Lessons on Adoption and Foster Care I’ll Never Forget
By: Julia Venable, Heart Gallery AmeriCorps Member
If you would have spoken with me in 2012 about my career goals, experience involving adoption and/or foster care would have been low on my list—probably not even on my radar. I was naïve. I was naïve in thinking that foster care was an entity with little connections to me and my future goals. For this reason, I am eternally grateful for the YWCA AmeriCorps program for leading me to Heart Gallery Alabama and EMPOWER at the University of South Carolina for leading me to AmeriCorps.
My experience at Heart Gallery has broadened my worldview. Before coming to HGA, I knew little about foster care and adoption, and what I thought I knew had been shaped by others comments rather than my own research/experience.
- I thought most children in foster care had lost their parents because of death. The reality is more heartbreaking and hard to understand than I ever imagined. I am continually inspired by the children we serve as they show great resilience and coping through the unfairness and betrayal they have experienced.
- I thought the goal of foster care was to separate families. This is a hard one for some families to understand. While there are over 5,000 children in foster care in Alabama and almost 400,000 worldwide, and the primary goal of foster care is to unite children back with their families.
- I thought all children are adopted if parental rights are terminated. It seems like so many families want to adopt, so how could this not be true? Well, in Alabama children can decide not to be adopted at age 14. Unfortunately, not all children in foster care are adopted, and sometimes they have given up hope or lost trust in the adults around them. An organization called the Camellia Network was created to support children who aged out of foster care or were in care when they were 17. You can create a page similar to Facebook to support the youth to reach their goals.
- I thought adoption was a fairy tale ending. Adopting and fostering is hard work, and I admire the families who commit to caring for the children. The reality is that a fairy tale ending may be happily ever after—but there will still be some hard times and bad days. Children in foster care have experienced traumatic experiences—experiences that don’t just go away with the signing of adoption papers. I recently read the book The Connected Child that shares ways to hopefully get through the tough times to build a bond of love, acceptance, and trust.
It is easy to look at these lessons and feel overwhelmed, but I try to take what I’ve learned as fuel to continue to keep advocating, donating, and maybe even one day adopting or fostering. Adoption and foster care affects all of us, whether directly or indirectly, and there is always a way that people can help.
What are some myths you believed about foster care and adoption? What are some organizations you support that help children and youth in foster care and/or adoptive families? We’d love to hear from you!