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Questions & Advice Foster-adopt Agencies reviewed by BPN subscribers See Also

2013 - 2014 Discussions


Waited 2 years to adopt through Contra Costa County - support groups?

April 2014

Does anyone know of an active, adoptive parents group in the East Bay for domestic adoptions? I've searched online and have found no active groups. Since we're doing foster to adopt through Contra Costa County, we do not have the support of an agency as we wait for our second child. We've been waiting about two years now and it would be great to talk with others like us. We're not sure whether we should continue to wait with the county, or start over with an agency. We had one failed placement last December (reunification just before the child was due to come to us) and we declined another placement because of concerns about how the new child's trauma would affect our daughter.

The county knows we're tired of waiting. Our worker thinks we should wait a bit longer, and that they will charge about $2400 to release our home study. Is it worth it, or do we ditch that home study and start from square one again? Any insight is appreciated. Thanks. Loni


There are a couple of resources that may be useful to you. PACT is an organization that supports families with adopted children of color. They also act as an adoption agency. They have regular gatherings and classes, which is a good way to meet others. Most of the families that I know through PACT have adopted through private adoption rather than through the foster system. Their website is www.pactadopt.org

Peggy Pearson works with the Center for Vulnerable Child at Children's Hospital she runs a support group and a lecture series, both take place 2x per month. I believe her programs are open to everyone. I don't think there is a website for her program, but I could forward you a flier.

As far as what you should do, only you can answer that. I have a friend that successfully adopted through Contra Costa County about 4 years ago. They did have a really rough time with lots of waiting. No adoption path is generally easy and fost-adopt is generally harder than private adoptions. My friend said he would be willing to talk with you if you'd like to send me an email. My husband and I initially worked with an FFA and were dissatisfied for a number of reasons. We had one placement that we disrupted and became certified with Alameda County. We have been much happier working with Alameda County, but have still been upset by how deeply flawed the whole system is. We did meet one family from Contra Costa that were becoming certified with Alameda County. I don't remember what exactly there story was, though.

We were on the emergency placement list for children under 2 and immediately started getting calls to pick children up. Often there would be several calls per week. We picked my daughter up from the hospital when she was 3 days old, and adopted her when she was 17 months. That is relatively short for an adoption through the foster system, but there were some bumpy spots including several weeks that we thought she was going to be moved to a biological relative. We are considering more children and will likely avoid emergency placement until our daughter is older. In the meantime, we are considering getting on their adoption-only list, which would mean much more waiting. DT


Hi there, Your posting had a lot in it- stay with the county or switch agencies, waiting too long for a ''match'', and not getting the support you feel you need/want from the county. I completed my adoption through the foster-adopt process. I did start with an ''agency'' but left them after I felt that they were not treating me well. I then went to the county and felt so, so much better regarding the process and their ability to ''match'' me with a child. In fact when I disclosed that I had completed the training with an agency and what happened to me, they vowed that I would not be treated or perceived the same way by them and they made me feel comfortable and wanted. The county is the gatekeeper of all children available for either foster or foster-adopt. Many agencies who do foster adoption placement must go through the county and those relationships are sometimes strong, and sometimes not so strong. Their access to children can be limited and takes much longer. I was lucky for I my case worker looking out for me, and a person in licensing took a ''liking'' to me and would call me about a child she heard about. (And that was not her job). So I had two county workers helping me out. I did eventually match and it was within six months of the completion of my home study. And yes, I found support from the others in my class and county social workers.

In response to your ''waiting too long'' I am guessing that you have very clear ideas as to what type of child you would like to join your family.As you've said you did match but turned down the placement. Only you know your family dynamics and I hope were honest when you said no to t he child. I feel that no matter who you work with - county or agency the longer your ''list'' of ''must haves'' the longer it will take to find the ''match.''

In closing I say have a good talk with your case worker and ask them what do you need to do to have your home study ''stand out'' more. I had a friend who had her home study rewritten and once that happened, she did match with a girl who had 5-6 families competing for her. Also re-think your ''list'' (and most foster- adoptive families have one). I have a co-worker who had very specific ''must haves and must not haves'' and their home study was never chosen by the child's case work and they never did match. And yes, they went through one of the area agencies. When I suggested to them that maybe they should go through the county, they didn't want to go that path (since they heard negative things about working directly with a county). Good luck which ever way you go. It will work out. County adoption mom


Hi Loni, There are two really great groups which you might want to check out. FAIR (Families Adopting In Response) is on the peninsula, but they have families from around the Bay Area, mostly public domestic adoptions, and could probably put you in touch with another family. Pact is an East Bay agency which facilitates adoptions (i.e. private) but again, lots of their families have done adoptions from the public system also.

I'm sorry about the failed adoption, especially after waiting for so long. It's such a roller coaster of emotion for families, and unconscionable when there are so many children stuck in the system. We adopted our second child over 10 years ago through fost-adopt (SF County) and had similar concerns re: the uncertainty of the process and how it would affect our first (adopted internationally), who was just under two at the time. Definitely a very important issue. We were only willing to accept a situation with very low risk of reunification.

I wonder if an agency like ASK which works with other county systems (Alameda, that I know of) would allow an outside family to attend any of their groups. We used Future Families in SF, and were part of a support group of waiting parents. been there


How to help foster children (without adopting)?

Nov 2013

My father and his siblings lost their mother and were abandoned by their father as a child. Inspired by his experience, I had always planned to adopt, but life doesn't work out the way you plan... Now I'm an older single mom and I don't think I have the capacity to commit to raising a child who may have exceptional physical or emotional needs. Nonetheless, I would like to do something to help a child or children who don't have stable family. I'm imagining tutoring, or acting as a mentor for a teen, etc. I would love to hear about ways to help and support children in these types of situations. Signed, anonymous


Two ideas:

Provide respite care for foster parents. Foster parents need time off too, and you could provide babysitting for a few hours or a few days. Very much needed. Contact your county's foster care program for information.

Considering becoming a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. Learn more at http://californiacasa.org. foster parent cheering you on!


You are an ideal candidate for Court Appointed Special Advocates! http://www.casaofalamedacounty.org

This is an organization that works with foster youth, mainly teenagers. There is a great need for men to volunteer as mentors. You commit for a minimum of one year, and many CASAs remain a part of the foster youth's life for much longer.

You can serve in a ''Big Brother'' capacity, see what the youth needs, and help arrange for these needs to be met. You can spend time with them once a week, or make other arrangements if you wish.

You may select a youth from a number of case histories that are presented to you after you have undergone a few weeks of training.

Once you contact the organization, there will be a couple of orientation meetings so that you can learn about the mission and be sure that you are ready to step up to the commitment.

There are also other ways to volunteer or help CASA that are not as big a commitment, as a way of getting one's feet wet.

Thanks for your enthusiasm on behalf of these young people Amelia, a former foster youth


Children in foster care have terrible outcomes compared to other young people and need all the help and support they can get. Fortunately there are a lot of ways to help. One thing you might consider is becoming a CASA - that's a court appointed special advocate. A CASA gets appointed by the court when a child is struggling and either the child's social worker or attorney requests it. You then meet with the child on a regular basis and provide a report every six months to the court on how the child is doing and help give the child a voice. However, the one thing I'd say is that if you do pursue something like this, consistency is really important. Foster kids have a lot of turmoil in their lives and a lot of people coming in and out (social workers, foster parents and attorneys all often change multiple times) and the CASAs I've seen have the best effect are the ones who stick around with the kid for years, meeting with them every couple of weeks and doing fun things (one CASA I know established a book club with her youth and takes her to a bookstore every time they meet which the kid, who was initially a hesitant reader, has grown to love, they also go out to meals together and movies and other cultural events). There are lots of CASA training programs which you can google depending on your county. There are also other roles you could play, like an education surrogate (someone who makes educational decisions for a youth and helps make sure they are getting the services they need). Or look at an organization like strive for in San Francisco. Attorney for foster youth
I would highly recommend becoming a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) for a child in foster care. Pretty much every county has a program--you can find yours and learn more about it here http://californiacasa.org/ Basically you commit to meeting with the child about once/week, kind of like a Big Brothers/Big Sisters relationship, but in addition you find out what else is going on in their lives (you will have a court order that helps!) and advocate for their needs--educational, medical, placement AND you report to the judge prior to every hearing (usually every 6 mos). There is a lot of training so don't worry if you don't feel prepared to do this. What you really need is the persistence and patience to keep showing up. It is a commitment of about 10-20 hrs/month. Very rewarding. I've been doing it for five years (a two year commitment is required to start). Deborah
Consider becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). http://www.casaofalamedacounty.org/

This is a great program where volunteers (after training) are appointed to advocate for children who are wards of the court. They attend court meetings to speak about how the child is doing and also have outings with the child (sort of a big brother/big sister type relationship). Often times children who are wards of the court have no stable person who consistently looks after them (no family, changing foster homes, etc.) and a CASA person who can commit to several years of guidance can really help stabilize someone's life. See the website for more information. I know a few people who have done this and it is very rewarding and seems to make a difference to the kid. How nice of you to help a child


A few years ago someone on BPN posted about CASA, a volunteer advocacy group for children in foster care. http://www.casaforchildren.org I briefly looked into it but for various reasons, it was not a good fit for me at the time. I hope someone with actual experience with CASA will give you some advice. It seems like a really wonderful organization. anon
You should check out the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA). Each county has their own program. You get to mentor a child and visit them weekly and at the same time advocate for them and have a voice (and help be their voice) when decisions are being made about schooling, placements, etc. The programs include training and support. I was a CASA for about three years and would recommend it to others. My CASA child is now an adult. I didn't start again with another child because I no longer have the time to commit to the program. Here is their national website: http://www.casaforchildren.org Former CASA
Hello, I am involved with an amazing group on the UCB campus called Cal Independent Scholars. Read about them here: http://trsp.berkeley.edu/cisn.shtml. Read the page, especially the testimonials, which are quite moving. They support kids who were foster kids or otherwise independent, and are now UC Berkeley students. You should get in touch with them and see if this is something that works for you. Good luck! michael
Just this morn, at school drop-off, a foster Mom friend was in tears... with exhaustion, with overwhelm, and with needing more support for her and her 13 year old daughter than single-parenting and the county foster system can provide. Bless you for reaching out to contribute what you can. I suspect you'll find a lot of love and laughter in the process of being willing to engage at depth with the messiness of our shared humanity. So often I find that it is in our brokenness where the light shines through.

There are SO many kids who are needy, but here's one who really needs you right now, and has love and laughter to share too! Perhaps you could join the village to help N. get caught up academically to her peers before she goes off to high school next year. Growing up in an abusive family, then shuttled from foster home to foster home until my friend took her into both heart and home, has left gaps in this girl's academic foundational building blocks... which then, of course, takes a hit on her self esteem. While this child has so blossomed in the last 4 years, it is clear to me that she has a good and contributing and deeply compassionate life ahead of her if we can give her the support she needs now. At the same time, I suspect and fear that this child will go down the path of her origins unless we, the village, can provide this needed extra investment of time, energy, love, and support (more than her foster Mom, even with her community, can provide right now),

Whether you reach out to this child or another,having someone to simply help with homework on a regular basis, after school or in eves, would make a world of difference - to the child, and to her exhausted foster Mom. N needs some tutoring to be successful and catch up to grade level, but the cost of paying for such help is prohibitive. Blessings on your journey, and if you'd like to connect with this foster Mom and daughter, please ask the Moderator for my contact info. Part of the Village


It's so heartening to hear you want to help. I volunteer with four children in my Berkeley neighborhood (ages 2, 8, 10, and 11) who come from families with such high needs (poverty, drug addiction, homelessness) that the children would truly benefit from a stable relationship with a caring adult. One of them especially needs someone to attend her parent teacher conferences and help her with her homework. The two year old could use someone to help his mom enroll him in Head Start. Please email me if you would like to hear more about the children and their personalities. If it sounds like you might be interested in mentoring them, I'd be happy to connect you. If anyone else reading this would like to help out, please let me know. As a mom of two little kids, I find I can't help my neighborhood kids as much as I wish I could.

