Are you thinking about adopting a foster child? Do you need more information on the process or are you wondering how to get started? Are you trying to decide if adopting a foster child is right for you and your family? Are you looking for resources or inspiration to pursue foster care adoption? If so, you’ve come to the right place! The information below should give you a place to start figuring out the next right step.
Why you should consider adopting a foster child
There a lot of reasons someone might choose to adopt a foster child. You may already have a specific child in mind. Perhaps you are a foster parent and are already caring for a child who is going to be available for adoption. Maybe you know someone who is fostering a child. Or maybe, you don’t have a specific child in mind, but you know there are children who need permanent homes, and you want to provide one. It’s true that there are a lot of kids waiting for a family, and adopting a foster child can be a beautiful gift, not only for the child, but also for you.
Things to know before you get started
However, like any large endeavor, it’s important to do your research and know what you can about what you’re getting into before you get started. There is a lot of misinformation about foster families and foster children, so make sure to get to know the truth, and know how things work in your state.
When you’re thinking about adopting a foster child, you should know that the initial goal of foster care is not adoption. In almost every case, the first goal is reunification, and adoption is only considered when reunification is not possible, or when enough time has passed to make it clear that reunification is unlikely. This process can easily take years. If your primary goal is adopting a foster child, not just foster care, and you choose to start with a child who has just been removed from his or her parent’s care, make sure you understand that adoption is not guaranteed and will take a long time.
There is an alternative to this process: waiting children. These are children for whom reunification is not an option, but a suitable adoptive home has not yet been identified. These children are either legally free for adoption or very close to that status. Many of them are older children, have special needs, or they are part of a sibling group. Adopting a foster child from this group of children is a great alternative if you want to provide a family for kids, are open to kids with different challenges, and do not want to be a part of the foster/reunification process.
Lastly, understand that the journey you are embarking on takes a long time. Legally, moving through all of the steps of the court process will take months at a minimum, and it is more likely to take years. And the emotional process of adding a new child to your family will take time as well. If you are choosing to adopt a foster child, whether you choose to start as a foster parent or pursue a waiting child, you must be prepared to be in process for the long haul.
Understanding the process
If you have decided that adopting a foster child is right for you, you’ll need to choose an agency, get training, and get a home study completed. (If you are already a foster parent looking to adopt a foster child already living in your home, you may be able to skip these steps). Different agencies work with different types of adoption, so do your research and be up-front about the type of adoption you want to pursue. You can find some more tips on choosing an adoption agency at this link.
Completing a home study is a long and detailed process. It involves a lot of forms and questions and visits with a social worker. This will help the agency get to know you and your family and is an important step to finding the child that is the right fit for your family.
At some point in the process, the child’s birth parents’ rights will need to be terminated in order to make that child legally free for adoption. Depending on the case, this might already have occurred before you meet the child, or it may be a legal process that still needs to be completed. Your lawyer and your agency should be able to guide you through the remaining steps. In some cases, you may work with the child’s birth parent to negotiate a post-adoption contact agreement. Your lawyer can help you throughout this process as well. You might also want to look into adoption counseling—working with a trained therapist to help you consider what the relationship with your child’s birth family might look like post-adoption.
If you’re interested in adopting an older foster child, you should know that nearly all states and territories require that older children give consent to their own adoption. The actual age of consent depends on the state, ranging from age 10 to 14. There are some allowances for children who lack the mental capacity for consent or for cases where the court can dispense with consent at its discretion. The decision to consent to adoption can be an extremely complicated one for foster children who may worry about hurting their birth family or have mixed feelings about no longer having access to some of the people and resources that are part of the foster care system. Make sure you understand the laws for your specific state.
In some areas, a foster child must live in your own for a certain period of time before you file a petition to adopt them. Your agency’s social worker and your lawyer should be able to help you understand these guidelines as well.
Resources to help you when adopting a foster child
If it takes a village to raise a child (according to an old African proverb), then adopting a foster child does as well. You’ll need to work closely with your adoption agency and your lawyer throughout this process. But it’s also important to seek out other resources, too. Many foster children have experienced more than their share of trauma, so take the time to learn all you can about the impact of adverse childhood experiences on attachment and development. Talk to other adoptive parents and adult adoptees. Listen to podcasts, read books and articles, and take advantage of every training opportunity you can. Consider seeking out an adoption-competent therapist who can help you integrate your new child into your family.
In addition to all of these resources, the importance of community cannot be overstated. Tell family and friends about your plans and stick close to those who are willing to support you; you’re going to need them! Also, make connections with parents who have adopted a foster child. A support group is a great way to do this. Your agency may be able to help connect you with one.
Keep in mind that you’ll need these resources not just at the beginning of this process, but after the adoption is finalized as well. Make sure you have support lined up for both before and after adoption.
Other ways to adopt if this isn’t right for you
It may be, after reading this information and doing more research, that you decide adopting a foster child isn’t the right path for you. That’s okay! There are lots of ways to adopt, and you need to do what is right for you and your family. You might also want to consider private or international adoption.
Or, perhaps you want to help children in foster care, but you aren’t in a position to adopt. That’s okay, too. There are lots of ways to get involved. You could choose to mentor a foster child, become an advocate for that child via the Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA), or support a foster or adoptive family.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some good information about adopting a foster child. If you’re looking for more inspiration, you can find lots of real-life stories right here! My friend Shannon chose single parent adoption through foster care. Gina also adopted two children, siblings, through foster care as a single mom. Travis and Laurie have two sets of twins adopted from foster care, in addition to their biological and internationally-adopted children. And Josh and Diana have adopted five kiddos from foster care. All of these stories are beautiful testaments that while adopting a foster child has its challenges, it is also absolutely worth it!
If you still need more inspiration or information, try reaching out to the Adoption.com community forums. You can find lots of people there ready to share their stories and answer your questions. Good luck on your journey!
Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents.