“Will Foster Care Adoption Be Too Much for Me to Handle?”

Dawn Davenport


afraid to adopt from foster care

Creating a Family receives a lot of questions every week and the #1 question we receive is some variation on “will the kids be too much for me to handle?”

  • Do most of the children in foster care have RAD [Reactive Attachment Disorder]?
  • I want to adopt from foster care, but I’m afraid that they will be too hard to raise.

Here’s one we recently received that touched my heart because it captured the essence of the fears of so many people: “…will [the behaviors of kids adopted from foster care] be so challenging that we will regret our decision?”

Let’s start first with why foster care parents choose to adopt in general and why they choose specifically to adopt from foster care. A great study was published several years ago about foster care adoption, and it covered the experience of the adoptive parents. (Children Adopted From Foster Care: Child And Family Characteristics, Adoption Motivation, And Well-Being).

I love research in general (as you ALL know), and I especially liked this study because it was large (over 2000 families) and random, the two hallmarks of good research.

Why Do Foster Care Parents Want to Adopt

Why adopt from foster care

I thought it was interesting that infertility was the motivating factor in only 39% of the families who adopted from foster care. And in case the last two aren’t clear from the graphic: 24% of parents who adopted from foster care said their motivation was to provide a sibling for a child they were parenting, and 11% were motivated to adopt a sibling of a child they had already adopted.

Why Do Parents Want to Adopt from Foster Care

While the above graphic focused on why parents who ended up adopting from foster wanted to adopt, the following graphic covers why they choose to adopt from foster care, rather than domestic infant adoption or international adoption. It is probably not a surprise to any of us that cost was the #1 reason.

Why do people want to adopt from foster care

Will You Regret Your Decision

Regret, or more specifically fear of regret, is a powerful motivator for both action and inaction. Each parent has to decide for themselves what they can handle and what they are willing to risk.

I spend my days helping people make educated decisions about the best ways to create their family. I do this without judgment. The top two out of five core values at Creating a Family are:

  1. There is no “best way” to create your family.
  2. With education and support families will be able to choose the best way for them.

I believe these tenets to the core of my being, but I also know that creating a family, regardless of how you choose, is a leap of faith. There are unknowns in every way we build our family, including the “old fashioned” way, for those who are fortunate enough to have that option.

Perhaps the best answer to whether you will regret the decision to adopt a child from foster care is to ask those who have adopted if they would do it again. It just so happens that this is exactly what the foster care study that set my geeky heart aflutter asked.

Will you regret adopting from foster care

Ninety-five percent of parents who adopted from foster care would definitely or likely make the same decision again. And lest you think that this only included those parents who adopted very young children, 84% of parents who adopted a child age 6 or older would do it again.

As is so often the case, our old friend Mark Twain, sums up my philosophy well:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

Hard Hitting Questions

At Creating a Family we hear a lot of talk, both positive and negative, about people’s experience when adopting from foster care. We also receive a lot of questions from people trying to decide whether to adopt from foster care. We have done many Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcasts on this topic, including one of my favortites Exploding the Myths of Foster Care Adoption . 

Our guest on that show was Rita Soronen, President of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. If I hadn’t been on a microphone, I would have given her a standing ovation for her response to the question about poor customer service (i.e. failure to respond to calls or emails, etc.) that so often plagues foster care adoption. I can’t recommend this show on Exploding the Myths of Foster Care Adoption enough!


If you have adopted from foster care, would you do it again? If you are considering adopting from foster care, what do you worry about?

P.S. Here are some of the resources we mentioned in the Creating a Family show on Exploding the Myths of Foster Care Adoption .

Originally published in 2015; Updated in 2017.

06/11/2017 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Fostering, Fostering Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 14 Comments

14 Responses to “Will Foster Care Adoption Be Too Much for Me to Handle?”

  1. Avatar Marcus. says:

    Me and my wife is looking to adopt a kid or two. We have started the process yet. Do anyone have any contacts or advice for us?

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Hi Marcus!