2010 - 2012 Discussions


Experience with Foster/Adoption

Jan 2012

My husband and I are considering long-term foster/adoption from Alameda County or San Francisco County. We attended an orientation for a placement agency and the theme throughout their presentation was ''its incredibly hard - kids from foster care need extraordinary amounts of patience and support- but with faith in God and love you'll do fine'', which is a bit too vague for me. (We also learned that placement agencies are paid by the state for each child they place with a family, so they have an inherent incentive to get kids placed.) Before we go forward, I'd like a little more detailed parent perspective on what we might experience/need if we adopt/foster a child who is in the social service system.

I read through the archives but most of the discussion there involved folks who had recently foster/adopted. I'd love to hear from folks who are five to ten years out after bringing a child into their family - looking back, what do you think about your decision to go this route? Do you think the agency you worked with helped ensure a good match and provided real support when you needed it? If you adopted a child with ''special needs,'' as most in the system are, were these needs fairly manageable or did they take extraordinary effort/place significant stress on your family?

Thank you, in advance, for sharing your honest perspectives! Interested in foster/adopt


We have been working with Family Builders in Oakland. They are contracted with SF to place all of their foster kids in permanent homes as well as working with other counties around the state. Yes, they are paid to help these kids get homes. This is why, you, the parent, don't have to pay. It is in everyone's best interest to place children, especially the children. The process is hard, in our case super hard. Not because of the child but the system. Our child is wonderful, smart, funny and resiliant. Family Builders did a great job of helping us with the matching process. Our needs were very clear and many as we already had a child. They continue to be available and supportive regularly. Yes, it is hard and I am sure some kids are really difficult but you can set limits regarding what you can and cannot handle and make those clear to your agency. Stick to those limits and your agency should be able to support you. Good Luck! another fost/adopt parent
I would recommend that you avoid working directly with the county, as the support is often minimal!! Have you looked into other agencies? Kinship Center is nationally known for excellent foster care/adoption work and they have recently merged with another excellent local agency called Seneca Center. www.kinshipcenter.org or www.senecacenter.org. I can put you in touch with the program directors if you are interested, just contact me directly. Jen
In 2010, we suddenly became foster parents of a 12-year-old boy we knew who was removed from his home by CPS. He had experienced years of neglect and abuse and will not be returning to his bio parents' home. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I've done a lot of hard things. I was not prepared for how hard it is. I do not have a thick skin, I had not advocated for someone with special needs before, and my social services agency (San Francisco County) provides only what I badger them for. To be fair, they've coughed up a fair amount, mostly in funding for what our son needs, but they're not there for emotional or technical support at all. Forget it. I'm lucky if I even get good social work assistance to solve our practical problems. I am my own social worker .

With my husband unavailable during the workday, I'm the one responsible for all the appointments with counselor, tutors, social worker, orthodontist, doctor/dentist, teachers. My baseline right now is 4 appointments/week. That doesn't even sound that bad, but the whole reason we have most of these appointments is because I went holy cow, what is happening with this kid? And then started asking questions and got neurological testing and a major psychological assessment and then researched how to get a really good psychologist, and then asked the school what kind of help they could provide and fumbled my way through some terrible 504 meetings, etc etc etc. It's confusing from every direction. Why is my kid exhibiting these behaviors? What is the best way to address them? What resources are available? How willing am I to keep pushing the bureaucracy?

It took me 25+ phone calls to get a new psychologist, and 25+ calls to get a local orthodontist (so we didn't have to make a 3-hr round trip to the one social services wanted). I got a lot of push back and irritated people in the process and questioned if I was doing the right thing in seeking services.

But the hardest part is coping with a kid who has nightmares, who is panicked by a knock on the door, who has a meltdown over even being asked what his homework is, who doesn't speak to you for three weeks because he's always angry. My two biological kids did not prepare me for this. The last person I dealt with who was this hard is now an ex-husband.

Yes, it's rewarding. Yes, I know I'm doing something good. I have seen great progress in our son in 16 months. There are a few times/week that I like him and see the good man he can become. And I've made personal progress too. I have a thicker skin, something I've always needed.

You can ask the moderator for my email address. If you want to chat. doing better, still so hard


Two must-have resources:

www.fosterpodcast.com

''Another Place at the Table,'' by Kathy Harrison.

Don't get started until you check these out. experienced foster parent


Check out http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/ Friends of a friend adopted 3 children through them and have had a very positive experience. AASK provides a lot of on-going support. They have orientation meetings--no pressure. We also attended one of their parents and kids gatherings. We were able to meet and socialize casually with people several years into the adoption, while watching the kids play with each other and interact with their parents, which was pretty wonderful. I was very impressed with the staff and with the people we met. We have put our own Foster/adoption plans on hold for now due to other factors, but I'd feel comfortable working with them. --Good Luck
Friends of friends adopted 3 children through Adopt A Special Kid (AASK). We attended an orientation session and a parents/kids gathering. I was very impressed with them and the support they offer. http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/ --Good Luck
I fost-adopted two children through Alameda county, both with in-utero (multiple) drug exposure; my older son almost 9 years ago and my younger son 5 years ago. I too was really put off by the initial orientation, but moved ahead anyway, and I am SO HAPPY I did! I had a social worker I liked and trusted. I was open to age and gender, but I was very honest about what would be a good fit for me and what I could and couldn't handle. From my experience, I found the social workers very helpful and responsive. I've made life long friends with some of the families who were in my adoption class.

Both my boys were developmentally on target and are doing very well. Both are very high energy (but not ADHD). My older son has been found to have visual and auditory processing deficits which means he struggles with reading and some school work, but he is fully engaged, loves sports and has lots of friends. My younger son is also doing very well. I brought both boys home as infants.

With that said, I do know of a couple of families who adopted when I did and their children have struggled with some issues related to attachment disorder. Each child is different and having kids is always a risk, no matter how you do it. I am still eligible for intervention services if the boys need it until they turn 18. I encourage you to build your family this way. There are so many wonderful children waiting for a forever home! happy (but tired) mama


Hi! We adopted from Alameda County fost adopt 12 years ago. Our son was fostered for 2 years before the process was finalized. It took us a long time to get a child placed with us. We had a bio boy and wanted a girl, but at that time we were told that almost all of the children available were boys - that girls were seen as easier and were more likely to be taken in by family members. We might have gotten a child sooner if we had pushed for it harder - squeaky wheel gets the grease and all. Same with the process in getting it finalized - probably could have had the adoption finalized earlier if we had thought that was important. He is 14 now, 2 when we got him. There have been some minor issues - minor to me, maybe they would be major to someone else. If you want more, I could give you lots. Ours was a transracial adoption as well. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. Eden
Hi, I am a single parent and I adopted my son through Alameda County 7.5 years ago. I begin the process with a non- governmental agency, but we were not a good ''match.'' I did have some bumps, but almost every person I know who adopted -open, international, domestic, fost/adop, etc. experienced some kind of bureaucratic ''bump.''

Here are my honest answers to your questions: 1.)The non- governmental agency I went to first was very cold and distant. and preferred to work with either bi-racial couples, gay couples, and/or Caucasians only. (I'm none of those). 2)Alameda County did a great job with training and support before and during the process. The ''bumps'' were corrected within a reasonable amount of time. 3.)You can match with a child from another county, and you will need to factor in time traveling to visit them. The younger the child, the shorter the pre-placement visits. Older children, pre-placement is longer to make transitioning easier. 4.)Be clear on what type of child you want to raise but do know that the more narrower your wants are, you might have to wait longer. Age, race, sex, drug/alcohol exposure, behaviors, all should be thought about long and hard. Be realistic. Think hard and long about your current lifestyle, family community, etc and how it has to change to accommodate a chid. 5.)If the child has siblings and the goal is to keep the siblings in contact with each other then you will need to make that happen. If you aren't willing to do this, then tell the case worker this right away. 6.) The Home Study is crucial and be very real when it is done. Don't create personas that are fake; social/case workers can ''smell'' a made up lifestyle in a nano second.7.) Only surround yourself with people who will fully support you while going through the process. Folks will will shake your confidence and make you question your beliefs and committment. Create a strong, caring, and lovig village early on.

My son has special needs and learning differences. You work a little harder to get them services and the stress might be a little more, but it is no different if you gave birth to the child. Some needs are not readily seen or identified until the child is older. Not every child exposed to alcohol and/or drugs have special needs. The childrent are not ''damaged'' and had nothing to do with what happened to them before they were born.

Keep asking questions. These are my views and experiences. Kim


We fostered two older children through an agency that many people recommend on BPN. We planned to adopt, but we just couldn't handle the older of the two girls.

We are currently Alameda County foster parents and we could not be happier about it. We have an almost-1-year-old baby that we picked up at 3 days old from the hospital. We love her more than anything. We have access to as much support as we need, but we aren't overwhelmed by the demands that the agency put on us. The process hasn't been completely smooth...we believe the system has a lot of problems, but in the end it seems to be working out. We expect our adoption to be final in May or June.

Although we were wowed by the agency at the orientation, we would not recommend them today. We found their certification process and communication style to be patronizing, yet we have always felt completely respected by our county workers. The agency required 2 additional visits per month. Like a previous poster stated, all the appointments were really overwhelming. On our worst week, we had 10 appointments. On our best week, we had 4. Our average was probably around 6.

Find out if the agency that you are considering has full-time social workers. If they are part-time, they will likely take longer to get you ''support'' than a county social worker. We often felt our needs were time-sensitive. By the time our social worker was back at work, we had already tracked our own resources down. The social workers often can't tell you much more than google can.

Beware of considering children that aren't local (which is what many agencies handle). We were required to visit several times a week before they moved in with us. They also did one visit to our home. That was about 8 trips to AND from (about 30 hours in the car within 1 month) Plus we were required to drive back for monthly visits. It made an already stressful situation even worse.

Also understand that many agencies only work with children that were not be placed into county-certified homes. They are harder to place children because they are more difficult for whatever reason.

If you do end up in matching with a child, become very familiar with attachment problems and what they look like for parents. Then, learn about the factors that lead to attachment problems. I learned the hard way that it is no fun to parent a child that behaves as though they hate you all the time. AND it is terrible feeling to know that you have contributed to that child's lack of permanency. Decide what you can handle. Do not believe what a social worker tells you about a child's ability to attach. They may not know, they may lie or they may blame previous parents for the child's behavior.

Best of luck! anon


Looking to foster-adopt a bi-racial child

Jan 2011

My husband and I are in the beginning stages of researching the foster/adoption process in the Bay Area. We are a bi-racial couple and looking to foster/adopt an african american/bi-racial child and would be interested to hear other's experiences and hopefully gain some leads.


I think you will find wide-range of thoughts on this subject. My hope is that as you receive this information, you keep in mind the many variables in each situation. You have the prospective families (usually two adults) that each bring their own set of family history, which informs to a great degree how they experience this process. Then you have the child that is being adopted, again each child will have very specific needs, family history, and temperament, which must be considered. Last and certainly not least you have the Agency/Social Worker relationship that you are seeking to have as optimal as possible.

I've worked in this field for a number of years, and I think there's a tendency with adoption in general, and fost-adopt in particular, to hear one story and paint an entire picture. This is rather unfortunate, because there is so much about each of the above mentioned variable that's missed. It's a process, not easy, but not rocket science. You will have to trust people with your history, you will need to practice absolute honesty with yourself, and be absolutely committed to this way of growing your family.

I've seen amazing families go through this process, those who do really well, are prepared, have a support network, create a community with others who have adopted, and mostly seem to have a crazy amount of love to give.

