How Do You Adopt From Foster Care?
Everything You Need to Know
According to the latest information from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children's Bureau, there were 400,000 children in foster care in 2020. Of those children, over 100,000 are waiting to find a forever home. We have 2000 kids ready for adoption in Virginia.
If you're considering adopting a child from foster care, you could make a massive difference in that child's life. However, there are many factors you should consider first to ensure you're fully prepared to go through the process.
Why Are Children in Foster Care?
Children may enter foster care for many reasons, such as abuse or neglect. Birth parents have the opportunity to take action and complete services to return the children to them, but only if it's in the child's best interest.
Many kids in foster care will return to their birth families. However, many more become available for adoption, waiting for their forever families.
Sometimes, a family member or relative will adopt these children. Others are cared for by foster parents.
How Are Foster Adoptions Different?
The process involves a lot of decision-making, paperwork, and preparation. Fostering from adoption is unique in a few ways.
While it may be possible to find a baby up for adoption from foster care, most children ranging from toddler age to 18. Children aged one through five represent the most significant percentage of kids in foster care.
Suppose you're serious about adopting a child in foster care. In that case, you must remember that they have gone through some traumatic experiences. Your comfort and support are vital at this time. To help them heal, you'll need to take some extra steps.
You'll need to be patient and understand them to provide foster children with the environment they need to feel safe and comfortable.
That said, there are times when adoption doesn't work. Children in the foster care system sometimes don't want to be adopted. They may have a negative perception of family or may not be ready for change.
Don't give up! There are still many children out there waiting for their forever families. Keep searching, and you'll find the perfect match.
Adopting From Foster Care: What You Need to Know
Before adopting a foster child, you must ensure you meet all the requirements and that you'll be a good fit.
Each state has different adoption requirements and laws. For instance, age requirements can vary by state.
Make sure you learn about your state laws and speak with an adoption specialist if you need to know more.
In Virginia, parents interested in adoption must meet a few requirements. They must be 18 or older and have the time, energy, and capability to care for a child.
The Commonwealth of Virginia doesn't discriminate or prevent a person from becoming an adoptive parent based only on culture, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital or civil union, or domestic partnership status. Everyone has access to adoption services.
An agency may have separate qualifications and follow a specific process to determine the best fit for the children in their care.
What Can Disqualify You?
Certain factors can disqualify someone from becoming a foster parent. For one, your income must be suitable for yourself, your family, and the child you plan to bring into your family. You must also attend all training sessions before adoption.
Our five training sessions include Orientation, Licensed Child Placing Standards, Grief and Loss, Behavior modification, and Childhood Trauma. These classes teach you valuable skills and knowledge you'll need to care for a child.
It's vital that the environment is safe and that you can provide proper care and support.
You are not the only one that will be around the child, so we also interview other household members to ensure the best fit. If the adoption agency has any concerns about someone's character or if they feel the home would not be a good fit for a child, they may disqualify you.
As a potential adoptive family, you need to be mentally and physically healthy to care for a child post-adoption. You must also provide honest and reliable information to the agency. Any dishonesty or misleading information can result in disqualification.
A common question people ask is whether they can adopt a child with a criminal record.
All adults in the household over age 18 must undergo a criminal background check as part of the process. Background checks ensure the environment will be safe for the child. If someone was involved in a violent crime or if the offense involved a child, they would most likely be unable to move forward in the process.
A social worker may decide whether someone with a felony can care for a child.
Fostering a Child First
Your state may require that you are approved to foster before you adopt; this is known as being dual-licensed.
If you're adopting through a Licensed Child Placing Agency, you can receive approval before fostering. That said, many foster care children are adopted by their foster families.
Parents that are considering adoption will find many benefits to fostering first. You can begin parenting sooner and gain valuable experience. You also bond with the children in your care and can experience parenting children of different ages.
Being approved to foster while you are waiting to adopt can help reduce delays and additional paperwork. Placement can occur more quickly.
Connecting With an Adoption Specialist
Once you've decided that adopting a child from foster care is the right move for you and you've contacted the agency, the next step is to learn more.
You'll get connected with an adoption specialist or caseworker who will explain the process and the steps you need to take to get started.
Take time to talk with your clinical specialist about your goals and expectations and ask any questions you have. If you plan on following the foster-to-adopt path, let them know.
Please book an appointment with our foster advocate to learn about the journey ahead of you.
Attend Training and Orientation
After speaking with the agency and submitting an application, you'll have to attend the required training and orientation. These sessions teach potential adoptive parents about the process, what's expected, how to care for a child, and more.
These classes are the best way to gather information on the adoption process and learn what you need to do.
Complete the Home Study
The next step is the home study. All states require a home study before hopeful parents can be cleared for adoption. A home study can be an overwhelming part of the process. Please understanding what's expected of you before this stage can help, and you have many professionals willing and able to help you.
You'll need to submit specific documentation, undergo background checks, and schedule home visits and interviews. Here is some of what type of information a home study report includes:
- Daily routines
- Family background
- Financial situation
- Experience parenting
- Reasons for adoption
- Details about your home and neighborhood area
- Background checks
The process can take between three to six months to complete.
You'll need the agreement of all members of your household to continue. Interviews may include speaking with other children in the house and all adults. Make sure everyone in your home is on board for this step in the process.
Matching and Placement
After the home study, you're eligible for a match.
The wait time can vary significantly, depending on your goals and other factors. However, participating in the fostering to adoption process means you could receive a placement much faster.
While fostering, you'll have to wait out the legal process regarding a child's biological parents' rights. These cases can vary in length.
The more open you are to different adoption opportunities, the quicker you'll get matched. During this period, you'll learn more about the child or sibling group you want to foster and whether they are a good fit.
The match needs to be in the best interests of the child and the family. If it is, you can begin meeting with the child or children.
Coping with the wait time can be challenging, but don't get discouraged. You may want to consider joining adoption support groups to help you through.
Petition to Adopt and Finalization
There's a transition period after a child is placed in your care, which allows you time to adjust. Before adoption, the child's biological parent's rights must have been terminated, known as Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).
The mandatory waiting period is around six months, though it can be longer.
There will be several post-placement visits to ensure everyone is adjusting well. After this period, you can finalize the adoption.
You'll have to attend a finalization hearing. The judge will sign a final adoption decree. You can celebrate because your foster child is now legally a part of your family!
Adoption From Foster Care
Now that you know more about the process of adopting a child from foster care, you should consider if it's the best choice for you and your family. Hopefully, this guide will tell you more about the process and what to expect.
Please fill out our online form to learn more about becoming a foster parent and adopting from foster care. An adoption advocate will reach out to you soon, and you can begin this exciting journey!