I was thrilled when Gov. Sam Brownback declared November as Kansas Adoption Month. A $300,000 marketing campaign may help, but there also needs to be an overhaul of adoption and foster policies to make them viable options for more families.
I consider myself blessed to have been adopted as a baby. I know that giving me to another family better equipped to raise me was the noblest sacrifice my birth parents could have made. And I am grateful. My adoption took 10 months, and the process was relatively straightforward. Now that my wife and I are trying to expand our family through adoption, I see the process has changed for the worse.
When we began, we considered fostering to adopt. The regulations for fostering parents are as thick as a Harry Potter novel. We received a stack of rules, including minutiae like the amount of time unwashed dishes could sit in a sink. For all that trouble, foster families will care for a child until the biological parent gets out of jail, gets off drugs for a few weeks, or otherwise behaves civilly enough to regain custody.
Other families in the process told horror stories of becoming foster parents and developing attachments to children who wanted to stay and be adopted, yet the state would return those children to biological parents who cleaned up enough to regain custody. The children were taken away again when bad behavior returned. The state only severs parental rights and lets children be adopted by their new families in the most extreme circumstances.
Domestic private adoptions are also encouraged by the campaign. But for those without significant financial resources, such an adoption is an unobtainable dream.
For the better part of a year, my wife and I pursued domestic adoption. When we were told we could have better success by committing another $20,000, we decided to shift to an international adoption. At present, the line between the private domestic adoptions and baby selling is appallingly thin.
The broken adoption process produces a large population of kids in the system. More than 5,000 children are in the Kansas foster system, with fewer than a thousand currently in the adoption process. A resource website, adoptkskids.org, is available, and I hope it will draw increasing numbers of prospective families into the process.
Still, more needs be done. Advocates such as the National Council for Adoption call for awareness training for pregnant women, introduction of adoption awareness modules in sex education and family life courses, adoption counseling in federally funded maternity homes, better research on why children are put up for adoption, more flexibility in state foster care funding, more aggressive and detailed standards for biological parents to regain custody, and more educational aid for foster children.
Here’s hoping that the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and the Legislature will add needed policy changes to their promotional efforts, so more kids can find their forever families.