You’ve seen them—the portrait-style photos of children staring at you and sometimes right inside of you through your computer monitor—all waiting for a family to love them. It’s easy to become emotional as the reality behind the pictures—some revealing cute kids sporting their best goofy grins, some sporting their Sunday best, and others less willing to share their personalities, with more carefully set jaws holding in secrets behind closed lips and wishes behind serious stares that extend past the picture-taker to whatever heaviness life is currently heaping upon them.
For those just venturing into the world of adoption, children for adoption profiles can be pretty intimidating—making your way through profile after profile as the numbers you read about, 400,000 kids in foster care and 100,000 awaiting a forever home, become all too real.
I can easily recall my first time researching our state’s children for adoption profiles. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into, but I felt that it was the right time to do it. By the time I’d finished my online search, I was more confused than ever and yet more ready than ever get started on our adoption journey.
Before You Begin
Just a word of warning—before you are ready to begin combing through profile listings, you should make sure to have familiarized yourself with the world of adoption, from the logistics of adoption to the realities of what adoption will mean for you as well as for an adopted child. Adoption.com offers a “How To Adopt A Child Guide” to introduce you to all things adoption and help you get started whether you’re interested in adopting domestically, private adoption, foster to adopt, or international adoption. This may also help you pinpoint if you’re open to children of a different race, specific age (infant, toddler, school age, teen), special needs, or a sibling group.
In addition to learning about adoption, doing your research about the different types of adoption, ensuring that you meet the requirements of adoption, speaking to an adoption professional, and looking into agencies, you will also want to do some soul searching to make sure you are ready to take things to the next level. Adoption can be a complicated process and having an idea of what sort of adoption you are interested in pursuing as well as what to do about it will help greatly in deciding how to utilize a profiles resource.
Where to Look
Several sites provide child profiles or provide links to child profiles and photo listings. Adoption.com’s Foster Care & Adoption page has a link to a Waiting Child Photolisting. The site’s International page also offers a link to International Adoption Photolistings.
Other links can be found on sites including:
Children for Adoption Profiles – What to Expect
So, basically what happens next is that you find yourself a comfortable and quiet place to sit and search through children for adoption profiles listing in your area or state—unless you’re looking nationally or interested in international adoption (in some cases, there are photolistings for international adoption as well).
You’ll most likely find yourself faced with a homepage with a title along the lines of “Child Demographic Search.” You will find some basic directions so far as how to search the profiles such as what you find when you go to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services photolisting site:
- “To view all children photo listed in the Adoption Album do not make any changes to this page and click ‘Search’.
- “To view children photo listed in the Adoption Album during a specific timeframe enter Publishing Dates below and click ‘Search’.
- “To view children using specific criteria make appropriate selections and click ‘Search’”
On this site’s children for adoption profiles website, I was also treated to a rather elaborate, if not slightly intimidating “survey” or a sort of parameter questionnaire to target and trim the results. Preference questions about things like gender, age range, legally at risk, and siblings. You know, nothing major or important.
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, there was additional criteria like, “Would you be willing to accept a child with pet allergies?” “Physical limitations?” “Educational or learning disabilities?” Mental health issues or developmental delays?” You can answer these with a range covering none, mild, moderate, or severe. Again, nothing too deep or anything—just all the details that make up a human, and possibly the human you may one day wrap your arms around and call your child.
To be fair, it felt a bit like I was ordering off a menu. As crass and cold as that may sound. I mean, an expectant parent doesn’t get the benefit of choosing and nitpicking what she is or isn’t willing to accept in offspring. It felt a bit odd to miss potential opportunities to meet amazing children with a simple click of a button.
On the flip side, what the process also does, separate from providing profiles of waiting children, is reveal a lot about yourself to yourself. It forces you to answer some tough questions about what you’re made of and to dig deeper about how you see yourself as a parent just as much as trying to see the children as future daughters or sons.
This is not a bad thing and knowing yourself before you proceed with an adoption is critical!
A Closer Look
If you choose to take the next step and click Search or View a Profile on whatever site you use, you may see some of the following stats:
- Profile Updated:
- Photo Updated:
Beyond this data, though, these kids have lives in progress. They have seen things, felt things, and just like prospective adoptive parents, they are just as nervous about fitting into a new family as you are wondering how you will fit into their life.
