Uphill battle to adopt teens from fostercare

Tonight I’m pretty bummed out. Life is generally good – the kids are doing well, our new business is picking up and Africa Sleeps is flourishing. I’m getting time with my husband to tango each week, and everyone in my immediate family is healthy.

BUT… I am so incredibly frustrated with our potential US fostercare adoption. It seems like a whole bunch of factors are against us, and I wonder why it needs to be this difficult.

First, we found them.

I watched their video late one night, by accident. I was trolling the waiting children lists for young boys to adopt. One of the county sites didn’t screen by age, and doing the scroll, I came across their video.

They were so lovely – I just couldn’t believe how much we had in common. We have so many similar interests, and our personalities seem to compliment. I laughed at their jokes, smiled ceaselessly to myself, and thought “these kids are perfect for us.”

A sister and a brother – both vibrant, funny, determined, and so supportive of each other. Lovely kids… in their teens.

The next day, I hesitantly showed Jason and the girls the video. I expected him to laugh in my face – these are teenagers that I was interested in. They were the furthest thing from our plans. But the girls’ said they thought the “big kids” were great… and soon after the girls went to bed, Jason started figuring out how to divide one of the rooms in our house. He’s not a hasty man. To the contrary – he’s always dragging his heels. But when he saw that video, and over the following weeks, he couldn’t help but he drawn in. IT was so obvious – the kids were perfect for us.

I was smitten – but I wanted to know more. The second time you adopt, you ask the hard questions. You know what you can handle and aren’t afraid to walk away. I spent the next couple of weeks on the phone with the kids’ adoption recruiter, our US adoption agency, and then the kids’ guardian ad litem and case worker. Jay and I made ourselves late for work in the morning several times, talking to the people who know them, and learning about the hell they have been through. Suffice to say, no children spend years in care without having been through a lot. But the more we learned, the more we were interested.

I talked at length with my friends, my sister, my mom. A few people thought we were nuts – but many, especially those that have a good understanding of adoption and teens, lent their support.

For the record, I know teen adoption has a large element of crazy – the transitions are extra rough and parents can never expect the same kind of relationship they’ve had with children grown in their care. But I truly believe that you can have an enormous influence on teens, even if they were parented by someone else. You can become family. I reflected on the teen exchange students and au pairs who had lived with us. One girl – I was second only to her immediate family in finding out she was pregnant. Another boy invited Jason and I to his wedding across the globe, because we mean that much to him, all these years after he lived with us. We’ve had a big influence on many of these kids. And most importantly – kids don’t stop needing parents when they turn 18. I’m 37, and I’m still being parented by my parents – it just looks different. But they are there for me, and their grandkids, whenever we need them. I want that for these teens.

There have been many obstacles since we saw the video two months ago. The biggest question we’ve been asking ourselves – do we really want to take this on, at this time in our lives? I mean, we are the most financially vulnerable we’ve ever been, and up to our ears with the new business. Jason’s practical side has since started to take over (as our bank accounts are dwindling..), and if you ask him now, he’d say they are the right kids for us, but it’s the wrong time. He’s on the fence. And this is one of those things where both parents have to be at least 80% on board.

The process – court, immigration… it’s all complicated. There is a reason few Canadians adopt through fostercare. There is no template, no program. Plus, with the older sister’s age, it is even more complicated. That said, our US agency put all the pieces together, and we’ve found a way. The process can work. We CAN adopt them. Check that box.

So then, two more big barriers… will our homestudy agency in Canada let us adopt teens? (We were approved for 2 children under 7.)

And then, will the kids go for it? I mean, it’s a huge decision – leave everything you know, and fly across the continent to start a new life, in a new country, with a new family? That’s one heck of a leap of faith.

Well, we may never know if the kids would go for it or not, since yesterday I found out that our Canadian agency isn’t on board. It’s just too out of the box for them, and they have a policy of no international adoptions over 6. These kids are way over 6…

There might be another agency who will support us, and update our homestudy. I’m waiting to hear back.

But time is ticking.

My husband is worried about money, trying to balance providing for his family and still interested in these American kids.


Everything is saying “just throw in the towel. This is too hard.”

But I don’t WANT to. Dang it. I want to adopt these kids. I want to divide a room, and shuffle kids around the house, and register my new kids in highschool, update the family picture, and travel to Gramma and Grandpa’s with a near-death minivan. ( I would miss you, dear station wagon.) I want to parent these kids, and give them the family that thy deserve.

