If you are passionate about helping children and teenagers in need of a loving home, it is important to understand the different ways to get involved. Foster care, adoption, and mentoring are three of the different ways that you can open your home and offer love and stability to a child or young adult.
Adopting a child is a life-long commitment—for better or for worse. Some families travel thousands of miles to bring their children home. While others, adopt from within their community through foster care or adoption agencies. Regardless of how a child came into your heart and home, adoption means they’re a part of your family forever.
Legally, the adoptive family would be able to care for and make decisions for the child as they would care for a biological child. The birth parents’ rights are surrendered and an adoptive family is able to go through a legal process of assuming parental responsibility.
Different types of adoption allow for different levels of contact and information exchanged with the biological parent. For example, in a closed adoption, the birth family will not be involved or have contact with the child. In an open adoption, the biological family and adoptive family may meet and even remain in each other’s lives through texts, calls, letters, or visits. In a semi-open adoption, the birth family may have limited contact and information exchanged.
Children can be adopted when their birth parents have their parental rights removed by a judge or when they choose to surrender their rights. Children may enter foster care and, then, eventually become available for adoption or a birth mother may choose adoption and the baby can be placed with a family at birth.
To become adoptive parents, legal paperwork and a home study must be completed. Adoption often has a large cost as there are legal fees, fees for social workers involved, and possibly the birth mother’s medical expenses if the child is a newborn.
The goal of adoption is for a child to find a safe, stable family to love them as their own.
The goal of foster care is similar to adoption. Foster care also strives to give children a safe, stable home with people who love them. The difference between adoption and foster care is that the overall goal of foster care is reunification between the biological parents and the child.
Foster care is meant to be a short-term situation. Foster parents stand in the gap for a child who has been temporarily removed from everything they’ve ever known. Foster families enter childrens lives in their most vulnerable moments—in the middle of the greatest terror, heartbreak and loss of their lives. Foster homes are meant to be a safe place for children while their biological parents seek to create a safer, stable environment that may not have been in place.
When a child is in foster care, the court often makes the major decision regarding the child and a child protective agency is also involved in overseeing the care of the child. The biological parents may also have the legal right to that child and they may be allowed to have Foster care does not have the same cost as adoption. Oftentimes, there is a stipend given to the foster parents to help them care for their foster child.
Although reunification is the goal of foster care, that is not always the final outcome. When reunification with their biological parents is not possible, a child will be freed for adoption and the foster parent may become the permanent, legal adoptive parent.
Other times, a child may grow up in the foster care system and, eventually, age out of foster care. A young adult that has grown up in foster care may age out without a loving connection or stable home which puts them at risk for homelessness, addiction, and teenage pregnancy.
Another option for helping those in foster care is to become a mentor. Connections Homes is an example of a mentoring program. The Connections Homes mentoring program pairs families with young adults that have recently aged out of the foster care system. They are able to be there for the young adult by providing connection and a stable relationship.
A mentoring family can make all the difference in the life of a former foster care youth. The love, stability, and support that a mentoring family provides may help a young adult persevere through college, have the confidence to enter a career, or the support needed to have healthy relationships. Even when they fall into unhealthy behavior or battle their trauma, the love of a mentoring family may be what encourages them to seek help.
John 14:18, ESV, says: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”. Choosing to foster, adopt, or mentor means that you are taking the opportunity to be like Jesus to a child or young adult. You’re going to them. You’re meeting them right where they are in the middle of their trauma, loss, and heartbreak and you’re offering them connection and love. Just like Jesus does with us every single day.
Contact Connections Homes today if you know of a young adult that needs stable, loving support or if you’re interested in becoming a mentor and making a difference in a young adult that has recently left the foster care system.