Behind the Smiles
What is foster care? Children may find themselves listed on a profile site as a result of entering the foster care system. Foster care, also known as out-of-home care, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway is “a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live with their families. Children in foster care may live with relatives or with unrelated foster parents. Foster care can also refer to placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living.”
Children in foster care are not there because of anything they have done, but rather, as the result of safety and child welfare with a goal of reunification with a biological relative when possible. However, far too many children find themselves in foster care for years when the possibility of returning to their original home is not an option. Some of these children will live with foster care families until a permanent family can be identified. Others live in foster care group home settings, treatment facilities, or nursing/caregiving homes if they have special medical needs. Adoption.com’s article “8 Big Reasons Kids Enter the Foster Care System” provides a list of the most common reasons kids enter the system.
Legally Free. It should be noted that profiled children are considered waiting children who have been legally freed for adoption. afamilyforeverychild.org defines the term legally free as “A child in state foster care who is ‘legally free’ for adoption is a child whose birth parent’s rights have been terminated by the state. This means the child is a ward of the state and has no legal parents. All the paper work is done, and there is no risk that a child placed for adoption will not be adopted by the family selected as the pre-adoptive placement. OR When a child’s parents or guardians have relinquished their parental rights or have had them terminated in a court of law. Once this has occurred, a child is then ‘legally free’ to be adopted by another person or family member.”
Special Needs. Many of the children profiled on photolistings are considered to be special needs. It’s important to note that special needs doesn’t necessarily mean that a child has a physical, mental, or emotional disability. According to the Heart Gallery of America, special needs refers to children in foster care who meet one or more of the following criteria:
- “The child is at least age 2 and part of an ethnic minority.
- “The child is at least eight years old.
- “The child is mentally, physically, or emotionally disabled.
- “The child is a part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together.
“…A child considered to have ‘special needs’ is frequently entitled to receive benefits, such as increased financial assistance, Medicaid, or therapeutic support services, while in foster care. If adopted, these benefits can continue after adoption.”
You can learn more about adopting a special needs child by visiting Adoption.com’s “Special Needs Adoption Guide.”
Are You the One?
Waiting children can be expected to have experienced some trauma in their lifetime, which is why they have been placed into foster care. The Child Welfare Information Gateway and Adoption.com provides many resources for adoptive parents, including:
Ready to Get Started?
Are you ready to get started on your adoption journey? Once you have made the decision to pursue adoption and determine whether or not you meet the legal requirements, you will have many decisions to make. The Adoption.com article “Where to Start When Considering Adoption” offers the following path to begin, including:
1. Research foster care
2. Research adoption agencies
3. Consider open adoption
4. Research international adoption
5. Consider special needs adoption
6. Get your finances in order
7. Get your home study approved
Finding a Match
Now that your adoption plan is in order, you can use the children for adoption profiles to search for kids who are available to be adopted. Make sure to communicate with your caseworker about your use of online websites and keep notes on any questions or concerns you may have. By using the preference criteria as listed above, you can narrow your search to create lists that you can then share with your caseworker. By doing so, your caseworker will be able to more quickly follow up on requests for more information concerning a specific child.
Once a child has been deemed to be placed in your care, it will be important to make sure his transition is as easy as possible. Things to consider include an appropriate opportunity to say goodbyes to caretakers, birth family members, and other important figures in his life. For older children, factors such as time of year concerning changes in schools or other activities should be taken into consideration.
Prospective adoptive parents will have already reached out to set up a support system, which should include family, close friends, your adoption professionals and caseworker, a pediatrician and other specialists if needed, school professionals, and other community members who may play an active role in your adoptive family’s life.
Likewise, you will want to ready your home—so that it feels like home the moment your adopted child steps through the front door. By taking the time to get to know your child ahead of placement, you can better prepare for this life-altering adjustment. If possible, involving your child in this process may be additionally beneficial, and let the child know that he is an important part of his new home and has a voice in his new home.
Finally, the day will come when your child will enter his forever home. This new reality can feel slightly overwhelming for all involved, even with education and training. Patience and understanding will be crucial as your child adapts to his new family and you begin to develop trust and attachment.
It’s common for adoptive parents to reach out for support for themselves as well as their growing family. Do not feel guilty for not knowing how to handle every situation that presents itself or in dealing with understandable setbacks. The Adoption.com article “Where Can I Find Post-Adoption Support?” is a great resource for all parties involved in pre-adoption and post-adoption.