Adoption is full of acronyms and phrases that can be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the process. The phrase “foster to adopt” is one adoption phrase that is very straightforward! Foster to adopt is the process of taking children into your home as a licensed foster parent with the intent of adopting one or more children. With over 100,000 children who are available for adoption currently waiting in foster care for a forever home, it is evident that families interested in pursuing foster to adopt are greatly needed. In many states, since there are so many children who are free for adoption and need homes, foster to adopt is a great option for families who are open to adopting an older child or adopting a sibling set. In some states, however, you must be open not only to foster to adopt as an
Children in foster care who are free for adoption tend to be “older,” or at least not infants. The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old. Additionally, the majority of children in foster care have siblings who are also in foster care. So, if you are looking to adopt just one child, and only want to adopt a newborn, odds are, that foster to adopt might not be the best choice for your family. However, if you can see yourself being willing to expand your family by more than just one child, and having that child or children be above the age of 8, foster to adopt could be a good choice for you. You will also need to be open to maintaining relationships with other biological relatives. Your family may expand by more than just this child: extended family often continue to play a role in a child’s life even after they have been adopted by a nonfamily member, and research shows that maintaining a relationship with a child’s biological family, if it is safe and appropriate, is best long-term for their self image and identity as an adoptee.[dfp_ads id=46] The process of pursuing foster to adopt will vary slightly depending on your state; however, one requirement all foster families will need to complete in order to foster or foster to adopt is the home study. In a home study, a licensed social worker will visit your home and your family a number of times to get to know you, ensure you are fit to parent, and that your home is safe and could comfortably accommodate another child or children. This process can be intimidating for those who have not been through it before, and many are worried that the social worker is looking to “catch” them and find a reason to disqualify them. On the contrary, these social workers know the tremendous need for foster families and are eager to ensure that any family who is qualified to foster can do so. To qualify, you don’t need to be wealthy or have a home that looks like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. You just need to have the room in your home and heart for a child who needs a loving family. You will need to pass a background check, show that you have a means of income, and will work with your social worker to help determine how many children, what age children, and what kinds of special needs your family would be best equipped to handle. While it can be daunting to feel like you’re required to talk about private details of your life with a stranger, your social worker can be your biggest asset and a tremendous source of support for you during the home study process and beyond if you are willing to see them as an ally rather than the enemy.
Many people who pursue foster to adopt are concerned about the possibility of adopting a child who has experienced abuse, neglect, or other trauma in his or her life. While many, if not most, children in foster care have been separated from their biological families due to abuse or neglect, this does not mean they are “damaged goods.” The training you will receive as well as support you will receive after placement as a foster to adopt family will help you learn about the basics of what is known as “therapeutic parenting.” While it is true that parenting a child who has experienced these traumas requires a different set of “tools,” any child, adopted or biological, is her own unique person with her own set of challenges and requires parenting that is unique and best serves her needs. With the love, stability, and permanency of a forever family, though additional work with therapists, social workers, behavioral therapists, or other specialists may be involved, children adopted from the foster care system can show great improvements and go on to be both productive members of society and cherished members of their forever family. It is often said that the best parts of life, those that are most rewarding, are the parts that require more effort, and this is true of parenting a child adopted from the foster care system. Like with any child, seeing him grow into interesting, talented, capable young adults is tremendously rewarding. Many celebrities and other public figures were once foster children including Marilyn Monroe, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Vidal Sassoon, Coco Chanel, and Babe Ruth, just to name a few. Foster to adopt can be a wonderful way of building your family and providing a family to a child or children who so desperately yearn for one. While it requires effort on your part, both to become licensed to foster as well as to parent your adopted child, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. If you are open to adopting an older child or a sibling group, check with your local foster agency to see what the first step is in becoming a licensed foster family and pursuing foster to adopt. Odds are, in your very own city, are hundreds if not thousands of children who are legally free for adoption, awaiting a permanent, loving forever family.