On Orphan Sunday, November 3rd, DC127 Founders Aaron and Amy Graham and Project Coordinator Chelsea Geyer held a panel discussion at The District Church around foster care, domestic and international adoption, and the national and global orphan crisis. We’ll be posting our responses to all of the questions received over the next couple weeks.
If you’ve got any questions to add, leave a comment or email us at email@example.com. We’ll try and answer them in the next blog!
Amy and Aaron Graham are founders of DC127 and pastors at The District Church. They first fostered a teenage boy in Boston and are now parents to Elijah and Natalie, both domestically adopted from South Carolina. Amy is also a former social worker and Aaron has a degree in public policy where he studied issues of poverty and injustice.
Chelsea Geyer is the DC127 Project Coordinator. She gained three siblings through foster care and adoption and has also worked at a center for vulnerable children in Swaziland serving children who lost one or more parents to HIV/AIDS.
1. What is the difference between foster care, foster care adoption, domestic adoption, and international adoption?
Domestic adoption is when a parent or parents within the United States decide, often before the child is born, that they won’t be able to care for the child and would like to place their infant to be adopted into another family. Parents who place their children up for adoption choose an adoptive home for their child. International adoptions are when a child is adopted from another country. International adoptees are often infants, but can also be older children as well.
Foster care is meant to be a temporary home for a child who may not be able to live with their birth family for a variety of reasons. Children in foster care range from ages 0-21 (in some states the age limit is 18). The ultimate goal of foster care is to return the child to their home of origin and reunify them with their family. Reunification is a powerful and beautiful thing, but unfortunately can’t always happen. When this occurs, a parent’s parental rights are terminated and the child in foster care can now be adopted into a new, permanent home – this is adoption through foster care. DC127 only works within foster care and adoption through foster care, but is always happy to connect people with domestic and international adoption agencies.
1a. Are there any benefits to one or the other?
Adoption, no matter if it’s international, domestic, or through foster care, is a beautiful thing and gives a child the love and support only a permanent family can provide. Choosing between the three is dependent on your family and what you feel called to. DC127 is always happy to talk with families through this process.
1b. Aaron and Amy, why did you decide to adopt domestically?
For us it was a matter of conviction and preference. I knew we wanted a baby and throughout my research of adoption, I was saddened by the racism that existed among those adopting. People were traveling around the world to adopt babies from Africa or Asia, but they were not adopting the African American children in their own backyard. So, I felt a strong sense of conviction to adopt domestically and be open to any baby no matter what color their skin was. On top of that, my preference was to have a newborn baby, as young as possible, and most domestic infant adoptions are done soon after the baby is released from the hospital. –Amy
1c. How much does it cost to adopt domestically/ internationally? Why is domestic and international adoption so expensive?
Adopting domestically can range anywhere from $5,000-$30,000 and it all depends on the agency that you are working with. International adoption can range from $15,000-$50,0000 depending on the agency and country. The reason for the cost is to pay for social workers salaries, paperwork, clearances, agency overhead, and lawyer fees. In international adoption there are added fees working with other countries, getting visas and other legal things along with travel to those countries.
2. Why do kids enter foster care? What are some of the reasons that contribute to children being moved from home to home instead of finding a more stable placement?
Children enter foster care through no fault of their own, and often for three main reasons: abuse, neglect and abandonment, with the most common reason being neglect. There are a variety of reasons children move from foster home to foster home. Sometimes the foster families are not equipped to handle the issues that come with a child who has been abused or neglected. Sometimes the children have been through so many placements or have experienced so much trauma that they do not attach well to other adults, which makes it difficult for them to connect well with their foster parents. Other times it is a logistical reason as some foster homes are meant to be short-term, emergency placements so a child will move to a different home equipped for more long-term care.
3. What happens when a child in foster care isn’t adopted or reunified with their family?
When a child isn’t adopted from foster care and isn’t reunified with their family, they “age out” of the foster care system. In Washington, DC this is at age 21. Young adults who age out of foster care, often leave without a network of support or family. Sometimes foster parents will stay involved in the young adult’s life, but this is not guaranteed. Imagine being 21 without parents to call home to or a place to visit for the holidays. One of the ways to support youth in foster care without fostering or adopting is by being a mentor to an older teen or an adoption advocate. As a mentor, you can ensure the teen has a network of support and extended family should they age out of the system. Find out how can you mentor a teen or be an adoption advocate here.
Don’t worry, we still have a ton of questions to get to. Be sure to check back for more answers!