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Fostering FAQ: How Long Will She Stay/Will You Adopt Her?

Our first foster baby came with about 18 hours notice; it was respite care, which means we had him for a few days while his regular foster family had a break/dealt with a family emergency. He stayed 3 nights, long enough to come to church and have a dozen people cooing over his little sleeping cheeks.  With each new visitor to our quiet corner, I explained again that he would be going back to his foster family the next day.

Barely a week later, we got a 9am phone call with a fostering request and by the same afternoon, we were snuggling her. This time, we had her for 4 days before church came around. Again, our community was keen to see the little one we had in tow. Again, the question, "How long will she stay?" And this time, "Are you going to adopt her?"

Trying out the carrier...
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Here in Toronto, when a child is placed in foster care, it is always for an indefinite length of time. It depends on the parents' situation, and whether they are able to make a safe home environment for the child. How long that might take varies completely from situation to situation. The length of stay depends on the court system; will the courts decide the child should not have been removed? Or maybe, eventually, the courts will decide the parents' rights will be terminated. In this case, the child becomes a crown ward, and is then considered available for adoption.

During this time, throughout a potentially lengthy process, the child remains in foster care. Ideally, the child is in the same foster home, with short-term respite care provided when needed (this is what we did with our first foster baby). Of course, there are sometimes situations that make it impossible for a child to stay in their initial foster home, and they would then be moved to a new foster family.

It's a complicated reality. There are many moving parts, many people involved. As foster parents, we have limited agency; we can say yes or no to a placement, and if we need to end a placement early, we can request that. But we have no ultimate power in determining whether the child will become available for adoption or not. And while there might be speculation as to the outcome when a child arrives, it isn't certain, and nothing is guaranteed until the courts make their decision.

If a child is becoming available for adoption, children's services may ask the foster parents if they are interested in adopting the child. And then we, the foster parents, have a significant and weighty decision to make. Before we had anyone placed with us, we'd started discussing the factors involved in such a decision for us. But quite frankly, that is either a whole separate post in and of itself, or more likely, not for public sharing/discussion. In my mind, asking someone if they're going to adopt a child in their care is somewhat akin to asking a couple if they are trying to have babies; it's a bit invasive, not entirely in their control, and potentially an emotionally loaded question for them.

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So back to Dream Baby. How long will she be with us? We don't know. And any thoughts about the future, at this point, are speculation. The most we can say is that she'll likely be with us for several months, and we're looking forward to loving her and caring for her to the best of our abilities.

And if, at some point in our fostering years, we have the opportunity and decide to adopt one of the children who has been in our care - we will make the news public at an appropriate time; when it's more than speculation, and we're ready to make it known. So please...don't ask this question.



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