoption registry, a process that takes anywhere from several months to a few years, depending on the size of the file, the ease of collecting family and child history, the work load of the department, and the priority of the case.
Priority is given to those children who are without a home, those in foster homes where the foster parents do not want to adopt. With (C) being in a loving foster home that does want to adopt her and has been her home since infancy, her case is low priority. I have heard from various social workers that we may be forced to wait up to another two years.
In my heart, (C) is my daughter. My biological children call her their sister. To (C), I am Mommy and my husband is Daddy. To the government, though, we are not yet a real family. We cannot officially call her daughter and begin to make decisions we believe will be in her best interest. I cannot even sign consent for any services she may need. Despite the length of time (C) has spent in our home, my husband and I are not even considered her legal guardians. Everything must go through the social worker. It is a small price to pay for the joy of having her in our home, but I want things official. I want the uncertainty and the waiting to be over. When she calls me “Mommy,” I want to be able to promise her it is forever.