Q: Is Adoption (domestic or international) expensive?
A: Yes and No. While international adoption can be a pricey endeavor depending on the agency used (for international, only private agencies are available), there are quite a few non-profit organizations that help families through grants and fundraising to cover the expenses involved with adopting a child overseas or outside the U.S. If you’re seeking to adopt a baby domestically, this can also be expensive, because again, you’re going through a private agency. There are still grants available, however, for this type of adoption.
Domestic adoption through the foster system is virtually free. On average, the overall cost of becoming a foster-to-adopt parent is about $500 total (give or take the agency used, state laws, state funding, etc.) AND it’s tax deductible. In most cases, the state government and federal government provide subsidies to aid adoptive parents through the entire process and after the adoption has been finalized (e.g.. if the child requires counseling the state will fund it if the parents can’t). That being said, adoptive parents can choose to use a private agency as opposed to a public agency for various reasons, and not all agencies are created equally. Most of them, however, are non-profits, and require little to no money throughout the process.
Q: Do I have to have confirmed infertility in order to become a foster or adoptive parent?
A: No. In years past, the main reason people became foster or adoptive parents was because of infertility, though even then, being infertile was NOT a prerequisite for becoming foster or adoptive parents. There are some private agencies that help married couples with two years’ or more history of infertility become adoptive parents of babies, but for the most part, those are religious organizations that have specific missions and purposes.
In recent years, the trend has shifted from people with infertility becoming foster/ adoptive parents to anyone who feels “called” so-to-speak, to the lifestyle. Perhaps it is society’s growing social conscience that has lead more people to become parents through fostering or adoption regardless of ability to have biological children.
Q: Do you have to own your own house before becoming foster/ adoptive parents?
A: No. You are not required to own your own house or have a mortgage in order to adopt. You are required, however, to at least be renting your own home (not including renting your parents’ basement). Whether that home is an apartment, a town home, a duplex, or a house doesn’t matter. During the home study, agencies will inquire about where your potential foster/ adoptive child(ren) will sleep and want to know that you can provide a stable “home” for them. Most county (public) agencies require that the child have at least 35 sq. ft. of space that is completely theirs, part of a closet and their own dresser. These agencies will not place a child in your home until those requirements have been met.
Q: Do you have to be married in order to foster/ adopt?
A: No. States do not require that you are married before you can adopt. It is also not a requirement to be heterosexual in order to open your home to children in need. In fact, many in the LGBT community become foster/ adoptive parents and this is not looked down upon. Agencies, first and foremost, will look at a potential “fit” for both child and foster/adoptive family before a placement is ever made. Some placements recommend a “two-parent home or single female home” based on the specific needs of the child(ren). Some private agencies may have more stringent requirements for foster/ adoptive families based upon that organizations affiliations or religious beliefs, but no public agencies hold no such requirements.
Q: Does the foster/ adoption process take a long time?
A: It depends. In most cases, no, it does not take a long time. There is a certain amount of training one must go through in order to be certified to accept children and that can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. This is the part of the process in which the potential foster/ adoptive family has full control over how quickly or slowly they progress through the process. Next, families fill out an extensive application which takes anywhere from approximately two hours to two days (again, this depends entirely on the potential family’s rate of progress). Once the training is complete and the application submitted, the agency begins its “home study” process. This involves at least two highly personal interviews in which individual histories are laid bare (if you aren’t comfortable with sharing almost every nitty gritty detail of your past, fostering/ adopting might not be for you). Once the interviews are finished, the agency will actually study your home or the place you inhabit. They’ll be looking for a lot of safety concerns (are your medicines locked up? Do you have a fire extinguisher?, etc.) as well as the actual space you have to accept a certain amount of children. For instance, if you live in a three bedroom house, one of those presumably occupied by yourself, you could be certified for up to four children (two per each spare bedroom. They also will ask you what you are comfortable with as well. Once the certification process is complete, it could be a matter of hours or a matter of years before you get a placement. This typically depends on the type of child you are willing to accept (are you comfortable with teenagers or are you only wanting to take care of babies?) These are things that families decide during the certification process.
If you go the foster-to-adopt route, once you receive a placement (assuming that the child is deemed “legally free,” meaning, the biological parents’ rights have been terminated) there is usually a six to nine month period where the placement agency makes sure the family is a good fit for the child. This means the child’s caseworker(s), guardian ad litum, lawyers, therapists, and counselors will be in and out of your home on a constant basis. Once this period ends and the family is still a good fit for the child, adoption is brought to the table and a hearing will be held to set a court date to “finalize” the adoption. Once an adoption is finalized, paperwork must be completed, including a small fee to create a new birth certificate for the child which states that you are the child’s parents.
International adoption takes a little bit longer but includes some of the same processes as domestic adoption (i.e. home study, matching, etc.) The maximum time involved in international adoption is said to be two years.
Q: Are children who are in the foster system juvenile delinquents?
