With over 100,000 children waiting for adoption through state agencies and more of the over 400,000 in foster care nationwide routinely becoming available, many wonder if state adoption might be a good fit for their family. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to adopt through the state. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you prepared to commit some time?
The process to certify to adopt through the state is much the same as the accreditation process for foster parents, with the addition of acquiring a license to adopt. This includes training classes, a background check, a home study, and other requirements specific to the state or agency.
Once you are certified, it may take some time for your chosen agency to match your family with an appropriate placement. If you already have a specific child or children in mind, this can happen more quickly. After the children are selected, you will have an opportunity to meet them in a public setting and interact with them. The children are introduced gradually to make their transition from state care to your home go as smoothly as possible. An abrupt transition is generally not in the child’s (or your) best interest.
Are you financially prepared?
Many are drawn to state adoption because there is little or no cost involved. Children adopted through the state may be awarded a continued subsidy depending upon their needs. They often have health care plans in place. Be aware that depending upon the gravity their needs, the subsidy may not stretch to meet all expenses. The subsidy should not be considered as income. A family preparing to adopt a child must be financially stable. As there are many ways in which to fundraise for private adoption, finances should not be the primary reason to choose state adoption.
Are you looking to adopt a newborn?
In order to give biological parents time to improve and regain custody of their children, most cases include at least a six month grace period from the time of the child’s removal. This time is often extended based on how well the biological parents comply with the states requirements. Therefore, although there are children of every age in foster care, newborn babies are seldom adoptable. If you are willing to foster prior to adopting, you can specify the ages that you would like to care for. Should parental rights be severed, priority is given first to biological relatives, then to their current foster family, then to other potential adoptive placements. With these factors in mind, a family intent on adopting an infant without fostering first may find that adopting through the state is not their best option. Those willing to consider adopting a sibling group, who are open to any race or gender, or who will accept a child with disabilities are more likely to get a placement quickly.
Are you prepared for a child to leave?
Should you choose to foster prior to adopting with adoption as an ultimate goal, keep in mind that it is generally the state’s priority to reunify children with their biological family. Many of these parents are in hard situations and have made poor choices, but can and will improve for love of their child. If the parents submit to the state’s requirements and demonstrate minimal ability to parent, then the child is typically allowed to transition home. It is not the court’s responsibility to choose which home is better, but rather to reunify the family if at all possible. Being a part of bringing these families back together can be very rewarding. However, if your first priority is to adopt, fostering is a risk. If you are willing to love, parent, and advocate for children provisionally until such time as one may become available to adopt, there is a pressing need for more committed foster parents. Many states are at crisis levels with far more children than there are places for them. There are children, even babies, staying in state offices for lack of a home.
Are you prepared to advocate for a child’s needs?
Children in state care have likely been victims of neglect or abuse. The process of being removed from their home and entering the foster system can be very traumatic, even for very young children. Children coming from these situations may have physical and emotional needs beyond what is typical for their age. Children coming from a situation where they were often hungry will likely hoard food. Children who have been physically abused can be aggressive as they have not often been taught alternative ways to control strong emotions. Many have not had an opportunity to build appropriate, healthy relationships with adults or with their peers and will need guidance. They may need counseling or other therapies. Many are behind in school and will require help to succeed academically. These children need an adult who can accept their needs, love them unconditionally, and guide them to overcome their traumatic beginnings. As this can be a substantial undertaking, all family members must be committed to the process. There are many supports and classes available for adoptive parents to help them be successful. Your social worker may help with this during the transition period. Be prepared to seek them out yourself should it become necessary.
Potential adoptive parents need not look outside their own community to adopt. Families or individuals with room in their hearts and homes, who are willing and able to care for these children are sorely needed. You can make a profound difference in the life of a child.