A How-to Guide for Foster Care Adoption

Children and youth enter foster care at no fault of their own.

The number one goal of all foster parents should be reunification, but there are always children and teens who cannot return to their birth family. In fact, according to NACAC, 24 percent of child and youth, who leave foster care are adopted.

Of all adoptions, 51 percent were by foster parents (concurrent adoption), 35 percent by relatives, and 14 percent by individuals or couples who were neither kin nor foster parents (foster adoption). Most adoptive parents were coupled, though 25 percent were single women and 3 percent were single men. These numbers remain relatively static year to year. 

The number one goal of all foster parents should be reunification, but there are always some children and teens who cannot return to their birth family.

I was one of the 25 percent of single women who adopted.

My road to motherhood was a winding one.  In the midst of my single-hood, I questioned whether or not I would ever be called Mamma.  The ache of not knowing was unbearable at times. 

I became a foster mom when I turned 30. The sound of these much-loved children calling me Mamma physically hurt my heart, as I knew each child would call me that only for a season – short or long, it would end. 

After two years, I let the county know that I would like to open and willing to adoption if a child needed it. My hope was always is that children are in a safe, loving home, with their birth parents whenever possible, but if that safe, loving, wonderful home is to with me, I was ready to be a Mamma for the long haul.

I would provide foster care, and also be open to adopting them if they were not able to be placed with family.

About a year after I spoke with my social worker, she called me on a Friday and a baby moved in on Monday. She stayed. And this one, this one, is my girl.  Through and through. 

She has the uncanny ability to drive me batty and have me rolling on the floor in laughter within minutes.  I think she’s hilarious (and she does to).

The thrill I get in hearing her call me Mamma is only second to the joy I see on her face when I retrieve her after being away for a time. 

When she was little, a teenage nursery worker asked, “What is it you do to make her want you like that?” Honestly, I am not sure, but I do know that it’s mutual.  I so enjoy this little one, she’s my favorite person (big or small) and am so glad I am her forever Mamma.

She also has first momma that we are lucky to have visits with, one of my favorite thing about her is that she calls our child, ours. But that is a post for another day.

Often people think that adopting from foster care is complicated.   It is complex, but it is also a road that many, many people have walked before you.  There are two main ways to adopt from foster care:

  1. Concurrent Adoption (our story)
  2. Foster Adoption (adopting a child that is freed for adoption before meeting you)

Steps to Adopt from Foster Care

  1. Think, “Hey this might be the way I/we want to build my/our family.”
  2. Ask questions – of everyone, friends, family, bloggers, adoptive parents, adoptees – make sure this is the best decision for you. Adoption isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.
  3. Attend into sessions, more than one.
  4. Apply to an agency or county Foster to Adopt program that fits you.
  5. Do the paperwork. It’s hard, it’s tedious, it’s repetitive. Do it anyway. The quicker you move, the quicker your social worker can do what they need to do.
  6. Visit with your social worker in their office & then in your home.
  7. Do some more paperwork & whatever the worker asks to you do.
  8. Give the worker some time, she/he has to write it, have it proofread for accuracy & compliance to the laws of the state you live and the state/county you plan to adopt from by another worker (and possibly your family), print, notarize if necessary, sign.
  9. Get approved & have an approved home-study.
  10. Decide if you want to foster to provide temporary care and be open to adoption (concurrent adoption) or only consider kids whose birth family’s rights have already been terminated.
  11. In concurrent adoption, wait for your social worker to call with a referral of kiddo who needs a place to stay for the night or maybe forever.
  12. Ask more questions – get as much info about kiddo as possible.
  13. In foster adoption (kids whose parental rights have been terminated) talk to your worker about kids and youth who need a home at that time. Most are not on photo listings.
  14. Ask more questions. See a theme here?
  15. Once you are matched with a child or the child you are fostering becomes available for adoption, let you worker know just how interested you are (we as workers offer aren’t sure of a family’s commitment until we hear the words, “We are in this 100%. We want this child to be a part of our family.” The words matter!
  16. Do what your social worker tells you.
  17. Go to court & finalize the adoption.

A very, very simplified overview of how to #adopt from foster care.

Adopting from foster care is a funny thing, there are a million steps and they ALL feel momentous and historic. If you take one step at a time, most people do end up adopting. If that’s you, please do the work along the way to no only have your home ready, but also your heart.

Strengthen your marriage if you have one, build your circle of support, get ready to love no matter what and hold on.

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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