For those looking to expand their families, adoption is an option you may have considered. The adoption process is long and expensive, and sometimes never works out. After years of trying, our very reputable adoption agency, Independent Adoption Center (IAC), went out of business and we lost all the money we had given the organization. An alternative to adopting a child through an agency is adopting a child through the foster care system. In 2016, when our adoption journey came to end end, there were 117,794 children in the foster care system looking for adoptive parents. We chose to become foster parents and the experience has been eye opening. My wife and I have become advocates for more people to become foster care parents. Here are four things you should know about fostering to adopt:
Going through an adoption agency to adopt a child is a pricey process. The average cost of adopting a newborn child through an agency costs $42,337. Adopting through an attorney and not using an agency costs, on average, $31,890. However, the fees associated with adopting a child from foster care are typically funded by the state, making this type of adoption free or low cost. Some states also offering varying degrees of adoption assistance that can be used to help cover medical expenses and a child’s specific needs. Costs aside, there are young vulnerable children who need you to give them safety and stability at a difficult time in their very young lives.
When adopting through an agency, you have a better chance of being able to adopt an infant. While there is a chance of adopting an infant when adopting through foster care, it is more rare. The median age of a child looking to be adopted from foster care is 8-years-old. Our former foster daughter was placed with us as an infant. We met many others in a similar situation, so there is no shortage of infants in foster care. But that doesn’t mean you will end the fostering journey at adoption. When we became foster parents we had been focused on adoption previously. Somewhere along the way we have become foster parents through and through. We would still welcome an adoption, but as I write in my previous blog post fostering is not the same as adopting. Becoming foster parents changed us. It’s like overlapping your family life as a parent with social action or enjoying a kind of love even bigger than how we felt as adoptive parents.
Children in foster care sometimes end up in the system because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. When this is the case, it leaves them with some lasting trauma, even if they were young at the time they entered the system. Parents who plan to adopt through the foster care system need to attend specific training so they better understand what effect trauma has on a child and what they can do to help the child heal. Having worked with hundreds of students who had a history of trauma as an alternative high school principal, I thought I knew it all. But the training to become a foster parent was meaningful and made a difference for me.
You may think that as soon as you decide to foster a child you’ll receive a phone call telling you that they’re ready to place a child with you. In fact, we got our first placement before we even heard that we were officially cleared to be foster parents. So it can happen more quickly than you ever imagined. At the same time, you may have to wait before you get your first placement depending on where you live and what cases are being reported to the offices that handle child welfare services. Even once you receive a child, you will have to wait before you know if you’re able to adopt them. The foster care system focuses on trying to reunite children with their birth families. Birth parents and their family are given time before they must give up parental rights making the child available for adoption. There is no way to know how long you may have to wait until you can adopt a child through the system.