Adopting a child in Louisiana is similar to adopting a child from most other states in the US. There are some things that are unique to Louisiana, though. There are many different options to explore when you are considering adoption including different components of foster care and a variety of options in private adoption.
1. Adopting a Child from Foster Care in Louisiana
Foster care is a system put in place to provide safe homes for children from traumatic backgrounds. A child is placed into state care when they’ve experienced abuse, neglect, or other trauma in their home of origin. While children are in foster care, their parents work towards improvement. With the help of a caseworker and the approval of a judge, parents create a plan to have their children placed back in their home. Plans usually include therapy, rehab, parenting classes, and other services and support to help parents get on their feet and become better parents.
The purpose of a foster parent is to support children while they wait to be reunited with their parents. Foster parents spend a lot of time taking their foster children to various appointments and working closely with the child’s caseworkers to meet state requirements and the needs of the child. It’s important to understand that the purpose of foster care is ultimately reunification of the parent and child. To ensure that parents are ready, it takes a lot of time. There isn’t a guarantee that children will be adoptable as soon as they are placed with you. The younger the child, the less likely adoption will take place quickly after placement. There are, however, older children whose parental rights have been terminated that are more likely able to be adopted. We will discuss these children in more detail.
To become a foster parent in Louisiana, there is a lot to know. The first step to becoming a foster parent is to attend an orientation with the foster agency you choose. In the orientation, you will get an overview of the agency’s policies, procedures, mission statement, and other helpful information. You can visit the Department of Children and Family Services website to learn more about orientations in your region. If you decide to go through a different Louisiana foster agency, you can do a simple google search to read reviews, find more information, and reach out to them with any questions.
After orientation, you will complete an application to ensure that you meet minimum requirements. These requirements include that applicants are at least 21 years old. Applicants can be single, married, divorced, or widowed. Applicants need to be financially stable, in good physical, emotional, and mental health. Agencies look to see if there is enough space in the home for an additional child and that all background checks are cleared. Once your application is approved, the foster agency will direct you to have fingerprinting done for your background check. Oftentimes, applicants are worried that past mistakes will prevent them from being foster parents. This isn’t always true. The agency will take each situation into account on an individual basis.
One of the biggest pieces of becoming a licensed foster home is pre-placement training. In Louisiana, prospective foster parents must attend at least 7 three-hour trainings. The TIPS-MAPP training program is used in Louisiana to ensure that foster parents are adequately prepared to bring in a child from a trauma background. These trainings include:
- understanding foster care and adoption today.
- understanding separation and loss.
- helping children express and meet their needs.
- helping children maintain and build connections.
- understanding the impact of fostering and adoption on families.
- building support systems for foster and adoptive families.
After training is complete, you can start on the home study process. This is your next big to do before becoming a licensed foster parent. A lot of people find this part of the process intimidating. There’s nothing to be worried or nervous about. Most foster agencies will send you a list of questions and items to prepare for your home study. A home study is an all-inclusive write up of your family and home. Topics covered in a home study include, but aren’t limited to:
- citizenship documentation (driver’s license, birth certificates, immigration documentation, and social security cards).
- marriage and divorce documentation (if relevant).
- employment information (proof of employment, bank statements, tax forms, etc.).
- medical records (vaccinations of children in the homes, pet vaccinations, health insurance information.
Home studies also highlight each member of the family. Case workers want to know about your marriage, familial relationships, hobbies, parenting philosophy, family history, strengths, weaknesses, and religious beliefs. This is an opportunity to share everything about you family, so that the case workers can guide you through which child or children are the best match for your family. The case worker will visit your home, talk with each member of the family, and look through the home to make sure safety protocols are in place.
Reflecting on the home study experience, a licensed foster parent says:
“My husband and I were so nervous for our home study. I deep cleaned the house for a few days before our case worker came. I even wiped inside every kitchen cupboard. I was disappointed when our case worker didn’t inspect the kitchen cabinets to see if the canned goods were stacked to be aesthetically pleasing. Our case worker made us feel comfortable right away. I was afraid we’d feel like we were in an official interview, but it really just felt like friends talking and chatting. She asked me about my childhood, my marriage, and our views on parenting. Before we knew it, the interview and visit were over, and I had a perfectly clean house with a cupboard full of well-stacked cans of beans.”
Once the home study is complete and all other required health inspections, your home will be officially licensed, and you will be ready to receive placements. You will specify with your agency the type of child or children you are comfortable fostering. Things to think about include, age of the child(ren), gender, whether or not you’d be open to more than one and/or a sibling group, the level of medical and emotional needs you’d be comfortable supporting, and how likely the child is to be reunited with his/her birth parents. There are some children that are brand new to foster care and their future is very unknown. There are also children who are towards the end of their journey in foster-care and will soon be available for adoption.
