How To Grow Your Family Through Fostering and Adoption, with Brit Prawat
Brit Prawat, host of Crime Junkie podcast, talks candidly about being adopted and how the emotions and even loss around that never really goes away. However, she had an incredibly positive experience as a child and always felt loved, supported, and chosen. Ultimately, the experience influenced her to adopt and foster children of her own when it came time to build her own family. For those who may be interested in doing the same, she pulls the curtain back and gives listeners tons of good information about the process.
You can follow Brit Prawat on Instagram and Twitter at @britprawat and listen to her podcast, Crime Junkie at crimejunkiepodcast.com or wherever you get your podcasts.
[00:34] This is Brit Prawat from Crime Junkie podcast, and this is Good Kids.
[00:42] I’ve been a foster parent for four and a half years, and I’ve adopted two of our children. And that was really important to me growing up. I was adopted as an infant. I have multiple cousins who have adopted. I have cousins who are now social workers because they grew up in a family that was really familiar with foster care and adoption. And even as young as being a teenager, I knew that it was a way that I wanted to grow my family, and whoever I ended up with, if I ended up with anybody, it was a deal breaker. One, I wanted kids and two, I wanted kids that weren’t necessarily biologically mine or mine forever.
[01:22] I guess I saw what an incredible family I had been adopted into. Up until a point., I was like probably in my mid-20s, I had no contact or information on my biological family. So I didn’t even have a comparison to be like, oh, this is so much better, or so much worse. I just knew that I had had a really good life, and have amazing siblings and cousins and grandparents. And all of that was because I kind of magically ended up with the family that I ended up with. And it just seemed like a natural thing for me to be able to — I hate to say the word give back, but like let other kids experience something that I experienced that truly changed the course of my life, I think in a lot of positive ways.
[02:07] I was adopted when I was an infant because my parents had struggled with infertility for over a decade. And when I was about just under a year old, they actually got pregnant for my sister, and then two and half years later got pregnant with my brother. So they’re both biological to our parents. And I had like my birthday, and then I had my adoption day that were both kind of like big family celebrations. And my sister was always like, why does she get two? Or I would say, like, they just got stuck with you. I got chosen. We were kind of brats when we were kids, but we had a really good relationship now. And obviously she’s been incredibly supportive of my kids, too. The emotions of being adopted never really leave. But I do believe that there are different scenarios that can alter the way that different people experience them. So I never felt unloved or different or outside or not the same as. I grew up knowing I was adopted. I grew up knowing, you know, my parents’ story with not being able to have kids for a long time and then getting me and then getting pregnant. And like everything was always just such a huge positive note for them. That being said, there are emotions in that like in every adoption, there is a gain and a loss. Like there is a loss in every adoptee, whether they feel it or acknowledge it or fully experience it or let themselves experience it.
[03:29] I think that varies from different situations. And different exposures to what their families that they were adopted into were like, which I felt especially as an adoptee, like I felt especially called or drawn to adoption because I know what it’s like to not look like someone. I know what it’s like to like not share a physical trait with anybody. I lucked out. And I actually look a lot like my adoptive mom and brother. But there is still the fact that I’m 5’2” with dark skin and dark curly hair and dark eyes, and my sister is 5’7” with fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair. Like there’s always going to be that dichotomy of like I’m still not quite there, but emotionally I never felt anything differently, outside of just like dealing with the loss of being an adoptee.
[04:27] My parents were always really open about talking about it. I remember like as I got into my early teens, they would ask me not frequently, but like once or twice a year, how are you doing? Do you want to find your biological family? Like, do you want to look for your birth mom? And I feel like deep down, I probably should have said or wanted to say yes, but I felt like it would have been a big betrayal to them, even though they were offering that option to me. And even when I did start that search for myself as an adult, again, like in my early- to mid-20s, I didn’t tell them until I had an answer. And so I was just always something that was a really common topic when it came to like, I don’t have a day that my mom can tell me what it was like when she went into labor.
[05:13] Instead, I have this sort of epic where they had infertility treatments and, you know, they tried for so long and then all of sudden they got this call. That’s what I have. And so that’s the story that I grew up on on my birthday, on my adoption day, like this was the day that you came into our lives. Just like any other parent would tell you this is what happened when your mom went into labor. So it’s just always just part of my part of my story. And I have two children. One is 12 and one is two. So that’s a lot of fun. And our two year old we adopted, she came into our home when she was about two weeks old and we adopted about six weeks later. So she’s always been with us. She has no memory of any other family. Honestly, she was younger than I was even when I was adopted. I was three months old and I was adopted. But our son, our 12 year old, he came into our home when he was 10.
