Talked out of foster care adoption?

Stephanie Wang-Breal, the filmmaker behind POV’s adoption documentary, Wo Ai Ni (I love you) Mommy that premiered last night on PBS, has taken her new knowledge of adoption and become an advocate for the world’s orphans.  In the weeks leading up to the premier of Wo Ai Ni (I love you) Mommy, Stephanie began posting adoption and foster care trivia on her facebook page to see what the general public’s understanding of these issues really is.  The responses to one of her posts was upsetting, in the least.

Stephanie posted, “FACT: 123,000 children and youth in foster care are available for adoption because parental rights have been terminated; however, only 55,000 children are adopted each year.”

Below are the responses that 2 readers posted:

“We would have been happy to adopt domestically [from foster care], but I got the cold shoulder from everyone I ever contacted about it, and a few in the field even went so far as to talk us out of it. Why? They really need to work out a new system, and soon!!! It’s just not working the way it is now.”

“We were also talked out of it! We were thinking of fostering to adopt and were told that rarely happens. Almost gave up with adoption until we ran into a friend that had adopted from China.”

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, based on the findings from their 2007 Adoption Attitudes Survey, recommends that “adoption agencies and practitioners need to be informed about the critical nature of responding to initial contact from those interested in adopting and supporting their efforts to drive accountable, results-driven quality customer service, from initial phone call to post-adoption support.”

But why is there such a difference in how prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) are treated in foster care adoption versus international adoption?

The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Adoption published an article last year that argues the difference is simple: customer service.  Public workers lack the customer service that private adoption agencies who provide international adoption services have.  In foster care adoption, the client being served is the child who lacks the power and voice to advocate.  However, in international adoption the client is the PAP, who comes with a determination to adopt a child, ability to advocate and involve other powerful individuals in the process, and the funding to finance the entire process.

This raises the question, what can we do to encourage policy makers to address this problem?  If customer service was improved for foster care adoption, would we see an increase in the number of adoptions out of foster care, and ultimately less of our country’s children waiting in foster care for a family?