Find Your Place in the Foster Care System, Part 2: Adoptive Parents
This article is Part 2 of the series "Find Your Place in the Foster Care System". See Part 1: Foster Parents.
Many people have questions and misperceptions about getting involved in the foster care system. This series addresses the different roles that people can play in the lives of foster children.
Adoptive parents are required to take the same classes as foster parents, and the homestudy process is the same, although some of the requirements that foster parents must meet are optional for adoption-only parents.
Children become available for adoption only after the rights of their birth family have been terminated, a process that varies from state to state. If you are licensed to adopt from the foster care system, and are not already a foster parent, the effort to find an adoptive placement will be mostly your responsibility. Although your homestudy will be made available to caseworkers in your state, you will be encouraged to build relationships with others who may be able to help you find a placement, including support group leaders and foster parents who may attend the same functions that you do. You may also view children on state and national websites and make inquiries about them, though response times will vary by state and caseworker. The amount of time it takes to get an adoptive placement will vary based on a number of factors, including the age and gender of child you are willing to parent, what special needs you would consider, and whether you would consider adopting a sibling group. While some adoptive parents wait many months or years for a match, some are matched with children in a matter of weeks, while the in-home placement and adoption finalization takes several months.
When choosing an adoptive match, your homestudy will first be reviewed by the child’s caseworker. If they do not feel you are a good match for the child, the process ends there. If they think that you may be a potential match, they will contact you with more information about the child so that you may decide whether you want to pursue the process any further. If so, pre-adoptive visits will be planned. During these visits, you will interact with the child and get a feel for whether the child is compatible with you and your family. At this time, you will also be able to gather information about the child’s family, medical, psychiatric, and emotional history from the child’s caseworker, therapists, doctors, teachers, and former and current foster parents. Eventually, the child will be allowed to stay for overnight visits, and then will be placed with you permanently. The adoption will not be finalized until at least six months from the time of placement, with your caseworker visiting you several times in the interim.
When an adoption is finalized, adoptive parents become completely responsible for the child and are able to make decisions about everything that concerns the child. Home visits from your worker will no longer be necessary. You will also become financially responsible for the child, although children classified as ”special needs” may be eligible for subsidies, as well as a hefty tax credit from the IRS. The definition of special needs varies from state to state, and does not only include medical and physical handicaps, but may take age, ethnicity, and number of siblings into account.
Adoption is a lifelong commitment and is not for everyone. If you are longing to provide permanency and stability to a child, and can be responsible for them in the long-term, adoption can be a rewarding and life-altering experience.
For more ideas on getting involved in the foster care system, see Part 3: Foster/Adoptive Parents, Kinship Parents, and Respite Providers.