Foster Care Adoption – Cost, Requirements and Rules

foster care

Have been considering foster care adoption? Well, there a number of things you need to know before you go ahead with it. The big ones involve the federal and state laws, the pros and cons, how long it takes to adopt and the associated costs. Adopting is a good way to improve the lives of the children in need and also to build your own family. Continue reading for more information about foster care adoption.

What Is Foster Care Adoption?

Before we get into foster care adoption, it is essential that you understand the difference between foster care and adoption. Since they seem similar, many parents who sign up for the training classes are confused between the two terms. Children in foster care are not up for adoption by default; they would have entered foster care because of many factors which are not their fault. Some of the causes include parental neglect, abuse, abandonment, etc. The children in foster care are in the temporary custody of the state until their birth parents are able to complete their mandated services, which will allow their children to be returned back to them. A little over half of the children who are sent to foster care return to their birth parents. Those who need to be adopted are usually adopted by their relatives or foster parents.

The term foster care adoption applies to those situations where the birth parents of a foster child have their rights to the child terminated by a court, and the child is available for adoption. The child can be adopted by her relatives, foster parents or anybody who is legally able to adopt. Families who are looking for a straight adoption from foster care don’t always need to become foster parents in the beginning. However, some states have eligibility requirements that list the parents to foster before they adopt. The term foster-to-adopt applies to those families who foster and later end up adopting the children.

How Does Foster Care Adoption Work?

Before you understand foster care adoption, it is essential to know the goals of the U.S. foster care system and how the children end up there. Foster children are often removed from their homes and placed under the care of the state if their home environments are abusive, or the parents are neglectful or have substance abuse problems. The main objective of the foster care system is to return the children to their birth parents when the court deems it is safe to do so. The parents are offered a reunification plan by a judge who outlines the procedures or actions the parents must take to correct themselves or the environment. A state caseworker will be assigned to them to ensure it is done according to the plan. If the birth parents fail to complete the reunification plan, the court will proceed to terminate their parental rights, and the child becomes eligible for adoption.

A family will be sought for the child in the meantime, and the first preference goes to the relatives. If the child has no relatives, the next opportunity goes to the foster family. If they are already fostering to adopt, they will be able to adopt the child. In case the foster family is not interested in adopting, the child will be a “waiting child” until a family, willing to adopt, is found.

How Can One Adopt from Foster Care?

The procedure of adoption through foster care involves several factors which determine the foster parent’s eligibility. They include:

1. Age

Many states require the parents to be of a certain minimum age before they can foster or adopt. Some states even require the adoptive parents to be a certain number of years older than the foster child.

2. Marital Status

Non-married people are allowed to foster or foster-to-adopt in most states. Married couples are often required to adopt jointly.

3. Military/Overseas Personnel

Most military couples are eligible for foster care adoption. They will have to follow the applicable federal and state laws.

4. Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation and gender identity have no effect on people becoming foster or adoptive parents. In fact, LGBT individuals or families are more likely to become foster parents than opposite-sex couples.

5. Residency

A few states require the family have lived in the state for a certain period of time before they can become foster or adoptive parents.

How Much Does It Cost for Foster Care Adoption?

Foster care adoption costs significantly less money for the families compared to all other types of adoption. The costs typically range from $0 to about $2,500. Those costs mainly include:

1. Home Study

A home study is the first step; it is an overview of the adoptive family’s life. It is done by a social worker who is licensed to carry out home studies to assess the family’s readiness to offer the adopted child a nurturing environment. Home studies cost can range anywhere from $1000 to $5000. However, some states cover this cost, so the adoptive families are not burdened.

2. Home Preparations

The home study process might uncover troublesome areas in the house that need to be fixed before the child can move. Examples include locks on cabinets, changes to interiors that might be in the best interest of the child and even padding sharp corners and edges.

3. Minimal Legal Costs

The legal fees for the process are paid for by many states on behalf of the adoptive families. Even if the families need to pay some, it is often negligible.

4. Agency Fees (If Applicable)

If the family goes through an agency for the adoption process, there will be an agency fee that needs to be paid by the family.

Which Children Are Available for Adoption In Foster Care?

Whether a kid needs to be adopted through the foster system or not varies everywhere. It is rare that foster-to-adopt infants are adopted from foster care as the birth parents are given time to rectify themselves. In the event the parents’ rights are terminated, the child would have grown past infancy. Most of the children who end up at foster care are over 2 years old, and many are even over the age of 8.

There will also be variance in gender, race and medical background among children who are in foster care. These children often suffer from developmental and attachment problems due to neglect or abuse from their birth parents, and of the different experiences going through foster homes.

How Long Does It Take to Adopt From Foster Care?

The procedures around freeing up a child for adoption, along with the termination of parental rights are complicated. Families who are considering adopting from foster care should plan to wait anywhere from 9 to 18 months to complete the process. It will include the inquiry, orientation, home study requirements, and preparation classes which last for 24 to 30 hours and span several weeks. In 2018, the children adopted from foster homes spent 14.7 months on an average before the rights of their parents were terminated.

Foster Child’s Legal Status and Adoption Process

Until the adoption is finalised, the child is considered a foster child by law; therefore, a number of states now offer dual foster/adoption licensing to ease the transition. Although the state laws pertaining to the termination of parental rights (TPR) vary, adoption cannot be finalised until the child’s biological parents are identified and made aware of their legal rights. They are also given a chance to participate in the court proceedings. While numerous changes have been made to the TPR to streamline the process, it can take a couple of months.

The foster-to-adopt is considered the optimal method of keeping the child’s best interests in perspective. If reunification with birth parents is not possible, the child will already be with the foster family, who will end up adopting her. The first priority is given to the relatives and foster parents of the child as soon as the child is legally freed for adoption. 46 % of children in foster homes were adopted by nonrelative foster families and 32 % were adopted by relative foster parents in 2018.

Foster Care Adoption Subsidy

A number of children who are adopted from foster homes are called “special needs”. It refers to conditions such as being an older child, coming from a minority ethnic group, being part of a sibling group, having medical conditions such as physical, mental and emotional disabilities or other state-defined conditions. To help families offset additional care costs associated with special needs, they qualify for adoption subsidies. Between 2013 and 2014, about 91 % of foster care adoption children received a subsidy and got an average of $782 per month. This, however, shouldn’t be thought of as the foster families “getting paid” for adoption or as the benefits of adopting a child from foster care.

Foster care adoption can be both challenging and rewarding for families or individuals who adopt from foster care. It’s essential to explore all the pros and cons and the procedures to ensure the decision is right for the family and the child.

Also Read:

How To Adopt A Child In US
Tips for Making Your Adopted Child As A Part of The Family
Importance and Techniques to Bond With Your Adopted Child