While some families prefer the more certain end result of the adopt-only option of foster care, others prefer the foster-to-adopt option. I’ve gotten to work with some really great families adopting both ways. And families who only ever set out to foster and found themselves absolutely in love with the kiddos living with them. I’ve also interacted with families who only ever want to foster, and I have a deep respect for them, too.
Foster-to-adopt starts with the same licensing process as adopt-only. Very simply put, the licensing process involves 27 hours of training, background checks, physical exam, personal and work references, and interviews. At the end of it, you’re licensed and you have a home study specifying the “type” of children you’re interested in fostering and/or adopting: age, gender, sex, race, level of needs.
After families are licensed, the path looks fairly different. While adopt-only families are generally chosen in a staffing, foster-to-adopt families have children placed in their homes like all other foster parents. Depending on the broadness of your preferences and your community’s needs, you may be waiting different lengths of time for that first placement.
Agency staff, like myself, receive information when a child comes into foster care or needs to be moved to another foster home. I call foster parents who take the “type” of child needing placement and share as much information as I can with them about the child. I’ve made most of these types of calls after hours when a child just comes into foster care with very little information. Honestly, with new cases, I usually only know kids’ age, race, gender and any medical or mental health diagnoses. Because of this — and other reasons coming up — foster-to-adopt has quite a bit more uncertainty involved. If the child is moving from one foster home to another, I know a lot more information, and we try to plan several pre-placement visits.
After placement, the wait to see what happens with the case and the parents’ rights can be tough on families. Sometimes relatives are identified, and since preference is given to relatives, the child is moved. Sometimes termination of rights takes a really long time. (This can vary widely by state.) Sometimes kids are reunited with their families, and this is worth celebrating in many cases. There are a lot of variables, and a foster family has very little control over the outcome of a case.
One perk — in my opinion— to fostering a child before parent rights are terminated is that sometimes it is safe and appropriate to know and support the biological parents, grandparents, siblings, and relatives. I know many foster families who send regular photos to the child’s family members or call occasionally to share updates. This provides a great opportunity to minister to and encourage the child’s family during a really hard time. If you don’t think you can be supportive of birth parents’ rights to their children, foster-to-adopt may not be the best. I’ve seen foster parents wanting to adopt thwart the legitimate progress and growth biological parents are making, and it’s sad.
The 6-month placement before adoption rule applies to foster-to-adopt families, as well, though kids have usually been in the home longer than this. Generally, there is a 45-day waiting period after termination of rights before an adoption can occur.
Foster-to-adopt is great for people with a high threshold for uncertainty. It’s also fitting if you view foster care as an opportunity for biological parents to work on their challenges, as opposed to an opportunity for them to lose their children. Foster-to-adopt gives you ability to know a child from their very earliest time in foster care. And for those interested in adopting younger children, you may even get to know them from the time they were discharged from the hospital. You’ll get to experience things first hand, as opposed to reading it all in their file after you’re chosen as a pre-adoptive family, as you would if doing adopt-only.
Again, just as international adoption is not all around better than domestic adoption, foster-to-adopt is not necessarily better than adopt-only. It’s a preference thing, and a preference thing only.
Read about the adopt-only option.
Do you have questions about adopting from foster care (or adoption, in general)? Please feel free to comment here or email me at email@example.com! It’s one of my favorite topics to talk about.