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.