Adopting from Fostercare: Seeing The Potential, Not the Present

Potential~ latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness,existing in possibility :capable of development into actuality.

Your family has decided to adopt from the foster care system and waiting to be matched. Of course, during the process of completing your home-study application etc. On that wonderful application you had a few choices to make as far as the child you would be matched to your family, it’s a portion that will ask what nationality the child would need to be, more importantly what behaviors are you willing to handle. What an odd question to be on an application, don’t you think? But, isn’t it a thought pondering question that needs an honest answer? How do we as Adoptive or foster parents know when we have reached our emotional limits? Are we overturning every Stone? Crossing every “T” ? Dotting every “I “ when it comes to providing help for our adoptive and foster children? Here’s a few other thoughts to ponder before or during your journey as you receive a full disclosure for a potential child,

1. Why would this child act out this way consistently?
2. Are the behaviors or events I’m reading about the failures of the child or past caregivers parenting style?
3. Is this child over medicated? Which may cause them to act irrational?
4. Could the child not have the proper tools to express their frustration with their current situation i.e. Foster care or Adoption?

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These are the questions I asked myself when I met my son Xavier. Today, he would be the first to tell you “I had some issues back then, but I’m better now”. It’s no secret to Xavier that I found him on a photo listing on a national site. I’ve always been upfront with him on how he became apart of my family. It was a long process dealing with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) in order to bring Xavier home. When reading his full disclosure for the first time, I can admit today, it was pretty intimidating. The behaviors that were being exhibited is not something an average family would welcome into their home willingly. For some it’s a instant no. Good thing I wasn’t your average guy because I took highlighter and colored all the mistakes and situations his past caregivers may have made during his time with them. Most mistakes were made because they didn’t understand how to approach a child who has suffered TRAUMA.

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Do you know one of the biggest mistakes we make as families who adopt from foster care? We tend to only focus on the past and the present of our foster youth, never the potential they may have for the future. We ask about past behaviors such as aggression, academics standing or how present behaviors are currently, what are their current triggers and setbacks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to ask those questions but when do you ask yourself the question “What can I do to help him or her reach their potential as time goes on? Does my community have the resources I need to serve this child?”.

I knew after my first visit with Xavier he had a lot of potential. Of course, he couldn’t see it himself at the time. On the long drive home from our first encounter, I began to think of all the possibilities of Xavier’s future. Not him being the President or Award winning actor, although only time will tell on those opportunities, I was thinking about him feeling safe. Thinking about the days he would no longer expect someone to give up on him and have him to pack his things and leave. More importantly, I was thinking about the moment he would finally reach his full potential as a person. Now, he hasn’t reached that moment yet, but he’s approaching it fast.

Four years ago, I met Xavier, a 7yr old boy, who was essentially alone, scared, with attachment issues and in full  “survival mode” living in a group home, and I couldn’t bare seeing him stay in that place a moment longer. Xavier had an up hill battle within himself, with such a big move to a state he knows nothing about to live with me, a man, he really doesn’t know, while essentially placing his life into my hands. His anxiety level was off the charts for months, which was to be expected. Transition was always rough for Xavier. He couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel no matter how many times I tried to point it out for him. To be clear, bringing him into my home wasn’t me trying to be his “Savior” or anything, he had done a pretty good job of surviving the system on his own. I wanted him to belong to a family, to have an opportunity to be a child, to feel unconditional love from a family and to have an opportunity to reach his full potential.

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Today Xavier will always say “Dad, I’m not perfect, no one is perfect” and I always respond “I’ll never ask you to be either”.

Do our foster children a favor, when you first meet them don’t react on their past and try to look beyond their present and try to see their potential.

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