Monday, January 29, 2007

Adopted at 23

A couple adopts their former foster child when she is 23. This is the kind of commitment that we need to start training all foster parents to have when they agree to take teenagers.

Right now, foster care for teenagers is seen as a temporary thing. Caseworkers often tell foster parents, "Just try it and see if it works. If it doesn't, we'll move him/her." Kids get moved in foster care all the time for the dumbest things -- often because of their attitudes. Last time I checked, every teenager, no matter how "normal" or perfect, had a bad attitude.

Kids are aging out of foster care with nobody committed to them every day. What we need to do is recruit foster families who are willing to make a lifetime commitment to the kids, whether or not they are legally free and whether or not the kids want to be adopted.

Many kids don't see a need for adoption until they are in their mid to late twenties. Many of them, as the story I sited shows, go back and get adopted much later than their committed parents would have preferred. But the bottom line is that the commitment on the part of the parents began the day the foster child moved in.

When I was a college administrator, there were modular trailer units put on campus as temporary housing that ended up housing students for way more years that they were intended. They were no fun to live in and eventually they were finally replaced by permanent housing.

These "mods" as we called them remind me of foster care. Foster homes were never intended to be a long term solution, but that is what they have become. And they won't be a good long term solution until we can change the thinking of foster parents until they can make a permanent lifetime commitment to teenagers where they will love them, regardless of what happens.

And maybe stories will have a happy ending like this one.

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