[06:06] And so before that, he had been not only with his biological family for a long time. His biological grandparents for a time as well. But another foster family before us. And so those two stories are very different. And when my husband and I got into foster care, we initially I mean, we were like 27, 26. And we were like, we can’t parent like a 17 year old. That’s weird. So we opted to restrict our ages to toddlers or under five. And we’ve had a lot of placements in that age range and they’ve been amazing. And they’ve all been able to be placed back with biological family safely. And it’s been a really good experience. We keep in touch with a ton of families. It’s been awesome. But after one of our last placements, we had had her for a while and we really weren’t sure if we wanted to continue foster care or just look at adoption. And our case manager called us and she was like, here’s the deal. Like, I know you want like under eight, under five, but like we have this 10 year old. He’s amazing. I think he’d be a really good fit. Just like can you meet with his team. And so we ended up meeting with his foster mom, you know, his caseworker, his caseworker’s supervisor, his therapist, his court appointed special advocate.
[07:19] And we met with them and they were like, we’d love to introduce you guys. Everything went well. And he moved in like two or three months later, which actually was in the middle of us finding out — like we were working with him for two or three months before moving in. And in the middle of those two or three months, we found out about our daughter, who was an infant at the time. So we actually adopted them within about six weeks of each other. So, yeah, we went from zero to two with a 10-year age gap between them. So I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve reached out to a ton of other foster parents and adoptive parents, especially adoptive parents of older kids. And 10 to 12 isn’t even that old in the foster care system, to be honest. But reaching out to them and having a support group saying, like, hey, I’m dealing with a pre-teen and I swear I was a pre-teen like four days ago, so I know what they’re feeling, but I cannot figure out how to parent this way. And especially because we’re dealing with, you know, a history of trauma, a history of neglect, a history of things that we may not even know about yet. And so being sensitive to that and also trying to balance that with my husband, who doesn’t have a family history of adoption. I was like the first adopted person he ever met. And so, like being able to talk to my son, who is amazing and like, at one point my husband told him, like, I would really appreciate if you call me dad and you call Brit mom.
[08:38] And he was fine with that, our son. But I also sat down with him and I was like, hey, like, it’s weird for dad. He only has one mom and one dad. You and I have like a ton of different moms and dads. I get that. Like, if you want to call me Brit, I’m OK with that. But Dad would really appreciate you calling him Dad. Like, this is how our relationship is going to go. If you want to call me mom, that’s great. Our daughter May, she’s going to call us mom and dad because we’re going to teach her how to talk. But I want you to feel free and open to, like, have the relationship that you want with me, but know that I’m also, like, always here as a parental figure for you. There’s been ups and downs, which I feel like it’s parenting in general. But, yeah, it’s been really good. And they feel like our whole family has learned a lot through this whole process.
[11:46] So the differences between fostering and adoption can be vast or they can be really, really kind of blurry. Foster care is mostly when either there is a familial surrender, so a parent or guardian surrenders a child. And then the state agency recognizes that the parent or guardian is unable to care for the child and places the child into a potentially temporary home while the parent or guardian figures life out is the best way for me to put it.
[12:16] Occasionally that foster parent will be a, you know, a biological family member or even a family friend. But oftentimes they are complete strangers. There’s a pretty rigorous process, just like with adoption, to get your home approved. Adoption, again, that’s kind of what transferring the rights of the parent to another individual with means. But there’s a lot of different avenues to do that. So I chose to adopt through foster care with our son, which means that we actually had him in our home for over six months before, in our state, we were allowed to legally petition to adopt him. There’s also private adoption. Our adoption with our daughter was a little bit of a mix of both. We had already been home-studied and approved through our foster care agency, so all that had been done. And a family through a friend of a friend of a friend of our families had reached out to us. Had had a baby and was planning on putting up for adoption, but was nervous about the process. And so we kind of, through the grapevine, got connected and were able to do a completely private adoption where we had made an agreement through our lawyer and a lawyer representing the biological parents to transfer rights and finalize the adoption that way.
[13:27] So there’s a lot of different ways to do it. Foster care, you do kind of sign up for caring for children as and when they need it. And as soon as they don’t need it, or can safely return to a biological family member, that’s usually what states prefer. So it’s more of a temporary care situation. That being said, I’ve had placements for more than a year just because of how cases do and don’t progress, or how their biological family members are participating in their case. I would consider myself an advocate, but I try not to be incredibly vocal about it. At least I don’t try to convince anybody to do it. I think everyone can. A lot of people are afraid to. And I don’t blame them because it is a very scary thing to do.
