Of the more than 440,000 children in foster care in the United States, there are over 123,000 kids available for adoption right now. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, children in foster care can expect to wait an average of three years to be adopted and the average age of a foster care child is 8.5 years old.

Children of all ages find themselves in a group or foster care home for a variety of reasons. Foster care children are of “every age, race, ethnic group, and socio-economic category…through no fault of their own.” While foster care is one solution, it is a temporary solution and it should not be treated as a permanent solution for any child. All children deserve to be part of a loving forever family if reunification with a birth family proves not to be a safe or viable option.

Hopeful adoptive families interested in learning more about the kids available for adoption have many options available to them, including domestic infant adoption, agency adoption, foster and adoption, and international adoption. Adoption.com offers a photolisting here of waiting children to give prospective parents just a glimpse into the lives of the many children waiting to meet families to call their own.

While adoption can change the lives of children in need in long-lasting and beautiful ways—not to mention the lives of the parents who adopt these amazing kids—adoption is not something to be viewed through rose-colored glasses. While adoption is often equated as hope for many, it is a loving solution borne from a deep loss.

Adoption and Trauma

Adoptive parents should understand the trauma and ensuing grief associated with adoption when considering adopting children at any age. The article, “Age: Just a Number When It Comes to Trauma,” talks about how early childhood trauma affects kids available for adoption. Author Liz Young says, “The majority of children in foster care have experienced some sort of trauma. It could be neglect, various forms of abuse, death of a caregiver, exposure to drugs, or even just the experience of being taken away from the familiar and entering the foster care system.”

Still, not all is lost. “In order to catch up developmentally, children need trauma-informed, trusting adults to form lasting relationships where they have the safety to practice these essential skills. Children who have survived trauma must have a chance to gain back some of what was lost when trauma invaded their lives and hindered their development,” according to Young.

The truth is, most everyone will experience loss and trauma of some sort in their lifetime. When you make the choice to adopt a child you should understand that you are adopting your child’s trauma and loss as well. Acknowledging this loss and taking the time to fully understand and appreciate it will go a long way in helping your child to heal and grow into a strong and secure young adult. Kids are resilient, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need time, patience, and understanding.

Older Child Adoption

Although many prospective adoptive parents looking to grow their families through adoption choose to adopt infants, toddlers, and younger children, it should be noted that older children need families, too. According to the article, “The Danger of Foster Children Aging Out of the System“:

          – “More than 23,000 children will age out of the U.S. foster care system every year.

- “After reaching the age of 18, 20 percent of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.

- “Fifty percent of former foster youth who age out of the system will be unemployed by the age of 24.

- “There is less than a three percent chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.

- “Seventy percent of girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.

- “At least 25 percent of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from the direct effects of PTSD.

- “Sixty percent of young men who age out of the foster care system and are legally emancipated have been convicted of a crime.

- “About one in four kids who age out of the system will not graduate from high school

- “Only five percent of women and 33 percent of men receive government benefits to meet basic needs after they age out of the system.

- “Fifty percent of kids who age out of the system will develop substance dependence.

- “Children with a diagnosed disability of any kind, including a learning disability, are twice as likely to age out of the foster care system.

- “Kids who enter the foster care system after the age of 12 have a 40 percent chance of being legally emancipated at the age of 18 from the system.”

It’s understandable that parents, especially new or first-time parents, may be drawn to infant adoption, which by nature may seem less complicated than taking an older child or teen in—with little to no experience dealing with children. Oftentimes, adoptive parents are criticized for this choice, which is unfair. Parents need to be comfortable with their decision and feel capable no matter what adoption path they choose. Still, with enough research, education, and training, it is possible for even a newbie parent to prepare to take in an older adoptee.

In the Adoption.com article, “Adopting An Older Child,” author Shannon Hicks says, “Adopting an older child is a different experience from adopting a newborn, and it comes with its own unique challenges and rewards.”

Hicks suggests that parents open to older child adoption ask a lot of questions, search adoption photolistings like the one mentioned above or found on the state adoption photolisting services website, Childwelfare.gov, and begin to move toward their adoption journey by completing a home study. The article “Adopting and Older Child: Prepare Yourself for Difficulties and Rewards” offers a list of things typical of aging-out and older children.

