Going through the foster care process is somewhere between watching paint dry to driving on a 12-lane highway in Los Angeles—and everything in between! My wife and I have adopted from foster care in two states; we’ve adopted six children and are currently fostering one. We’ve had great experiences, and we’ve had long, drawn-out ones. If I were to tell you that all foster/adoption experiences are all the same, I would be lying. The road to adoption through foster care comes with a lot of traffic, some detours, and one or two express lanes. Let me share a couple with you.
A Trip Down the High Occupancy Express Lane
The #1 question I get from people considering foster care is, “How long is the process?” Generally speaking, it takes 6 to 8 months to become licensed as a foster care provider, depending on which state you reside in. There are many variables, including how quickly your references come back, your background checks, your physician’s statements, and your home inspection. If you have all these things in order, the process will go much quicker. For example, one of my adoptions took 6 months flat (the minimum time of foster to adoption) because we had everything in order, and the parental rights were severed quickly. In a chance meeting at an adoption agency office, we were presented with a beautiful little Jamaican baby girl who needed a home. She had some physical complications from birth, but we took a leap of faith and decided to pursue adoption. We originally weren’t looking to adopt another child; we were just attending a training. One thing led to another, and we were matched with her and approved by the adoption agency as well as the birth mom. Not only was the process to adopt her quick, but we were invited to appear on the Montel Williams TV show to speak about adoption! Though she was born with cerebral palsy, she overcame her difficulties and became a star player on the local traveling soccer team!
Waiting in Traffic
On the other hand, the foster-to-adoption process can feel like sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in New York City. For example, my oldest daughter was placed with us in foster care at age five, but we couldn’t adopt her until she was ten. Yep, five years in foster care! This was due to a long legal battle with the birth dad, who had filed a legal objection to our adoption. The severance (or relinquishing) of parental rights is a serious part of the foster/adoption process and should never be taken lightly. It is important because it is permanent and cannot be reversed. As it turned out, the birth dad finally relinquished his parental rights, realizing it was a tremendous task as a single dad to raise a child with Down’s syndrome, autism, celiac disease, and Grave’s disease, all rolled into one. What was once an adversarial relationship turned into a collaborative one. Together, we signed an adoption agreement and have had a very amicable, open adoption ever since. It was worth the wait.
As Forrest Gump might have said, foster to adopt “is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.” You need to be prepared for anything. Interview other experienced foster/adoption parents and ask about their experience. No two will be the same. Traveling down the foster to adoption route is full of bumps, bruises, and pleasant surprises. It takes guts, fortitude, patience, and flexibility. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
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