The Federal Adoption 2002 initiative brought pressure on the U.S. child welfare system to move children from temporary care into permanent family situations more expeditiously and, hopefully, without sacrificing the rights of any of the parties involved. Many of these children are already placed with foster families interested in making the transition to the permanence of adoption.
What are the Differences?
The basic difference, of course, is permanence. Your child will now have your lifetime commitment as a parent. Many foster families maintain lifetime relationships with children who have been in their care, but this is not permanently binding. Adoption is permanent. You and your child will now share family outcomes, whatever they may be.
Another major difference is in parenting responsibility for your child. Once the post-placement visits cease, you will not share parenting authority with an agency. Decisions about schools, medical care, and your child’s many other daily activities will be yours alone.
You will also bear financial responsibility for your child. Your family insurance can be expanded to include your child, and if the adoption falls within the scope of “special needs,” you will be responsible for applying for subsidies available in your state. Adoption tax credits may also be available.
The legal responsibility of permanence means that your child will inherit from you on the same basis as any biological children you may have, and you will be liable for her or his actions in any legal dispute until maturity. In accordance with many state laws, your child will now carry your surname and will assume all the rights and responsibilities of every other family member.
Including the Past
Your child’s foster family experience, both with you and others, as well as birth family heritage, will now become part of your entire family history. Some parents create or add to lifebooks and products, like the Forever Yours foster-to-adoption information kit, might be helpful. This particular kit includes information for social workers, parents, and your child. Do something to encourage your child’s active participation in the positive move to permanency.
The Home Study
Many states are moving toward a single home study process for both prospective foster and adoptive parents, but these are not in place everywhere. You may be required to have another, more detailed study performed
Checking Your Resources
Making the move to permanence brings additional responsibilities, along with the wonderful benefits of a new family member. In order to provide the best possible transition to a permanent family environment for your child, you may want to make sure the following resources are available:
- Financial resources: Are there adequate financial resources available to you, either privately or publicly, to enable you to continue to maintain a high level of care for your child?
- Post-adoption services: Will you have access to counseling and treatment if needed during the adoption process?
- Support groups: Do you know where local support groups can be located? These include groups of adoptive parents and groups of parents who have made the transition from foster to adoptive parenting.
Foster parents who want to be considered when a child in their care becomes available for adoption should take the same precautions as prospective adoptive parents:
- Consult an attorney who specializes in adoption and family law;
- Don’t rely on verbal guarantees and promises. Make sure to get it in writing;
- Be aware that all parties to an adoption have rights, and follow through on making sure, to your satisfaction, that the birth family is being considered at every step;
- If you suspect that your social worker is being less than totally open about any information, refer to your attorney for answers.
How Prepared Are You?
If you are seriously considering adopting your foster child, click here for a self-assessment worksheet has been developed by professionals as a tool to help you understand your strengths and needs.