Keeping Siblings Together

Similarly, another often difficult group of children to match with families are siblings. While it’s heartbreaking to think that a sibling group may be broken up, not every family is able to or capable of taking in multiple children. The Adoption.com article, “Why Siblings Need to be Kept Together in Foster Care,” discusses the many reasons why siblings should be kept together, including feeling safe, preventing further trauma, and helping children to better adapt to a strange new environment—together. The same can be said for adoption.

That said, just as it is difficult to find foster families willing or able to take in larger groups of children, the burden is even more difficult for adoptive families.

Ask All The Questions

There is no wrong question in adoption and it’s no time to be timid. Adoptive parents should make sure to ask for as much information as is available and push for what is not in the description about the child they hope to adopt.

In addition to photolistings, adoption facilitators should be able to provide more confidential information for families seriously considering adopting a child, such as medical background and social history. This also includes birth family information. All of this information will be valuable to parents in understanding what challenges their adopted child may or may not face as well as the child for a variety of reasons.

Most adoptive families will agree that one of the most frustrating moments is sitting in a doctor or dentist office and not being able to complete even a portion of the medical history. As frustrating as it may be during an annual physical, think about how your child will feel years into the future when they apply for jobs, choose to start a family of their own, or find themselves facing a medical crisis—with no information to reference. Obtaining any medical reports and test results is critical. Be your child’s advocate and insist on receiving as much information as possible for their sake.

Those adopting internationally will want to speak with the child’s close caregivers as well as any medical professionals involved with your child’s case. Typically, just like with domestic adoption, parents should expect to receive a packet of information which includes birth history records, follow-up visits, growth and nutritional records, vaccination information, and social history. While most international adoptions remain closed, adoptive parents can often request sealed adoption records information on behalf of their child.

How Long Will It Take to Adopt?

There are many variables involved in uniting kids available for adoption with forever families, and so it ranges from difficult to impossible to determine how long hopeful parents will have to wait to complete the adoption process. Adoption is basically a two-part process made up of pre-placement and post-placement. Pre-placement includes everything leading up to an offer of adoption, including pre-qualification information, home study, training, and the dreaded waiting period.

Whether adopting domestically or internationally, it’s very hard to promise a set time frame as each adoption is unique. Special needs adoptions can sometimes be completed start to finish within a few months (barring any issues), while the wait for a healthy infant can run between two to seven years.

Who Adopts Kids Available for Adoption?

All children want loving parents. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect child, there is also no such thing as a perfect parent. Going into adoption, you should realize that parenting comes with plenty of ups and downs. Prospective parents should be willing to learn as they go, demonstrate patience, be open to change, and be flexible. They should also be ready to serve in all the roles parents do, such as a doctor, teacher, scientist, problem solver, toy finder, superhero, chef, and gym coach on any given day. Seriously, though, parenting requires the wearing of many hats and adoptive parenting requires you to sometimes wear those hats at slightly different angles depending on the situation.

Similar to pre-placement, the post-placement process does not happen overnight. Your agency and social worker will supervise and instruct your family for a mandated length of time until finalization can occur. Typically, finalization for domestic placement happens approximately six months after placement. International adoption, oftentimes, requires a “re-adoption” process within your state of residence and similar post-placement visits with your social worker.

In the Adoption.com article, “Adoptive Parents,” author Sara Ward says, “Being a parent, whether adoptive or biological, means caring for your children and acting as their legal guardian throughout their life. It involves a lifetime commitment of loving and nurturing your child through every age and stage. Even though many adoptive parents have no biological connection to their child, it does not change how much you love your child or the commitment you have to him or her. This is the beauty of becoming an adoptive family.”

Adoption is a challenging and wonderful experience when approached with understanding, compassion, love, and a much-needed sense of humor—nobody gets parenting right the first time or any time thereafter.

Getting Started

If you feel that you’re ready to begin the adoption process then you can begin by checking out Adoption.com’s “How To Adopt A Child Guide” for information and links to helpful books, blogs, adoption forums, adoption agencies, and support networks. The guide also offers insight into the different types of adoption, financial information, and information on parent profiles.

Prospective parents should plan to:

          – Research adoption by reading articles, magazines, blogs, and requesting information from professionals.

- Call several agencies to request more information.

- Select an adoption agency to provide a home study.

- Reach out to other adoptive families and support groups.

- Seek resources in your community such as pediatricians and educators.

Adoption is a lifelong learning process for all parties involved. There are many kids available for adoption–are you ready to become a forever family to a child available for adoption?

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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.