Marcy Bursac knew in her early 20s that she wanted to adopt children one day. A church mission trip to an orphanage in Moldova sparked that desire.
She shared her intention with her future husband, Nathan, when they began dating. To her surprise, he wanted the same route to parenthood.
They got married in 2008, and while they did eventually adopt children, the path was different from the one they had envisioned: The couple adopted a 5-year-old boy and his younger sister from Missouri’s foster care system.
They originally thought private adoptions were the only option. But the high cost, of both domestic and international adoptions, discouraged them. Nathan worked as an educator, and Marcy worked in social services. It wasn’t until they attended an expo at their church a few years later that they realized that children could be adopted from the foster care system. And for the Bursacs, the financial cost of adopting a child from state custody would be more than offset by the federal tax credit for the adoption.
In 2021, more than 113,000 out of 391,000 children in the U.S. foster care system were eligible for adoption. Marcy, who has become a mentor and coach for people wanting to adopt from foster care, documented their journey on a blog and also self-published a guide entitled “The Forgotten Adoption Option.”
She recalls the detailed application questions that forced her and Nathan to consider what type of care they could provide: Could they adopt a child who was blind or in a wheelchair or was pregnant or had suffered sexual abuse? What ages were they open to adopting? How many siblings could they take? Each question required tough conversations.
They took a series of weekly three-hour classes over two and a half months -- required for those wanting to adopt from the system. They participated in a home study to assess their house's readiness for children. Then they began receiving emails about children needing permanent families. They were nearly selected for a sibling pair, who ended up going to another family. When the social worker called Marcy to break the news, Marcy said she was glad they had played a part in helping them find their forever family.
“Then I hung up the phone and cried,” she said.
That same afternoon, an email showed up that would change their lives: They were selected to meet two young children who had already lived in six different homes.
Marcy and Nathan drove five hours across the state to meet the kids. On the drive back home, they decided they would start the process to adopt them.
There were times when the children’s other relatives would talk about taking them, leaving the Bursacs in limbo. Marcy remembers crying over the frustrations and fears she felt during that time.
The process ended up taking 18 months. But in 2015, the siblings finally joined the Bursac family.
In her book, Marcy lists all the firsts their children have experienced with them: riding a bike, swimming underwater, eating a hot fudge sundae, going to Disney, catching a fish. The list of family celebrations is long.
She also honestly describes the challenges of adopting children who have experienced instability, stress and trauma before coming to them. One child has been through years of therapy to help deal with meltdowns and anger. There were food struggles and lessons about appropriate boundaries. They have navigated some unexpected difficult moments, like when their son asked why he couldn’t stay with his biological family.
The journey has made Marcy a tireless advocate for foster care adoption. She’s now written three books, hosts a podcast and created an app to help others through the process. She recently won a $100,000 grant, awarded on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” to advance the work she is doing.
She advises prospective adoptive parents about the financial support and resources available. In addition to subsidies to offset clothing and food costs, foster kids’ child care costs are covered through age 12. Children adopted from foster care are eligible for state health insurance coverage. Some states, like Texas and Florida, also waive the tuition costs of their public colleges and universities for children adopted from the foster care system.
It’s in the best interest of the state -- and obviously, the children -- to maximize incentives that encourage more people to foster and adopt children in the state’s care.
Children who have suffered abuse or neglect to the extent that their biological parents’ rights have been terminated deserve to experience parental love and care.
Marcy wants more people to consider that they just might be the ones to give -- and receive -- that love.
For more information, check out AdoptUSKids.org.