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Adoption within the USA Foster Care System

Adopting a Waiting Child from Foster Care

Foster care adoption involves adopting a child/children who are currently living in the foster care system. While most children who are adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents or relatives, there are still thousands of children waiting for their forever families in the foster care system. Here are some current statistics about foster care:

•There are approximately 513, 000 children living in foster care in the United States. An estimated 114, 000 are currently available for adoption (meaning, parental rights have already been terminated).

•In 2005, approximately 51,000 children were adopted from foster care.

•68% of people who adopt from foster care are married couples, 27% are single females, 3% are single males and 2% are unmarried couples.

•The median age of a child in foster care is 10.6
•Race/ethnicity of a child in foster care: 41% Caucasian, 32% African-American, 18% Hispanic, 1% Asian, 8% Other.

•The average child in foster care goes through three different placements and stays in the system for nearly 29 months.

•Each year, about 20,000 children age out of foster care.

Most children placed in foster-to-adopt homes are children who are deemed "legal risk" or likely to be available for adoption within a reasonable time frame. In these cases, you foster a child until parental rights are terminated and then you adopt (as long as there are not relative interested in adopting). There are also many children who are already available for adoption living in the foster care system (these children are generally older, sibling groups or have special needs).

The Process of Adopting from the Foster Care System

The first step in adopting from foster care is to locate an agency. In most states, the Department of Public Welfare or Department of Social Services (also known in many states as the Department of Job and Family Services), handles all foster care and adoption cases (you can usually find contact information on your state government's website). In some states, public agencies contract with private agencies to handle foster and adoption cases.

Once you have contacted the agency you must submit an application (this is where you will state your specifications regarding the child/children you are interested in having placed in your home) and complete your homestudy. As with infant adoption, adopting a child from foster care requires you to attend and complete "parenting classes." I often hear people say that, "anyone can have a baby, but to adopt you have to be "taught" how to be a good parent." Although some may roll their eyes (typically those who already have children in their home and feel they are experts in the art of parenting), I assure you that, parenting an adopted child, especially a child who has experienced physical or emotional abuse or trauma, is much, much different than parenting a biological child raised from birth (this will be addressed in another post because it is THAT important). These classes are important and will give you A LOT of insight into parenting a child who has been living in foster care. These classes typically take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to complete.

After you have completed your homestudy and required training, you wait for a child to be placed in your home (unless you are adopting a child who is already available for adoption, at this point you would be able to submit your homestudy to the child's case worker for consideration). Wait times vary greatly depending on your specifications for a child. Once a child is placed in your home you wait for them to become available for adoption. Once the child is legally available for adoption, the finalization process typically takes 6+ months. If you are adopting a child from foster care who is already legally available for adoption at the time of placement in your home, most states require that the child reside with you for 6 months until the finalization process can begin (this gives the child and the family the opportunity to make sure that the placement is a good fit).

A few things to keep in mind when adopting from foster care:

•The fees to adopt from foster care are minimal to non-existent (most fees can be reimbursed following finalization), wait times can often be shorter than in private or international adoption (although this is not always the case), and there are many young children, toddlers and even infants, available for adoption (although wait times for younger children are generally longer). In many cases subsidies are available for the child's living expenses and medical care even after the adoption is completed (these subsidies generally must be applied for and approved PRIOR to finalization, however).

•When accepting a "legal risk" placement there is always a chance that parental rights may not be terminated and the child may never become available for adoption. There are also many instances where family members step forward to parent the child when parental rights are terminated. When accepting a "legal risk" placement there is a great deal of emotional risk involved. Some families go through several placements before they are able to complete an adoption.

•ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) is also a factor when adopting a child from foster care who is already legally free for adoption.

The following are some wonderful websites with more information on domestic adoption, both infant and foster care:

•AdoptUSKids (Includes a photolisting of kids waiting in foster care. I can literally spend hours at a time browsing the pictures and descriptions of all of these amazing kids. It is my guilty pleasure!)

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 8:25 PM on May. 15, 2011 in Adoption

Answers (6)
  • great information, Thank you

    Answer by SassySue123 at 8:30 PM on May. 15, 2011

  • I havent read this post yet, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable if this hadn't been posted by anon. I mean, why would you do that? Are you hiding something?

    Answer by onethentwins at 12:31 AM on May. 16, 2011

  • onethentwins, there's nothing to hide with this--it's all true. I've looked into it before.

    Answer by laird6372 at 1:54 AM on May. 16, 2011

  • OTT- It is pretty much a copied/pasted bit of info about the process of's legit and it doesn't read like anything other than information about the process. I thought the same until I read it and realized it is stuff I already knew about the process.

    Answer by mcginnisc at 8:52 AM on May. 16, 2011

  • The problem is that the state foster agencies make it practially impossible!  

    We tried to adopt a waiting child from another state.  Our state refused to allow us to take the parenting classes for an out-of-state adoption.  We even offered to pay for the classes.  They still refused.

    Then, we tried to register as foster parents in our state.  Our county held parenting classes only at 5 pm and only in a remote area requiring substantial travel time.  What professional can leave his office at 4 pm?  No other classes or online classes were available.


    Answer by Anonymous at 11:25 PM on May. 17, 2011

  • Finally, our state foster agencystarts the entire process over even if the PAPs are home-study ready to adopt through domestic infant adoption.

    When I mentioned that our fingerprint check was already on file with the state and ready to be sent to a judge for an adoption, the social worker gave me a "deer in headlights" expression and said that they would have to do the fingerprints again. (Talk about a waste of taxpayer money! The fingerprints were already done. Even the state didn't undertand why they would need to be redone)

    The foster agency also refused to accept our homestudy. Ok, so we could have it done again. They said it would take a year to do the homestudy. And, then, we could start thinking about a placement.  Gee whiz!  


    Answer by Anonymous at 11:28 PM on May. 17, 2011

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