What a common thread, but filled with so many emotions, rules, regulations! Foster to adopt infants varies from state to state. I would like to take this time to briefly tell the tale of a friend of mine. She and her husband went through the tedious, long process of becoming certified to foster children in New York State. I would follow my friend’s progress through the classes and the certification process through occasional texts and conversations on the rare chance we saw each other at a school function. It was at a Color-A-Thon run/walk. I saw her at a school function about nine months ago now. I asked how she had been doing, and she told me they had a foster baby. A baby straight from the hospital. She was so excited, nervous, scared—so many emotions she told me. We were both running the race with our children, so she told me we would catch up later. My friend had told me that her and her husband would be in the realm of foster to adopt infants. She tried to wrap her head around what that meant. The classes she took tried to explain to her all of the emotions, the highs, the lows, the frustrations that can, and often does come with fostering.
I would text my friend every month or so, asking how things were going. She would text back that the foster baby was still with them, and he was thriving. She said her family was very happy, and she was hopeful the birth mom and dad would move toward adoption, and relinquish their rights. She had a couple of court meetings where the birth mom and dad wanted custody back, but the judge ruled that the birth parents were not quite ready. The birth mother had been taking substances during her pregnancy, and she and the father had to get counseling and attempt to better their lives before they could regain custody of their son. My friend lived in the moments with her foster son. She has two other children, ages 7 and 9. They enjoyed having a baby brother around as well.
One day I was chatting with a mutual friend of ours, and I asked how my friend was doing with the foster baby. Our friend told me that he had been given to another foster family that had his siblings. I reached out to my friend, and she said she knew it could happen, but it still hurt. She said they were healing as a family, that they were strong, and she understood the decision was the best one for the baby. Her family is now anxiously awaiting the next phone call that will bring the next foster child.
I wanted to start off with that story because my friend is one who is fostering to adopt. My friend has experienced firsthand how life can be on one path, heading for potential adoption, and then there can be a sudden curve in the road, and many hopes and desire come thundering down, into the broken hearts of the foster family.
Foster to adopt infants is not an action that one just wakes up one day and decides they will perform. It takes much thought and many open, honest conversations with those around you that will be affected by fostering. In the United States, there are over 100,000 foster children waiting for their forever homes. Fostering to adopt is usually with older children and rarely with infants. There are situations when adoption is the end goal, but sometimes, the end goal is to temporarily foster children with the foster child going back to their birth family. In order to foster to adopt infants or older children, you have to be a licensed foster parent. In many cases, children in foster to adopt situations are usually children who are most likely headed in the direction of being adoptable. I don’t mean emotionally ready. I mean legally ready. Emotionally ready? Some children may be, but many will not. Heck, I don’t think I am emotionally ready for life day to day sometimes! Foster to adopt children are usually those whose birth parents are going to relinquish their rights, or maybe the parents already have, and these children are just awaiting their forever family.
Fostering to adopt takes much introspection. If you are considering foster to adopt infants or older children, you need to think about your readiness to have a child in your home who may have been through a lot, emotionally and physically. This is not ALWAYS the case, but, unfortunately, it is more times than not. Try to remember that the child didn’t ask for what he was given. He is an innocent player in this life, in this hand he has been dealt. You have to consider if you are able to be one person whom he may be able to trust one day, one person who will love him unconditionally, through the good times and the bad.
If you are someone who is considering fostering to adopt, one of the first questions you are probably asking is, “How much does it cost to foster to adopt?” In many states, the cost is minimal to adopt a child from foster care. As I mentioned earlier, usually the children are older and not infants. The average age of a foster child in the United States is 8 years old. If you foster a child and move toward adoption, there will be fees to adopt, but the amounts will vary on the state. Most states have financial assistance after adoption to assist adoptive families with post-adoption costs, such as clothing and food.
Please be prepared for a home study to be completed in order to make sure your home is safe for a child to live in. I understand to some, home studies can be uncomfortable because a “stranger” is coming to your house to look in every room and ask you questions about how you eat meals during the day, if dinners are at the table with the entire family, and what your bedtime routines are. Try to be patient with those that do the home studies. They are ensuring that the foster child will be in a safe home, and a home with the structure. The associates that perform the home studies are not out to look for things that could be “better” in your home. They are on your side. They are hoping your home study is successful because that means that the potential foster child hopefully has a home to live in, maybe a forever home. There will also be background checks completed on prospective foster to adopt families. It needs to be verified that those who wish to foster to adopt do not have a criminal background.
Foster to adopt infants or older children differs slightly depending the state you are living in, or fostering to adopt from. If and when you do get a child to foster and move toward adoption, the child will be considered a foster child for at least six months. What does that mean? It means you and your family will remain under the supervision of the state’s child welfare department. They will ensure you are being diligent as a foster parent, and if, at any point, the bond between the foster child and the prospective adoptive family seems to be strained, the child welfare department can step in and discuss what is going on with the family. The child welfare department is not your enemy. Their most important job is ensuring the safety of the foster child.
Finalizing adoptions can take place anywhere from six months to a year after a foster child is placed in your home. These meetings are not all-day affairs, but only around 30 to 60 minutes. This is great news, especially if your foster child is with you during these final proceedings. It is hard to sit still for long periods of time as a child! Especially if the child has a sense of excitement knowing they have finally found their forever home.
So, how do you know if you want to foster or embark on a different journey of foster to adopt infants or older children? It is a personal choice. Each person, each family considering fostering children has reasons for fostering. For myself, I am not sure I could do fostering, where the goal is to reunite them with their birth parent(s). I know that is a great goal to have. I understand that sometimes birth parents get the help they need while their child or children are in foster care. They get the support they need to become a better parent. I want foster children to be able to be reunited with their birth parents if that can happen. That would make my heart so happy! My heart would also be broken though, because depending on the length of time I fostered a child, there are sure to have been moments of connection, moments of trust that had been built between the child and myself. It would tear at my heart to have to say goodbye. I guess some would see this as selfish, and I guess it is. Which is why I think fostering with the end goal to reunite the child with their birth family is NOT for me. Fostering to adopt though? That is something I think I may be able to better navigate emotionally. Yes, there is still that chance that the adoption would not happen, but the chances the adoption would be finalized is not minimal.
Foster to adopt is an amazing opportunity to connect with those children who have so much to give, but who have been through so many negative experiences in their short lifetime. Foster to adopt gives those children who have been in the foster care system for a couple years or more, and those whose parents will probably relinquish their parental rights, a chance at a forever family.
Before I researched what foster to adopt was, I thought MY adoption was a foster to adopt because I was in foster care for a month before I was adopted. I was actually a domestic adoption. My parents were not interested in fostering a child. They wanted to adopt, and adopt an infant. My adoption was much more expensive than a foster to adopt situation. My birth mom had relinquished her rights soon after I was born.
I had no idea before doing research for this article that there was more than just fostering. I thought ALL foster care was foster to adopt. I actually didn’t realize the focus of the foster care system is to give children a safe place to live temporarily in the hope that their birth parent(s) will get the help and support the need to be successful, loving, and present parents. I was aware that sometimes foster children do return to their birth families. I just didn’t realize that was such a focus of fostering.
As you are reading this article, is your mind turning? Are you thinking about fostering to adopt or fostering? Is your heart trying to speak to you, whispering to start the process of fostering to adopt? If you think you are ready to open your house and your heart to children waiting for forever homes, get your family together and talk it out. Check out Adoption.com and seek out foster to adopt families who would be willing to talk to you and your family about what fostering to adopt entails. Your life’s journey may be just beginning.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan
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.