Foster care adoption refers to the adoption of children who are considered wards of the state. These children have often been orphaned or removed from their homes for their own safety. Children range in ages from infant to teenagers and are sometimes adopted as sibling groups, meaning they are adopted into the same family with their biological siblings.
Types of Foster Care Adoption
There are two different ways for prospective adoptive families to adopt a child through foster care:
For a child whose parents have had their parental rights fully terminated, an adoptive family can adopt them immediately. According to the Children’s Bureau, there are more than 100,000 children in foster care ready to be adopted each year. Many of these children are older (ages 2-18) and are a part of a sibling group, meaning they often wait three years or more before being adopted.
Foster to Adopt
For those children whose parents have not had their parental rights terminated there is still a need for temporary – possibly permanent – families. These children need temporary homes with foster parents while their parents’ court cases are decided. If the court then decides to fully terminate the parents’ rights, the children will need permanent homes. When extended family members are not available to take the children in, foster parents are given the first opportunity to adopt the children.
Types of Foster Care Adoption Professionals
There are two types of adoption professionals who can help complete a foster care adoption:
The state or county agency that has legal custody of children in foster care is a public adoption agency. These organizations are also responsible for placing children in adoptive homes after foster care. For more information on your state’s foster care system, click here.
A private agency is licensed by the state and works closely with state agencies to facilitate foster care adoptions. These agencies may be secular or religious, for profit or nonprofit. These agencies may charge additional agency fees for adoptive families.
What costs are required for a foster care adoption?
Expenses required for foster care adoptions are very minimal and in many cases these costs are reimbursed by the state. In general, the expenses required in a foster care adoption are:
- Matching and Advertising (often free through listing services)
- Home Study
- Agency Fees (if applicable)
Adoptive families wishing to adopt through the US Foster Care system have two options: They can either work directly with a public agency, or they can use a private agency to complete the adoption. Those who work directly with a public agency typically incur no expenses, while those who work with a private agency may incur some out-of-pocket expenses.
Adopting a foster child is virtually free. The biggest expense for a foster care adoption is the home study, which can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. If the adoption is completed through an agency there may be required agency fees that an adoptive family must also pay. However, depending on state policies, adoptive families may be reimbursed for this and any other expense they may incur.
Additionally, many children waiting to be adopted are referred to as “special needs” and qualify for adoption subsidies. This label often hurts the children as many adoptive families assume the child will requires special medical, educational or other remedial services. However, each state has different factors or conditions that qualify a child as special needs. These can include:
- Being an older child
- Having a particular racial or ethnic background
- Being part of a sibling group needing to be placed together
- Having medical conditions
- Having physical, mental or emotional disabilities
The biggest thing these children need is a loving, supportive family to be a part of, many need nothing more than the time and effort to help them adjust and make them comfortable in their new surroundings. Families who adopt children with special needs may be eligible for ongoing monthly subsidies to help with necessary expenses after the adoption. Be sure to ask the child’s caseworker if these subsidies are available.
Questions to ask your foster care adoption professional about the costs:
- Which services are included in your fee structure?
- What services will we have to seek elsewhere?
- What happens if there is a disruption in the adoption? How much money could we potentially lose in these circumstances?
- Does our state offer reimbursement for adoption fees?