I would be remiss if I did not blog about adopting from foster care. While international adoption is the best choice for our family right now, adoption from foster care is the best choice for many others. Prior to grad school, and really even before working in the area of foster care, I knew very little about adoption from foster care. I’ll be writing a few posts on this, for those interested.
While many foster kids are adopted by their foster parents, some are not. I recently had the opportunity to recruit families for several kids on my case load. While not a huge aspect of my job, I very much enjoy recruiting*.
When the parental rights of kids’ parents are terminated (or even before) and their case goal is adoption but they have no adoptive resource identified, I begin recruiting potential adoptive families. I gather information about the child, and write a short, punchy profile to email to foster family workers who then pass it on to the families with whom they work. If it appears that a more specialized family will be needed for the child, I post their profiles on websites like Adopt US Kids and The Adoption Exchange.
If families are interested in the child, I email them a longer profile, detailing many, many aspects of the child’s likes, dislikes, background, history, strengths, and challenges. If they believe their family is a good match for the child, they submit their home studies for me to review.
After a certain time, I review the home studies and narrow them down to three to four based on the family’s appropriateness for the child. Much goes into this, and there’s really no exact science to it besides continually assessing the competencies the state has prioritized.
It’s a challenge to assess people based only on a four to ten page document. And so much of it is fairly boring, required information such as criminal history, health insurance, and plans for guardianship. If you’re having a home study written to be used in future staffings, I very much recommend you push the home study writer to include information about your personality, hobbies, attitudes toward parenting, and experiences with children. It’s hard to believe, but some don’t include this, making it very difficult to get a good feel for your family.
Once I’ve narrowed it down, the child’s team (foster parents, therapist, case worker, juvenile officer, etc.) is asked to interview and assess the chosen families. When I’ve done this in the past, it generally becomes very obvious which family is the best fit for the child. It feels horrible to bring in nervous families to interview them in front of several people, but it really does seem to be the best way to make the best decision for the child.
After a family is chosen, a visit plan is set up. The visit plan looks different based on the age and needs of the child, as well as if the child and family live in different places. In my experience, most visit plans include a supervised first meeting in a place comfortable for the child, then several meetings in a neutral place, then several visit in the family’s home, then several overnight visits, and then the permanent move. This usually happens over the course of four to eight weeks.
In Missouri, there is a six-month waiting period after placement before adoption can occur. This can be waived, in some cases, though.
Some agencies I’ve come across do not let families become licensed adopt-only foster families. The need for foster parents in so great and many agencies are under-staffed, so it’s likely that they just don’t have the time to take adopt-only families through the process.
Adopt-only is a good option for people who do not believe they would be able to effectively support birth parents’ rights and reunification by doing foster-to-adopt. (It’s okay to admit it, if this is you!) I can see lots of other reasons someone would choose this, too, such as a desire to be more informed about the child before placement and a fear of the grief that comes in a foster child is reunited with birth parents or moved elsewhere. There are definitely more reasons, and I believe it’s a personal decision that should be thoroughly thought through.
*This is how my agency does it. I don’t doubt this could vary pretty widely depending on the agency with which you are licensed.
Do you have questions about adopting from foster care (or adoption, in general)? Please feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! It’s one of my favorite topics to talk about.