Not an adoption agency
Sometimes people ask if they can foster-to-adopt at Skookum. And the answer is yes with some explanation.
That phrase is a bit of a misnomer because "foster-to-adopt" isn't really a thing. There's only one kind of foster care. When you 'foster-to-adopt' you don't get a separate license or care for a different kind of child or really do anything different except secretly desire to adopt a child. That's true whether you're working with Skookum or the state or one of our sister agencies.
Skookum Kids is not an adoption agency.
We do occasionally facilitate adoptions. And we relish that opportunity when it comes up, but that's not what we're here for.
Skookum Kids is a foster care agency. And the purpose of foster care is to care well for kids so that they can reunify with their family of origin. The goal of foster care is to help families reunify. Period. Always.
When kids in foster care return to their families, we celebrate. That is what we work toward. For us that is the ultimate success.
When kids in foster care are unable to reunited with their families that means foster care has not been successful in its primary objective and we seek permanence by some other means. But even when it goes that way, it is very rare for the child to have no further contact with their biological parents. Most adoption agreements in Washington State are open, meaning bio mom/dad still have contact with their children even after they are adopted on a pre-determined schedule and conditions.
That means, to be a foster parent with Skookum means that you are quite likely to have some sort of relationship with biological parents.
To that end, we're hosting a training workshop on February 26 about how to go about building these kinds of relationships.
A huge and growing body of research shows that open lines of communication and collaboration between foster and biological parents creates better outcomes for kids—they do better in school, they exhibit fewer troubling behaviors, they are healthier, they are better socially adjusted.
Kids in foster care have a similar psychological profile to kids in a divorced home. If mom and dad get along and parent together, kids do much better. But if mom and dad are fighting, not on the same page about parenting, or even using the child as a pawn in negotiations, that is confusing and stressful for kids. They start to regress in almost every developmental category.
It works very similar for kids in foster care. If foster parent and bio parent are not getting along, are not collaborating, or are in conflict, kids can sense that and it creates toxic stress.
And there is a posture toward foster care that some people take which is one of rescuing children from bad parents. If that's your posture, you're not going to be very successful as a foster parent anywhere and you're going to find yourself in direct conflict with Skookum. Because our goal is to help bio parents learn the skills, acquire the stability that they need to become great parents. Our objective is to help children reunify. And if you're not working toward that, if you make yourself an enemy of reunification, you make yourself an enemy of Skookum.
Now, plenty of people become foster parents because they want to expand their family. They want to adopt a child out of foster care. And that is a perfectly legitimate desire, and you can be very successful fostering at Skookum or anyplace with that objective. Some people call that kind of foster care "foster-to-adopt".
But foster-to-adopt requires some emotional and psychological gymnastics. Because you have to work contrary to your own interests for a while. If your desire is to adopt, you've gotta give full effort toward reunification, which is the opposite of adoption. And then you've gotta be comfortable with coin-flip odds. In Washington, about 50% of children in foster care successfully reunify. That means the child in your home has a 1-in-2 chance of needing to be adopted somewhere.
So, if you can work against your own interests for 6-36 months, and if you are comfortable with coin-flip-odds, you can successfully foster-to-adopt at Skookum.
If you would like to explore this further, come to our workshop. Feb 26 @ 6p at Perch & Play. Hope to see you then.