children available for adoption

Children Available for Adoption

children available for adoption
Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

There are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. However, not all of the children in the foster care system are available for adoption, as the primary goal of foster care is for children to return to their homes and reunify with their families. However, there are over 100,000 children available for adoption who are currently in need of an adoptive family. These children’s parents have either relinquished rights or had their rights terminated due to abuse, neglect, or a myriad of other reasons. These children are often in long-term foster placements or in group homes, many of them without a stable familial environment where they can heal and grow. These children are anxiously awaiting a family to call their own. They may be hurting from the loss of their first family and in need of a family to provide them with consistency, care, stability, and, most of all, love. 

What Happens if Children Available for Adoption are not Adopted?

So – what happens if a child from foster care is not adopted? If a child remains in the foster care system with no prospect of a potential adoptive home, they will work with their social worker towards a goal of emancipation, also known as “aging out” of the foster care system. They age out (or emancipate) at different ages, depending on the state. In some states, they will age out at age 18, and in others they age out at 21. However, regardless of what the emancipation age is, they can always choose to age out when they are 18 years old. Many of them do choose to age out because they believe the foster care system has failed them and they don’t want to take part in it anymore. When a child’s goal is emancipation, they are often required to take life skills and financial classes, which can help significantly with some of the practical needs they should have once on their own. But a significant problem remains: these children may not have positive adult relationships with people who will help them, support them, and love them through young adulthood. Sure, some may have a supportive social worker or other positive mentor, but many do not. While some may return to their biological families, for many this is not an option. If they attend college, they may not have anywhere to go for holiday breaks or long weekends. If they run into financial trouble, they don’t have anyone to fall back on. If they work, they may not have anyone to fall back on when a difficult day happens. This can cause all kinds of issues for children who age out of the foster care system. The statistics are staggering. For the 23,000 children who age out of the foster care system each year, their chances of facing homelessness, unemployment, unwanted pregnancies, mental health struggles, lack of education, prison, substance abuse, or learning disabilities are significantly high. 

It’s troubling that, according to the article The Danger of Foster Children Aging Out of the System, “kids who enter the foster care system after the age of 12 have a 40 percent chance of being legally emancipated at the age of 18 from the system.” Many older children who enter foster care never even expect or hope to find a forever adoptive family because they believe that no one wants older children. Could we write a different story for these children available for adoption? 

Reasons Why Children Are Waiting 

There are so many reasons why some of these children are waiting for adoption and the reasons are complex and vary from child to child. The reason could be as simple as no one has seen them via photolistings, as there are so many children available for adoption. Other times, it is because of a complicated situation in their case. However, here are three common reasons why these children are waiting:

1. Older Children Available for Adoption and Complex Trauma 

Many of the children waiting for adoption are considered “older,” meaning that they are over the age of seven. Many people steer away from adopting older children because they assume that with age comes more trauma, and with more trauma, comes more extreme behaviors. While this could be true, it isn’t always the case. Every single child (even newborns) who has experienced foster care or adoption has experienced trauma: the trauma of being separated from the primary caregiver. This trauma is likely to be with them their entire lives, but there is hope for healing! 

While there might be some difficulties that come with adopting older children, there are also so many blessings. Older children can be fun and hilarious. They can help with younger children. I’ve only known my children since they were nine and thirteen, and it has been so fun to see their personalities develop and to see them heal, learn, and grow. They are beautiful members of our family, and I cannot imagine our lives without them. 

2. Special Needs 

There are a significant number of children available for adoption who have special needs. This could mean that they have an outward special need or disability, such as down syndrome or autism, but it also could mean that they have a learning disability or a diagnosis such as ADHD, dyslexia, etc. Although it is important to consider if you can handle these types of special needs and be able to care for these special children, you should also know that there are often many resources for families with children who have special needs. 

3. Siblings 

In the world of foster care and adoption, it is often very important that they try to keep siblings together as much as possible. Children who have been removed from their homes have already experienced the major trauma of being separated from their birth parents. Removing them from their siblings could only be  heaping on another trauma. Many times, this sibling separation can cause children to spiral out of control, acting out their pain through their behaviors. If at all possible, it is essential for siblings to stay together. They would rather not be adopted at all than be separated from their siblings. However, it can be difficult to adopt multiple siblings at once. Each child comes with a complex set of needs, and when you adopt three at once (for example), it can be overwhelming. It’s possible, though! Families who choose to do this should have a solid support system in place before beginning the adoption process. 