I wish you much luck! a mom and adoption advocate


Check out AASK (Adopt A Special Kid). We adopted our first son and are about to adopt our second son through them. I have no complaints. And generally speaking the process has been great for us. Our boys are amazing. We feel so lucky to have found them. If you want to dialog any more about the general fost/adopt process feel free to email. Felicia

Foster adopt through Alameda County - longer term outcomes

Jan 2011

Hello, I'm interested in talking with other people who have gone through the foster adopt process in Alameda, and hearing your good, bad, or mixed experiences. I've already read all the past postings on BPN on the subject, and am looking for more information. I'm particularly interested in talking with folks who are at least 3-5 years (or more) out from their adoption, and/or those who have adopted substance-exposed infants, as I'm learning as much as I can about the long-term (e.g. past the age of 3) outcomes/challenges. I would love to either hear about your experiences. Thank you so much! S


Both of my boys were adopted through Alameda county as infants and both were exposed in-utero to drugs (meth, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana). I'd say their long-term outcomes have been wonderful. They have both been developmentally on target since they were babies. They are 8 and 4 years old. They both are bright, loving, high energy. They both excell at physical activities. The older one is struggling with reading but has made great advances. I don't attribute his reading skills with his drug exposure (I think it is a boy thing and that the schools have pushed the curriculum for reading down to the first grade and lots of kids aren't ready for it). One is a drama queen and the other is rough and tumble (and has advanced language and fine motor skills). So what is just temperment and character and who they are and what might be due to their exposures? I may never know. I do know a 12 year old boy who is doing great and had a very rough start with being born drug dependent. I know of other kids who weren't drug exposed but are struggling with the after- effects of attachment disorder. In the end, they are your kids and you love them and you deal with whatever they are going through. All of us have something - it's the human condition; shyness, ADHD, autism, etc. Don't let your worries stop you from pursuing adoption. The world is a better place when we care for all the children. anon
Hi, I'd be more than happy to help you sift through the pros and cons (joys and stresses) of the foster-adopt process and the experience of ultimately raising a child from ''The System.'' I have a unique, multi-layered perspective on this topic as I am a family therapist with many, many years of clinical experience working with kids and adolescents who were adopted out of the foster care system (and their parents!), and I am also a foster-adoptive mother myself.

I adopted my son 12 years ago. Our story, along with many of the stories of my client's, is long, complicated and mixed with trials and tribulations. I'm so glad to wrote in to ask for more info as this type of info really is important to make a decision from the most informed position as possible. Very smart to do this now.

There is so much content to share, that it would be best to interact more directly via email or perhaps meet in person. Despite the fact that my business is to be an advocate for and support to families considering, in, or post the process of adopting, I'd be happy to meet with you without charge to share with you the info I know about this important but complicated process.

Feel free to contact me so we can have a more in depth conversation about this. Maria


We are also considering foster/adoption (and have read all of the BPN archived posts.) I have also noticed that there seems to be many stories here and elsewhere from parents who recently adopted (within a year of adoption), but not many stories from the perspective of several years post adoption. (In particular I am interested in hearing about early adolescence.) So, thank you for asking this question and I hope lots of folks post responses! -- Also Exploring Adoption
I wish someone had explained to me 9 years ago the impact of attachment disorder that many adopted children suffer from. It makes it very difficult for them especially as they get older......it requires an incredible commitment and understanding from the adoptive parents. You may want to check out a book called ''Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control'' by H. Forbes. It will help you to understand what you are getting into. ANON

Thinking about switching fost/adopt agencies

Dec 2010

We've been doing the fost/adopt process for awhile - completed our certification and homestudy and been in matching for a few months now (no children placed with us yet). We are thinking about switching from our current fost/adopt agency to a new one, for various reasons. So, I'm wondering if anyone else has switched their agency after they've completed their certification and homestudy with the old one? How was the switching process for you? Were you able to re-use any of the certification items with the new place? Also, if anyone has a recommendation for using either a local agency or the county for fost/adopt, I'd like to hear about it. I'm not sure how the county differs since we've been with an agency thus far. Thanks, in advance, for your response.


I was able to use my previous homestudy when I switched from a previous agency and went directly through the county. But you may have to take their specific training. If you are lucky enough to live in contra costa county I recommend going directly with them. good luck!
I am so sorry you are unhappy with your fost-adopt agency. I do want to REALLY encourage you to speak with the agency worker or director about your concerns rather than just jumping ship. Fost-adopt can be a difficult process that is very relational between you and your agency worker and the process itself has a lot of points that can bring up difficult feelings and issues that can be projected onto the agency-sometimes these are true problems and you should switch and sometimes they are resolvable or you see them in a different light if you talk them out. Also, fost- adopt takes a long time and matching is where you can really wait and wait. Going to another agency is only going to extend the process longer. You can't use a lot of the same paperwork and if you are with a fost-adopt that has not charged you any fees, it is because they receive some compensation only after you finalize your adoption so they may require you to pay them for the home study or other work if you are leaving them.

Anyway-best of luck, but I'd at least give them a good chance to help you work out whatever is happening. We were really successful with Adopt a Special Kid (AASK) in Oakland, but the process can be hard on you. Remember you will end up with a great kid or kids in the end if you can stick it out! Happy family that stuck it out


I've never really understood why people who want to fost/adopt don't start with the county. Any child who enters the system starts there and it's usually the more difficult cases that end up in the private agencies. I adopted my beautiful daughter through Contra Costa County almost 10 years ago. I was lucky and placed with her within 6 months (not usual) and she was officially adopted about a year later. I know MANY other families who have also had success through the county system. Good luck! anon
We used Alameda County when we fost/adopted our 2 wonderful boys. We just celebrated our 7th anniversary with our 13-year-old, and our 8-year-old has been with us for 5 1/2 years. The County can be a real headache because you need to advocate for yourself and your kids a lot. We ended up going in once a month to look at pictures and handle our own matching, since the County wasn't doing much. We also went to a great Matching party at the Oakland Zoo where we met our older son, along with his social worker. In our experience, the child's social worker is the one who really gets things moving in the process. We went to a Matching luncheon for adoptive families and social workers, saw a picture and read a profile about out younger son, and then met his social worker. The County doesn't really advertise these events, but adoptive families working with the County directly are eligible to attend. If you are unsatisfied with your agency, I would recommend contacting the County. It can be frustrating, but the County gives you an opportunity to meet and talk to the child's social worker through events like Matching parties and these luncheons. Good luck in this exciting, exhausting process. Once your children join your family, it will all be worthwhile. Anne in Oakland

Fostering at-risk infants

Nov 2010

I have just had my final home visit to be approved for fostering and am set to be approved pending a few documents I need to send. I have made it clear from the beginning that I want to contribute by taking in infants and preparing them for a new life. This includes drug withdrawal.

Now that I'm at the end I'm being told that there are few infants available. I love my social worker and feel that she's telling the truth but I don't feel that I could keep up with a toddler without easing into it and it wasn't my plan to get to that stage anyway.

I'd love to hear from others about their experiences in fostering. I will not be adopting because I'm already a grandmother and my youngest dd is 20, and that wouldn't be fair to the child.

I'd like to hear from successful adopters about the age of the infant you adopted and any other foster experiences out there whether foster/adopt or just fostering.

I'm in CoCo County. So far the foster program has been great. concerned foster mom-to-be


My experience with the foster care system and social workers is that you just need to hold on to what you said you can do. Why didn't they tell you when you originally applied and then went through training that what you said you were getting ready for was not available?

When we went through the training and homestudy, etc, we were clear that we would consider a child from 1-4 years old (we figured that everyone wanted babies). Once we were certified, the worker said toddlers were rare and we should consider taking siblings! We said we were willing to wait for the right match and didn't think we were ready for siblings (especially for our first placement).

Frankly, it felt like a bait-and-switch. We had been clear about what we were considering and no one said that wasn't likely until we had invested considerable time going through the whole process. It seemed like the person assigned to matching families just wanted a deal -- any deal to clear the case.

The upshot is that a situation will come along that will seem right to you. Don't get pressured into something else.

Once you have a foster kid, you'll have to advocate for them as well. anon


I applaud your dedication to helping a foster child and would like to add my experience taking on an at-risk child. I too told my social workers that I was looking to foster-to-adopt an infant who was healthy because I am a single parent and was certain I wouldn't be able to handle an at-risk infant. However, as you are finding, infants who are healthy are rare in the system. When I was approached to foster a 16 month old, with health problems (feeding tube, multiple medications, unable to walk, swallow on his own etc.), I surprised myself by even considering it.

While caring for him was difficult, I don't know that it was any worse than taking care of a healthy/younger child. I still had to wake up every few hours, either to feed or give meds. I still had to watch him closely, as you would any young one. I had to be aware of any signs that would show he was in danger due to his conditions, the same way you are vigilant about an infant. He was on a schedule, both for sleep and for feedings.

I suppose my response is that it is about the same, and if if it is more work, please consider this: You will make a huge difference in this child's life! Loving care, at any age, makes a difference. But, as I can see with my son (yes I adopted him), every time he is uncomfortable, in pain, needs help -- and there is someone there to lovingly give tend to him -- well, that is a message that will stay with him for life. Someone cares.

My son is 3 going on 4 and is healthy, happy and thriving. I am convinced that the time we had together when he came to me made a huge difference in his physical and emotional health. I wish I would have gotten him sooner, but it is never too late to help a child.

Ask for help if you need it. The counties usually offer respite care, so schedule time in for breaks on a regular basis. In my experience the workers are very understanding and encourage taking advantage of respite care.

Thank you for considering doing this important work! Jennifer


Good for you, and thank you, from your community. I'd say don't give up on your original plan. There will be a baby, multiple babies for you, even if you have to wait for awhile. Taking on a toddler is harder, and if what you want is an infant, go for that. Keep in mind that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so call the social workers frequently. Good luck and thanks again.

Adoption through Alameda County

May 2010

I have 2 children ages 9 and 7 and am considering adopting a child. Is there anyone out there who's had experience with adoptions through Alameda County? I'm not sure how to begin this process and would love to hear from any families who adopted through the county or became foster parents, particularly those who have adopted or fostered after having their own children. Pitfalls? Did you opt for an infant or an older child? Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks. Amber


I adopted through SF County but Family Builders By Adoption would be a good organization for you to contact-- they are in Oakland and place kids from all of the California counties with families in in the Bay Area. Social workers who were knowledgeable about kids and the foster system along with knowing many adoptive families with kids of all ages helped me a lot through the process, and Family Builders should get you good information and connections with all of this. My kid is lovely and I wish you the best. Happy adoptive mama
My wife and I went through the Alameda country fost-adopt program. We found the training program very useful. We took on a 3 year old girl whose mother was unable to care for her due to drug addiction, and whose father was in jail. After about a year, when all the paperwork was done, we adopted her. There are a lot of emotional transitions for a child being adopted, and there are also some for the new parents. With a birth child you will be often amazed by the personality quirks that you or your spouse share with the child. With an adopted child this is less likely. If a birth child has a learning difficulty, you may deal with it more emotionally cleanly. With am adopted child you may want to blame their early upbringing or drug exposure. As the child grows they will wonder about their birth parents, and when they are 18, they are likely to want to look for them, which might cause you some stress. So with an adoption, some emotional complexity is almost guaranteed. With a birth child, you may have it or may not. We certainly know plenty of families that are having more difficulty parenting their birth child than we are having with our adopted child. Recommend adopting through Alameda County
We're fostering to adopt through Alameda County. Call the adoptions number 510.268.2444, attend orientation, then training, and you're on your way.

In our experience, the orientation & training try to scare off the faint of heart. You can adopt young children through foster care, have a normal life while you do this, but you have to navigate the process alone. We've had a positive experience, most of the child welfare workers we've worked with were great, adoption homestudy worker was awesome and finished everything very quickly.

