Wisdom Wednesday: Why Don’t More Foster Families Adopt?
Every month we are fortunate to receive many wonderful photos of foster children in our programs getting lots of love from their foster parents. These images bring a big smile to our faces and receive many positive comments by those who view them. However, sometimes these photos raise this question: “If the foster family loves the child so much, why don’t they just adopt him?”
Today we would like to address this question as we celebrate these amazing and dedicated families who take such good care of the children in our programs.
As in the United States, foster care in China is something that is meant to be short-term and temporary. While domestic adoption is on the rise in China, foster families are typically not the ones who will ultimately adopt the child. For many foster families in China, permanent adoption is not possible for two main reasons: financial concerns and age.
For most families in China, the biggest priority for their children is a quality education. Read any article about the stressful Chinese college entrance exam (the gaokao), and you quickly realize that many families spend almost every waking moment making sure their child will someday pass this one high-stakes test. Compulsory education ends after our equivalent of junior high, and high school is not free. Providing tutors and after-school study classes, in addition to paying for a high school education, is often well beyond the reach of many families. When we have asked some of our foster families if they would ever consider adopting a child in their care whom they obviously love very much, most of them shake their head and say it would be impossible due to their inability to provide a high quality education for their foster child. For many of them, it is because they care for the child so much that they feel adoption would actually be better for the child because it would allow them to someday receive the best education possible.
In addition, the majority of the children in our foster care program now have medical issues, and some of the children have special needs which require ongoing medical care. A foster family can afford to care for a child with medical needs when the orphanage or a charity like LWB is covering the costs, but often times it would not be a feasible for a foster family to financially cover the ongoing medical bills for a child in their care.
Another reason many foster families don’t choose to permanently adopt a child in their care is due to their age. Many of our foster families are older and have parented already; many even now have a grandchild!
These wonderful grandparents often take our youngest and most medically needy babies and provide them with the care they need in order to grow and thrive, but because of their age, adoption is not an option for them. However, we are very thankful to our foster grandparents for the love they give to our children!
Foster families in our programs give so much of themselves to the children in their care. Although it is oftentimes heartbreaking for them to say goodbye to a child they fostered, they know that their home is most likely meant to be temporary. However, this does not mean that they do not leave a piece of their heart with this child and yearn to know how they are doing with their forever family. And we have indeed had some foster families adopt the children in their care, although this is definitely a rare occurrence.
The gift of a family is the greatest gift of all. These foster families provide this gift to children waiting for forever families, and we are forever grateful!