"For Love of Neighbor" is a new documentary film offering a hopeful vision for Christian engagement in politics. Click here to learn more.

If You Really Care About Kids, Cut Adoption and Foster Care Red Tape

After viewing a forum Values & Capitalism held on foster care and adoption, I was inspired enough to discuss the topic with ladies at church as we sat together knitting, sewing, and scrapbooking on a recent craft day. The talk had turned to one woman’s friends, who were adopting a child internationally and had just gotten approval to go pick up their child overseas.

Several ladies said they wanted to adopt, but just couldn’t afford the average $30,000 it takes to give a child a family. I was surprised at how many had looked into it. My husband and I are considering foster care and adoption after our own crop of children matures (all three are currently under four, and who knows, we may have more).

Most of the ladies also said they had considered caring for foster children. So why wasn’t anyone there a foster mom? They had various reasons, but it all had to do with bureaucracy. One woman was concerned about the time and intrusion of having social workers frequently enter their home and quiz them and their children about personal subjects. Several others had looked into the licensing requirements for foster care and concluded it would take them many months of filing forms, redoing their house, and more. Most of these ladies already have children happily living with them and in their houses, so it’s not like they live in decrepit hovels unfit for humans.

[pq]Many of my friends just couldn’t afford the average $30,000 it takes to give a child a family.[/pq]

Before we had three kids I once picked up a brochure at our local library. It was advertising for temporary foster homes—placements from several hours up to two days. We could do that, I thought. I had the excited lady at the placement agency mail me more information. One of the first things I came across were the rules for how big bedrooms must be in foster homes. Yes, there are rules for bedroom size. In Indiana, we have to have 40 square feet per child. So for our two kids plus a foster child that would have been 120 square feet of bedroom space. Plus there are rules about how much space must be left over after a bed is in the room. So on and so forth, with the end result being that we did not qualify to have a foster child simply because we had something like six square feet of bedroom space less than regulations deemed necessary.

Now, I understand no one wants a child living in a closet, but we currently have three kids of our own in that same house and no one is in a closet. The point of saying all of this is that little children, who are in the worst of situations, are losing out on finding a home with loving families just because someone somewhere decided to quantify how much bedroom space the family has to provide. And that’s just one regulation—there are so many more. Foster parents have to have health checks, background checks, home checks, personal references…the list goes on. Of course, no one wants needy kids getting placed with creepy psychopaths, but the other end of the spectrum is needy kids not being able to leave the bad situations they are already in.

One solution is for knowledgeable people to sit down and discuss whether the regulations the system has are counterproductive, and to recommend that state and federal lawmakers make changes. Another was outlined at the V&C event, which is to have intermediary organizations—such as churches—help good families get past the paperwork and training so they can love children who are in desperate, desperate situations.