      I’m so glad you asked this. We do have some great resources for you. Here’s a great starting point – a tool to help you figure out what type of adoption is going to suit you and your family and how to choose a country (if going international) or how to get going with domestic or foster care adoptions. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption/comparison-country-charts/ Once you’ve digested that resource, surf around the site for more that will help educate and guide your path. We would love to hear from you if you have more questions.

      I would also highly recommend you check out our online community for some real life, peer support. You can find us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/creatingafamily/

      We’d love to have you join us there.

  2. Avatar Amy says:

    In 2017 after 3 years of waiting for a match we became the 5%. It is hard to even say “out loud.”
    We took a 12y 10m old boy, but it became apparent to his SW that he wasn’t bonding with us. We made the call to disrupt the adoption and then all hell broke loose as we got the ugly side of our agency.
    It is tough to feel like we failed, we spent so much time trying to educate ourselves but in the end it just wasn’t enough.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Oh, Amy. I’m so sorry that the placement didn’t work for you or the child. I hope you find a safe place to heal and determine your next steps. And that the little guy finds a safe place to land that is what he needs. If you are looking for a community of folks who’ve been through similar experiences, consider our Facebook community. The shared, lived experiences of others are often very supportive and educational when we are learning from others in similar places in life. You can find the group here: http://ow.ly/98hy30gy39e Best wishes to you!

  3. Avatar Maria says:

    Oh my goodness do I LOVE this post! DH and I are looking at adopting again, this time from foster care (last time was Korea), so my seeing this post put a gigantic smile on my face. 🙂

  4. Avatar Jocelyne says:

    We adopted a teen from foster care. We are keeping our license active so when we feel ready, we can re-open our home to more teens. We are currently helping our neighbor with her teen boys and kindergartener so we are a busy house. Becoming first time parents to a teen has been an amazing journey. They blossom when they are nurtured!

  5. Avatar Sam says:

    I have adopted from foster care and I am currently adopting again, also from foster care so I have to give a resounding yes to foster care adoption. We adopted our son at age three and our very soon to be daughter will be under two when we adopt her. They are the light in my life! I am infinitely blessed to be their Mom and I could not love them more!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Sam, you’re comment made me smile! Thanks.

    • Avatar Daly says:

      Hi –

      Could you comment on your experience adopting your 3 year old. We are in the process of a relative adoption. The said child, a girl, is living with a grandparent who feels unable to continue caring for her. They currently reside overseas, so we have not yet met her, but plan to do so shortly.
      I am very anxious about the disruption between her and her grandmother and would appreciate any advice or insights. Thanks.

      • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

        I’ll let Sam respond, but thought I’d chime in that the general rule of thumb for transitions is to go as slow and gradual as possible and to have the caretaker (grandmother) clearly sending signals to the child that this is an OK. The other thing you will want to do is keep the grandmother involved in her life in the grandmother role.

    • Avatar Whitney says:

      Hi Sam, we’re looking at adopting a 3 year old. We’re really nervous about it because she comes from a ghetto background. We already have a bio son that’s 10 months old. I’m worried about being able to handle both of them. Advice???

      • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

        Whitney, I know you aimed your comment at Sam (and I hope she sees it and shares her experiences as well) but I wanted to offer this resource for you to think through some of the issues you’ll face when blending bio and adopted or foster kids: http://ow.ly/lrvu50wwGQs

        On a gentle side note, it might be helpful to know that using the term “ghetto background” is not inclusive or respectful of the child’s beginnings. I don’t want to assume too much, but I’m wondering if you mean that you’re considering a child of color to join your family? There are a ton of resources on our Transracial Adoption Resources page that will help you address the issues of parenting children of color and learning how to honor your new child’s birth culture. It’s a steep learning curve but one that is vitally important to our kids of color and raising them to have a healthy racial identity. Check this page out for a variety of resources: http://ow.ly/aZVh50wwGLF

        We also have a GREAT online community of parents who are learning along with you on the issues of Transracial Parenting. Check us out here: http://ow.ly/Sjvx50wwFVZ

        Thanks so much for reading and for reaching out. Best wishes to you along the way!

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