PRIDE training is interesting & useful, better than expected, worthwhile even if you don't go through the county. They focus on children's behavior, but we found it more difficult to work with the agency; our foster children have not been esp. challenging.

You can foster, or ask for adoptive placement of a legally free or almost legally free child. Alameda County doesn't have a separate fost-adopt track. If you foster, as you will be strongly encouraged to do, no worker will help you decide which placements to take, or the level of risk of a placement.

Once licensed, you may be offered your 1st placement in a month or less. It's fairly common for newborns to enter care when they are born drug positive. We don't have experience with older kids as all have been under 1 year. (Seems to not be revealed in training)

A placement worker will try HARD to get you take placements, cute & healthy baby! parents are VERY unstable & maybe not able to reunify! better come pick them up right now! another family is being considered, must be placed by 4pm! You have to guess about risk yourself- placement with relatives/siblings & reunification. You can try to get more information from the placement worker, stall for time, and be picky.

Our case may take 2 years or more to be finalized. We are at 15 months many court dates postponed, meanwhile bioparents situation has turned around several times. It is a rollercoaster. Before fostering, we had only heard from people who adopted 1st placements in a fairly short time, maybe we are on the difficult end of the range.

Our 6-year old bio child has been fine, knows the facts and what might happen in the future, been through 2 reunifications,has met the children's bio parents, has handled uncertainty well, hopes we can adopt our current foster child, and is ready to try again if not.

The forums at adoption.com are good: http://forums.adoption.com/foster-parent-support/ Anon


We have adopted two children in Alameda County. Our first was through the county. The process, even though the workers were wonderful, was isolating and long. Our second child was adopted with the help of Family Builders in Oakland. The process for our second child's adoption was much easier, less stressful, and quicker. Our home study took months instead of two years for our first daughter. Once our second child was in our home, we did foster/adoption, our social worker visited our family frequently... she returned calls promptly... she also was knowledgeable. Family Builders made a great effort to support new and returning families. I would highly recommend them. anonymous

2007 - 2009 Discussions


Adopting with the County

Sept 2009

I want to hear some positive OR negative- truthfulness is best. My husband and I are interested in adopting a baby girl through social services of Alameda County. We have 2 biological boy's Ages 5 & 2. And anytime we tell anyone we want to adopt they first say WHY, and than they tell us a horror story of someone they knew/know that adopted and the child is/was a terror. Not sure why that is, but would like some insight into this. Would love to meet with anyone to meet your family if you are open to that to. Would love to hear about the process of adoption and hear how the child is doing, whatever age. thanks so much.


I adopted through San Francisco County and had a fairly easy adoption process with my son, who is thriving. The dailiness of being a parent--as you know as a parent of two already-took over pretty rapidly and for me, knowing my kid over time has made a huge difference. I am struck by how many people are still quick to share every horror story they have ever heard about adoption with me. I have never been pregnant but I think it's pretty much not standard etiquette for strangers to approach pregnant women with miscarriage stories, or to tell parents of teenagers every teen fatality story they have ever heard.

It helped me A LOT to know other adoptive parents adopted kids of all ages as I was going through the process. Again, my son is happy and healthy. Please remember that so many kids in California are at risk of growing up in the foster system, so don't rule out adoption based only on horror stories. I'd be happy to contact you directly too. Happy adoptive mama


I have two boys both adopted through Alameda County's Fost/Adopt Program. They are now 2 years old and 6 years old and I brought them home at 3 weeks old and 5 months old, respectively. I had GREAT experiences with both. The first time it seemed like a long wait, but I trusted my social worker - it's important to have a good relationship with your worker - and I made friends with several of the families in our class, and we are still friends and support for each other.

Have you read the BPN archives? There are many positive posts about adopting throught the county, and I've posted a few times previously myself about my experience. In the end I realize that any way you have a child it is a worrisome and anxious time. I believe that adopting through the county is the way to go. No or very little cost, many wonderful needy children and you have a very thorough history of the child - not so with international adoptions. My good friends adopted a 5 year old who had been in many foster homes and she is a great girl. My boys both were exposed to drugs in-utero and both were born with very minimal problems and both are now thriving.

Trust your heart and go for it! we are family


I'm sorry to hear that people have been giving you that response when you talk about public adoption! You're right to seek out information from experienced families.

I recommend that you look into working with an agency that helps place kids in foster care with adoptive families (Adopt A Special Kid (AASK), Family Builders, A Better Way). I've known some families who worked directly with the county and others, like mine, who worked with an agency. On the whole, I think an agency will give you more support through the process. AASK always has experienced families come into the trainings to talk, and they'll connect you with a 'buddy family' as well.

The best book about adoption I've come across is called The Family of Adoption, by Joyce Maguire Pavao. I highly recommend reading it as early in your process as possible.

As for insight into the special issues for families who have a mix of children born into the family and adopted, you might look into a volunteer-run organization called FAIR (Families Adopting in Response) -- www.fairfamilies.org. A number of the group's founders have families like that.

My child, who is now 10, came to us through foster care when she was five years old. She's had more than her fair share of challenges, but I wouldn't have created our family in any other way! Proud adoptive mother


My husband and I also adopted childen through foster-adopt. And wouldn't have it any other way. Both our social worker and the county social worker that was assigned to the kids were amazing. We get access to resources that are unbelieveable. The kids do have issues to deal with (who wouldn't after being in multiple homes for years), but I find for the most part we are dealing with the same day to day parental challenges that every other parents faces. During the foster adopt process, you have a lot of 'control,' which most people don't realize. You decide how much legal risk you want to take on, the age of the children you're interested in, the type of emotional and/or physical ailments that you think are realistic for your family to help overcome, etc. Alison

Have you adopted through Alameda County?

June 2009

I want to meet some families who have adopted through the foster to adopt process through Alameda County. I am starting the process and would like to hear your stories possibly meet you and your family if you are open to that. Good or bad stories I want to hear them, give me any advice to go through this process. Also if anyone can recommend any good books to read about the process for that would be much appreciated. Thanks so much anon


We adopted our daughter as an infant 12 years ago through Alameda County Foster/Adopt program. We had a great experience. ann
Congratulations! And do try to remember that while much about the fost/adopt system can be scary, intimidating, slow, frustrating, etc., NOTHING is more fun than laughing with your kid! I adopted through San Francisco County so my specific details, references, etc. are less useful maybe--but do remember that you are preparing to provide a loving and permanent home to kid who, frankly, does not have one now. My experience has been wonderful--not uncomplicated, but wonderful. Pact has excellent reading lists, many about transracial adoption and attachment in kids of different ages--attachment stuff looks different depending upon the age of the child you're planning to adopt. I loved Barbara Katz Rothman's book Weaving a Family-- a great book about white parents adopting African American children, and honest about race in a way that I find rare. Also A Child's Journey through Placement--a good book about how children see the system. I wish you the best! Grateful adoptive mama
We've been in fost adopt process through Alameda County since November, and would be happy to talk to you. We haven't adopted yet, though and you are looking to talk to families who have. The one thing I wish I'd known is that there isn't really a separate fostadopt program in our county. You become a foster family just like foster only families. Every child in foster care has some possibility of becoming free for adoption, and it is up to you as the foster family to decide whether you want to take any placement offered to you. Stacie
We adopted through Alameda county social services. The experience was mixed. Email me directly for more info. E
I recently adopted my son through the Alameda County foster to adopt system. I would be happy to discuss my experience (a very good, very fast and very successful experience all around!). Please feel free to email me. Jennifer
If your goal is to adopt, not foster, I advise you check out one of the local foster family non-profits who focus on helping families adopt. Alameda County is mostly focused on finding placements for kids, then maybe you can adopt if that is the path the kid in your care takes, but agencies like Adopt A Special Kid (AASK) or A Better Way are more there to advocate for families and help you if adoption is your goal and then your adoptive kid could come from Alameda county or any other county in the state. Also-the adoption assistance payment subsidy you get will be higher (to meet your kids needs til they are 18). just my 2 cents

Foster adoption agencies for Alameda County

May 2008

My husband and I have recently begun our foster adoption process in Alameda County, ideally adopting a younger sibling to our family of 3 which includes our biological son. We have interviewed 3 private nonprofit agencies -- Adopt a Special Kid, A Better Way and Family Builders. I have also attended the County's orientation session. We are leaning towards Family Builders based on some positive feedback from BPN postings and a more detailed referral from a friend who has worked with them. We also found their orientation presentation to be the most appealing and professional. But we would like to get more current feedback from others who have worked with these agencies and what your experiences have been.

Our one hesitation about Family Builders is that they do not assign a Social Worker until we are at the matching process stage which could easily be 4-5 months from now. Our initial 2 hour intake interview with FB was with a contract employee vs. with AASK, our intake interview was with a Social Worker who would likely be our ongoing contact person and Social Worker, though they cannot guarantee that she would be able to stay with us throughout the whole process, which we completely understand. But at least we would know early on who it would likely be and can determine whether it will be easy relationship or a more difficult or forced one.

I was completely turned off and disturbed after attending the County's February orientation session. The presenter said clearly that family building was not their agency's objective, but placing children is. So to the extent a prospective family makes it difficult for a Social Worker to quickly place a child, ie. asks lots of questions, is cautious about matching, wants to meet the child first etc., the Social Worker's will not call upon that family again very quickly the next time. She even joked that if you have a hyphenated last name, that the staff may overlook you in favor of others. Not exactly sure what she was getting at but I can guess, and my guess left me very offended. Thank you in advance for your feedback! Alameda mom


We just finalized the adoption of our son through Family Builders, and I can't say enough good things about this organization. We had one social worker do our intake, then were without a social worker until after the MAPP training (when we met several of the agency's workers and were impressed with all of them). At that point, we were assigned a social worker who did our home study - she came to our home once a week for two months, I think, and asked us incredibly personal questions; I imagine personalities can really make or break this process. We really clicked with her, and were disappointed when we found out she wouldn't be our placement social worker, given the relationship we'd forged.

However, we discovered that Family Builders just seems to attract great people, and we ended up working with someone through the placement process who we all came to really care about. Now that our adoption has finalized, we are thrilled to be free of ''social workers,'' but have to admit that we miss visits from our placement worker now that they've finally come to an end (and our son still talks about our social worker, though he never mentions his own county worker).

I understand your concerns about not having that resource up front as you navigate the larger process, but we found that even though there were times we had to play advocate with the agency to keep things moving (until we got to placement), the combination of wonderful social workers, and a truly open attitude about what makes a family provided us with the consistent resources we needed from the agency - and indeed continues as we attend classes and support groups they provide.

Best of luck! It's a daunting and ultimately very worthwhile experience. Finally a Family


My partner and I worked with AASK to adopt our daughter four years ago. We were very pleased with them, though I've heard good things about Family Builders, too.

You're right to pay attention to how you feel about the processes of each agency, since they vary. I'd also recommend asking about what kinds of support they offer after they place the child(ren) with you, and if they offer any post-adoption services.

We liked that AASK had long-standing relationships with child welfare workers in many counties, which is helpful in the ''matching'' phase. They also link every family with a buddy family, who's adopted their kids through AASK. I can't remember when in the process that happened, but it was one of the most useful things the agency did. While people probably have varying experiences with their buddy families, ours was wonderful. It helped to make the whole thing real during the phase when it seemed to be all about paperwork. Best of luck! Sarah


We had a bad experience with Family Builders. We did everything they asked us to as quickly as possible and waited and waited for a social worker to be assigned to us. The person who did the home visit was rude (even laughed at the size of our kitchen) and we were generally given the impression that we were not being taken seriously. It could be because we are a lesbian couple, however Family Builders actively recruits gay families. When talking to a friend about our problems and she asked who we were working with she said, ''Say no more..'' She had a single gay male friend who got strung along as well. This was four years ago, so maybe something has changed. By the way, we were willing to adopt an older child but gave up and had our own. anon
I hear wonderful things about going through the county for adoption. I have several friends who used them and are very happy with the children that were placed in their families. They received support, timely placements and beautiful children. I have not been happy with the service or support that I have received from Family Builders and will be switching to the County. FB does a lot of advertising but I would not recommend them. Adoptive Mom

Experiences with Foster Adoption?

