Who are Foster Families? Adoptive Families?

Families take many forms but the hope for all is that they are rooted in love and can provide a safe & stable environment for children.  All the different kinds of families listed below open their hearts and homes in order to support a child or children, sometimes when they are needed the most.

Basic Definitions:

Foster family:  A child becomes part of the foster care system when it has been determined that they are in an unsafe or neglectful environment.  Placement of a foster child is done through a state or social service agency.  In foster care, the child’s legal guardian (typically) maintains all parental rights for the child. Although these rights are managed by the state, they remain intact unless the child is placed for adoption. Placement with a foster family is considered temporary.

Adoptive family:  Adoption is a legal process where full custody and rights are granted to the adoptive parents. Care for the child is entirely the responsibility of the adoptive parent or parents and is considered permanent.  Adoptive parents may adopt children out of the fostercare system when parental rights are terminated.  They may also adopt children from agencies that work both domestically and internationally to find children in need of stable homes.

Biological families:  As the name suggests, biological families are ones in which the child or children is born into the family.  Many foster families remain in close contact with biological parents.

Kinship families:  These are families where children are living away from biological parents but with family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) or close family friends.  Kinship families may function temporarily or could lead to a long-term solution such as adoption.

Safe families:  These families provide temporary homes for children in danger of entering the foster care system.  This “early intervention” is intended to provide assistance who struggle with limited social support or lack extended family.

Support for Foster Families & Foster Children

Olive Crest‘s mission is to end cycle of abuse by connecting loving families with children who need safety, care and support…and they see beautiful transformation stories every day. The organization prides itself on addressing each child’s unique needs with thoughtful compassion.

Safe Families for Children Program is an early intervention program which seeks to keep children out of the foster care system and into temporary, safe homes that function as extended family for children and their biological parents.  The Safe Families programs encourages local churches to support their Safe Families in a variety of creative ways.

Foster To Adopt program started in 1998 and is licensed to provide adoption and foster family services in five Southern California counties. Since its inception in 1973, Olive Crest has been expanding its services to meet the growing needs of vulnerable children. Finding permanent homes for the increasing number of special needs children has prompted Olive Crest to become licensed as a full-service adoption agency.

Restoration 225 rallies the Body of Christ to alleviate the foster care crisis in San Diego and beyond.  The organization works with churches and volunteers to do the following.

  • Recruit:  Create awareness at your church that vulnerable children need help! Recruit people to help fill the gap that exists in the foster care system.
  • Retain:  Help foster & adoptive families succeed in serving at-risk children by building a Care Community to encourage, pray and tangibly support the foster family.
  • Ensure the emotional and physical well-being of foster children by supporting foster & adoptive families helping at-risk youth become loving, productive, thriving adults.

Support for Adoptive Families

BraveLove‘s mission is to change the perception of adoption through honest and hopeful communication about the bravery of every birth mom.  This site provides a plethora of resources both for women considering giving their child up for adoption and potential adoption families.

Catholic Charities has provided counseling services to pregnant woman since the early 1970’s and services to prospective adoptive parents since the 1980’s.  Catholic Charities became a state-licensed adoption agency in 1984 and over 400 infants have been placed for adoption through the program.

Although Catholic Charities no longer recruits adoptive families or places children in adoptive homes, we honor our history by providing Post Adoption Services to all adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents who have been involved in an adoption through our agency.  Respect for clients and the values of mercy and justice are continuously at the core of all practices of Catholic Charities Post Adoption Services.

I Adopt U is a division of the Exceptional Families Adoption Campaign, launched in order to recruit families to meet the needs of children in foster care, particularly those considered hard to place. At any given time, approximately 30 foster children are awaiting a permanent adoptive placement in the County of San Diego.

The County  serves all members of the adoption triad: adoptees, birth families, and adoptive parents. Both voluntary relinquishments as well as adoptions of children from the foster care system are handled by the agency, which is staffed by professional social workers. A no-obligation orientation is available by attending a free Orientation meeting. Ongoing professional education and training classes about adoption issues are another benefit offered by the agency.


Adoption Testimony

Adoptive mom Nicole Johnson ponders our call to take that same responsibility of caring for all our brothers and sisters on earth.

I stood in the doorway and watched her go, wondering how she was handling the huge spectrum of emotions that were undoubtedly flooding her heart. She was trying hard to focus on the positives; the baby girl in my arms had never been a part of her plan. Two and a half months earlier, her younger sister had given birth to the small beauty and, although well-intentioned and in love, was quickly overwhelmed with the reality of claiming the title of mother at the young — and vulnerable — age of 19. As the big sister, she had stepped in, taken her niece into her heart and home, yet realized, despite her love for her, this little one didn’t fit into her stage of life either.

So there we stood; baby girl snug in my arms and her selfless aunt walking back to the life she once knew, hopeful the decision she had agonized over for so long was the right one. I’ll never forget waving to her as she drove away, smiling and giddy, as I proclaimed, “OK, then. Thanks again!” I turned to my mom standing behind me and we just burst into laughter, struck by the near absurdity of what had just transpired. I mean, I had literally just been given life and wow, if it didn’t come in one of the cutest packages I had ever seen. What is the appropriate thing to say in that situation? How exactly does one say thank you for such a gift?

It’s true what they say about children who come into your family through adoption. You can, and do, love them as if you had given birth to them yourself. I’ve had many moments when I’ve even momentarily forgotten our daughter doesn’t share the same genes as her father and me. However, the understanding of the love her birth family has for our little girl keeps me ever vigilant – even ten years later – that I have a responsibility to raise my daughter with everything I’ve got. I want them to trust in the depth of my love for her and never question the life-giving decision they made all those years ago.

Isn’t this how each one of us should feel about the attention and love we owe to the life given to us from God? He chose to give us, quite literally, the life of His Son so we could in turn live forever; all eternity in a more beautiful space and place any of us can imagine. I find this so very difficult to internalize, to really absorb and to live the full gift of this truth.

Taking it one step further, isn’t this how we should feel about each one of our brothers and sisters? Not just those that share the same genes, but those that are part of our family because they walk the same earth as we do; those who have different hair color, different builds, different skin color, different socio-economic status – and yes, those with different religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and political leanings. What if. What if we got up each morning truly feeling the responsibility to take care of each one of our brothers and sisters? From our peers and coworkers to those we casually pass on the street? God is the birth father placing His sons and daughters into our hands, trusting and hoping that we will respect and care for every last one of His beloved children.

Loving our daughter has been easy, so very easy. Raising her has not. Sometimes I think her extra chromosome is really an extra dose of stubbornness. While it serves her well and helps her push past any limits the world tries to force on her, it often requires a level of patience only constant prayer can bring — and lots of deep breathing — and a fair amount of chocolate. The level of difficulty in loving our neighbor as ourselves is easy in theory, yet often feels impossible when doing so disrupts the rhythm of our own comfortable lifestyle. This reality has perhaps never been before us with such clarity as our current situation affords.

The adoption of our daughter was not without fear. Welcoming the tiny stranger into our hearts and homes was unlike anything we could have imagined or prepared for. It truly was a process of putting one foot in front of the other and just opening our hearts to God’s perfect plan. When I look into those little brown eyes and feel the softness of her skin and the love that seeps from every pore of her body, I thank God for the courage to take the risk.

It leaves me to wonder … what if? What if, we each took a small step forward in taking on the responsibility — and honor — of loving our brothers and sisters and ensuring the life God placed into our arms was not given in vain?

This article was originally published at CatholicMom.com and is reprinted here with the permission of the author.  What if…