Dear Prudence

Help! Our First Experience as Foster Parents Was a Nightmare. Should We Try Again?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A woman's hand holding a photograph.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Stuck on adoption: I have wanted to adopt from foster care since my biological daughter was little. My wonderful husband doesn’t have kids of his own, and he was totally on board. We went through the process two years ago, and we were matched with a precious sibling group. Unfortunately, the experience was every horror story we’ve ever heard combined into one: undisclosed serious mental illness, apathetic caseworkers, etc. We were scapegoated and abused. When our requests and then demands for help for the most damaged child were ignored, we made the horrible decision to disrupt the adoption, and the children were moved to another foster home. A year later, I’m torn about what to do next. My husband is also on the fence. I want to try again, but I also want to enjoy our now-empty nest. The current foster mom sends occasional photos, and the most recent ones have caused me to have dreams of the kids every night. Mental health resources are limited in our area. How do I get unstuck?

A: The question to ask is: What would be different this time around if you met with another “horror story”? Do you have different goals or priorities than you did two years ago? More support? More resources? A backup plan if you again asked for help and didn’t receive it? Alternatives to disruption? It doesn’t sound like anything has changed practically, only that you’re experiencing a different set of feelings—and if only your feelings have changed, I don’t think you can pursue a second attempt at fostering to adopt with confidence. That’s not to say you can’t address those feelings, or that they don’t matter. They very much do. But if you and your husband are both of two minds, and you don’t trust the caseworkers or adoption agency you’d be working with, and you don’t have mental health resources to fall back on, and you regret your most recent fostering experience, I don’t think you have a good reason to try again. Not only would it likely prove painful to you and your husband, but you’d be risking the health and safety of any children in your home, since it doesn’t sound like you’re confident you could provide adequate and consistent care. In the absence of such confidence, you should speak honestly about your feelings, take care of each other, mourn whatever sense of loss you may experience, and refrain from fostering more children.