Four Things to Consider with Children Available for Adoption

Adoption provides hope for children and also for families, but it is important to acknowledge that adoption can come with great loss. Here are four things to consider when looking into adopting a child available for adoption: 

1. Understand Complex Trauma and Behavioral Challenges 

As stated before, many of the children available for adoption exhibit difficult behaviors. However, most (if not all) children who have been adopted exhibit difficult behaviors because of their complex trauma. They can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), and may possibly have more mental health challenges on top of that. Because of the trauma they have faced in their pasts, they may live in the fight, flight, or freeze part of their brain, where they may feel unsafe even if their environment is now safe, which can cause them to act out. Through connected parenting, time, counseling, and therapy, children can have the opportunity to heal from their trauma. They can create new attachments with their caregivers, which can rewire their brains to trust and feel safe again. Although adoptive parents are not the healers of the trauma, they can provide healing homes that provide safety for children who have never experienced safety and love in this way. 

Adopted children have lost their first families, which can cause unspeakable grief that can go unacknowledged by others. Because of this grief, in addition to the trauma experienced, children available for adoption are often matched with families who are willing to be a safe place for healing for their children. Potential adoptive parents must be informed about trauma and how it affects their brains, behaviors, and development. Once adoptive parents recognize this, they can make sure to have the support, such as counseling, therapy, or sensory support, that their child needs when they enter their home available . But homes can be the healing environment that a child needs to sort through their complicated past and hurt. 

2. Be Aware of Special Needs 

Many children who are available for adoption also have special needs, sometimes visible and sometimes not visible. For instance, many children on the adoption photolisting have autism or Down syndrome. Others may have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD), which are often far more difficult to diagnose because they carry many of the same characteristics of other common diagnoses, such as ADHD and PTSD. Although children who have special needs come with distinct challenges, they can also bring unfathomable joy and each one has unique, valuable characteristics. 

3. Consider Open Adoption 

Much of the grief and loss that adopted children face can be mitigated if they are able to maintain connections with their birth family. If safe and possible, it may help children feel more comfortable and loved when they are able to communicate with their birth family. When the adoptive parents show that they care about the adopted child’s birth family, it can show that they love and care for the adopted child. Maintaining even a small connection and communication with the birth family may be able to ease some of the pain that comes from being separated from them.

4. Every Child Deserves a Family 

It is important to acknowledge the potential difficulties that can come from adoption, but it is also essential to remember this important truth: every child deserves a family. Every child deserves to belong. Whether they have a special need, are older in age, or have siblings they wish to stay with, they are worthy of a healing home and a family to love them and be there for them. 

Based on the trauma that they have experienced in their lives, many of their special needs and behavioral challenges make sense. And there is hope for healing for them. Prospective adoptive parents just need to be willing to say yes to the beauty and hardship of adoption. 

Our Story 

My husband and I entered into the world of foster care to serve as foster parents, and if adoption became an option, we would certainly consider it. However, we were more interested in family reunification and developing positive relationships with biological families. When we received our first call, it was a pre-adoptive placement for a 9-year-old boy. Although we were only 26 and very unsure of ourselves as potential adoptive parents, we decided to say yes. Our son would have been considered an “older child,” and older children are less likely to be adopted than a younger child. Later, my beautiful 15-year-old daughter joined our family through adoption from foster care as well, with a similar story. We were scared, but we said yes anyway. And I’m so glad we did!

How to Get Started 

1. Look at the adoption photolisting website to become familiar with the precious children who are available for adoption. 

2. Check out the How to Adopt a Child Guide. This will give you some basic information for how to start the process. 

3. Contact your local adoption or foster care agency. When considering children available for adoption, you will likely need to look into matched adoption, which will require you to get an adoption license. This will likely involve taking classes to learn more information about trauma, connected parenting, and the legal information required to adopt. 

4. You will also be required to do a home study

Sometimes I think about what would’ve happened if we didn’t say yes. My children’s sweet faces also would have ended up on an adoption photolisting website, just waiting for someone to say “yes” to them. These photolisting websites show us these children’s smiles and what they enjoy. But in their one-sentence description, are you able to see their longing for a family? Can you see their talents and abilities? From this one picture, can you see how much they will love you? Can you feel their hugs? No, only saying “yes” can show you that. Can you say “yes” to a child available for adoption? 

Karly Pancake

Karly Pancake is a foster and adoptive mom, Spanish teacher, and wife to TJ. They live in Denton, Texas, where they adopted two children through foster care. Her children have changed her life forever in all the best ways. Nothing about her journey to motherhood has been what she expected, but she has certainly loved the adventurous ride. Karly’s a big fan of University of Kentucky Basketball, running, and, of course, pancakes. She is passionate about fostering and adopting older children in the foster care system and has been a foster parent since 2017. She started writing to process adoption and becoming a mother, and she hopes to help others on the adoption and foster care journey through her writing. You can find more of her writing at her blog Foster Truth or on her Instagram WeFosterTruth.