This article was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
November 24, 2022
Yes, our four kids were growing up and the house was getting quieter, but it wasn’t a fear of being empty-nesters that led us to become foster parents and eventually adoptive parents. We were both on our second marriage and wanted to become parents together. We’d created a loving, safe, and supportive home life for our biological children, and believed we could provide the same to a child who really needed it.
After a lot of careful thought and discussion, my husband and I reached out to Wesley Family Services’ foster care and adoption program. They help find safe and loving homes for children of Allegheny, Westmoreland, and Washington Counties. To fulfill the requirements of becoming a foster parent, we took parenting classes, obtained a variety of clearances, and underwent home inspections. While lengthy, it was not difficult.
Society has a lot of misconceptions about why children are placed in foster care. They are never in foster care because of something they did.
Often, children placed in foster care are there temporarily, usually for one of the following reasons. First, the biological parent(s) has passed away and no one in the family is able to immediately take the child in. Second, a biological parent(s) is dealing with a mental health issue and/or a substance abuse disorder that prevents them from being able to provide adequate care. Third, the home environment is not safe.
The number that need homes is staggering. In 2021,14,070 children lived in foster care across Pennsylvania, with many of them waiting for an adoptive home, according to the Department of Human Services. In Allegheny County, at any one time, about 1,300 children live in foster care, according to the city’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families. And nationally, nearly a half-a-million children live in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
During the past several years, we’ve taken in four foster children and adopted two of them, a biological sister and brother. Our daughter, Grace, is 16 years old, and our son, Kaydin, is four. While we could not imagine our lives without them, the process to get to this point has not always been easy.
As many foster and adoptive parents know, bringing an older child into your home as opposed to an infant presents unique challenges. When we first met Grace, she was 12 years old and had lived with her biological parents up until that point. Her personality and perspective on life and adults were shaped by what she had experienced. For example, our house rules were not the same as those she was used to. It took time for her to adjust to the way my husband and I parent our children. Additionally, our family had to learn, understand, and navigate through certain situations that she finds triggering.
We fostered Kaydin and Grace first before exploring how we could adopt them. We have always maintained a good relationship and open line of communication with their biological parents. Their biological parents love them deeply. They just weren’t in a position to provide the level of care and support they needed.
They became our children — officially and legally — not only during National Adoption Awareness Month, which is November, but on National Adoption Day, which is the third Saturday of the month. Our blended family just celebrated its two-year anniversary.
People have different experiences with fostering and adoption, of course. Some will face more challenges. But from our experience, I would encourage anyone contemplating becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent, to take action. You could be the positive change that a child is so desperately waiting on.
April Rucker and her family live in the Pittsburgh area.