November is National Adoption Month, a time dedicated to spreading awareness about the dire need for adoptive families for children living in foster care. This is a time when adoptive families, social workers, adopted children, and community leaders work together to encourage the public to learn about adoption, support foster care services, and acknowledge the millions of lives that have been impacted by adoption.
According to Adopt US Kids, 19,000 children are in foster care in Florida. Approximately 600 of those children are waiting on permanent placement with a family and do not have an identifiable family to be placed with.
Even though there are so many children in foster care who are waiting to be placed in safe, loving homes, the adoption process is complex, and not always easy.
Robert C. Lamarche JD, LCSW, Executive Director and Attorney of ACF Adoptions and Oakland Park resident, is one of many dedicated professionals who works day-in and day-out to help children in the foster care system by expediting safe, legal adoptions.
According to Lamarche, “the state’s child welfare agencies are notoriously understaffed, underfunded, and… under-skilled. Everything is slow. There is much more emphasis placed on the birth parent’s right to the parent than on the best interest of the child. It is a painful experience for many.”
With so much time spent trying to keep children with their birth parents, children who are in desperate need of a loving home are susceptible to retraumatization and poor living conditions
Another reason the adoption process is so challenging is because of misconceptions held by the general public. Some people believe children in the foster care system have something wrong with them. Robert explains, “People who are adopted are not defective. People who are adopted were not ‘unwanted.’ I work with 30-40 birth mothers a year that voluntarily place their babies for adoption. They are always sad. They always love their children. They are making this decision out of love. They want more for that child than they can provide.”
This problem becomes even more concerning when it comes to teenagers. “Many older kids in the system are never adopted… many of those kids will age out. Not a lot of folks are looking to adopt teens.”
Even though there are areas of the foster care system that need improvement, families who are brave enough and have a good support network who are willing to open their hearts to adoption can make a major difference in a child’s life.
Despite the challenges that come with adopting a child, doing so can be extremely rewarding. Robert himself has been through the process three times and he finalized the adoption of his youngest son last month.
On October 25, 2021, Lamarche and his husband finalized the adoption of their son who originally joined their family in February 2018. At the time, the boy’s birth mother was in no position to care for him, and his father had passed away unexpectedly. Lamarche explains, “we essentially became his foster parents,” before officially adopting the boy two and a half years later.
The process of moving from foster parents to adoptive parents wasn’t an easy one though. According to Robert, “the process [of adoption] through a public child welfare agency often takes a long time because they try to reunify with birth parents first. A lot of time and energy is focused on that area.”
At one point, the adoption agency tried to reunite the boy with his birth mom, only for the boy to be returned to Larmache’s home three months later.
“To say we were relieved is a vast understatement,” Lamarche explains in regard to the reunification with his now-adopted son, “I am incredibly grateful he is home with us forever.”
Robert has two other children, his oldest son and his daughter, both of whom he adopted while in a previous relationship. Having been through the adoption process three times himself, he can’t imagine his life today without his children.
Cassidy Webb is a Texas native and South Florida transplant. She grew up just outside of Dallas, TX, and moved to South Florida four years ago. She now considers Fort Lauderdale her home.
Cassidy is the project manager at a small digital marketing company and she enjoys freelance writing on the side. In her free time, you can catch her exploring local parks or taking long walks through the neighborhood with her dog, Bella.