March 2008

We are interested in adopting through the foster-adopt program, and would love to hear of recent experiences. We would prefer a younger child, 18 months or so, in part because we have 2 other children. How long has the process taken from the time you begin training? Have your adopted children had significant special needs? If you have older children, have there been unanticipated challenges with this adjustment? Thank you for any thoughts or advice! -hoping to adopt


Anyone interested in adopting children should look at the site: www.cakidsconnection.org Children are listed for adoption not only in Alameda County but in several other counties in the state. It is great to see interested families because there are so many children and youth in need of loving homes. Kristie P
I adopted my 19 month old son, whom I brought home as a 1 wk old, thru foster care in alameda county. I recommend working with a private foster/adopt agency. I worked with A Better Way in berkeley and overall found them to be very good. A private agency is free and you get more money and services. You probably will also be matched more quickly since private agencies don't get paid til they place - but also be careful with this and don't feel you have to take the first kid they offer you, make sure you feel the child is one that you can handle and that you feel a real desire to potentially parent that child permanently. if you pass on a placement, don't worry, sadly, there are always more kids. getting a newborn or very young infant is possible, but a toddler is even more likely. The agency should help address issues with your birth kids and help you with adjustments for everyone. I recommend reading Attaching in Adoption to help you determine what you can handle. waiting out the legal stuff is hard, but about 90% of these kids stay and you can determine how much risk you want to take on. I think it's best to look upon the situation as really wanting to give a home to a child who really needs one and if there is an appropriate birth family placement, that could be okay, but the county should determine whether or not that is likely asap, the longer the child is in your home, regardless or non-parent, immediate birth family placement, the more likely he or she will stay. also meeting other foster to adopt parents really helps you to get support and advice from others in your shoes. in regards to other concerns voiced on this listserve regarding ''crackbabies'' - my child was born with certain potential ''challenges'' but he was healthy, and showed no signs of trouble at birth. He is on track developmentally, he is very smart, happy, well-adjusted, very bonded and super cute. if you were to see him on the playground you would not know he was a former foster kid. adopting him thru foster care, though difficult for me at times, was the best thing I ever did. I provided him with a safe, calm ,loving home where he was not aware of all the turmoil going on around him about his future and now he will stay. feel free to contact me direct if you want other info. d

Planning to adopt through the Foster Care system

Jan 2008

My husband and I are planning to adopt an infant or up to 3, 4 years-old child through the Foster Care system. Some of our friends are so negative and judgmental about the children in the Foster Care system being a ''crack baby'' with severe mental/physical problems with their parent/parents being incarcerated!!! I am sure there are many cases like that but we keep telling the friends not all children are like that and it's really case by case. I would very much appreciate if anyone who is raising a child adopted through Foster Care system could share her/his experiences with me. Thank you so much in advance! MST


I am sorry some of your friends are so misinformed about adoption and are trying to scare you. My two bright, caring, fun, strong, developmentally on target children, ages almost 5 years old and 10 months old, were both adopted through Alameda County's fost/adopt program. My experience was very positive, even when it seemed to be taking a long time. Both of my children were exposed to drugs in-utero. Both have overcome their rocky starts and are thriving. No baby is a ''crack/drug baby''. Babies do not take drugs. Some are exposed to drugs in- utero. Cocaine, meth, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine...

There are many wonderful children waiting for adoption. Some have had a tough start. Most are amazingly resilient. If you adopt through the County you will know the child's background, health, and life experiences up to that point. The social workers work hard to make the right match. I know several families who have gone through the foster/adopt program. My children are eligible for a full array of support services offered through the County if they have a need up to age 18. It's free, it's local and it's a wonderful way to build your family. I encourage you to do it! anon


I'd love to talk with you about this. I adopted my daughter from the foster care system 7 years ago, and have many friends who've also adopted through the system. Please feel free to e-mail me and we can set up a time to talk. Robin
I have taught several students in foster care and loved them. They were loving and bright and their parents were the ones with issues. I would suggest talking to your case worker about what you can handle. m
My husband and I are currently foster parents for a 4 1/2 mo old boy we hope to adopt. We were matched with him when he was 2 weeks old through Children and Family Services in CoCo Cty. We were expecting a toddler and were shocked to hear they had a newborn for us. He was exposed to opiates prenatally and spent 5 weeks in the hospital detoxing. And at this point you'd never know it. He's on target developmentally and a real gem! We had checked out about 5 different agencies in the Bay Area and were told a 3 year old was the youngest we could expect to be matched with. We have definitely had a very positive experience with County services which has exceeded our expectations. They have been thorough in their training, home visits, meetings, support... and we feel so lucky to have our little guy. And as a social worker, I feel the ''crack baby'' myth is just that. I've seen a lot of kids born to my patients/clients who have been exposed to drugs of varying degrees, alcohol being the worst, but kids can catch up developmentally. A lot of other environmental factors can lend to positive development, such as a stable, loving home free of stress and anxiety. Not to sugarcoat drug exposure, but kids can be resilient. k
Before you adopt, become the child's defacto parent. Adoption agencies have no reason to disclose the real history of the child to you because you may change your mind. As a defacto parent, you can go and see and read the county reports on how the child ended up in the foster care system. Even if you are not challenged by the county reports, spend some time looking up what ''attachments disorders'' are and if possible talk with a family that has such a child that is not connected with your agency. Many of these families will be single parent households. anon
Hi. My husband and I adopted a little girl through the foster care system. (Alameda county) She was 3 mos. when she came to us and was formally adopted at 14 months. We also got the comments about ''drug babies, crack babies'' etc. I didn't care what anyone said. I wanted to adopt and that's just the way it was. Our daughter was exposed to cocaine and probably alcohol. (usually the drugs and alcohol go hand in hand) She had tremors for about 4 months or so and stiffness in her legs but nothing too dramatic. She was ''feisty'' from babyhood and is now more difficult. She has ADHD type behaviors and gives us (mainly me, now) many trying moments but I wouldn't trade her for the world. I would like to speak to you in person if that's possible, or through email if you'd like. Kathy
I am a child psychologist experienced in working with foster children of various ages. Some things to keep in mind when thinking about adopting a foster child: a child's experiences from birth to three--particularly experiences of (or lack of) relationsips with others--essentially form the building blocks of personality development. All of the children in foster care have suffered an indescribable loss and varying degrees of trauma. Some have had more support than others. Some may naturally be more resilient. Helping these children work through their losses and grow into happy, healthy adults takes extraordinary parenting--not impossible but difficult at times. A.
We have a foster kid who is still a ''[low] risk of reunification.'' (What a term, given that foster care is supposed to encourage reunification!) You can say you only want legally free kids. Ours was drug-exposed at birth (that's how most newborns enter the system). We changed in the process about what we would consider. We have also met attitudes that we were going to get a kid with problems. Maybe most annoying are the people who say we're wonderful and what a amazing job we've done (the kid's developed! Age-appropriately! Great parenting!)

When you fost/adopt you get a lot of information before you even meet a kid. We even talked with the current foster parents of several kids.

It's nice to know (although you wouldn't do it casually) that if a foster kid's a bad fit for your family you don't have to move forward with adoption.

Don't freak out too much about having birth parents locally - be open to keeping contact. It can be easier to talk about birth parents as actual people that they know (when that's possible).

You should spend time with people who support your decision. We have a friend whose birth son has issues (always good to remember it happens with bio kids, too) and who adores our kid. We spend more time with her and less with the folks who looked like they thought our kid was contagious.

Fost/adopt is the cheapest way to have a kid. You get a monthly stipend until the adoption is finalized (it doesn't cover all the kid-costs, but still). MediCal continues until they're 18. It's what universal health care is like -- hand over the card and no co-pays, bills, nothing. It has made it easier to spend money on other kid-resources without stretching ourselves.

We are happy to tell you everything we've figured out about FSA agencies, the county, and what we wished we knew when we started. It's not without its bureaucracy -- but less than a private or international adoption.

If you'd like to meet a foster kid (who was held up for a while due to possible Native American background, although no tribe was ever identified,) just to get a different picture in your head, email us. aj


You have a great heart and kudos to you for wanting to adopt an (older) child in foster care. I used to work with children (in the foster care system as an advocate and behaviorist) and there are some things for you to consider so that you will be prepared for this change in your life and so that you can help prepare the child to accept love (from a parent and love for themselves.) Sometimes the kids with the behavior/anger problems are the kids who need you most and will love you the most once they establish that trust with you. Everyday at my job, I worked at developing trust and reassurance in the fact that I could keep them safe (from other adults, from themselves, etc.) Keep in mind that you will provide the best life for these kids by being mentally, emotionally and physically prepared to handle these kids and their issues. Abandonement issues are hard at any age so be prepared to answer their tough questions. Be prepared to be their biggest cheerleader because feelings of abandonement really feeds the self loathing, poor self esteem cycle in these kids...you will have to provide the ''self'' esteem until they trust you enough to know that you won't be giving them back, once they can do that, they will be able to work on themselves. Know what resources you have from the state and county for counseling, behavior modification, etc and use these services. If you have a child with behavior issues coupled with anger, there are physical techniques you can learn so that you can protect them from themselves. When I worked with these kids, I had to become certified in these techniques and they were effective tools. I hope you find a child who will help you create this family that you want, I just ask that you are wide eyed about the experience, have an open heart and a strong back to carry the child's burden until she or he is ready to let it go and just be prepared to experience such a joyful love. always a foster kid's advocate
I haven't adopted thru foster care but have 2 friends who have. They both have bright, well-adjusted, great kids-you would never ''know'' they had come from foster care, and they do not have any physical or emotional problems. I also worked with an agency that included clients whose children were in the system and who were working to regain custody. It's true that a child is only relinquished if there are MAJOR problems with the parenting/home situation-which is as it should be. This does not mean that you need to be ''scared'' of the children-don't let folks who don't have first-hand knowledge scare you off. They may in fact have more needs, or more difficulty attaching, but they may not. My guess is that the younger they are, the less likelihood of problems (I know that teens who have been in the system their whole life tend to have BIG problems, but you're not considering adopting a teen), but no guarantees, just as we have no guarantees that our birth children will reach adulthood without problems! You can find out information about health history, etc., and you do not have to accept a child that you don't think will ''work.'' Please don't let folks dissuade you with stereotypes, get complete, accurate information, and make your decision that way. I think you're doing a wonderful thing and I commend you! anon
As someone who works with kids in the foster care system, I can't tell you how much it frustrates me that people say the things you are hearing. Such terrible and incorrect misconceptions. Do the people saying this to you have any experience with kids in foster care? where are they getting these ideas? I can't even start to address all that is wrong with those generalizations. I just really recommend you do your own research about who these kids are and what ''disabilities'' if any they may have. For example, this idea of ''crack babies.'' Actually, research suggests that EVEN IF you adopt a baby that had cocaine in its system at birth, the effects are not long term. That is, these children grow up to have no longterm disabilities as a result. In fact, most children in the U.S. foster care system are way more healthy than kids you adopt overseas. I never understand why people say this about kids in the US foster care system, but then feel totally comfortable adopting kids from overseas. Do they really think that kids from an Eastern European orphanage or a poor Latin country don't have similar backgrounds? Do they really think these children actually got better health care while in state custody than the kids in the US do? In fact, there was an article in Time magazine two years ago about how many European families come to the US to adopt kids because the kids in state care here are so much healthier overall and the parents can get better information about their backgrounds and their parents' backgrounds than they ever could adopting in their own backyard.