Benefits to adopting through foster care are that you play a big part in a child’s story. You help support them as they heal from traumatic events. In addition, the state pays for the child’s needs and medical care. If and when adoption is finalized, the costs are minimal, if any. The disadvantages include a lot of emotional strain for your family, the unknown of the future, and the possibility that the child or children will be reunited with their parents and you’ll have to heal from that loss. While foster care is an amazing thing, it is very challenging, and all components should be considered.
2. Waiting Children
Waiting children are children who have been in the foster care systems and whose parental rights have been terminated. They are generally older children that are waiting for their forever homes. If you are open to adopting an older child and/or sibling group, this is a great option for you. You can visit the Louisiana Heart Gallery to view the children that are currently awaiting their forever homes. The Heart Gallery partners with professional photographers to take beautiful pictures of these children and the website provides a little biography about the children so you can learn a little more about them.
A large advantage of pursuing an adoption with an older child on the Louisiana Heart Gallery is the parental rights have been terminated, so there won’t be the unknown and long waiting period to hear whether or not they are available for adoption. Also, they have been in the system for a while, so you can know a lot of background information about them. They’ve received medical and therapeutic services and there will be records came from their doctors and therapists. Struggles that come with adopting a child from the Heart Gallery is that the child is generally older. Children who have been in the system for a long time have had more time to experience trauma, even while in care. They often have a lot of emotional distress and struggles that will need significant support. They often have trouble forming healthy attachments and will require lifelong therapy. Before any adoption is finalized, there is a minimum six-month waiting period to assess the compatibility of the child/children with the hopeful-adoptive family. Families will foster these children for six months before the adoption can be finalized.
3. Private Adoption
If you are hoping to adopt an infant or younger child, pursuing private adoption might be a good fit for you. With private adoption, you will work directly with an adoption professional. Some families work with an attorney for processing an independent match. Other families work with an adoption agency. Some families choose to use an adoption consultant, too. With any of these options, families will work with a case worker to complete a home study, just as they would in foster care. A private adoption and foster-to-adopt home study are different. While some case workers can update a foster-to-adopt home study to meet the standards of a private adoption home study, it is likely that a new home study will be written when pursuing a private adoption.
It’s also important to think about the type of child and adoption relationship you are comfortable with. Age, gender, race, level of disability, and open/closed adoptions are all things to research and consider. Whether or not you want an open, semi-open, or closed adoption will play a big part in your adoption journey.
When adopting a child from Louisiana through private adoption, making an independent match can be a less-expensive option. When you match independently, you find a connection to an expectant mom on your own or with the help of a professional connection. There are not as many resources provided for the expectant mother and most fees are paid directly to your attorney.
Using an agency is more expensive (averaging $35,000 – $45,000) but provides a lot of support to expectant and hopeful adoptive families. Private agencies work directly with families to make sure that all needs are met. They connect you with other adoption professionals, walk you through your home study process, provide therapy for expectant moms, and other support services. When choosing an agency, it is important to consider multiple options, read reviews, and consider alternative options. It is important to ask any and every question you can think of before committing to an agency. What is the general wait for a match? How often will your profile be shown? How many matches have they made in the past 5 years? Ask for an itemized breakdown of expenses. Among many advantages to working with an agency, one of the major advantages is that you are more likely to qualify for an adoption grant, which will help immensely with adoption costs.
Finally, you choose to work with an adoption consultant when adopting a child from Louisiana. An adoption consultant prices vary but can be an amazing support to hopeful adoptive families and expectant mothers. An adoption consultant guides you through the adoption process and connects you with attorneys, agencies, and other adoption professionals across the United States. Because they work so closely with so many different professionals, they often hear about available situations and can help to connect hopeful adoptive families with the right professionals to connect them with expectant mothers looking to place their child(ren) for adoption.
Whatever decision you make, it is important to do your research. Talk to your friends who have adopted, join adoption groups on social media, read reviews, call to ask questions, and take every decision seriously. When it comes to the world of adoption, there is a lot of information out there. It’s important to consider every option before investing your time and money into finding the missing piece to your family.
For Expectant Mothers
If you are living in Louisiana and are looking to place your child for adoption, there are many resources available to you. Making the decision to place your child for adoption is such a big choice and you won’t be alone. Finding a strong agency that will support you throughout the process and after, will make a world of difference. Before choosing an agency, make sure to do your research. You want to find an agency that is ethical and puts the needs of the birth mother and her baby very first. Ask for referrals from other birth moms. Ask any and all questions that you want to. Here is a list of adoption agencies in Louisiana to look into:
- Gladney Center for Adoption
- Open Arms Adoptions
- St. Elizabeth Foundation
- Beacon House Adoption Services
- ABL Adoption
A strong adoption agency will offer pre- and post-adoption counseling. They will guide you to specify the type of family you want your child to be placed with and help you to find that perfect fit. They will guide you to resources in the community including medical care, financial support, and legal services. You aren’t alone in this process and finding the right adoption agency will ensure that you feel sufficient support.