Many families desperate to have a child refuse to consider adoption because they are not wealthy.
While you don’t need to have billions of dollars to adopt, agency adoptions do come with a pretty price tag. Adopting a baby through a domestic agency can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000. International adoption can cost families up to $40,000. Many middle-class families can offset these costs with the national adoption tax credit, adoption assistance, military assistance, and adoption grants.
You may not know that it is possible to adopt a child for free in the U.S. Yet in fact, over 100,000 children whose birth parents’ rights have been terminated are anxiously waiting for a permanent home. And adopting them will not cost you a dime.
Foster Care Adoption
Foster care adoption is free in most cases throughout the United States. Because children in foster care are in the legal custody of the state, most governments will cover the legal fees of adoption, which is usually less than $3,600.
Also, many states will provide ongoing health care in the form of Medicaid for a child adopted from foster care until he or she is 21 years old. Ongoing services, such as counseling, may also be provided. If your child is classified as “special needs,” you may receive an additional monthly stipend after you adopt. In some states, children in sibling groups, those in racial or ethnic groups exiting the system at a slower rate, and children over a certain age are designated as special needs cases.
Children adopted from foster care may also receive college tuition assistance from institutions that receive funding from the state. Some may even be able to attend the university for free.
Who Can Be Adopted?
Most of the 100,000 already available for adoption through foster care are between the ages of 3 and 8. Some are members of sibling groups that have to be adopted together. Others have particular emotional, behavioral, or developmental challenges. Most adopted parents see tremendous growth and progress in their children after they are welcomed into a stable, loving home.
Children of all ages are available to foster. If you are determined to adopt a child under 3, you will need to go to an adoption agency or lawyer if you want to find an infant or toddler who is already available for adoption. You may, however, choose to foster a baby, and your social worker may be able to identify little ones who are more likely to become available for adoption in the future. They cannot, however, guarantee that the child will become adoptable, so you are taking a risk that your child could be reunited with his birth parents.
Interestingly enough, infants are a growing number of first-time admissions into foster care, and more than half of the children adopted from foster care are under the age of 3. Over 50% of the children adopted through the child welfare system are adopted by their foster parents.
If you become a foster parent, there is a monthly stipend of $658 to $850 per child per month, depending upon your state. The allowance is to cover your child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and childcare. If your child becomes eligible for adoption, many states have an adoption stipend that foster parents become eligible for. Several states have recently switched to a dual-licensing program in which you can become certified to foster and adopt at the same time. This helps to streamline the process if and when your child becomes available for adoption.
Who Can Adopt a Child for Free?
The actual requirements to become a foster parent vary from state to state. However, in most cases, you will need to be at least 21 years old and in fairly good health. You will need to pass a criminal and background check and have sufficient income to support monthly financial needs. You do not have to be married.
It doesn’t matter whether you rent or own your home. You do, however, need to have a separate bedroom for children with at least one bed per child. A flexible schedule is helpful, as children will need to be supervised before and after school as well as on the weekends.
When evaluating potential foster or adoptive parents, professionals are looking for mentally sound, flexible individuals who are fully committed to foster care or adoption. You will need to be kind, loving, and good at communicating your thoughts and feelings. If you are adopting older children, they will appreciate your ability to logically explain why you set certain limits or make particular decisions. The best part happens when you see your children beginning to explain their own reasoning the way you do.
It is important to have a support network in place when you adopt, especially if you are single. Faith organizations, community groups, counselors, and tutors can make a world of difference in helping you support and raise your child. More than giving you a break, these individuals can provide you with a shoulder to cry on during bad days and some much-needed encouragement.
How to Adopt a Child for Free
You will need to become certified as an adoptive parent or a foster-to-adopt parent in your own state before adopting through foster care. After that, you can begin to inquire about the children in photo listings in different states who are completely available for adoption.
The Internet is a great place to start when it comes to getting information on becoming a foster parent in your state. Sites like the Child Welfare Information Gateway can help you find state-related organizations where you can become certified. In some states, you will be reporting directly to county caseworkers. In others, you can get your certification through one of several designated agencies.
A good place to start is a basic search Internet search with phrases like “adopt foster care, New York.”
After you speak to an authority in foster care in your state, you will be invited to attend an information meeting. You will be provided with information on the roles and responsibilities of foster and adoptive parents as well as an idea of the types of children available for adoption. There will be application forms for you to fill out. You will have to provide information on your employment, household, and interests, as well as supply references.
Next, you will complete a family assessment, otherwise known as a home study. It will provide caseworkers with information about your childhood, parenting style, and family traits. The home study phase usually involves a home inspection as well as interviews in other locations. Be prepared to answer questions about your motivations for adopting, and about what would make your home a safe, warm, and happy place to raise a child. You can also provide your social worker with information on the type of child you would most prefer to adopt in terms of age, gender, and special needs.
Oftentimes, the home survey is conducted while individuals are being trained as foster and/or adoptive parents. Your state may use the Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) curriculum, or the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) class guide. While actual parenting is always different from training, it helps to get some background on children with a history of abuse, neglect, and trauma. You will have to be creative, patient, and peaceful when you discipline, and the training can provide you with some good tips for what to do in tricky situations.
After you have supplied references and a background check, you will become certified to either adopt or foster and adopt in your state.
As a certified adoptive parent, you can begin to explore the photos of children available for adoption on the individual states’ websites. If you are interested in a particular child or sibling group, your social worker can contact the child’s caseworker to see if you can get more information. Keep in mind that you may not be the only person inquiring in some cases!
If a match is made, you will be allowed to meet with those who know the child best, such as teachers and counselors, who will let you know more about your child’s traits, interests, and needs. You can then begin meeting with the child regularly. Finally, that child will come to live with you.
You will be visited several times after you take your child into custody. The adoption is completed in court after your child has lived with you for a few months. Overall, adopting from foster care takes between 9 and 18 months.
Foster care adoption is the only way to adopt a child for free in the U.S. Once you have decided to pursue it, get ready for an exciting adventure of love, bonding, and untold fulfillment.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.