Foster care and adoption are two important parts of providing children in care with a loving home environment. Learn how they differ in our blog.
Foster Care Adoption: Navigating the Path - Complete Guide
Explore our detailed guide to foster care adoption. Understand the process, challenges, benefits, & experience of welcoming a child into your family.
Children enter foster care when either their biological parents or the courts decide that they need help to provide a safe and nurturing environment. For example, a child may enter foster care due to a parent’s illness or absence.
In many cases, foster care is meant to be a temporary solution with the goal of reuniting children with their families. Foster care may also be part of the path to permanent adoption, known as "foster care adoption."
What is Foster Care Adoption?
Foster care adoption is the permanent adoption of a child in foster care.
- Foster care adoption is different from the temporary foster care system — it represents a stable, reliable placement for kids in care.
- Foster care adoption provides children and teens with long-term love and support when reunification with parents is not an option
- Adoption from foster care can also be a simpler choice for families that may not be able to afford the costs associated with other forms of adoption.
If you’re thinking about adopting kids in care as a current or future foster parent, you may have many questions, such as:
- What is the foster care adoption process?
- What is the average cost of adoption in the US?
- Can I adopt a baby from foster care?
- What age gets adopted the least?
Below, we’ll dive into how the foster care adoption process works, some challenges you might face along the way, and answer some common questions you may have.
The Foster Care Adoption Process
The timeline for the foster care adoption process may seem like it can take a long time. The process can sometimes take as long as a year to complete.
Foster care adoption involves a thorough screening process for prospective adoptive parents, which includes background checks, home studies, and pre-service sessions to ensure the right fit between an adoptive family and a child in care. There are also ongoing support options provided by certain agencies and other organizations whose mission is to help both parents and children in care.
However, all of these steps help provide the best possible care to children in need — and make sure that there’s a good match between a family and a child in care.
Getting Started: Information and Education
Before starting the adoption process, it’s best to have all the information you need. While it’s true that adoption is a fulfilling and joyful experience, it’s also a significant step to take. You’re caring for a child in need!
It’s important to understand what kids and teens in care are going through — many may be living with trauma or the impact of neglect on their emotional and physical wellness. It can take time for any individual to work through. This also means it may take time for them to warm up to a new adoptive family.
You’ll also want to learn more about the adoption process itself. Blogs and government websites on foster care adoption are a great place to start. If you know anyone who has adopted a child through foster care, they can also be a valuable resource to you.
Submitting Applications and Other Paperwork
The process itself starts with filling out an application to a local organization in your particular state — this application process helps determine if you are a good fit for foster care adoption.
The application and paperwork involved will gather some of your personal information to conduct background checks. This is to make sure that children in care are placed in a loving and nurturing home. All states require criminal and child abuse record checks. In many states, the background investigation includes a check of federal, state, and local criminal records.
Don’t worry — if anything seems complicated, your local organization or home study specialist can help guide you through the process and ensure that you know what you need to do to move forward. They’re there to help!
Preparing for a Home Study
Adopting a child from foster care includes an important process known as a home study.
The purpose of the home study is to make sure that your home is a suitable and safe place for a child to live. Every adoptive family will undergo a home study.
It starts with interviews and checks to learn more about you and your family. Then, social workers will visit your home to see if it is a safe space for a child. Once these checks are done, your case worker will create a report, which includes information such as:
- Education and employment
- Family background
- Social life and relationships
- Parenting experiences
- Home and neighborhood details
- References and background checks
It might seem like a lot, but it is all to make sure that the child will have a good home with the right parents.
How Much Does a Home Study Cost?
The cost of a home study varies by state and adoption method. For foster care adoptions, there may be no fee at all or a very low fee. Some agencies will even reimburse these fees later if they charge one.
Outside of foster care adoption, the fees can be much higher for a home study — ranging on average from $1,000 to $3,000.
Matching Families to Children in Care
After the home study and applications are accepted, it’s time for the matching process — this is where your family will be matched to a child in care.
There are several factors for organizations to consider when making a match. For example, the unique needs and characteristics of the child in care, such as age, gender, medical requirements, and any specific preferences expressed by the child.
On the other hand, they’ll factor in the strengths, abilities, and preferences of prospective adoptive parents, too.
The matching process is another method for organizations to ensure a nurturing and supportive home that aligns with the child's needs. The goal is to find a family that can provide a loving and stable home, helping the child thrive.
Once a match is made, the child in care and the adoptive family may begin getting to know each other. This may involve supervised visits, phone calls, or even spending time together. These interactions allow a child in care and the family to become familiar with one another, build trust, and form a connection before moving toward placement.
Can I Adopt a Baby from Foster Care?
While children can enter foster care as an infant and may be adopted by a foster parent, roughly 36% of children in foster care are age 11 or older.
- Babies that enter the foster care system are often only placed with foster families temporarily — the foster care system’s primary goal is reuniting babies with their parents when the time is right.
- Infants and toddlers in care are often placed with other family members first if reuniting with their parents is not a part of their care plan.
- Additionally, individuals looking to adopt an infant may face longer wait times for placement — many agencies already have a list of approved homes waiting to adopt a baby.
With the above in mind, know that foster care adoption of an infant is possible, but extremely rare. The order of priority in placement is typically parent-first, then relative, then existing foster parent.
What Age of Child is Adopted the Least?
Unlike infants, older children may wait for years to be adopted.
- Teens in care over the age of 14 tend to enter the foster care system for different reasons than younger children.
- Teens in care typically spend more time in long-term foster care without being adopted.
- These individuals are also more likely to age out of care without experiencing the benefits of a stable, permanent family.
While adopting a teen from foster care presents different challenges than adopting younger kids in care, it is also a rewarding experience that can provide older children with a brighter future and better outcomes.
Legal and Court Proceedings
Foster care adoption is only finalized after legal and court proceedings. This is a good thing! It ensures that an adoption is fully legal and permanent.
The process will vary depending on your state. For the most accurate information, we recommend consulting a legal professional in your area. They will have the most up-to-date information based on where you live.
Foster Care Adoption Costs
Adoption outside of foster care is often expensive — for some families, typical adoption costs can rule them out of adoption altogether. Domestic adoptions can cost up to $45,000 in some cases!
However, the good news is that foster care adoption is one of the least expensive adoption routes.
There are three factors that contribute to a foster care adoption fee:
- Home studies
- Legal fees
- Home preparations
In general, foster care adoption costs range anywhere from completely free to around $2,500.
In some states, the three factors above are covered by the state. In others, it’s a minimal fee that will need to be paid.
For example, in California, public organizations may charge a fee of up to $500, with the possibility of additional fees for fingerprinting and medical examinations. However, there are also situations where these fees can be waived, and the adoption is free.
Your best option is to consult a local organization in your state — they will provide all of the cost information you need for foster care adoptions.
Looking For More Information on Foster Care Adoption?
Sevita’s partners help foster parents provide an environment where children can thrive. Mentor Foster Care, a part of Sevita’s companies, will work with you to connect you to children in care who need a home full of love.
Discover more about how foster care services provided by Mentor Foster Care connect kids in care with their future foster families!