On average, there are around 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, waiting for their permanent home. They vary in age from infant to adult, although the average age is around 8 years old. Some have siblings in the system as well. Most of these children are perfectly healthy kids who just need a loving and supportive adult in their life. When parents are looking to adopt a child, an option available to them is fostering to adopt.
Once a family has decided to adopt a child from foster care, they need to consider the costs involved. Foster care adoption is not as expensive as many believe. A child in the foster care system may be eligible for adoption assistance. Benefits differ from state to state, but generally, all states provide medical assistance, monthly cash payments, social services, and possibly a one-time payment for non-recurring adoption costs. Loans and grants may be available, and the parents’ employers may also provide adoption benefits.
The next step is to choose an adoption agency. Families working with a public agency typically will not incur many costs. Using a private adoption agency or an attorney will carry additional costs. Typically, though, these costs can be recouped through the federal adoption tax credit, once the adoption is finalized.
Once a family has chosen an agency, they begin to complete the requirements to be eligible to adopt. This can take, on average, anywhere from nine to 18 months to complete. Families must complete a home study and adoption preparation classes. Even if these classes are not required by the agency, it is strongly recommended that parents complete these courses, so they can gain an understanding for what issues may arise when a foster child joins a family. Once these requirements are complete, a family will be eligible to adopt a child.
When a family finds a child they are interested in adopting, it is obviously very important that they find out all they can about this child. They can talk to past foster parents and social workers. Families need to learn the basics, such as the child’s favorite games or toys, as well as their medical history and information about the birth parents. Knowing everything about the child will make the transition from foster care much smoother.
When the child has been placed in the adoptive family’s home, the adoption agency will monitor the placement for about 6 months, to ensure everyone is adjusting. The social worker may call or visit, to discuss how the placement is working for everyone. After this time period has passed, the agency will recommend to the court to approve the adoption, and the adopting family will file a petition. This petition includes statements from the child’s social worker that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, as well as from the adopting family, declaring their desire to adopt.
A finalization hearing legally completes the adoption process. This usually takes place within 6 to 12 months after the child is placed in the family’s home. The family will be asked open-ended questions about why they want to adopt, how will they care for the child, and how will the family adjust to a new child. When the judge signs the adoption order, the family gains legal custody of the child, and their life with their forever family can begin!