So trust your gut. Adopting from the US foster care system is a wonderful thing to do and the odds that your child will be 'tainted' are no more than the odds any adopted baby will be. Fan of foster care adoption


My friends adopted the most delightful little girl from the foster system. Two years later, they adopted an adorable little boy. It is riskier to have your own biological child than to adopt a foster child. When you're a foster parent, you have the chance to meet and help many children while you look for that ''special little someone''. Practical
Our son was placed with us 9 months ago when he was 15 months old. When we read his profile, it included a number of things your friends identified as being common among fost-adopt children (including some stuff we swore were deal breakers), but the light in his eyes belied what was on paper. He is developmentally on target so far - a good indicator of the future - and an absolute joy. Perhaps this is a rarity, but based on the other fost-adopt families we've come to know, I suspect perhaps not so rare afterall.

There is a real range of children in foster care, and the process of being approved to adopt helps you begin to think about what you can handle and what you cannot. What's most important is what your family feels is right for you - it's not your friends who will raise this child. And the well-meaning family and friends who expressed their concerns about the route we took have fallen head over heels for our son right along with us - none of us ever talks about those long-ago conversations now.

Good luck to you! Becoming a parent - any way you do it - is one of the hardest most wonderful things you'll ever do. Anon


2004 - 2006 Discussions


County adoption - feeling discouraged about our prospects

September 2006

My husband and I are very interested in adoption, and have been pursuing this through the county, and also through ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) agencies, since my husband is part Sioux.

We were very enthusiastic about this, and particularly about the possibility of a child who has some heritage in common with one of us (my husband) and our bio son, who is 2 1/2 years old.

However, now that we have attended several trainings and met with one social worker we are feeling very discouraged. In a nutshell, we have been told that we are guaranteed to get a disturbed child, are likely to have him/her snatched back and our hearts broken, etc. I understand that it is the social workers' job to give us worst case scenario, but there seems to be a universal message of future misery, and emotional and physical danger of several types to our son.

I did read the one positive county-adoption story, and it helped. Can anyone else clear away some of this negativity with a success story? We are open to some tough times, but can only be open to limited amounts because our soon is involved. We're just not sure what the reality is.

Thank you so much! Jenny


I have a success story! I adopted my now 3.5 year old son through Alameda County. My child is healthy and developmentally on target. I was generally very satisfied with the process. For me, it took 1.5 years from the time I started the process until my son came home with me through their foster-adopt program. There were some tough times, but I trusted my social workers. My biggest worry was that the birth parental rights had not yet been terminated. I was informed of all the possible risks and I weighed all the factors and in the end trusted my social workers that it was highly unlikley that this child would be placed with the birth family. Finally, when he turned one year old, the birth parental rights were terminated. There was an appeal, which was very scary, but again, I trusted my social workers that it would be very rare for the termination to be overturned . In my case, the appeal was denied due to lack of evidence (good for me)and the adoption was finalized last year. I waited 20 months for that day! A long time, but most of the waiting was due to bureaucratic paperwork log-jam.

I am so sorry that you have been given a bleak picture of the adoption process. Yes, they have to tell you all the risks, but there are ways to mitigate these risks. One way would be to only consider children who have already had their birth parental rights terminated (and yes this can be the case even with infants). You can also ask for a different social worker. In my case, I told my social worker that I could not take a child with special needs. Don't be afraid to be honest with what will be the best match for your family. There are children of all ages and races and abilities and histories waiting for a loving family. I know of two other families who adopted through the county when I did and they also had a pretty easy time of it and their adoptions all were finalized quickly (many months ahead of me).

I want to encourage you to go for it. There are so many deserving children waiting for forever homes. anonymous


I have heard of wonderful success with such adoptions, but it seems to take a special sort of parenting since the early start for these kids was not great. May I recommend you check out the work of Nancy Thomas, wo has helped heal children from such backgrounds. Both of her books do a great job explaining the type of work that did help and even how to do it. Thankfully too, a summer week-long camp in the SC Mountains can provide training for you and the child so things will have a good chance of working out very well. Finally, a couple of therapists in Oakland off Park Blvd specialize in this kind of issue. Virginia Keeler-Wolf ( 339-9363) has been recommended in previous posts. Nori
It sounds as if you've arrived at a fearful time in the adoption process. Both adoption and pregnancy are roller coaster rides. I'm not sure from your posting exactly what you're fearful of. If you are not getting answers or only negative ones from the county perhaps you should think of working with one of the fantastic not-for-profit agencies in the area. My family adopted 2 bio siblings with the help of Adopt A Special Kid (AASK) located in Oakland. They are straightforward and honest and efficient. http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/

Maybe more information would help your fears. I recommend reading Toddler Adoption by Mary Hopkins-Best, Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray and anything by Nancy Thomas, but particularily, When Love is Not Enough. Probably any child who is available for adoption through fost/adopt will have some attachment issues and it's good to know that these can be healed, though sometimes not without a lot of hard work on everybody's part. There are thousands of resiliant and beautiful children available for adoption today. - - - Hang in there. Thrilled, but tired, Adoptive Mom.


My husband and I heard the same negative stories when we considered a public adoption in the 90's. We sought a child who was less than a year old. Social workers and some family members said we'd get a crack baby, an alcohol exposed baby or worse. Instead we got a healthy, normal, beautiful 10 week old baby boy. We received medical and other relevant info about our son from the birth mother during a meeting we had with her. Now, our son is doing incredibly well socially, academically, in sports, etc. We thank God every day for him and could not be any happier with our choice to adopt through a public agency. He has completely blended in with the our larger family as well as our bio-kids. Frankly, an open adoption that required ongoing contact with a birth parent was unacceptable to us and our public adoption was free. I strongly encourage you to explore public adoption as there are so many children who need homes and many of them are ''healthy''. I can't imagine my life without my ''Angel From Heaven'' as I call him. Good luck in finding yours Grateful and Proud Mama
I adopted my son through Contra Costa County when he was 9 months old. I am a single parent (and a lesbian - I had trouble adopting in Michigan). I couldn't be happier. My son is a marvelous person, and shows no lasting effects of the drugs he was exposed to in utero. (It was made clear to me in training that infants coming through social services are always drug exposed.) When I first adopted him, my son had hypertonia, which means muscle stiffness, but that went away in a few months.

He is above average in intelligence, sweet, beautiful, and mostly healthy. He has asthma, which may have to do with us living in Richmond... He and I bonded so deeply, I can't imagine how it could be deeper.

His birthmother's rights were terminated before I adopted him, so I never had to worry about losing him. (I have always felt sad for her...)

I don't want to put my name on the web with this, but if you'd like to talk, please call me. -happy mama


Hi. I do some work involving kids and parents who are part of the dependency system. I would not say that all the kids who become available for adoption are severely emotionally disturbed or have other lifelong challenges. For example, I know of a young baby--about 9 months--born drug-exposed, but has gotten great early care, appears to have no cognitive or emotional difficulties. She has a bit of stiffness with one leg. She is a beautiful, smiley, happy girl. Don't let the horror stories get you down. I think there are plenty of kids out there who would fit well in your family. And, although you didn't ask, I think it's great that you're considering ''having'' a second child this way. I wish you the very best. mary
We adopted through Alameda county, after going through the MAPP program - I'd recommend it highly!

We were a family less than one year after beginning the MAPP class. Some in our class were matched with young babies. Some children are already legally unrelated to their birth parents. Some are more complicated.

When you go through the process, you fill out a lenghty questionnaire, setting up a profile of characteristics and risks you're willing to accept in a match, from gender and race to drug exposure and bed-wetting. This helps them to make a good match. And when you are matched, you don't have to move forward with it.

Yes, our children had some serious adjustment to do, but they're good and sweet and smart. And parenting any child comes with risks and adjustments for all.

We found everyone with the county that we worked with to be dedicated, intelligent, decent, and caring. It may not be this way for everyone, but don't write it off. anon


We couldn't be happier with our experience in preparation and adoption through Alameda County. We waited almost exactly a year after we completed our paperwork. An amazing 8-month old girl moved in with us a year and a half ago (adoption finalized) and we just decided to welcome her 5-year old sister to come live with us -- most likely to become a permanent member of our household (oh my goodness!).

One of the most useful (and challenging) resources outside of the county has been Pact, an Adoption Alliance (see http://pactadopt.org/). Although children available for public adoption in California are pretty evenly split between Anglo, Latino, and African-American children in near Bay Area counties it is mostly Black children who are available for placement.

Pact provides support and training for families who have adoptive children of color. They offer reecommendations for reading, short classes and an annual week-long family summer camp with separate programming for parents and children. Pact makes us better parents and isn't afraid to challenge us in ways that make us pay attention to what's best for our kids that we might otherwise have missed.

I didn't see the initial post and am not sure of the racial background of the person who asked for advice but me and my sweettie are white folks and many people who seek formal adoptions are also white folk (as contrasted with 1) foster care providers who in Alameda County seemed predominantly African-American and 2) informal adoptions where folks ask family and friends to take care of their birth children).

Facilitating our African-American daughters ability to connect with their birth culture --and being aware of the power plays involved in who is ''available'' to be adopted and who is ''adopting''-- is something we are (and will continue to) work at. Part of learning to do that is made easier by Pact as well as reading the blogs of adult transracially adopted people of color like http://birthproject.wordpress.com/ and http://twicetherice.wordpress.com/

Much love and best of luck on your journey


I have two boys, now 16 and 9, whom I adopted through the county at 7 weeks and 4 weeks old, respectively. They are the light of my life. Both of them were drug exposed in utero, and neither showed any drug withdrawal symptoms. My older boy was the happiest, sweetest baby, and my younger boy has always been cranky, but these are matters of temperament, not drug exposure. Both of my boys have learning disabilities, and this is the only drug-related problem I've had. I cannot understand why people prefer to spend tens of thousands of dollars, and to go abroad to adopt, when there are literally THOUSANDS of children in the U.S. who desperately need families. Mama of 2

Considering foster-adopt but concerned about family dynamics

August 2006

Im a stay-at-home-mom with a 4-year-old daughter & a husband who is highly devoted to our family, but whose work requires him to be gone 4 days per week. We are seriously considering adopting a child (or perhaps siblings) through the foster care system.

We have found the information provided on the BPN site to be helpful (http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/adoption/foster.html), & have also spoken with others who have gone through the Foster-to-Adoption process.

But we specifically wonder if anyone has dealt with the specific challenges that we face:

(1) Dynamics with our existing biological daughter: Were concerned about our daughter feeling jealous; getting attached to a prospective sibling who is later placed with their biological family; having to share her room for now; etc.

(2) My husband working so far away: Its hard, but weve adjusted successfully & hope the situation will eventually change. But for now, he leaves Monday morning & returns late Thursday night. I am aware that the Fost-Adopt process requires many hours of meetings, paperwork, classes, etc. Can we do some of this on weekends?

(3) Dynamics with grandparents & relatives: Were close with them & they all adore our daughter. But they live far away. Nonetheless, were concerned that they will favor our biological daughter over any foster or adoptive children.

We do have a lot to offer: Were both educated professionals; my husband makes a good income; were stable & own our own home; we enjoy parenting & I have experience working with young children as a volunteer preschool classroom aide. Were excited about adopting through the foster care system. But we also want to be well informed & prepared & to make sure that everyone involved winds up as happy & well-adjusted as possible including ourselves as parents.

Thank you. We will be extremely grateful for any perspectives on the issues weve described Prospective Fost-Adopt Mom


My husband and I adopted 2 girls, full biological sisters, ages 5 and 1, through the Alameda County fost-adopt program. We had a wonderful experience with the training, home study personnel, and case workers. We have no biological children of our own. My husband works long weeks and monthly goes out of town for work for about a week at a time. Our family is all out of state. I'll try to answer your questions but feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to talk more. My Master's is in Counseling and I have worked with children and families in the fost-adopt system for about 12 years.

