Becoming an adoptive parent is an exciting opportunity — and it’s understandable to want to know how to adopt from foster care as quickly as possible. In fact, once you have made up your mind to adopt a foster child, your next question might be, “How long does it take to adopt from foster care?” or, if you want to adopt a child you’re currently fostering, “How long will it take to adopt my foster child?”
As you can imagine, the answers to these questions vary significantly depending on a number of factors. The wait might be longer or shorter than you anticipated, but it’s always worth it in the end.
To help you prepare for what to expect, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about how long it takes to adopt form foster care here.
How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Foster Child?
The average time to adopt from foster care can vary significantly. In general, the entire process takes about 9–18 months. However, there are several other factors that could extend the adoption through foster care timeline. For example, if you are a foster parent with the goal of eventually adopting a child in your care, your foster-to-adopt timeline will look different than a family who is applying to adopt a waiting child.
Why Does Adopting from Foster Care Take so Long?
During your adoption, several complex steps are taking place — all of which take time to complete. While your exact timeline can vary, we’ll break down some of the most time-consuming steps you’ll need to take to help you better understand why the process can sometimes take a while.
First, becoming a foster parent, like other types of adoption, has state-specific eligibility requirements that hopeful parents will have to meet. Becoming a certified foster or adoptive parent at the beginning of the journey includes steps such as:
These certification requirements can be time-consuming, but they are used to determine that every foster child will be entering a safe, loving home and are mandatory for all hopeful parents. We know that getting through every piece of paperwork will feel overwhelming, but it will be over before you know it.
This is an important stepping stone to adopting from foster care, so you’ll need to be as thorough as possible. Staying organized and on top of deadlines during this process will help you shorten your adoption from foster care timeline. Don’t forget that your caseworker is always available to answer any questions you have. They want to do everything they can to support you during your adoption journey, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if and when you need it.
Waiting for a Match and Placement
Once you’ve been approved, you’ll move on to the next step: matching and placement. When adopting from foster care, how long you’ll need to wait for a match can vary. If you are open to a wide variety of adoption situations, you may be matched quickly. There is a great need for temporary foster homes, as well, so families who are fostering with the intent of adopting may receive a placement almost immediately. However, keep in mind that this match may not necessarily be with a child you will eventually have the opportunity to adopt (more on foster-to-adopt placements below).
If you are pursuing a straight adoption from foster care (without fostering first), your caseworker will work to help you find the best fit to make sure that your family can meet the needs of the waiting child you plan on adopting. Like other types of adoption, the waiting period can sometimes be a lengthy process. We know it’s hard, but try to stay positive.
After receiving your adoption placement, you’ll go through a post‐placement supervision period. Once that step is complete, you’ll move onto any other post‐placement requirements and finalization. Once your adoption has been finalized, your foster child will finally be a permanent, legal member of your family!
How Long Does Foster-to-Adopt Take?
So, now you have a little better understanding of how long it might take to adopt a waiting child from foster care. But what if you’re already a foster parent, and you want to adopt a child you’re caring for?
If you’re wondering, “How long does it take to adopt your foster child?” the truth is that the length of time varies significantly. Hopeful parents who are interested in adopting their foster child may have a challenging experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Generally, if you plan to adopt a waiting child, how long you’ll wait can be shorter than if you plan to foster to adopt. But, remember that every situation is different.
Since foster care is intended as a temporary solution, reunification with a child’s biological family will always be the first goal. If reunification with the birth parents isn’t possible and no other biological relatives are able to adopt the child, the foster family will usually have the next opportunity to adopt. If the foster family is not interested in adopting their foster child, the state will look for adoptive parents looking to grow their family.
This means that foster parents who have high hopes to one day adopt their foster child could potentially be in for a long wait during their foster-to-adopt timeline — and some foster children will never become available for adoption at all. When a child is placed into foster care, every effort is made to make sure they are placed with a biological relative first before they’re eligible for adoption. The long waiting process ensures that every effort has been made to return a child to their biological parents before the parental rights are terminated and they’re placed for adoption. Only if and when a judge determines that reunification is impossible will foster parents have a chance to adopt their foster child.
Because biological parents are often given many opportunities to complete a reunification plan, and because extensive searches are often conducted to find a relative placement before a foster child becomes eligible for adoption, parents hoping to foster to adopt can sometimes be in for a long wait.
How Long is a Child in Foster Care Before Adoption?
After learning about the efforts that are made to reunite a child with their biological family, many hopeful parents also ask, “How long is a child in foster care before adoption?” Because of all the factors we mentioned above, the answer to this question varies significantly by case. However, the average length of time (for children who are not reunited with their birth family) is about two years.
Coping With the Wait
Ultimately, how long to adopt a child from foster care is often outside of your control. We understand that this lack of control can be frustrating. Many hopeful parents feel discouraged, anxious and unsure during the waiting period, so remember that you’re not alone. You can always reach out to other hopeful parents who plan on adopting through foster care or who are already foster parents for helpful advice and support. If you’re having trouble coping with the uncertainty of your wait, remember that you can also reach out to your caseworker or an adoption professional near you for more information.