Concurrent Adoption from Foster Care

There are many factors that go into an adoptive placement decision, but most social workers follow a general placement preference for a child in need of a permanent family, always based on the willingness of the adults to parent and their suitability to do so. Which is why there are generally not infants, toddlers or young children on waiting children lists.

This is the list a worker will go down when deciding who is best to adopt a child in foster care. She will decide at every step if this family is an option for a permanent family for this child.

If you are hoping to adopt an unrelated child that you have no current connections to, you are at least 6th on this list. For any child to be on a “waiting child” list, placement options #1-5 have either been inappropriate or they have said no to the placement of this child. And of course, each step of this process takes months and sometimes years, and all the while the child is getting older and most likely is experiencing further moves, trauma, and stress in their little lives.

General Placement Preference:

  1. Birth Mom or Birth Dad
  2. Birth Relatives the child has a relationship with
  3. Birth Relatives the child does not have a relationship with
  4. Current Foster Parents
  5. Kin – people in the community or in the child’s past that have/had a relationship with the child (past foster parents, school teachers, neighbors, sports coaches, etc)
  6. Unrelated foster or adoptive family in the child’s community
  7. Unrelated foster or adoptive family in the child’s state
  8. Unrelated foster/adopt family outside of the child’s state

For example:

  • A 6.5-year-old child comes into foster care.
  • When the child is 8.6 years old, birth parents’ rights are terminated because birth mom & birth date has been deemed unsuitable to parent the children and extended birth family begins to be looked at an option.
  • After this, the extended birth family has all been contacted and either haven’t shown interest, said no to placement or have been deemed unsuitable (due to past CPS involvement, drug/alcohol issues, felony charges).
  • When the child was 9 years old their current foster family said no to adoption
  • At 9.5 years old, a search for other adults in the child’s life is undertaken, but with high caseloads and new kids coming into care every day, it’s difficult to do the exhaustive search for people who may have been in this child’s life 5,6, 7 years ago…
  • If no extended family member, if not one current or foster parent, if no teacher or coach or friend parent said yes… The child is posted on a WAITING CHILD listing.

The reality of this is heartbreaking.

Consider becoming a concurrent foster placement for a child and be willing to take that child on the day they come into foster care and be COMMITTED to adopting them if they can’t return to their birth family.

So when that 6.5-year-old (or infant, or teen) is placed in your home, YOU are there, hugging, tucking in at night, dropping off at school, being there for the child, through every day of the 15 months of possible reunification and painful termination of parental rights. YOU are there for the birth relative search. YOU are there when the county gets to step 4 and YOU can say YES! The steps stop here, with me, THIS child is home.

That helps. That heals. That is hope.

Yes, it’s risky for your heart. Oh so risky. I understand, I do. I’ve done it. I’ve lived it. I’ve cried over kids returned to birth parents, I’ve ached. But, I also know that it is worth it. It is so worth it.

So if you find yourself wanting to adopt a younger child from foster care – that’s okay, the simple answer is that there ARE infants & toddlers who need a home from foster care, but they need a special kind of family. They need a family who can ride the roller coaster with them. To support the birth family as long as possible and to be in it for the long haul, for the child’s good – no matter where they grow up.

When a family is committed to providing foster care for a child and AT THE SAME time being open to adopting the child if they need an adoptive family, this is called concurrent adoption.

Concurrent adoption was put into place nationwide in 1997, with the passage of the Safe Families Act, which gave the option for social workers to plan for an adoption option for kids while their families were working on reunification.  It also requires States to file for termination of parental rights once children have been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months and give preference to adult relatives over non relative caregivers.

Remember that the #1 goal of foster care is reunification, so while you are OPEN to adoption, be supportive of first families. Concurrent foster care is not a FASTER way to adopt.

Additional concurrent adoption resources:


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Published by Alisa Matheson, Attempting Agape

I’m Alisa Matheson. Previously a foster parent, an educator, recruiter for teens aging out of the foster care system. I became a full-time contractor and photographer in 2019. I love coffee, deep conversations, snuggles with my kid and justice on the street. I welcome you to share in my journey.

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