Understanding how to adopt a child from the foster care system is critical when considering this way of building a family. The process is thorough, but the following ten steps should give you a sense of what to expect. And, of course, reach out to our office for additional support!
1. LEARN about Adoption
Being here on our website is a good first step. Read through all of the information available below and the other drop-downs in the “About Adoption” section.
Foster systems are managed by state governments, so you can start by searching on your state’s main website or googling “foster system” and your state. This site will have links to various agencies that support adoption through the foster system in your state. While on these sites, keep an eye out for information that clarifies the difference between fostering a youth and adopting a youth.
Beyond learning about the logistics of adopting from the foster system, you should become familiar with adoption in general. There are many ways to do this, including:
- Read books about adoption
- Attend an adoptive parents' support group or conference
- Find social media groups
- Ask friends and family who have built their family through adoption
2. SELECT an Agency
You must work with an adoption agency licensed in the state where you live. Contact several agencies to ask about the type of adoptions they offer, their fee structure, financial assistance (if needed) to help with the fees, how they assess and prepare families, and potential timelines. Get references: speak with other parents who have used the agency. Make sure the agency is licensed by your state to provide adoption services.
3. COMPLETE a Homestudy
A homestudy is a series of meetings between you and an adoption agency social worker. Think of it as an ongoing conversation that is part of the adoption process and prepares you for parenting. The social worker who prepares your homestudy will need to ask you for certain documents such as birth certificates, marriage license, child abuse clearances, and personal references before finalizing the report. At least one meeting will be at your home. All individuals who live in your home will need to attend.
The social worker is not there to do a “white glove” inspection of your home, but is there to ensure that you and your family are prepared to support a child or youth. Your social worker can also answer questions for you and point you in the direction of further resources to support you as you move along on your journey.
In addition to meetings and paperwork, each state has different education or training requirements. The agency will provide details.
4. SEARCH for a Child
Once your homestudy is complete, you may begin the search for a child, teenager, or sibling group. Your agency may have children in its care or your social worker may network with other child placing agencies. You can also be active in the search. For example, you may view our waiting children, and explore other exchanges' or agencies' listings of children.
5. EXCHANGE Information with Child's Agency
When you locate a child who seems like a match for all parties involved, your social worker and the child's social worker exchange information. Your homestudy is shared. If the child's social worker is interested in your family, you may then receive the child’s profile. This step of the process may take some time and calls for both patience and persistence.
6. LEARN that You Have Been Selected for a Child
You and several other families may be considered at the same time. Each state is different with their family selection process. In most states, the child's adoption team makes the final decision on which family can best meet the child's needs. When you are selected, more confidential information is shared, so that you can be sure this is the child for you. If the child's parental rights are not legally terminated, it will be done at this time.
7. MEET and VISIT with the Child
The first meeting with the child is followed by several visits over a few weeks or months. If the child lives in another state, the child's agency will work with you to arrange for at least one or two visits. You will fill out various forms, such as the Interstate Compact or adoption assistance agreement, during this period.
8. RECEIVE a Placement
The placement date is when the child comes to live in your home. Your agency will visit and work with you for several months in post-placement supervision. During this time, you file a legal intent-to-adopt petition. Your agency and social worker will provide suggestions for supporting the child, and all members of your family, during this time.
9. FINALIZE Your Adoption
Your child or teenager becomes a legal part of your family when you attend a court session in which a judge finalizes your adoption. Some sessions are currently over Zoom. You will receive an amended birth certificate that names you as parents and a certificate of adoption after the court session.
10. SUPPORT Your Child
Adoption doesn't end after finalization. You will continue to learn about adoptive parenting, which will be different for each family. Talk with your child and others about adoption, find support and services for your child's needs, and connect with other adoptive parents. And, when you are ready, consider adopting again.