25 Factors to Consider When Adopting From the United States (Foster Care Adoptions)

adopting from foster care

foster care adoption

Click on each factor to learn more. Current as of July, 2014. This information is subject to change; therefore, check with an adoption agency or your local child welfare agency for the most current information.

There are two basic ways to adopt from foster care:

  1. Adopt a child whose parental rights have already been terminated. There are approximately 102,000 children in foster care systems throughout the US currently waiting for an adoptive home. The average age is about 7.5 and there are many sibling groups.
  2. Foster to Adopt. Parents that ultimately want to adopt first become foster parents. Parental rights for the children placed with them have not been terminated. The goal of our foster care system is family reunification, and often foster parents are expected to work to help achieve this goal. Reunification is success about 50% of the time. If not successful, extended family is sought, and if not found, foster parents are usually given the first chance to adopt. Approximately 22-24% of children who enter foster care will be adopted. Younger child are more likely to be adopted via the foster to adopt route.

Each state and territory in the US has slightly different laws and regulations that apply to foster care adoptions, and an even greater variety of interpretations of these laws. What this means for pre-adoptive parents is that there are great differences on how willing caseworkers in the local child welfare/foster care agencies are to work with adoptive families.

Adoptive parents can work with either the county level child welfare/foster care agency or, in most states, they can work with a private adoption agency that has a contract with the state to place foster children.

Medical information after birth is excellent and whatever is known about prenatal care is provided to the adoptive parents.  Birth mothers are asked about prenatal habits, care, and family medical history, but keep in mind that she may not share or know all this information.

Parental Age
No legal restrictions. Older parents, especially those with parenting experience, may be the best for some children. 
Length of Marriage
No legal restrictions
No legal restrictions
Children in Family
No legal restrictions, however, it is not unusual to see that a foster child will do best as the only child in a family or the youngest child in a family.
Single Applicant
No legal restrictions
Sexual Orientation
No legal restrictions
Children Available
The average age of children currently waiting to be adopted from foster care is 7.8 (mean is 6.9).
Race of children currently waiting to be adopted: White (41%); African American (26%), Hispanic (23%), Other (10%)
Gender of children currently waiting to be adopted: Male (52%) Female (48%).  Parents may request a gender.
Adopting More Than One Unrelated Child at the Same Time
There are many sibling groups available for adoption. It is possible for adoptive parents to adopt two unrelated children if it is deemed in the best interest of the children. 
It is possible to adopt a child from foster care in another state, but this usually only happens with harder to place children whose parental rights have already been terminated. Adoptive parents wanting to adopt through the foster to adopt program will usually be restricted to their county or nearby counties since the caseworkers are still working on healing the birth family.
Wait Time
Hard to predict since it depends on the availability of children in the county and on the openness of adoptive parents to older children, sibling groups, and certain risk factors.
Approximate Cost
Virtually free, although adoptive families may have to pay something if they work with a private adoption agency with a contract to place foster children from the state. They will, however, likely get their money back through the Adoption Tax Credit.  Over 90% of the children will be eligible for a monthly cash subsidy to help with the cost of raising them.
Orphanage/Foster Care
Children will either have been removed from their birth family due to abuse or neglect or have been in another foster home or group home.
How Children Enter Government Care
Removal due to abuse or neglect.
Prevalence of FASD
It is not uncommon for children who have been removed from their families due to abuse and neglect to have been exposed to alcohol or drugs prenatally. The exact percentage is not known. Listen to these Creating a Family shows for more information on FAS:

Adequacy of Medical Reports
Medical information after the child has come into care is usually good, but limited from before the child was removed from their birth family.
Post Adoption Reports
Once the adoption is finalized the paperwork is minimal, but prior to finalization, there will be numerous visits by social workers and many reports.
Additional Information
The adoption is finalized after the child has lived with the family for a legally prescribed period of time that varies by state, but is usually around 6 months.
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Available from www.CreatingaFamily.org, the national adoption and infertility education and support non-profit. Please do not reprint without giving credit to Creating a Family and a link to the website.

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