1. Trainers should be able to help you with this dynamic; part of the course work. Communication is vital. Could write a book in answer to your question. Jelousy is a natural part of the transition, I believe, but as things adjust and accomodate it should subside to normal sibling rivalry/dynamics.

2. Time demands. We took the training on consequtive Saturdays for 8 weeks in the mornings. Initial paperwork needs some devoted time to but after you're fost-adopt parent, there's almost nothing. CPR/First Aid needs to be current, classes thru Red Cross offered on weekends. You need 8 hrs of CEU's per year (both you and spouse) which can be at a site or some on- line training or parenting videos.

3.Your family will probably surprise you with their willingness to love your adopted child as your biological. As any relationship, they will have to get to know him/her and the more time they spend together and communicate (e-mail, pictures, phone calls, etc), the bonding process comes along nicely. You can lay the groundwork for this by talking to them about the fact that you're considering adoption and discuss their thoughts and feelings prior to taking classes. Lots more ideas if you'd like to e-mail me please feel free. Best of luck! G McGuire


I work in foster-to-adoption for and agency in Berkeley. I think it is really great you are considering this and being so thoughtful about it. I hope I can remember all of your concerns, but if I don't address any please e-mail me.

When it comes to your daughter she would probably feel jealous of a new child regardless of how that child came to be in your home. I am sure that your duaghter has already experienced friends or family moving away. Although it would be hard it the child had to leave I think she would be able to cope and hopefully be happy for the child that he/she is able to be with his/her birth family.

Your freinds/family may treat a non-birth family the same as your birth daughter, but they will probably follow your lead. You will need to feel confident and comfortable enough to tell them when they are being insensitive or inappropriate. More than likely they will come to view the child as part of the family.

When it comes to your husband being away four days a week I worry for two reasons. 1) children in foster care have often experienced many losses and disruptions. Intially they might worry that he won't come back or they drove him away. It would be very important that he be able to take several weeks of leave to be home when a child is intially placed. 2) Parenting is hard, even your birth children. When your husband is away you would be the only parent and a lot would be expected of you. Many of are parents are single mothers and seem to manage well. It is important that you figure out who your support people will be when your husband is not home. As for the paperwork/training, the agency I work for offers the required training over three Saturdays and we also offer fingerprinting and cpr/1st aid training on some Saturdays. It is certainly doable.

I hope this was helpful, please feel free to contact me via e-mail or at work. I hope you pursue this journey. I have known many families who have found great reward and joy. If you get this before 8/19 I can get you an invitation to our annual picnic where you can meet foster-to-adopt families. Sarah


We are in the middle of a fost adopt placement right now - we have a 9 year old biological daughter and are adopting a 4 year boy. It took us a long time to find a good match for our family, and now we are in that challenging phase of the kids jockeying for attention, toys, and space.

In hindsite, I would suggest that you: 1. Be proactive about finding an agency that you are comfortable with. There are a number of private nonprofit agencies in the East Bay (FamilyBuilders, Adopt A Special Kid, A Better Way) that serve this purpose and offer training and matching. 2. Plan the age separation between your two children - I suggest 2 years or more. Less than 2 years can create an unfair dynamic, as they are not competing on even ground. 3. Consider the needs of raising a child who is not your ethnicity. It is a huge reponsibility to prepare a child to feel included in a culture that is not shared by their immediate family.

Fortunately, there are support organizations like PACT and IPride who help blended families like ours. 4. Learn all you can about the special needs of kids who have been neglected. There are many first person narratives available which explain the kinds of behavior you can expect - you need to understand what problems can likely be overcome once the child feels secure (1-2 years) and others which may have more serious results. 5. Don't wait too long! Start now, because the longer you wait the more the upset will be for your daughter when her little brother or sister arrives. It takes 3-6 months minimum to go thru the home study/training/ CPR etc. and then you could be matched quickly or it could take years, as it did for us.

There are many challenges in this process, and it takes perseverance and much inner strength, plus a willingness to open your lives to the social workers. You will be exposed to a shameful side of our society: the tragic results of child abuse and neglect. But you will be joining a community of blended families who support eachother and know they are doing something big, something essential, to help alleviate a child's suffering and loss. Kristin


Please contact AASK in Oakland.http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/ They are a wonderful agency that facilitates fost/adopt placements. Fost/Adopt is a wonderful way to build a family. AASK will help you think about what is realistic given your family situation Happy Family through Fost/Adopt
I asked my brother to weigh in, since he's living it. He says: We have adopted four children and have a biological daughter who came first. So I'll address what I can:

1) I guess just remember that kids become siblings, sometimes through child birth and sometimes through adoption. If you're concerned about her feelings, ask her is she has any! Chances are you can ride the tide of excitement over getting a sibling. Just imagine if you became pregnant...what would you say? Say that!

2)My other half is a pilot and is away for days at a time. I have found that having other children has alleviated a lot of the constant attention activities that an only child has. It is my sense that the foster system is so in need that they will find a way to work with your schedule. I ended up being the point person for a lot of the communication...with email - almost everything is possible!

3)If your family members are favoring your biological daughter over your adopted children then you need to do more footwork with them laying the ground rules. ANd also, in their defense, a bit of that is natural. It's been several years now since we adopted our first 2 kids...whatever weirdness that ever existed is gone. And it was non-existant when we adopted the younger 2. But if it ever crops up...it's THEIR issue, not yours. If it goes so far that the children become aware of favoritism then you need to insist on stricter ground rules for your relatives!

PLEASE UNDERSTAND: if you are adopting through the foster care system...this is a huge government-run agency. Many of the practices seem to work against the child's best interest. Commit yourself to the process, and understand that the major feelings of chaos are going to come from dealing with the system, not from the kids. There are transition issues that you should take classes for...but there is no class that will prepare you for taking a child you have bonded with and releasing them for a visit with a birth parent who will resent you and will have legal rights over you until the child is legally free. Seriously prepare yourself and ask lots of foster parents about the process. It's daunting...the children are a snap by comparison. anon


Discouraged about fost-adopting an under 6-yr-old

May 2006

We would love to hear from people who have advice or experience adopting non-infants either through the County or internationally. We are currently receiving referrals for fost- adopt through a non-profit agency. The social worker has started dropping comments about how difficult it is to find children under 6: ''that's what everyone is looking for'' and ''we don't see many except in sibling groups or with very serious issues.'' It's a little frustrating as we were pretty clear about what we were willing to consider from the beginning and if it wasn't viable it seems the agency should have told us before wasting resources on us. Our parameters are not narrow, by the way. We also heard that the County has changed its training because they want to focus on getting long-term foster families, not adoptive families. All seems to suggest that the need is not there for who we are able to adopt.

We are starting to consider beginning the process for international adoption, just so that if the County process doesn't work, we don't have to start from scratch. Mainly we want to get this resolved within a year as there's an aspect of our lives being on hold because we don't know when a child might join our family.

We would like to hear from anyone with experience with fost/adopt or international adoption of non-infants. What did you wish you knew when you started? What would you do differently and what worked well? We would appreciate email addresses as well. We can't attach ours as our agency doesn't know we are considering a dual path. thanks, anon


I would be happy to talk with you privately about my foster- adoption experience, which has drama in it but a very happy ending with my now 7 year old son. My agency was Alternative Family Services--from the time I decided to receive certification to the time my son was placed with me was only 9 months. The adoption process took longer than anticipated because of failures in the county social service system, but at least I had my son with me the whole time. Many things to consider with foster-adoption, but if you have a big heart and a clear head, it's an extraordinary experience. Please feel free to write me directly.

By asking these big questions, you have (as my adoption counselor told me 8 years ago) started the journey toward the child of your heart. It will be quite a journey, the most incredible you've ever taken. Lots of luck whatever you decide! sabrina


My sister- and brother-in-law have recently been through the foster/adopt process. They have 2 natural children and were looking to adopt a girl about 5- or 6-years-old. In the end they decided to become a foster family instead of adopting. I think she would have a lot to say to you about the local foster/adopt system. If you'd like to contact her (she is not a member of the BPN), please email me. liz
Wow! I don't know which foster family agency you are working with, but the information they are giving you is very much opposite our experience and information. My partner and I are fost/adopting our son. He came to our home at 11 months old and is now 17 months. We are working with A Better Way in Berkeley. We have been repeatedly told that there are MANY children under age 2 needing fost/adopt homes, and they are constantly looking for qualified homes. Our social worker had 3 newborns still at Alta Bates needing placement the same time we were given our son. And we were only in ''the system'' for 3 months prior to his placement with us. Some of these kids may have drug exposure (luckily our son was not), but not all.

These kids are all races, (at last assessment it was nearly one third caucasian, one third African American and one third Latino. I highly recommend giving A Better Way a call and come to some of their free support groups to get more of your questions answered. I would also be more than happy to talk with you some more.

Also, the current mandate in the state of California child welfare system is permanent placement, NOT long term foster or reunification services. Whether that is a good thing or not is another question, but that is their current mandate. There are 10,000 children in California right now available (and eager)for adoption.

A Better Way has already started the process with us of placing another child with us, so our son can have a sibling. The willingness to accept a child under 2 has put us in the ''high desirable'' list in their system.

Please don't let the runaround scare you off. It is a beurocratic system to navigate, but so very worth it. Shoshana


Four years ago, my wife and I adopted a wonderful 6year old through a fost-adopt arrangement. After spending a lot of money on fertility issues and open adoption with a very questionable experience, we decided on a foster adoption agency in Oakland, which was wonderful. AASK, Adopt A Special Kid is a wonderful agency. We are a bi-racial couple and were told at first that there were very few asian and caucasian -asian mixed kids in foster care, however once we completed our home study and classes, fingerprints etc, several kids showed up. We have had a wonderful experience and I now have the son of my dreams. Don't worry about the availability of children, there are thousands in foster care available for adoption. We looked through literally three large binders of info sheets of children available, (that was tough!)

We also know of a couple that had a bad experience with a local agency, who did not prepare them properly. Go through AASK! Links

http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/
http://www.bayareaheartgallery.com/
http://www.bayareaheartgallery.com/images/_f_gallery06.jpg
Rich
I recently attended a fundraiser for this wonderful adoption agency: Adopt a Special Kid (AASK). Their web address is http://www.aask.org/ I brought a dear friend with me to find out more about the agency since she has been through a 3-year beaurocratic nightmare with international adoption (still no child). She said, If only I'd heard about them 3 years ago! They seem to be doing good work, have low beaurocracy, and personal attention. Good luck. Lynn
I am a non-profit adoption agency employee. There is a need for fost-adopt families for children under 6. It often takes 6 months to a year to find a good match b/c the process takes a long time not b/c no kids need families. If you are feeling concerned about the comments you are getting, I urge you to speak to your sw and ask what you can do to increase your chances of matching or what to expect and if your sw's comments are discouraging you, tell him/her and talk it through. If you discuss things and cannot come to an understanding or feel you will not achieve your adoption goals with this agency, please tell them you are going elsewhere. It is not honest or fair to you if your agency is misleading you and it is not fair or honest (and is costly to the agency) if you pursue int'l adoption behind their back while they continue to do free work for you. If you are working with the county directly they are a gov't agency and are not negatively financially impacted like a private non profit is but a non-profit struggles to offer free services to families and can't stay in business if families double time them.