A: Simply put, no. Children in the foster care system are there by no fault of their own. In a lot of cases, these kids have been through a lot of emotional garbage that no child should ever have to endure like physical, sexual, emotional, and/or verbal abuse, they have no living relatives who can legally take care of them, their parents are in jail, etc. The VAST majority of cases involve the bio parents not being able to meet the needs of their children in some way. This could mean anything from the parents don’t make enough money to feed their children to the parents have committed some crime and are now incarcerated and therefore unable to take care of their children). This is where people get sensitive and start blaming the awful government for getting involved in people’s private lives. In all honesty, the Department of Human Services in most states and counties, really wants the best outcome for bio-families, meaning, the bio-families are reunited after receiving some sort of aid (financial, educational, therapeutic, etc.).
To get back on topic, there are rare cases in which children are brought into the foster system based on juvenile criminal records or other violence problems, but more-often-than-not, that is the choice of the bio-parents because they have recognized that they can no longer handle caring for the child. These children are usually placed in highly trained and specialized homes that are better equipped to handle violent behaviors or addictions
Q. Are children deemed “special needs” because of cognitive or physical disabilities?
A: There are several reasons a child is classified as “special needs” and while two of those reasons can be cognitive and/or physical disabilities, the majority of the reasons are not. A child is deemed “special needs” based upon one or more of the following:
a) The child is seven-years-old or older
b) The child is a part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together
c) The child is a minority
d) The child has a learning disability
e) The child has a cognitive, physical and/or emotional disability
f) The child has a medical condition
Q. I’ve heard it’s difficult to adopt babies; is that true?
A: The authors of The Fostered Child personally know people who have taken their adopted baby home from the hospital. That being said, research and experience have shown that the adoption process for people requiring babies is a bit more challenging and almost always involves the birth mother, in that, she has a say in who her baby goes to and can possibly choose to take her baby back or even keep her child. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but the process could take longer and obviously is much more emotionally taxing on the potential adoptive parents. There are stories to prove both the negative and positive sides of adopting babies: either the process was seamless and painless, or it was the most horrific experience ever. It honestly depends on how the potential adoptive parents handle emotional roller coaster rides and how much they are willing to try their patience.
If you don’t think you want to deal with the possible emotional trauma of adopting a baby, please consider becoming a foster-to-adopt parent of an older child. After all, babies grow up to become toddlers, children, teenagers, and finally adults. There are so many “waiting children” in the US that desperately need and want a forever family. Check out your local Heart Gallery and go to www.adoptuskids.org to learn more about this type of adoption.
Q: Do I already have to be a parent to foster/ adopt – OR – Can I still foster/ adopt if I already have biological children?
A: Whether you have no parenting experience or your biological children have grown up and left the roost, or you have a toddler and a teenager and want to adopt another, it really doesn’t matter. Caseworkers match children to families that best suit that child’s needs. When you read a description of a child (anyone can do this but only home studied families can actually see more specifics of a child’s file), almost every one comes with a note about what type of family the caseworker would prefer. Sometimes the caseworker would prefer adoptive parents to have no other children and sometimes they prefer the opposite. Either way, everyone pursuing fostering/ adoption – even those who have twenty years of parenting experience – is required to go through specific training and become certified. Taking in a foster child is much, much different than raising a biological child. Those with much parenting experience will know that even between biological siblings, methods used for raising those children could vary because every human being is different and has their own personality.
Q: Can I foster/ adopt a child I’m related to?
A: This is the quote from Adopt US Kids: “By law, both maternal and paternal relatives of children in foster care are considered the PREFERRED placement resources for children so long as they are able to demonstrate they can adequately provide for the child’s safety and well-being.”
Q: Can I foster/ adopt a child outside of my home state?
A: You CAN adopt a child that previously resided outside of your home state. This is ALWAYS assuming that that child is deemed legally free by the child’s home state. In addition, only potential families that have been home studied and certified may inquire about waiting children residing in a different state.
You CANNOT foster a child that resides outside of your home state. In fact, you cannot even foster a child that resides outside of your home county. Your training may be transferred to a different county (should you move) but then you can only foster within that county. This is because, primarily, fostering involves caring for children who are not legally free (meaning, their parents are currently on a treatment plan with the county) and the hope is that the children will eventually be reunited with their biological parents. On principle, states and counties don’t like to separate children from their bio-families. It is disruptive and emotionally traumatizing. That being said, unfortunately, sometimes it becomes necessary and sometimes it is necessary that parental rights be terminated. This is the saddest outcome when a child enters the foster system.
Q: Are there resources and other websites available for people interested in fostering/ adoption? Can we connect with other foster/ adoptive families?
A: Yes! Please refer to the “Web Resources” and “Educational Materials” pages for a long list of resources available to people wishing to become foster/ adoptive parents as well as people who are already foster/ adoptive parents. When you go through the training/ certification process, there will be other families at the same stage as you that you’ll be able to connect and network with. Also, placement agencies are in the position to be able to connect families within their organization. You are not alone in this process! It is highly recommended that you reach out to your social circle for support as well as be open to getting to know the other families in the process with you. You might be surprised to find people you already know!