Foster Care Adoption

Foster Care Adoption

Adopting from Foster Care

Approximately 56,000 children are adopted each year from foster care, but about 100,000 kids are still waiting to be adopted. They are ready and available for parents. They are simply waiting. About 390,000 kids are in foster care and in need of foster parents while a decision is made on whether they will be able to be returned to their biological families or they will be available for adoption.

The Two Types of Foster Care Adoption
There are two general ways to adopt from foster care.

  1. Direct Foster Care Adoption: There are about 113,000 children whose parental rights have already been terminated and for whom their caseworkers seek adoptive families. The average age of children in foster care is eight (8) years old — 44% of kids in foster care are nine (9) years and older. Finding foster and adoptive placements for these older kids is particularly challenging.
  2. Foster to Adopt: The US has approximately 390,000 children in foster care that have been removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect. These children are placed in foster homes while state social workers work with their birth families. The goal of foster care is to heal birth families so that children can return home. Foster families are expected to work with social workers on reunification. Children can return to their families about half the time. When family reunification is impossible, adoptive families are sought, and the foster family is usually given the first choice at adoption. Approximately 25% of children in foster care will ultimately be adopted, most often by their foster family. There are wide variances within states and counties within states on the willingness to work with foster families whose ultimate goal is adoption.
How To Adopt from Foster Care
A home study and completing an adoption education course are required to adopt from foster care. You can work either with the state foster care unit (named differently in each state – Department of Family and Protective Services, Department of Social Services, Department of Children and Family Services, etc.) or a private adoption agency with a contract with the state to place foster children. The education will be the same (30-35 hours), but most people in the Creating a Family community report better pre and post-adoption services when working with a private adoption agency. You may have to pay more, but the money can be recouped with the federal Adoption Tax Credit.

This online course is a great introduction to how to adopt from foster care: Introduction to Foster Care Adoption 

What Are the Ages, Gender, and Race of Children in Foster Care?
Age:  According to The AFCARS Report #29, for FY 2021, the average age of children waiting to be adopted from foster care was about 7.5 years old, with the average age of entry to care around 4.8 years and the age of exit around 8.2 years. About 25% of those kids who exited care did so for adoption. The average age of legally free children waiting to be adopted is about 7 years. About 45% of these legally free kids are 6 years or younger. Many of them are part of a sibling group.

Gender:  About 51% of kids in care are boys, and 49% are girls.

Race:  White – 43%, Black – 22%, Hispanic – 22%, Others – 13%

How Much Does Foster Care Adoption Cost?
Foster care adoption costs very little or nothing. The federal Adoption Tax Credit can usually offset any money spent on adopting from foster care. Over 90% of children adopted from foster care also receive a monthly cash subsidy, Medicaid benefits, and in some states, in-state tuition assistance. Check out this online course for a clear understanding of Foster Care Subsidies: What Is Reasonable and How to Negotiate.

Can You Adopt a Child in Foster Care in Another State?
Yes, adopting a child in foster care from out of state is usually possible with legally free children waiting for an adoptive family. Usually, easier to place children (younger and with fewer special needs) are placed within their home state. Fostering a child with the hopes of adoption (adopting through a foster-to-adopt program) is usually not an option with children living in another state unless the child is a relative. We talked about adopting a child from foster care in another state in these two online courses:

Are Children Adopted from Foster Care Troubled?
Children end up in foster care through no fault of their own due to mistakes made by their biological parents. Most have experienced abuse and neglect, which can have a lasting impact, but they are not damaged beyond help. Pre-adoptive parents will receive extensive education to help them parent children who have experienced early life trauma. Creating a Family also provides extensive resources for helping children heal and adopting older kids. Here are just a few:

Creating a Family has many resources for foster care adoption. A few of our most recent we think you will find particularly helpful are:

Many more Creating a Family podcasts, articles, and fact sheets on adopting from foster care can be found at the icons below.

Sources: various podcasts and online courses as linked, and AFCARS Report 29, FY2021