I was adopted at age 18 months by my foster parents. They had received me as a foster child at age 4 months, and in the 1970′s, foster parents weren’t encouraged to adopt the children they cared for so this was an anomaly at that time.
My parents continued to take foster children my entire time growing up at home, and my Mom is still a foster parent today (she has been for 37 years). I am the only child they adopted. They told me that once they got to keep me, it was easier to let go when it was time for other children to move on or return home.
I always wanted to adopt a child to have the chance to give someone else the chance I had been given; however, I never planned to be a foster parent. Through a very unique set of circumstances, during my search and reunion with my biological mother, my 4 year old biological half brother landed in foster care in our neighboring state. My husband and I immediately contacted our local social service agency to begin the foster parent licensing process so he could be with us.
Foster Parent licensing is a slow and complicated process by itself – as it should be. Because my brother was across state lines, our process was further bogged down by the requirement of an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children or ICPC. This requires paperwork to go from the local county to the state Capitol to be sent to the reciprocating state’s Capitol and then to the receiving county. EVERYTHING has to go through this system, and as you can imagine, it takes forever!
We were eventually able to get my brother to our home, and quickly after that, parental rights were terminated and we moved forward to adoption. There were many hiccups and a few times when it looked like everything would fall apart, but we persevered, and only slightly more than a year later, our adoption was finalized.
Fostering with the goal of adoption was a no brainer in this situation. It allowed us to have the child in our home, bonding and adjusting, while the formal details were worked out. We continue to be non-relative foster parents and would consider adopting a foster child again if the circumstances were right.
The reason I would suggest foster to adopt to other people looking to add to their family is that it gives you time with the child before anything is formalized: a trial period if you will. While it may sound harsh to “try things out”, it’s important to know that you and the child are going to be a good fit and blend well with other members of your family. This does not ensure there will be no surprises down the road. There is also the possibility you will get a foster child and fall in love only to have them return home or have a relative surface and take custody. A bonus to this route of adoption is that there is no legal costs to you and you have support and guidance of many professions and community services along the way as well as future protection if mental health or medical issues would arise. All of these details vary state to state and sometimes county to county so you should definitely consult with your local county licensor before deciding if this is the right choice for you.
There are many “waiting children” in every state, of every age group, and of every ethnic background. Foster to adopt is by far the most practical, and probably the fastest, way to adopt a child into your family. I encourage you to at least explore this option in your adoption journey. Good luck!