Families come together in many beautiful ways. No matter how you become one, the chance to become a parent — even a temporary foster parent — is one of the most amazing gifts. But, if you decide you’re looking for something more permanent, you may be wondering, “Can I adopt a child I am fostering?” and “Is it possible to go from fostering to adoption?”
If you’re already a foster parent, or if you’re thinking about becoming one, you’ve probably spent some time pondering this question. When a foster child enters your home, it’s only natural to become attached. You probably have a hard time picturing a future without them. But the answer to this question isn’t as clear cut as you might think. There are a lot of factors that go into answering this question. Find out more on what it’s like to adopt a foster child here.
If You Foster a Child, Can You Adopt Them?
In some cases, yes. This process is called foster-to-adopt, and it certainly can be done — but it isn’t an option in every case.
First and foremost, foster care is intended as a temporary solution when a child’s home is no longer safe or stable. Although there are foster children whose parents have already had their rights terminated, this isn’t always the case. When a child is placed in the state’s care, every effort will be made to reunite them with their biological family. When you become a foster parent, you will provide temporary care for children who have been removed from their homes but whose parents are still working toward a reunification plan.
For many children, reunification is the first and only goal. Even if a child does become eligible for adoption at some point, that could take up to two years or even longer — and most children never become eligible for adoption at all. Before you accept a placement, you can always ask if the goal is reunification or adoption.
So, if you’re wondering, “Can a foster parent adopt all of their foster kids?” The answer is likely no. Not every foster child can be adopted. While some foster children do eventually become available for adoption, many more are reunited with their biological families.
When Can a Foster Parent Adopt their Foster Child?
So, now you know that foster parents can adopt their foster child only when (and if) that child’s biological parents have their rights legally terminated. However, even then, there is no guarantee a foster parent can adopt their foster child. That’s because, in most cases, caseworkers will look for another biological relative to adopt the child first. Then, if the caseworker does not find a safe home with a relative, foster parents are often given the next opportunity to adopt.
This leads some foster parents to wonder, “Can a foster family fight a relative to adopt?” After all, the foster family has likely raised the child for months or even years while their parents worked toward reunification. The answer to this question will always come down to the specifics of the individual case. Foster parents who are interested in adopting their foster child should contact a local adoption attorney for more information about their options in their circumstances. However, it’s important to remember that the first goal of foster care is to preserve families — and foster parents are generally expected to support that goal.
How Often Does Foster Care Lead to Adoption?
Another question we hear is, “How often are foster children adopted by foster care parents?” It really depends. According to the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the statistics of foster parents who adopt have been on the rise. In 2018, about 52% of children who left foster care were adopted by foster parents.
So, the success rates of foster-to-adopt can vary. If a child’s parental rights happen to be terminated, and no other biological relatives are available to adopt the child, you could adopt the first foster child you’re placed with. But if not, you could be waiting a long time. Each case, and each foster child, is different. Even if the biological parents have their rights terminated, there are other family members that you need to take into account. Like we mentioned earlier, every effort will be made to place a child with their biological family before letting the foster parents have the next opportunity to adopt. And in some cases, a foster child might never be eligible for adoption.
So, while there is a chance that a foster parent can adopt a child in their care, there is also a good chance that they can’t. For this reason, hopeful parents should think long and hard about what their goals are before pursuing foster-to-adopt. If a family’s primary goal is to adopt, they may want to consider applying to adopt a child who is already eligible for and awaiting adoption.
Just keep in mind that every situation is different. Remember that, until you sign the final decree of adoption, nothing is guaranteed. We know that it’s hard, but it’s important to always be realistic. Instead of thinking that every foster care placement will lead to an adoption, try to stay positive and remember that every step you take will help bring a child closer to their forever family.
How Can I Adopt My Foster Child?
If a child in your care becomes eligible for adoption, you may be wondering what steps you need to take to be able to adopt them. Generally, adopting your foster child will be similar to adopting any other child from foster care. The most important thing to remember is that each state has its own requirements for who can adopt a foster child. So, remember to look into the requirements for your state first to determine if you will need to complete any additional trainings or licensing requirements beyond your foster care certification process.
If the parental rights have not been terminated, that will be the first step toward adoption. Typically, birth parents have about six months to a year to complete their reunification plans, but they are able to receive an extension in some cases. Once the parental rights are terminated, the court will assess who is the best fit to raise the child. If you’ve been matched with the child, there are a few more steps to take before the adoption is finalized. Over the next few months, a social worker will conduct post-placement visits to evaluate how everyone in your family is adjusting. Once all the requirements are met, you’ll wait for an available court date to finalize the adoption.
So, can foster care lead to adoption? In some cases, yes. But always remember that every situation is unique. If you have any questions about your rights as a foster parent, which foster children are eligible for adoption, or more information on the percentage of people who adopt from fostering, remember that you can always reach out to a local foster care agency for more information.