Marcy Bursac spent 12 years in social services confronting its weaknesses, and advocating for the welfare of the most vulnerable in the system. Teen pregnancy ran in her family, and her own adopted siblings came from a teen mom. When she and her husband Nathan decided to adopt their own children, they spent five years on an emotional roller coaster navigating the convoluted adoption process, eventually discovering its most under-marketed and overlooked option. Their experience sent Marcy on a one-woman mission to give foster care adoption its due and families the information she had to struggle to find.
Published November 2020 – National Adoption Month, Marcy’s The Forgotten Adoption Option offers a clear, fact-packed, actionable guide to anyone interested in exploring foster care adoption. In the self-reflection she shares and through the awareness she raises, she serves as champion to the 120,000 U.S. children currently in foster care who are in need of safe and loving, adoptive families.
Marcy and I talked about her book. This is our conversation.
LR: What inspired you to write The Forgotten Adoption Option?
MB: Frustration… which turned into anger… which turned into me trying to figure out how I could fix a critical awareness issue that impacts children and families.
Having gone through foster care adoption with my husband to adopt our two children (they are bio siblings), I was familiar with the process, heartache, and great need for more forever families. But, in my experience, when the topic of adoption comes up, foster care adoption usually gets only a mention. I went digging to find out why.
The bottom line, which research validated, is that the government does not invest marketing dollars into foster care adoption. They have a hard enough time recruiting foster homes. Lack of awareness fuels lack of interest and causes misconceptions to eclipse facts.
It’s fair to say that many people think foster care is a temporary place for children who then return to their biological families. Yes, children who go into foster care DO return to their biological families, but only in 50% of cases. There are currently 120,000 children in foster care in the United States who will not return to their biological families. They are the other 50% percent who need adoptive families. No one is talking about this and it’s a big problem.
My solution was to write THE book on foster care adoption… what it is and what’s involved. So that’s what I did.
LR: What are some common misconceptions about children in the foster care system?
MB: When I recently talked with my daughter about this she said, “Mom. That’s really sad.” I asked, “Why is that, sweetie?” Her answer still haunts me… “Because it makes me feel like I was not wanted.” Just take a dagger to my heart.
My hope is by talking about misconceptions we can educate our country about what is true about children in foster care.
First, children in foster care aren’t bad kids. They didn’t do a single thing to deserve or bring about whatever took them away from their biological family.
Second, some people think adopting through foster care means adopting children of a certain race, age group, or with certain behaviors. I recently had another adoptive mom tell me that when her son (who was adopted) realized my son was adopted he questioned if she was telling the truth because my children are not African American.
Third, some people believe “foster parents are just in it for the money.” Are there people who adopt children from foster care or who foster because they receive monthly payments (usually called a subsidy)? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that’s why everyone does it. In fact, I would venture to say it’s not why most people do it. The financial support the government gives to help care for children who are in foster care and/or adopted through foster care is meant to provide for the child(ren)’s well-being (food, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc.).
LR: What are the costs involved in pursuing foster care adoption?
MB: I so wish the answer to this question was more widely circulated. Between adoption lawyer legal fees, adding outlet protectors and fire extinguishers to my home, and printing family books to introduce my husband and me to the social worker of prospective children, I spent $365. After the adoption of my two children was finalized, my husband and I were able to take advantage of the federal adoption tax credit which is currently $14,300 per child for children adopted through foster care. The government considers all children adopted through foster care as “special needs” adoptions. Additionally, I receive a few hundred dollars in monthly subsidies to help offset living expenses for my children. In my family’s budget, this money is used towards college savings and martial arts lessons.
If you look at the costs (and length of process) associated with foster care adoption compared to those associated with infant and domestic adoption, the differences are staggering. The two more widely known options can quickly squash someone’s dream of adopting.
While foster care adoption is the most affordable and fastest way to adopt, it often involves adopting a child or teen. So if people really want to adopt a baby this might not be the best option for them.
LR: Why do you think people more often consider international adoption initially when thinking about adopting?
MB: In my opinion, this is marketed very well. Private adoption agencies – who handle these types of adoptions – have actual marketing budgets for this. People are aware of this need. The children and stories are very compelling. And getting started on this process, while rocky and lengthy, is a matter of picking which agency and which country.
LR: Your book starts off with the quote “You don’t have to be the perfect person to be the perfect parent.” Can you talk about what this means to you?
MB: This quote is very special to my family. To me, it means you don’t have to be perfect, you just need to be willing. I had nannied for several families before having children in my home, but I cannot say that this 100% prepared me to become an adoptive mom. Willingness means you are able to be honest with yourself about who you are, your strengths, and your needs.
To those who feel uncertain about their parenting skills, I can tell you this, adopting children through foster care requires some traditional parenting skills (which you can read or ask friends about), some specialized parenting skills (which you get trained on and will learn from other adoptive families), and some trust in yourself. Sometimes we learn best simply by doing, reflecting and trying again.