I just don’t know if I’ll be able to swing it or not.

15 thoughts on “Uphill battle to adopt teens from fostercare

  1. Wow, potentially very exciting times and big changes ahead for your family! Just wondering if the US agency has ever spoken to the kids about the possibility of leaving their city, state and country. If the kids weren’t open to leaving their country then perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. If however, they were open to coming to Canada, then I would do whatever it took to make that happen. Good luck!

    • They have talked in hypotheticals with the kids – and for the boy, it was an overwhelming yes. For the girl, who is so close to aging out, she reserves judgement. So it’s really her we aren’t sure about – how she would react.

  2. Oh, Arnica. 😦 So frustrating that this stuff happens when kids are waiting and waiting and waiting in foster care. Sending positive wishes and thoughts your way. ❤

  3. Oh my! This sounds both amazing and exciting and very stressful. I hope this other agency can figure this out and be willing to get on board with you. I think teen adoption is amazing and totally agree with you, they still need parents for many many years to come! But I’m sure at their older age they might want to have a say in moving to Canada??? Do you know if they can be asked?!? I really hope this works out! If it makes you feel any better…. the Lesotho world is moving super slow still…. no matches to our agency at the last matching meeting 😦

    • Bummer to hear about the Lesotho matches – it’s such a great program, I wish more kids were coming through it.

      Yup – the kids will have a lot of say. So after all this, they may not WANT to come here. (Wouldn’t that be a disappointment!!)

  4. Hi Arnica, I read your blog religiously, I love it, I just rarely comment. : ) I want to suggest an Agency to you that may be able to help, they are absolutely amazing, they worked a miracle for us in the past (not on a US adoption) but they went above and beyond for us. I didnt know if you would be comfortable with me giving the name on your blog so just let me know and I can email the name to you.

  5. I know you might not publish this but I just wanted to say that even though it seems like you want to provide a nice family for these teens, you seem to be thinking more about yourself than them. You have given so much information about them and they don’t even know you. Most teens are pretty smart with the Internet and I did a quick search and am pretty sure I found the kids you are talking about in less than five minutes. Maybe it isn’t them but if you were to adopt them they might not like having you write about them like this, I know I would be pretty mad if my adoptive parents had done that. This is a conversation for you and your family unless you keep the identity very private. You seem like a nice lady but I felt like I had to say something because I know what being adopted from foster care feels like. I hope you are able to adopt some kids and give them a nice family but please think of them before you write about them again. Also your agency might not like you talking about them not wanting to help you.

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to leave a comment – I try very hard to write in a way that protects children’s identity, while still sharing our feelings about the adoption process. I’ve listened to your constructive comment, and given it some thought!

      I am completely open with our adoption agency, and always have been, so I don’t worry about them. We have discussed many time what they are comfortable with me sharing publicly.

      However, I would hate to ever “out” kids in fostercare! So I’ve given my post another look, and deleted a couple of little details. (Realizing I only had their rough ages and genders, and there are more than 300,000 kids in fostercare in the US…) But if you think that is too much, I shall defer to you 😉

      It’s a bit of a tightrope, you see. I’m also parenting children who have already been adopted. I try very hard to share honestly about my feelings (I write for our family and for fellow adoptive parents,) but never the details of my girls’ birth family, or anything I think they would be embarrassed about when they are older. I’m not parenting these older kids yet (should I be so lucky!) but I am already thinking about what they will read, when they read our blog. And making sure I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want them to know.

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  6. Hi Arnica. I hear and share your frustration. We have a dossier in Lesotho and have also been approved for domestic adoption. After five years of waiting and inquiring and waiting and inquiring, I’m finally running out of patience. There is a problem with the system when you have families looking to adopt older kids (i.e. children between 3 and 14) but they cant get matched for one reason or another. We have asked about a number of older children in BC but it takes months to get any information about them … if you get any info at all.

    We have even made inquiries about children in Alberta and have been told that they won’t adopt out of province. We live close to the AB border and may live just 2-3 hours from a child looking for a home but because the child is in AB and we are in BC, we cannot be matched. The result, the child continues to wait for a family. We asked about a waiting child in AB three years ago and were told about the cross province adoption restriction rule. The sad part is that child is still waiting for a match.

    There is something wrong here.

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