Fost-adopt is a cooperative process so please talk through your concerns and give them a chance to work with you. Also, will international adoption meet your family's goals? Int'l adoption can take a long time too, the kids can have just as many challenges as domestic kids, the cost is high and the supports are often much less. You have to do what's right for your family, but please don't be dishonest in the process.

thanks and good luck in your family building! anon also


It sounds like you are getting bad and false information about fost/adopt. This type of misinformation harms the children in foster care waiting for permanent families. Our family had great success with AASK (Adopt a Special Kid) a not-for profit agency that only does fost/adopt placements. http://www.adoptaspecialkid.org/

AASK is an excellent adoption agency that takes care of everything at no cost to adoptive families. That's right it costs nothing to adopt children who are in foster care. After adoption these children often qualify for adoption assistance, state funds that make monthly payments to help adoptive families to help with expenses for child rearing. We adopted 2 siblings who were 3 and 4 when they moved into our home and 4 and 5 when we adopted them. We know families who adopted infants through fost/adopt as well. Please contact AASK at 510-553-1748. AASK will help you become parents of a child or children who need forever families. I know AASK will give you correct information regarding all of the possibilities of fost/adoption Parents of 2 adopted from CA foster care (with help of AASK)


For International adoption, you could contact Betty Tisdale at HALO (Helping and Loving Orphans) at 2416 2nd Ave No, Seatlle, WA 98109. She has been involved in this field for many, many years and was featured on Dateline (NBC T.V.). She has an immense heart for orphans. I hope this helps your search. God bless you. Cathy
We have almost completed the adoption process of our now 18-month-old daughter, so this may not fall within your age range. We were originally looking for an under-two-year-old because of housing constraints, and after some research ended up doing the fost-adopt approach through A Better Way, an agency based in Berkeley which works with several counties. I would unequivocally recommend them! We've heard horror stories about lost home studies and long delays from people who have gone directly through our county--ABW has smoothed out much of the process and is incredibly supportive of their parents, and also has pre- and post-adoptive services.

As for adopting young children, I have heard that it is not easy. It can takes months to years after placement before a child is freed for adoption (i.e., parental rights are terminated, etc.), and fost/adoption meants that you make a committment to the child knowing that he/she may ultimately be returned to their birth family. Many children who have been removed from their parents will have significant issues--it goes with the territory, and would be equally true with an international adoption, although the exact nature of the issues may be different. That doesn't mean the problems will be dreadful or untreatable, and dealing with them while the child is young makes a huge difference. And everything I've heard about international adoption indicates a similarly lengthy process without the chance to get to know the child before you take them in. Seems at least as risky in its own way.

All that said, sometimes things work out. We were hoping for a newborn and expected a child over 6-months-old because supposedly newborns are never available. But we ended up accepting an emergency placement (which we had had no intention of getting into) of a 4-day-old and have had remarkably smooth sailing through the court process--finalization whould be in a feww weeks!

Best of luck to you--there are a lot of kids who need homes, but the process is sometimes slow, difficult and emotionally risky. Libby


As someone who knows many people who have adopted foster kids (all them way under the age of 6, BTW), and who is also about halfway through the fost-adopt process with Alameda County myself, I have waaayyy too much to say on this topic, and not nearly enough time (or space in 2300 characters), but I do want to cover a couple of points not covered in other responses.

You said you had heard that the county has shifted its emphasis to recruiting ''long term foster care'' families. I don't think this is correct, but I think I know where this perception comes from. About a year ago the county officially made recruitment of ''concurrent planning'' families its highest priority. This is when the county simultaneously works on a reunification plan while also planning for an eventual adoption as the backup plan. They hope to recruit families who are willing to go either way, i.e. who will take in foster kids who may be reunified, but who will be willing to adopt the child if they are not.

However, the county is still quite willing to work with families who only want to adopt -- or who only want to foster, for that matter. In my experience, there's no hard sell for concurrent planning -- they encourage you to consider it, but they'll take ''no thanks'' for an answer. I was clear with the Social Workers throughout that I only want to adopt, and they were fine with this.

The other point I wanted to bring up, since you mentioned international adoption, is the expense. International adoption is very expensive -- less so for an older child, but it will still likely cost you far more than the $10,000 tax credit available for covering adoption expenses. On the other hand, not only is adopting a foster child completely free to you, you will be eligible for a monthly stipend (even after the adoption is finalized -- it's called the ''adoption assistance program).

If you want more info, feel free to email me. Diane


We're considering becoming foster parents - advice?

Jan. 2005

Does anyone have any experience with being a foster parent in Alameda County? My husband and I are considering it. We have a son who is 21 months old as well. I am interested to know how the experience may affect my son and our family life. Any input is appreciated.


We went through the Alameda County fost-adopt process. Extremeley key for us was the MAPP (model approach to ?p? parenting) class - 10 weeks, saturday classes. I thought I'd just ''snow'' the teachers and jump through the hoops, but I learned so much that when it was over, I wanted more. And when the kids came, after the honeymoon period was over, what I'd learned became emormously helpful in enduring the storms, and creatively helping the kids heal. We were lucky to encounter only wise, devoted, smart people at Alameda system. Hope the same for you. It's a huge commitment. anon
One suggestion I would make would be to look at a private foster care agency. I used to work for Alternative Family Services (offices in San Francisco and Oakland, although they work all over the area). I thought it was a terrific agency - families get lots of support and help and they provide extensive services for the kids. They do a lot of long term foster care as well, so you might have a child with you for an extensive period of time. The reimbursement rate for foster families is also higher than the county rates. I think being a foster parent can be an extraordinary experience. I hope it works out for you. Here is Alternative Family Service's 800 number: (800) 300-1022. Susan

2003 & Earlier


Adopting siblings who've been in foster care

Sept. 2003

Our friends are about to adopt to children. They're siblings (5 & 7 years old) that are currently separated in foster care homes. (Their mom is in jail - drugs.) The children have been in foster care for years now and the mom has agreed to give her children up for adoption which is where our friends come into the picture. Our friends and the children are in for a huge life change and we want to give them something that may make their transition into a family a little easier. Can you recommend and books or whatever else that might help? The Parents website has a lot of recommendations for interacial adoptions but I didn't see any for kids, parents, and adoptive parents with this situation. Thank you


I appreciate your e-mail and wanted to support you in trying to finding something that will help your friends make the transition. Just the question tells me you are a caring and supportive friend. This is exactly what they need! Being there for them and offering support and understanding can be the best present. But, if you would like to look for something else, Tapestry Books is a catelog specifically for adoptive families. The web site is www.tapestrybooks.com or adoption.com is an excellent web site which offers a great deal of support for both foster and adoptive families. It also has a ''store'' which is apart of the web site. I hope this is helpful, good luck to you and your friends. Cindy
Let them contact PACT. The people at PACT will be able to give them recommendations on books to read and what to expect. There phone number: 510243-9460 or www.pactadopt.org adoptive mom
While the only older child book I know and like is completely out of print, I do have some ideas for you. There is much you can do, better than anything you can buy. Start to open your world to new understandings about adoption and adoptive families. Until confronted with it, most people have little knowledge about the issues unique to adoptive families. The more educated you become, the more you can be a true support to your friends and their newly expanded family.

Specifically- Don't be shy about acknowledgeing that these kids have known, and perhaps loved, many people, caretakers, and foster families before coming to their new home. MAINTAINING LINKS with many of these people is crucial to any child's sense of continuity, emotional safety, and identity.

Consider that any information you may have about their family of origin and history is their private life, theirs to tell when they choose to share it.

Consider that their mother may be making a very difficult choice in finally deciding to place her children for adoption- a situation that is permanent.

If you choose to, you can really let your friends and their new children know that you are part of their community by hanging in there!! Make and effort to get to know the children, offer to babysit or take the kids out some time. (-When the timing feels right to the new parents.)

Education, respect for all parties involved (the adoptees, the adoptive parents and the 'birth' parents) and sheer stick-to-it- tive-ness (to coin a phrase) can lead to a lot of love, and solid community.

Best wishes to all in this transition. Melissa


More advice about adopting through the county

August 2002

All of the decisions that a family makes about adopting are important and personal (open/closed, domestic/international, same race/other race, boy/girl, one child/siblings, infant/older, etc.). I adopted through Alameda County and am an advocate for local adoption, while respecting the other choices people make. There are thousands of kids in California waiting for adoption, of every race, age, and degree of 'ordinariness' possible. I am single and adopted my Asian/European-American daughter through Alameda County four years ago at the age of one. From everything I read on this list, it has been no more challenging than I might imagine having and raising a biological child within a marriage might have been-that is, the joy of watching your kid grow and learn, mixed with getting through the difficult stages, making difficult decisions, enduring awkward family visits, and all that. This was not an open adoption, but we stayed in touch with her birth-dad's family. While the experience was not always easy, in the end it has been rich and worthwhile. We were very fortunate to get to know her bio- grandparents before both died last year, and we are also in touch with her biological brother who was adopted by another family. My notion of family has expanded over time and we celebrate that my duaghter has three moms -- birth-mom, previous foster-mom, and ''forever mom'' (me). Like every parent, at various junctures I have had to make tough decisions based on what's best for my kid, sometimes for the short term and sometimes with a longer view.

My daughter was exposed to drugs in utero. She is a challenging child at times and I'm quite sure that most of it is her innate personality, but presumably some of it could be effects of the initial separation from her birth-mom and the toxic exposure. She was very fortunate to live her entire first year with a wonderful foster mom who remains our friend, so there was no attachment disorder. As she transitions into kindergarten, we are getting professional counseling for the two of us to help with some difficult behaviors, but for the most part, it has been quite manageable and ordinary. Overall, she is an average, bright and affectionate child who brings great joy to me and many others.

The finances of adopting from the county are rather astonishing. The cost is zero (that's right, they even pay you back the $40 for CPR training!). That ironically means you don't get much adoption tax credit, because you had no expenses. Not only that, but kids adopted through the county are eligible for a number of subsidized services like Medi-Cal and the 'adoption assistance program,' which means they get monthly payments toward their support until they're 18 (in our case, $425/month). I didn't even know I would get this when I adopted and didn't expect to need it, but with one income and the cost of living here including full-time childcare, it has been a tremendous help.

There are horror stories about every kind of adoption, but I am convinced that they are greatly outweighed by the millions of experiences of people building every variety of family imaginable through opening their hearts to children needing a family. I applaud your openness to considering adoption and wish you the very best. Happy local adoptive mom


2000

In my experience with Alameda County, the workers explained that you can somewhat manage the level of risk that you are willing to take. You may indicate that you are willing only to consider children whose parents no longer have legal rights to them (either through abandonment, relinquishment on the parents' part, or through the state terminating the parents' rights). There are children who are in various points in the process of becoming wards of the state, i.e. they may be available for placement before or after the "termination of rights" hearing has taken place. Then there are appeal periods, and waiting periods which you will be informed about, during which the child's custodial status is in transition. You can decide what level of risk is acceptable to you. You also need to do research about the rights that birth parents have, which vary by state (i.e. how long they legally have to "change their minds.") Also, you need to decide what level of openness you are willing to live with, e.g., would you be willing to have any contact with your child's birth family, at any point, or not. Adopting a local child would be quite different in this regard from adopting from another state or country, for instance. Finally, be prepared to hear stories, perhaps even "horror stories" from people, or through the grapevine, about foster-adopt or adoptive parents who have had children placed with them who were later returned to their birth families. From my understanding, there are risks to be calculated, but there are points of no return, when your legal rights to the child are secure. Hope this is helpful!


I am adopting my daughter through Alameda County and have had a very positive experience. Would be happy to talk about it via e-mail or phone if you'd like. Also there are past exchanges on the parents' network website. Finding my daughter has been a highlight of my life -- good luck in this adventure! nicole
June 1999

I have two children who were adopted as infants.These children are now 13 and 16 years old. We were successful using Alameda County for one and the services of the Gradsteins in San Francisco for the other. Also keep in mind that you can use a paralegal to prepare your paperwork for the court and file it yourself. This will save lot of money. Be patient and good luck.


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