23 Crucial Questions You Must Ask When Adopting From Foster Care

Dawn Davenport


How to decide whether to adopt this child from foster care

Adoption is a leap of faith under any circumstance, but it is especially so when adopting a toddler, preschooler or school aged child because they have had experiences before coming to your home. Some of these experiences will have been good, but many will have left scars and behaviors that you and the child will be dealing with in the future.

As a foster parent or adoptive parent you need as much information as possible up front to make a decision on whether you are a good match for this child and to help this child once she is in your home.

Each state handles foster care/adoption placements differently, but usually there will be a placement meeting where the prospective adoptive parents will meet with the child’s caseworker and others who will decide whether to go forward with the placement. This is a great opportunity to ask questions, but it helps to know what to ask. Print off this list of questions and take it with you to the meeting.

Yes, adopting from foster care is a leap of faith, but remember, the honest truth is that all parenting is a leap of faith. Scary, but worth it in the end.

Questions to ask at Foster Care Placement Meeting

  1. Ask to speak with current caregivers to understand current schedule and routines.
  2. Get a list of previous placements, how long they lasted, and why they disrupted.
  3. Why didn’t past foster parents adopt this child/children?
  4. What prompted termination of parental rights? Did either parent voluntarily surrender and why? Try to get the psychiatric history of the birthparents.
  5. Was the child exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy? A clear answer is often not available unless the child is young and hospital records from birth are available, but you can get information on the birth mother’s lifestyle and habits to better understand the possibilities. Also ask if the child’s siblings have shown evidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or prenatal drug exposure.
  6. Does the child have siblings and where are they now (adoption, relatives, residential care, etc.)? Why are they not being placed together?
  7. Where are the biological parents now? Are there relatives in the area near you? What is the expectation for ongoing contact with birth parents, siblings or extended family?
  8. What type of relationship did this child have with birthparents?
  9. Does the child have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for school? Is the child struggling in school? What is his/her attitude toward school? What school did the child attend previously?
  10. Does the child make and maintain age appropriate friends?
  11. Ask for a list of diagnoses, and what behavior may have led to the diagnosis.
  12. Who made the diagnosis? Foster parent? Pediatrician? School? Medical Specialist? Ask for the documentation.
  13. What kind of medication is the child on now, if any, and what medications has the child been on previously?
  14. Are there any current health or behavioral concerns or need for ongoing therapy?
  15. If in therapy, how long has this child been in therapy, and what types have been used?
  16. Has or has this child ever had a diagnoses of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) or any type of attachment disorder? What has been done for this child to deal with this? (Therapy, holdings, play therapy, etc.)
  17. Has the child acted out sexually now or in the past? What type of behaviors and when was the last time?
  18. Are there safety concerns with pets? Younger children?
  19. What kinds of hospitalization (especially ER) has this child had? What tests have been issued? Ask for the documentation.
  20. How does this child perceive him/herself? Does the child understand adoption, and does he/she want to be adopted?
  21. If the child is not a member of my race/ethnicity, how does he/she feel about being a member of a family of my race/ethnicity?
  22. Ask to see the child’s entire file, not just a summary. Arrange for a time that you can read through the file uninterrupted.
  23. Ask yourself: If this child were to get no better after being in our home, could we handle his/her behaviors just as they are now? This may be a point to consider when taking on special needs children.
Image credit: 
thejbird (child sucking fingers)
Virginia State Parks (children walking)
woodleywonderworks (rainbow hands)

02/09/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog, Other Fostering Resources | 4 Comments

4 Responses to 23 Crucial Questions You Must Ask When Adopting From Foster Care

  1. Avatar Betty Thomas says:

    What support/financial help is there after adopting.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Great question to ask. The vast majority of kids adopted from foster care are eligible for some forms of adoption subsidy.

  2. Avatar Lisa Hughes says:

    Hi.my question is how much does it cost to do foster parents and adoption

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Usually it is free, and foster parents receive a monthly subsidy to help offset the cost of parenting. The majority of children receive a monthly subsidy even after they are adopted, and most states pay for health insurance and in-state college tuition.

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