[14:18] You are not only bringing someone else into your home to care for, you’re bringing potentially three or four people in your home to evaluate how you’re parenting. And at the end of the day, you might not see the end or the fulfillment of this child’s story. You may only have them for a couple of weeks. You may have them for a couple of years. You may not get to see them grow up. And that’s incredibly scary. That’s a commitment that as a parent, you don’t sign up for. You want to see them graduate from high school. You want to see them get married. You want to see them have kids of their own. And as a foster parent, the kids that I still consider that are my kids, like, I won’t get to see that for a lot of them. So it’s not an easy decision. And if you don’t feel like you can do it, I don’t think you should. If you’re interested in it, you can ask me absolutely any question in the book. And I’m going to tell you about my experience with it, whether you like it or not.
[15:16] Personally I would never urge anybody to consider it. I do encourage people to support their local foster parents. There’s a ton of different ways to do that. One of my favorites is instead of donating to, you know, a thrift store in your area, to search out of a local foster closet. Foster kids a lot of times don’t come with a lot of items. And reminder, foster kids aren’t just babies. A lot of times they’re teenagers. So they look a lot like grown humans. When you’re getting rid of old clothes, consider donating to a foster closet versus a traditional thrift store because there’s a very small stipend in most states that you get when you get a placement and it doesn’t go very far. So being able to utilize foster closets — especially, you know, if you get handed a baby or a teenager who has, you know, the clothes on their backs, it can mean a lot for a foster family and foster kids to be able to wear something nice and clean and be able to do that really affordably, if not without cost. So that’s one of my favorite things to do when it comes to supporting local foster families.
[16:21] If you are considering fostering, obviously definitely research and make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting into. Every state is different with requirements. I’ve worked with the state, I’ve also worked with foster agencies that are adjacent to the state or outsource resources for the state. I highly recommend both. I’ve had great experiences with both in my state. There’s a lot of really great blogs and like Instagrams out there. There’s Facebook support groups. There’s in-person support groups. It’s a community. And every foster parent needs to be able to have a place where you can go, where you can like just like any parent.
[17:00] And sometimes those things are really individual, to foster parents or parents who are parenting kids who have survived trauma or neglect. So research, reach out to people. There’s a great blog by a woman named Amanda Carpenter. She has a lot of great resources. She’s a foster parent in Chicago. I highly recommend her blog and her Instagram and her newsletter. She’s amazing, incredibly transparent, and also is connected to a lot of other foster parents around the country. So she is a great resource.
[17:35] My favorite advice that I gave to my son at one point in time, which I don’t even know if it was his favorite advice or word of encouragement, but we were going through a bit of a difficult bonding period with him. And I took him some hot chocolate and I sat down on the floor of his room while he was in bed. And we just talked for like a long time. and something that I tried to stress to him — and especially for adopted kids or kids who have experienced foster care or adults who were even former foster youth, I remind my son how many families he has. He has us. He has, you know, my parents as his grandparents. He has my husband’s parents as his grandparents. He has my siblings and my husband’s siblings as his aunts and uncles. And he has cousins on top of that. But he also has his former foster family, who we’re still in contact with, and their extended families that he was with, you know, for a time in his life. And he has siblings that were adopted by other families. And not only does he have his siblings, but he has their parents to rely on because they were adopted by different families. That’s so many families. Like most people have one family, maybe they have two. But in adoption and foster care, you have so many more families. And that’s not even to speak of his biological family that I hope will one day be a part of his life in a positive way, like mine is. And so, like, yes, you were chosen. Yes, you’re lucky. But like you have so much more than most other people that are raised in “normal” families. Everything that you may see as a detriment, or you may see as a loss in your life, or something that’s missing is actually something that has built you. And that has continued to build around you, especially the families in your foster care and adoption family. And it was something that as I was talking to him, I was really saying it about myself being an adoptee. But that spoke to me as much as I hope it spoke to him in that moment.
[19:38] When I’m not being a parent 100 percent of the time right now, I also co-host Crime Junkie podcast and you can find us on iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts. And if you wanna follow me, I am on Instagram @BritPrawat. And the same handle on Twitter.
[19:56] Good Kids is a Lemonada Media original. Andrew Steven is our producer, and the show is executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Music is by Dan Molad. Westwood One is our ad sales and distribution partner. Like us, give us a five-star rating, and recommend us to a friend. If you want to submit a show idea, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.