Rebekah Lloyd is first and foremost a mom. Having worked with the local foster care and adoption community, she shares advice here with others interested in taking the same path to parenthood.
“Individuals interested in becoming foster parents should contact their local Department of Human Resources (DHR). Becoming certified as a foster parent is a lengthy process. Following the initial inquiry are an application and background check. Additionally, each county offers classes on navigating the foster system, what to expect and even how to help children in the system – these are usually trauma-informed parenting classes,” Lloyd shared. “The latter is arguably the most valuable piece of training, as children in the foster system present unique behaviors, and they need their foster parents to help advocate for their needs. In addition to being certified as a foster parent, your house must be licensed. DHR provides guidelines and expectations of what needs to be included in a certified foster home."
Lloyd said the transition from fostering to adoption is multifaceted.
“When a child becomes eligible for adoption, meaning the parental rights of their biological parents have been terminated, they can be adopted by the foster parents they are living with, or they might be adopted by other families in the state looking to adopt,” she said.
“When I started the process, I did so with the specific intent to adopt. At the time, I did not want to be a foster parent. When I was approved to adopt, and my house was certified by DHR, my file, along with other potential adoptive parents, went before a committee on the state level. This committee comprises state representatives from DHR and nonprofits who certify pre-adoptive parents. Along with potential adoptive parents, the committee reviews files of children eligible for adoption. The committee seeks to match children needing homes with likely parent(s) who can facilitate the child(ren)'s needs.”
Speaking candidly, Lloyd continued, “The transition from foster to adoption is as ugly as it is beautiful and as full of grief and pain and loss as it is hope and acceptance and love. Imagine being happy one day with your family, with everything you've experienced to that point being the normalcy you call life. And then, suddenly, that family, that life, that normality is gone. And no one tells you who, what, where or why. You are left to deal with the loss of your entire life alone among strangers.
“Now imagine experiencing that nightmare as a young child. Not only are you not equipped to mentally handle such a catastrophic event, but you also do not have the words to put to your big emotions about it. And just when you feel the storm has settled, who you thought was your family is no more, and new people are calling themselves so. Adoption is really a beautiful thing. But beauty and ugliness do not always have to be mutually exclusive. And accepting that is the beginning of understanding adoption.”
Lloyd cautioned potential parents to be sure before committing to the process.
“Children in the foster system have already experienced a tremendous loss that many of us will never comprehend. They have had adults fail them, reject them and hurt them in more ways than we could imagine,” she said. “The last thing children in these circumstances need is to be left once more. A 5-year-old does not understand the idea of an adult not being ready. Instead, they internalize all rejection as something they did wrong and could spend a lifetime questioning their self-worth.”
"Adoption is really a beautiful thing. But beauty and ugliness do not always have to be mutually exclusive. Accepting that is the beginning of understanding adoption."
"Do not go into the process blindly. Ask all the questions from all the people, experts, organizational representatives and people who have been through it. Make sure you have a complete understanding of what you are getting into. It's OK to not be ready to make a commitment yet. If you have lingering questions or feelings of doubt, it's OK to pause."