9 Misguided Motives for Adopting or Fostering

I gave a copy of my book, Adopting the Father’s Heart, to a friend of mine I play pickup basketball with. As he sat looking at the book he mentioned that he and his wife still discuss fostering and/or adopting.

He admitted that he wasn’t quite ready to make that commitment, but his wife thought they needed to move forward. He expressed that maybe they should go ahead and look into it even though he thought the timing was not right.

A child coming into your family from a hard place needs for you to have as pure motives as possible. I encouraged him to be just as committed to it as his wife, not because of his wife.

Here is a good (short) video from Michael Monroe with Empowered to Connect—Motivations Can Speak Louder than Words

Leslie Leyland Fields’ book Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt lists several parenting myths that set us up for failure. Myth 1 is Having Children Makes You Happy and Fulfilled

Well, yeah, don’t they? Not necessarily. And if that is your motivation for having a child, what happens when they don’t make you happy and fulfilled?

Deciding to adopt or foster deserves the same scrutiny. On one side of the coin, many say that they are not cut out to adopt or foster.

Love is wanting what is best for another and being committed to pursue it no matter what the cost. — Unknown

However others are motivated to adopt or foster children. Careful—Expectations can flow out of your motivations.

Here are nine possibly misguided motive for adopting or fostering:

Orphaned or at-risk children need rescuing.

This motivation easily feeds the expectation that a “rescued” child will feel appreciative. What happens when that child doesn’t act appreciative? How then will we respond to that child?

We have an extra bedroom.

True, many Americans have more room than they need. But guilt over having more than you need is not a good enough motivation either to adopt a child.

We are empty-nesters.

I think it is a great idea to figure out what to do next in life after the kids leave home. Not sure that this reason by itself is enough to adopt or foster.

Our biological children want us to do it.

Your biological children do need to be in support of your decision to adopt or foster. However you will be the one responsible for the adopted or foster children.

Our church is telling us we should do it.

If your motivation is out of any sense of obligation, eventually resentment will set in. Especially when the going gets tough. And believe me, it will get tough.

We want to add another child to our family.

You might have a conversation with your spouse that sounds like this, “I want more children, but why should we have another one of our own when so many children don’t have a family.”

I am not knocking this motivation at all, but again if this is your driving motivation, you very well might overlook some of the cost of adopting or fostering will have on your family.

We don’t have children and we want to fit in.

My wife and I struggled with infertility. I understand this motivation. Be careful for what you ask for. Odds are you still won’t fit in. Your child from a hard place most likely won’t act like your friend’s kids. Wanting to fit in will make it hard on you when your child is labeled because of their acting out.

We want to be happy.

As Fields writes in her book, Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, deriving happiness and fulfillment from raising a child is a myth. Sure there are moments of happiness and joy. However, every parent knows that there are just as many, if not more, heartaches and disappointments.

God called us to adopt.

In a vacuum this sounds noble and right. However, it fails to consider the whole picture. In order for a child to be adopted, a family had to be disrupted. No matter how right adoption is, I believe that God’s preference is for healing in the original family.

So am I advocating that we don’t adopt or foster? Of course not!

God definitely advocates caring for orphans, even mandates it.

We had/have many of the motivations listed above.

What I am urging is that we evaluate and be honest about our motives. Understand that expectations needlessly get placed on these children because of our motivations.

They need and deserve a loving commitment to what is best for them, not us.

If you have adopted, foster or are considering it, what are your motives?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “9 Misguided Motives for Adopting or Fostering

  1. As people who have suffered through infertility we went into the foster process hoping to adopt one day. Since then we have fostered 3 siblings.

    All I can say is it is a lot more complex than you point out. We struggle every single day with our feelings for these children.

    It’s why I think the foster system is so broken in our country. I have only encountered two types of foster parents:
    1. Hoping to adopt one day and foster to that end. They care for the kids like their own. Form bonds, love, and raise them in the best way.
    2. Foster for money. They care for the kids like a job knowing one day they will go home.

    • Stephen, I agree. It is much more complex than what is said in this blog post. My wife and I also had that same struggle and motivation. The only way I knew how to foster our son knowing he could return to his bio family at any time was to treat him like my own flesh and blood.

      Even though there is a lot wrong with the foster system, I see pockets of encouragement. For example here in the Travis County/Central Texas area, we are seeing a collaborative effort between judges, CPS, placement agencies, counselors, foster families and churches to work together in a wholistic way. This is built around the TBRI principles.

      About the different kinds of foster families—yes, I have seen those kind as well. I would add a couple more.
      1. Families that foster without any desire to adopt. They don’t do it for the money. They love them like their own children.
      2. Families that try to take in every foster child as if no other family will. Challenge with this is that it is hard to help several children at one time to heal.

  2. I understand what you mean, Kenneth. Once we enter foster care, once we find ourselves right in the middle of human suffering, birth parents becoming desperate, sometimes, still making wrong choices, when we see the pain the young children go through for having to be separated from those who were supposed to be their greatest source of comfort and love… When we are faced with the realities that took the child to the system in the first place, wow… Then we begin to see that this whole thing is more than just an ideal. Foster and adopting, as my dad put it, is a very delicate thing. He said, “Gloria, you are dealing with hearts, here! Be careful!” Or, as my own foster son corrected me once (I used the expression, “this is a tough game” as I pondered about how the system tosses visits and court hearings and all those things at us): This is NOT a game! – I felt ashamed by my careless use of expression. These children’s lives are at stake, and we better be sure that we understand that.
    Thanks for reminding us all that this is nothing to sneeze at 🙂

    • Gloria, both of these comments you make jump out at me—”…we begin to see that this whole thing is more than just an ideal.” And your foster son telling you, “this is NOT a game!”
      As any foster parent knows, all the parent visits, home visits by caseworkers, court hearings, etc. make it a lot more complex than simply providing a safe and caring home for the foster child. Our reasons for wanting to foster will be tested.
      Same can be said for private or international adoption. The complexity just looks a little different.

    • Thank you John for leaving your comment. Having read some of your work, I know you are a strong advocate for adoption. I too am an adoption advocate.

      My objective for this post is simple—if our motivations are misguided, we can do a child more harm than good. Our lens through which we view adoption is easily clouded when we don’t consider what is best for the adoptee or the birth family. It is not always best for that family to fall apart so that the child can be adopted.
      Of course there are many children who do need a loving, caring, forever family. The deserve a family who has counted the cost of adoption and understand as best as they can what they are committing to.

      We adopted our son through foster care. He came to us as a foster only child. His young parents began the process with the intent of getting their son back. We began the process with self-focused motives. That resulted in me not trusting the birth parents; thinking that they did not deserve their child back, etc.
      However as we interacted more with them, I began to view it differently. I began to understand that a wholistic approach to “caring for orphans” is to do all I can to prevent them from being an orphan to begin with. Even though each day I became more attached to this young boy, my desire for him to have what was best for him grew, even if that meant he reunited with his birth parents or someone else in his biological family.

      To say all that, I accept your encouragement. I will write a blog about good reasons to adopt as a follow up.

      Thank you for all that you do.