Adopting an Infant from Foster Care

What are the Chances of Adopting a Baby from Foster Care?

By far some of the most popular questions from would-be parents looking to adopt a child from foster care are: “Can you adopt an infant from foster care? Are there babies in foster care waiting for adoption?” Many prospective parents want to raise a child from infancy, but they’d like to adopt through foster care, if possible, believing that they may be helping a baby in need.

However, while adopting an infant from foster care is sometimes possible, there simply aren’t very many babies available for adoption through foster care. Here’s why.

Adopting a Foster Baby is Possible, but Rare

The demand to adopt a healthy baby from foster care is high. However, the babies who enter foster care are usually reunited with their biological parents relatively quickly. They might be temporarily placed with hopeful families who are interested in a foster-to-adopt baby, but again, almost all of these placements will be temporary.

The goal for children who enter foster care is almost always reunification with their biological family. Their parents are given as many opportunities as a judge feels reasonable to improve their situation at home so that they can regain custody of their child and preserve the family. It’s only when the parents’ legal rights to their child are permanently terminated that a child becomes available for adoption. Many times, biological parents are given a year or more to complete their reunification plan, and most are ultimately successful. Therefore, infant adoption through foster care is rare because children are either reunited with their biological parents or have aged beyond infancy by the time their parents’ rights are terminated.

In situations where parents’ rights are terminated, the goal becomes permanent placement. First priority for placement is given to the baby’s current foster parents or to any other biological relatives who are willing and able to parent the child. By that point, it’s rare for an infant to not find a permanent placement. That’s why there aren’t usually foster babies available for adoption who are waiting, unlike older children who may wait years for a permanent placement.

Ultimately, the chances of adopting an infant through foster care are low.

There is a Greater Need for Non-Infants

Although there are always plenty of people interested in adopting a baby from foster care, there are far fewer people interested in adopting an older child. While adopting an older child should never be done without plenty of research and preparation, it’s a far more common way to create a family through foster care than a newborn foster care adoption.

There are many fears about adopting a child who is older than a newborn, especially regarding trauma and attachment. However, remember that all foster children, including newborns, have experienced some loss and trauma. Additionally, children are equally capable of forming strong and healthy attachments when given plenty of time, love and consistency.

All adoptions, regardless of the child’s age or background, involve some difficulties in addition to the many rewards. Choosing to adopt an older child is not for everyone, and it is a different experience. However, it can be just as rewarding as adopting a newborn from foster care. If you think you might be open to adopting a child older than a newborn, reach out to your foster care professional for more information, or begin viewing profiles of waiting children.

Temporarily Fostering May Increase Your Chances of Adopting a Baby from Foster Care

Again, most infants will be reunited with biological family, but because foster parents receive greater consideration if the need for permanent placement arises, you increase your chance of permanent placement if you foster-to-adopt infants. Fostering a baby to adopt isn’t for everyone, as it poses plenty of emotional difficulties.

It’s hard for foster parents to get attached to a baby and then have him or her be reunited with biological family, but that’s the nature of fostering. Reunification is the most likely outcome of most foster placements, and as foster parents, you would be expected to support that goal in whatever way possible. However, by fostering an infant to adopt, you may improve your chances of adopting a baby from foster care. It is possible that you would be considered as a permanent placement option if a baby is unable to return to his or her biological parents. Talk to your foster care organization about this option to decide if it’s right for you.

How to Adopt a Baby from Foster Care

Here’s a quick overview of the process of how to adopt an infant from foster care:

  • Step 1: Learn more about infant foster care adoptions to ensure that it’s the right family-building path for you
  • Step 2: Talk to your older children, if applicable, as well as other family about the possibility of bringing home a new family member
  • Step 3: Meet your state’s requirements and complete the screening processes
  • Step 4: Begin equipping your home to meet the needs of an infant, choose a pediatrician, etc.
  • Step 5: Complete the home study and parenting classes
  • Step 6: Placement, home study follow-ups and finalization

If Your Heart is Set on an Infant, Consider Alternative Types of Adoption

For prospective parents who will exclusively accept a newborn, we wouldn’t usually recommend trying to adopt an infant through foster care. You would wait much longer for a permanent placement if you try adopting a newborn through foster care than you would with a private agency specializing in the placement of infants.

This can be tough to hear if you’ve been dreaming of adopting a baby through foster care, but in any type of adoption, there is always a good deal of flexibility required — before, during and after placement.

So, although it is certainly possible to foster-to-adopt newborns, permanent placement is relatively rare. You’d be more likely to adopt an infant through a private domestic adoption agency.

Or, you can talk to your foster care professional about adopting an older child — it’s not the right option for everyone, but with research and preparation, it could be a good fit for your family. In their online listings, you can typically filter waiting children by age. View profiles of waiting children here  and here.