If You Want to Adopt From Foster Care, Should You Agree to Foster First?
If your real goal is to adopt from foster care, will sharing this information with the foster care agency hurt your chances of receiving a placement? We recently received this question from one person, but I think many people wonder the same thing.
The woman who asked this question had heard that people who say that their goal is to adopt are “frowned upon” by foster care agencies. She fears that saying that adoption is her goal will hurt her chances of getting a placement. This woman is “100% behind the goal of reunification” but knows that there are “thousands of kids whose rights have already been terminated, or will be terminated, who will then need loving permanent homes.”
She asked us, “Is walking in the door saying we only want to adopt ill-advised or good honesty?”
Two Critical Facts about Foster Care and Adoption
I appreciate the honesty of her question. In my experience, other hopeful foster or adoptive parents wonder the same but are afraid to ask. It helps to understand two critical facts about foster care and adoption.
1. Many Legally-Free Kids are Available for Adoption from Foster Care
If you are open to kids over the age of 6, especially tweens and teens or sibling groups, there are many opportunities to adopt from foster care. Most agencies will welcome you with open arms if that is the profile for which you are searching. By all means, let them know that you want only to be considered for adopting legally-free kids. And don’t limit yourself to just your county. You can usually work with an agency that actively places legally free older kids throughout the US.
2. If You Want to Adopt Younger Kids, Start with Foster Care
If you are looking for a younger child to adopt from foster care, then you need to realize that the system is supposed to work in the following way. The first goal is to heal the birth family and reunify the child with her parent(s).
If that is not possible, the second goal is to find an extended family member who will take the child.
When that is not possible, the current foster family is asked if they want to adopt.
If that is not possible, only then do the caseworkers look to families who have applied but only want to adopt.
It isn’t always this lock-step, but generally speaking, this is how it works.
So, if you want to adopt a child who is not currently legally free but might become legally free, then your best chance by far is to be that child’s foster parent.
Remember the Goal of Foster Care
HOWEVER, the only ethical way to do this is to accept that your role will primarily be to help this child reunify with her family. That means different things in different places but will almost always mean taking the child for visits, speaking positively about the birth family, etc.
Also, remember that you will not get much of a voice in how these visits take place or if they are in the child’s best interest. You will also not get much, if any, say in whether the child goes back home or whether parental rights are terminated.
The Single Biggest Obstacle to Co-Parenting in Foster Care (and what you can do about it).
About 25% of the children who come into care nationally end up being adopted by non-family members, and most often, this is their foster parents. That statistic rings true to me–in other words, are you willing to have and love 3-4 kids who go home to their families before you receive placement of a child whom you can adopt?
If you are, and if you can truly get on board with the goal of reunification and put your desire for adoption on the back burner, then you would be a great foster parent. I don’t see any problem in saying that you want to foster and are open to adoption if it becomes an option.
It’s Okay if Foster Care is Not Right For You.
The chances are good that you will ultimately be able to adopt, but it likely won’t be the first, second, third, or fourth child that you foster. You will, however, have been a soft landing place for a child and family that needed you. That knowledge is not enough for some people, and that’s okay too. If you feel like being a temporary haven for a child is not right for you or your family, then consider that domestic infant adoption, international adoption, or embryo donation will be a better path for you.
Image Credits: "G" jewels; Lance Shields