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Adoption Decisions – Part 3: Private vs. Foster Care

This is the third in a series of posts about decision-making in adoption. If you have not done so already, you can catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 here. Stay tuned for next week’s post about making the decision to adopt privately or through an agency.

Once you and your family have made the decision to adopt within the United States, you’ll learn that there are a couple routes you can take to bring a child home: private adoption and foster care adoption. Just like many other choices in the adoption process, you will research the possibilities and choose the option that best fits your family’s adoption situation. Review the particulars with each type of adoption below, and move forward better educated on each option.

Private Adoption:

A private adoption can be completed as either an agency adoption or an independent adoption. Either one of these processes will have similar end results but may vary in the path it takes to get there. The home study process will be identical. You will have to do all the same background checks and reference letters to be considered for legal adoption in your state or the state you adopt from.

In a private agency adoption, you will have an adoption professional that works through every detail and provides assistance on each step to be matched with a prospective birth mother. An independent adoption usually starts when you already know an expectant mother and seek to legally adopt the child without the help of an agency’s matching services. An independent adoption will require you to seek your own legal counsel and pre- and post-adoption counseling for involved parties, along with other necessary placement services needed to complete the adoption.

Most private domestic adoptions will be families seeking the adoption of a baby from birth with the option of having an open relationship with the birth parents. Many times, families can be gender- or race-specific and request detailed medical information when seeking to be matched with a prospective birth mother. The wait time to be matched with a baby will depend upon many factors involving your family’s wishes. Once the baby is born in a private adoption situation, the adoptive family will travel to the birthplace and be introduced to their new child.

Costs associated with a private adoption can range anywhere from $20,000-$50,000 depending on which agency you choose to use, a birth mother’s needs, and the costs of the home study, background checks, travel, pre- and post-placement paperwork, and legal fees. There is also a small chance that a failed adoption can occur, where a potential birth mother chooses to parent after having made adoption arrangements. The costs that are “at risk” in these situations vary also based on what has been paid and if an agency will reimburse any expenses.

Foster Adoption:

Through your state’s social services department, there is another avenue to bring a child to your home. Foster adoption will look very differently from a private adoption in many ways and offers an alternative to infant adoption. The process to adopt from the foster care system in your state will even look a little different than if you were applying for a private adoption. In both cases, a home study and thorough checks of your background, finances, medical history, and criminal records will be done to deem your family credible and worthy of caring for a child. On top of all these requirements by any state for any type of adoption, when going through the foster care system, you will also be required to attend pre-adoption classes that educate and prepare families for the role they will be taking on as an adoptive family of a foster child.

You will also be asked when applying through the foster care system in your state what your final intentions will be for a child coming to your home. You can choose to only be a foster parent and provide a safe and loving home for a child(ren) for as long as the courts believe necessary to reintegrate the child back to their family. You also have the choice to foster with the intent to adopt a child that is unable to return to his/her family after parental rights have been terminated. And lastly, you are able to adopt a child through the state’s foster care system without having first been his/her foster parent. Do a quick search of foster care entities in your area. Some will be considered “privatized” agencies for foster care but will still provide similar services to find homes for foster children.

Waiting children to be adopted from foster care will more than likely be over two years of age, and children are more often eight years of age or older. Adopting a baby from foster care is rare, especially when you have not first been the foster parent. Once court proceedings are held and birth parents are given opportunities to better themselves, it can be years before a child is legally released to be adopted by another family. For this reason, there are many older children in the foster care system that are in need of adoption. There are also children of all races, genders, and special needs in the foster care system that need homes. Consider what your family will be suited to embrace based on your unique situation.

When adopting through foster care, it is critical to understand that many of the children have experienced abuse, tragedy, and trauma and will need love and support to help them find joy and peace past their pain. Continuing education for foster care situations can always breathe strength into your fears and provide the knowledge to make each day better.

Costs associated with an adoption through the foster care system can be anywhere from $0-$2,500. Most of the time, these costs include the home study and background checks required to be considered for adoption. In some cases, if you choose to foster-to-adopt, you may even be paid a stipend during the foster care to help with expenses of raising a child. Your wait time can also be decreased when adopting through foster care because of the great need and wide availability of children needing loving homes.

As with private adoption “at-risk” costs, there is an “at-risk” emotional expense when deciding to adopt through foster care. When a parent is still attempting to welcome their child back into their own home, a foster family must be ready to surrender the child back into the arms of their parents. However, the emotional expense will always be outweighed by knowing you loved a child the way they needed to be loved.

Foster-to-adopt or adopting through the foster care system will have its own challenges, just like a private adoption will. All can end with a child being loved and cared for by an adoptive family. Just like each child will have its own unique needs, every family will represent a new situation that can fit the needs of a child.

This is the third in a series of posts about decision-making in adoption. You can read Part 4: Agency vs. Independent Adoption here.

Jill is a 32-year-old wife and mom. She has been married to her husband, Brannon, for eight years and has 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters. Jill and her husband are currently in the adoption process to bring another baby into their home. Jill lives in a small community in Kentucky. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish and obtained her Master’s degree in Christian Ministries. Jill’s passions are her faith, her family, writing, playing sports, and eating good food.