I got the following message through the website today:
Hi, I am LDS and have adopted and came across your page. Have you considered foster care, i.e. fostering to adopt? I have adopted two newborns in two years, one has returned to a family member, and I’m not sure about baby #4’s future… Whether the parenting is foster or forever, it’s the kind of amazing that is impossible to put into words. If you’d like to learn more about this route, please feel free to send me a note!
Oh boy. Here we go.
Back in early 2008, less than a year after we relocated from Arizona back to Houston, we decided to give adoption another go. And after some discussion and consideration, we had decided to foster adopt. For the uninitiated, it’s pretty straightforward:
- Get certified through the state as a foster parent.
- Take custody of a child through the foster system whose parents’ rights have already been terminated or will likely be terminated soon (i.e. parents are in trouble with the law for the umpteenth time or are about to be sentenced to some pretty serious prison time).
- If all goes well – you bond with the child, he/she bonds with you, all parties are in agreement – you adopt the child.
We knew it would be hard. They’re older kids, and they’re in foster care for a reason, so we figured we would be signing up for a serious challenge. But they’re God’s children too, aren’t they? We felt we had been given the means and ability to help some of these children. So we began the Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) certification courses through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, specifically at the office on Murworth Drive near Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Initially, I attended the classes a big begrudgingly. Understand, we had already taken a bunch of adoption classes in Arizona, but we had had to stop the certification process when we ended up moving to Texas. TDFPS said we had to take the PRIDE classes, so I went along with it. There was, of course, plenty of paperwork and homework, but I figure anybody who seeks to adopt is implicitly signing up for some serious red tape, so I didn’t complain. But it didn’t take long for me to come around: I quickly found the PRIDE classes to be quite interesting and educational.
And then, the curve ball. Midway through the classes, Shirly and I were asked to come to the office to meet privately with the social worker running the classes and her supervisor. Due to some issues related to my own family background, I figured it had something to do with me.
As it turns out, they had issues with something Shirly had said on one of the forms related to homosexuality. But to this day, I couldn’t tell you exactly what their problem was. Yes, we’re devout LDS Christians and by connection pretty socially conservative*, but I could not for the life of me get them to come out and state exactly what their problem was with what she wrote. To this day, all I can do is speculate as to what their problem might have been.
While we left that meeting uncertain as to our future with the agency, we did end up getting certified sometime around August 2008. Just in time for a drizzly little shower to hit Houston a month later. As a result of Ike, everything with TDFPS was more or less in disarray for the rest of the year. (I also imagine the onset of the Great Recession didn’t help matters any either.) Somewhere in the middle of all this our social worker also left TDFPS and wasn’t replaced for several months, so her supervisor was basically doing the job of three people.
In the middle of all this, we did submit requests against various children listed on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website. The responses we got varied:
- Sorry, that child is already taken.
- Sorry, that child is prone to making sexual advances towards men.
- Sorry, with no parenting experience you can’t be considered for that child. (No, really – that happened towards the end of our certification, sometime in 2010.)
Bottom line: it seemed like like we were tacitly discouraged from pursuing one child after another. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want, but I’m pretty convinced our file is flagged with some sort of warning after that meeting they called during the PRIDE classes. Increasingly, I started to wonder if they were just hoping we would go away if they ignored us long enough.
As our certification came up for renewal, I got an email from a woman who had been in the PRIDE classes with us. Here’s part of her email:
I have been meaning to contact you for quite some time. A couple of years ago, we went thought the PRIDE courses together. As you are in a similar situation as my husband and me I wanted to know how everything turned out for you. Did you receive any children? Have you gone thought with adoption? How was your experience with DFPS?
We too were looking to adopt. About a year after we completed everything a sibling group was placed with us. The girls were with us for about 7 months and recently went back to their original foster home. We had fallen for them but they had been thought a lot and needed help and we had found that DFPS just didn’t care to help us help them. As hard as it was to let them go, I know it was the right decision for all parties involved. They really needed more help that we could have provided for them and it took 6 months just to get a psychological test. It is such a long story!
Anyway, we really want to adopt and has closed our case with DFPS but now I’m rethinking. Please, can you share your experience with me? I would appreciate it so much. I just want to know that what happened to us was… abnormal.
This email kind of cemented it for us. We had gone through the hassle and expense (easily around $2000) to get our home up to the required standard to pass the home study, the background checks and the classes. We had jumped through every hoop they had placed in front of us. And we had absolutely nothing to show for it: not so much as a visit with a prospective foster child. And it appeared that even if we managed by some miracle to get custody of a child through the system, we weren’t likely to retain custody for very long.
So we pulled the plug. After being left to twist in the wind for two years, we just couldn’t see the point of going back through the hassle of the paperwork, classes and overall red tape to maintain certification for foster children who would never arrive.
Later we were told by a gentleman with many years of experience in the Texas foster system that the Murworth office is an utter waste of time. “I’d sooner get on 610 and drive in circles around Houston all day long than try to get anything done at that office,” he said. But let’s face facts. TDFPS is a state-run bureaucracy, so glacial turnaround and response times are pretty much a given. Besides, I honestly don’t know of a state in the country whose version of DPS isn’t a complete basket case. But whatever they may say publicly, it’s pretty hard to take TDFPS at their word when they claim they need foster parents, and as evidenced by our acquaintance mentioned above, it’s doubly hard to believe that there are resources in place to support them. Something tells me that the most successful foster parents are squeaky wheels – if they don’t get the response they’re looking for, they just keep applying increasing levels of harassment until they do. If you don’t have the wherewithal to be a thorn in the side of the system, you can probably count on being simply ignored or forgotten.
So yes, we know all about foster adoption. We tried and failed miserably.
* While I’m a social conservative, I have a lengthy and distinguished tolerance resume. As mentioned in my bio, I’ve participated in a variety of musical endeavors, so I have lost count of the number of openly gay men I’ve worked with over the years.