After Katie Kasben and Brian Loftin discovered they couldn’t have children, both spent time grieving for what didn’t happen.
Then they decided to make something happen.
The Weaverville couple decided to look into fostering a child with the goal of adoption. What they got was two siblings who will become their legal children in June, when the adoption is finalized.
Kasben, an executive assistant, artist and musician, and Loftin, a craniosacral therapist, are adopting through Eliada Homes, which has a long history of helping the most vulnerable children in Buncombe County and recently became licensed to do adoptions.
Eliada was founded 116 years ago as an orphanage and has continued to care for the most vulnerable — children with nowhere else to go, says Eliada’s adoption specialist, Mamie Amin.
“Essentially, they’re homeless children because they can’t go back where they came from,” says Amin. “You don’t get any more vulnerable than that.”
Nationally, some 400,000 children are in foster care or the care of relatives other than their parents, says Michael Becketts, assistant secretary for human services at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. North Carolina has nearly 11,700 of these children.
Most are in foster care homes or in the homes of relatives, and many are likely to go back to their original homes once issues of safety are addressed. About 1,100 of the state’s foster children are in aggregate care — group homes or institutions.
North Carolina’s departments of social services do not do adoptions, but work with agencies, including Eliada. A complete list of agencies licensed to handle adoptions in the state is available online.
Children need stability
“All of them need stability in their lives,” Becketts says. “Our goal is to have each child in a permanent home in less than two years (after entering care)” after arriving in the system.
Every child who can’t return home is adoptable, Becketts says, and the goal is to get each of them into an appropriate permanent home as quickly as possible.
Kasben says she and Loftin considered private adoption and foreign adoption, but both are expensive. They thought about in vitro fertilization, but that too was expensive and is often not covered by insurance.
“We were looking at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000,” she says. “We wouldn’t have money to put a child through college if we spent that much on adopting.”
It took several years to come to terms with being unable to have a biological child, Kasben says, but the couple finally realized that they wanted to be parents. They wanted to parent a child who needed them, to guide that child through childhood, to love and accept a child for the unique person he or she is and to help that child become a responsible and caring adult. In the end, it didn’t matter how that child came to be theirs, she says. What mattered was that they could make a difference in a child’s life and fulfill their desire to parent at the same time.
They called Eliada to apply to become foster parents. Three days later, two children, ages 7 and 8, arrived at the nonprofit needing a home. Kasben and Loftin took the certification course at an accelerated rate and pushed to get all the paperwork finished.
“Biological mothers get morning sickness; adoptive parents get paper cuts,” Kasben jokes.
They were licensed to be foster parents in a few weeks — a process that usually takes four or five months — and they began to co-parent with the couple who have cared for the children for the last three years.
“They’re still attached to their foster parents, and that’s OK,” Kasben says. “A child can’t have too many people loving them and guiding them.”
Help for parents
Another advantage of fostering to adopt, Loftin says, is the amount of help available.
“There’s so much support available to you,” Loftin says. “We have Eliada behind us, we have Mamie, we have Medicaid, we have child care and respite if we need it.”
Kasben recommends anyone interested in fostering try respite care first, since it requires a limited commitment.
“It will give you a sense of what to expect,” she says.
Kasben said one of her greatest joys in this journey came in the moment one of the children got angry with her.
“It meant I could be trusted to keep on loving,” she says. “That’s a big deal. Children in foster care have experienced a loss, and they do need to heal from that. You don’t trust me yet because you’re still attached to someone else. I have to be comfortable with that and offer what I can.”
Many prospective parents are wary of adopting through foster care because they believe the children are “damaged,” Amin says.
While children come into foster care because of abuse, neglect or addiction, a majority of the children mostly need stability and loving relationships to thrive.
Children in need of homes include single children, sibling sets, children with special needs and teenagers. Many are minorities — including African-Americans and Latino children.
“The thing is, how your family looks isn’t what matters,” Amin says.
Foster parents are allowed to specify the age and gender of a child, especially when they’re looking to adopt, Amin says.
“What we really, really, really need is parents who are willing to take more than one child because we want to keep siblings together,” she says. “And we don’t get enough people who want older children or sibling sets. For some of these kids, it’s a long wait.”
And with Eliada expecting to complete between 10 and 20 adoptions per year, a large percentage of children entering care will stay in foster care until they age out of the system.
“If you’re not out of the system by age 9, the odds are against you being adopted,” Amin says.
Dispelling the myths
Amin believes that myths about fostering to adopt abound.
“People think you need to be perfect to be a foster parent, but you don’t,” Amin says. “You just have to be willing to love a child who needs you.”
You also don’t have to be married or own a home. It’s also not cost-prohibitive.
“It’s largely free,” Becketts says. “Licensing and background checks cost a couple hundred dollars … you don’t have to hire an attorney because the agency already does that.”
Some prospective parents are reluctant to foster because they’re afraid they’ll fall in love with a foster child and then have to give the child up.
“The truth is, we’re never guaranteed time with the people we love,” Amin says. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love someone. We still choose to develop and nurture loving relationships with family and friends every day.”
According to the state’s DHHS NC Kids website, foster parents and adoptive parents need to understand that offering stability may include allowing a child to remain in touch with people who have been important in his or her life — former foster parents, even birth parents, siblings and teachers. Not every child will need to do this, but some will, and the process is always child-driven.
The state’s website also has a gallery of children awaiting permanent homes. These children are older because infants and toddlers are in such high demand that they can be placed with parents who are waiting. Prospective parents can register with NC Kids to await an appropriate match.
Kasben offers a bit of advice to anyone thinking about fostering to adopt: “Make sure you’ve resolved your grief if you’re adopting because you’re infertile. And contain your ego. This is about the child, not you. You’ll be rewarded.”
Help also is available post-adoption, with support groups, advocacy and resource referrals.
“There are so many children waiting,” Amin says, “and so few people willing to take them. We don’t have a shortage of nice people with a spare bedroom, but we do have a shortage of nice people with room in their hearts to foster and adopt a child.”