Friday, May 20, 2011

The Costs of Special Needs Adoption - Part V

This week, I've focused on writing about the various costs associated with special needs fostering and adoption. So far, I've addressed the financial, social, emotional and physical costs. While I have been writing my series, Carrie over at Days of Wonder and Grace has written about the unforeseen costs of International adoption, and how adoptions can impact family income.

If you haven't stopped by Carrie's blog, please do so. Since she's writing from the perspective of International adoption, she's thought of a few things that I didn't consider.

So for today's post, and the wrap-up for this series, I'd like to revisit some of the comments that I've received.

In response to Part I, Barb in No. WI wrote:

Regarding the subsidies: We were not even told about the subsidies while going through the adoption process. We would have gone through with it regardless, but that should have been standard information. WE had to teach the social worker about it, once we found out. I'm grateful we have it, particularly the medical care.

Really looking forward to what you have to say about social costs. For us, that's been even more "expensive" that the things with a price tag. 

And Baggage said:

My daughter qualified for a behavioral subsidy but nobody told me that until I figured it out a couple of years later. The missing work thing is a big one. I worked from home when I was actively fostering, I don't think that I could do it now with a full time job. Even now, I miss a lot of work to deal with "crisis" calls from my oldest. Another possible cost is to meet the household regulations, different places have strange regulations and I've known people who have had to spend a lot of money on fences or renovations to the house because of procedural issues. 

As Barb and Baggage both pointed out, it's not uncommon for adoptive families not to know about the adoption subsidies that are available when they adopt special-needs kids.  I'm not sure why this happens so often, whether it's because the state is simply trying to save money and "forgets" about this resource, or if workers in other areas are so used to adopting out healthy, white infants who aren't eligible for the subsidies that it slips through the cracks.

In any case, for those interested, here's more information about adoption assistance subsidies.

In response to Part II, Lisa replied:

You nailed it! The undermining of our parental authority was/is astonishing. I am constantly amazed at the lengths even strangers will go to to make my child happy - at the cost of well, EVERYTHING. I resent the person for intruding and acting like they know my child (hint - nobody REALLY knows the kid besides the parents). I resent my child for putting me in this position where I look hostile and unreasonable.

I have grieved for lost friends, family members and lack of support from our community at large.

I think that people tend to believe the worst when it comes to adoptive/foster parents. When there are constant complaints from the child, the other adults take the stance of, "where there's smoke, there's fire" - no matter what the facts are.

Frankly, I find the cost a bit too steep.

 As I mentioned in my post, I think the social costs are often more "expensive" than some of the financial, emotional and physical costs we pay as parents.  Lisa is absolutely spot-on when she says people like to believe the worst of foster and adoptive parents, especially when there are constant complaints from the child.  People do assume "where there's smoke, there's fire," even in the case where a child has been proven to tell false tales.

I know many families, ours included, that have gone through the pain of investigations that were sparked, in whole or in part, by false allegations made by a child.

In response to Part III, Tara - SanitySrchr wrote:

I can definitely see where the emotional toll is brutal. I know how hard it was to just go through the process to get licensed. It was a flurry of excitement and defeat and excitement once more that ended in an explosion equivalent to that of a nuclear bomb. It's a complicated ordeal to foster and/or adopt.

I think to some extent parenting any child can be somewhat of a roller coaster ride. I think for those of us parenting special needs kids, though, that ride can be way more extreme than the typical ups and downs of parenthood.  Most parents of "typical" children don't regularly deal with rages that last for hours, threats of physical violence, theft or property damage.

Averagethinkagain said:

The emotional cost on those of us with children who are from the system or not ours biologically is greater than many people can imagine or want to imagine.

Our son was so far behind educationally when we got him that it was scary. Getting him on track educationally requires me to stay at home and homeschool him (the schools in our area are nothing to brag about), and slowly guide him along.

Financially, it costs us more than we could imagine. He qualifies for insurance through the state due to his emotional/mental health needs, but little else.

Mentally? Some days it's draining. Some days it's not. It's a coin toss.

Emotionally? Some days I want to cry, especially when he rages. Some days I think he can help it, other days I wonder if he could help it if he tried. I just don't know.

His birth family. His biological mom causes many of his rages, and is a trigger. She calls non-stop, then she doesn't call for weeks. When she does call, he feels like the main reason she calls is to interrogate him regarding us (The Parents). No one in his family even bothered to call him this year to wish him a happy birthday for christ sakes.

At the end of the day though, they are just our kids (we have two). They may not be ours biologically, but we try not to look at them that way. We love them, and that's that.

For those who judge us based on how we see things, or how our children effect us... Until they walk a day in our shoes and actually experience the child(ren) we have in our homes first hand (and not go just off a rant, a release, a post, or whatever), I really think they need to keep their mouths shut.

"Until they walk a day in our shoes..."  I think this is a hugely important thing to keep in mind.  It's very easy to believe, after reading some of the war stories from people who are parenting special needs kids, that one could somehow do better in similar circumstances.  One of the first blogs I read was authored by a parent who had children suffering from FASD.  I had a hard time believing that kids could possibly do some of the things those kids did.

But now, I know better.

They absolutely can do the crazy things foster and adoptive parents blog about, and it is unbelievably difficult to live with.  It's easy for outsiders to criticize, and a lot harder for them to offer a struggling family any meaningful, real help.

This concludes my series wrap-up (there were no comments on part IV) on on the costs of special needs adoption.  What I'd like people to take away from this series is that it's very easy to go into a special needs adoption wearing rose-colored glasses.  People like to believe in happy endings, and don't always realize the full extent of a child's needs.  That problem can be made worse by social workers who don't always accurately or completely reveal the depth or breadth of a child's needs.

Even when a child's needs are known, life has a way of creating surprises.  Sometimes kids do much better than predicted, while others do much, much worse.  I think the most important thing any family can do is to go into this process with eyes wide open.  It's very easy to get caught up in wanting to do the right thing, only to realize later that perhaps one's good intentions have created a less-than-desirable end for everyone.

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