On Making a Home or “Black Babies Cost Less to Adopt”

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A huge part of my homesteading is dictated by my children. They are the reason I make a home, and why I do things like jamming, jarring and gardening. Aside from teaching them patience, compassion, creativity, and sustainability, I am also teaching them how to make a home for their children if/when they become parents. Part of making our home is the story of how we decided to grow to a family of five.

In 2013, NPR hosted a segment where people submitted six words or less on race or cultural identity.  While I don’t remember all of the submissions, the one that stood out the most to me was “Black Babies Cost Less to Adopt.” I already knew this dirty little secret about the adoption industry.

In 2009, after the birth of our daughter, my husband and I decided that we wanted to grow our family.  At that point we had a 16-year-old son and a newborn daughter. Our son had grown up essentially an only child, and we wanted our daughter to have a younger sibling. I was able to have children, but after some long and heart-felt discussions, my husband and I decided that we wanted to adopt.

The reasons behind this decision were complicated. I am mixed race (African-American and Caucasian), and my husband is Caucasian. We specifically wanted to raise a male African-American child because we knew there were many unadopted black boys in America.  We wanted to give our adopted son the best opportunity available to be successful in this life despite the challenges black men often face.

With a specific direction in mind, we started exploring adoption agencies.  It was a tedious process. They all have different processes and personalities.  You are interviewing each agency, and they are interviewing you as potential adoptive parents.  I remember distinctly receiving a beautiful marketing packet from an adoption agency. I was so excited! I studied each piece of literature carefully, and finally, towards the back of the packet, there was a simple sheet with their adoption costs.  I was shocked.  The black babies were the cheapest to adopt at $7,000, the mixed babies were a bit more expensive at $15,000, and the Caucasian babies were the most expensive at $30,000.  The variance in cost between black babies and Caucasian babies was a whopping $23,000. In plain sight, supply and demand was in full effect on the business of adopting newborn human beings.

I have to be honest and say that initially, we were ecstatic that it wouldn’t cost us $30,000 to adopt a baby.  Then, we were disturbed, and finally disgusted over the whole situation.  My husband and I had to dig deep on this.  We wanted to adopt. That much was clear; however, we did not know how we were going to go about it because we didn’t know if we could buy into a system that puts a price on a human life. If private adoption was the way, while we know the adoption agencies have expenses, we couldn’t understand why all children, regardless of race, didn’t cost $7,000 to adopt.

We refused to buy into a system that put a price on a baby based on the color of his or her skin.  It felt ugly to us, and did not align with our goals of adoption.  My husband and I decided to take a different route; we wanted to adopt the children who needed it the most.  After a lot of consideration, discussions, and prayer, my husband and I decided to become foster parents with the goal to eventually adopt.

Similar to adoption, there were no guarantees.  Furthermore, you must understand and accept that the goal of the foster system is reunification of families (children to their birth parents).  Again, with lots of prayer and discussion, we became foster parents with an open heart and full support of the agency’s goal of reunification if they saw fit.

I must emphasize, this is NOT the path for everyone.  It can be difficult, emotionally taxing, and is often frustrating because there are so many factors that are out of your control.  It’s not up to you where the child stays, but a judge. The one thing I had to keep telling myself was that this was not a competition between us and the birth parents.  It is NOT a competition about who can be the better parent.  It requires a lot of compassion and consideration for the foster situation, and the child’s best interest must remain at the center.

I learned a lot being a foster parent. The thing that stood out the most is that no matter how bad the parents were, the kids still loved their parents no matter what.  The birth parents are their mommy and/or daddy.  The parents might have done horrible things, but these children still loved them.

We started this process in 2009, and the adoption of our son was finalized in 2015.  He is not full African-American.  He is mixed like me and his sister.  Our family is beautiful.

We love him dearly.  Amazingly, he was our first foster placement.  I remember the anxiety I had when they first brought him to the house.  It’s like bringing home a baby from the hospital—you can’t believe that someone is going to let you (Yes, you!) care for this little human being.  He wasn’t a baby.  He was walking and talking, and he was amazingly smart! It was not all sunshine and rainbows.  We had our challenges, and still do, but I love being his mom.

We fostered more than one child at a time, so many children came through our home.   There were toddlers, school-age children and a teenager.  They were all amazing.  We met their parents weekly while they were in our care, and we prayed for the best outcome for this child.

For the children who came through our home, though, it wasn’t abuse or neglect that was the problem.  Many of these children’s parents were just poor. They had difficulty providing a stable home, they had challenges with transportation and making it to visitations, court dates and other meetings.  They just didn’t have money. We empathized with many of the parents of these children, and we saw parents lose their children because they couldn’t make it to visitations or court hearings because of transportation issues.

In our case, the parents of our son surrendered their parental rights so that we could adopt him. This is unusual. Most parents try very hard to get their children back, and I don’t think that my son’s parents gave up because they surrendered their parental rights.  I know they love their son, and while it wasn’t a competition, they recognized they our son was growing and thriving with us, and they wanted the best for him. They didn’t have to, but they gave him up so he could have the gift of a life better than what they could provide at the time.

There are so many children and teenagers who need homes in America.  We’ve had people tell us that they could never do what we did because they couldn’t let the child go back to his parents because it would break their hearts, and I ask, why not?  What about that child’s heart and his or her love for their birth mom and/or dad?  As an adult, we are equipped to deal with the heartbreak, but the child is not, so I place more value on a child’s broken heart than mine.  Can you do the same?

After our adoption was finalized, we decided not to foster while we let our son settle in to his new forever home.  I still think about all the children who came through our doors.  There were the one that still bore the bruises from people who they loved the most, and the one who stood at the window and cried for his mama for days on end.  Foster parenting is not easy work, but it was by far the most rewarding experiences for me and my husband.

As I type this, a question is out there to my husband, and it may be a question you have.  When will we foster again?  I don’t really know, but I do know that we will again.  We have it on our hearts to foster teenagers, so it will most likely be when the children are off to college.

One thing that happens often when I talk about foster parenting is that many tend to act like we’re saints for doing this.  Please don’t glorify us for having a heart to foster. We are ordinary.  It is extremely challenging work, but it’s good work. I am a flawed human being; however, I do know how to love and care for an individual outside of myself, whether it’s my husband, children, or a child I just met.  It’s all in how you think about it.  Please ask yourself:  Is it that you can’t do it, or that you won’t do it?

Do you have it in you to care for or help a child in need?  I’d love to talk to you more about fostering, adopting or helping children who are in our foster care system in other ways.  Feel free to email me at heidishomestead@gmail.com.

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