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What if My Foster Child Doesn’t Want to Be Adopted?

If you’re a foster-to-adopt parent, and a child you’ve been caring for has been legally freed for adoption, you’ve probably spent a lot of time fantasizing about your adoption day and what your future will look like with the newest member of your family. But, while there are many children who are eligible for adoption and can’t wait to meet their forever family, you may find that your foster child isn’t as enthusiastic. What happens when your foster child doesn’t want to be adopted?

It might be surprising, but this situation isn’t uncommon. Many families want to know, “Do foster youth want to be adopted?” It’s easy to assume that the answer is always a resounding yes — but the truth is that not every child is ready, or wants, to be adopted. They have their own reasons for feeling this way, and you should try and understand where they’re coming from. Here, we talk about what happens when your foster child doesn’t want or isn’t ready for adoption.

Why Would a Foster Child Not Want to be Adopted?

Every child has been impacted by the foster care system in different ways. If your foster child doesn’t want to be adopted, you might be in a difficult spot as well as you try to understand what they’re going through.

Here are some of the most common reasons for a child to refuse an adoption match:

They’re not ready

You might be excited for your potential adoption, but that doesn’t mean they are. If the child has been in the foster care system for some time, they may have been with several foster families. They might have a hard time trusting a new family, or they might be afraid of what an adoption will mean for their future. Sometimes, the best way of helping a foster child choose adoption is simply giving them time to process and get used to the idea.

They have a negative perception of family

For a child who’s old enough to remember their biological family, or even their experiences with some foster families, constant negative experiences can cloud their judgement on what a family is “supposed” to be like. For some of them, it can be hard to imagine what a normal, healthy family should look like. In this case, it could take a long time for them to open up to the idea of being adopted.

They still want their biological family

Even when a child is eligible for adoption, and there’s no way for them to reunite with their biological family, they could still be holding out hope of one day being reunited. Sometimes, the child may feel like they need to “prove” their loyalty to their biological family by refusing adoption. Your foster child might be in denial about their situation, and it’s hard for them to move on from a dream that won’t come true. Being adopted by another permanent family might be too much for them to accept when the only thing on their mind is reuniting with their loved ones.

These are just a few of many complex reasons why a child may express that they don’t want to be adopted, and all of them can be tough to tackle. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes and understand where these feelings are really coming from. Is your child really adamantly against being adopted, or is he or she just uncertain and afraid of what permanency will look like? Could he or she be grappling with trust or abandonment issues? Are they “testing” you to see if you are serious about making this commitment to them? Or are they dealing with guilt or a sense of loyalty to their biological family? Try to get to the root of the issue, reassure and support your child, and consider seeking counseling to help your child work through these issues.

Do Foster Children Have a Say in their Adoption?

If your foster child has expressed that they don’t want to be adopted, you might be asking, “Does a child in foster care have a say who in adopts them?” or even, “Can a foster child be adopted against their will?” In some states, children over a certain age must verbally consent to the adoption. If they don’t, the adoption can’t move forward. Even in cases where a child’s consent is not required, child welfare professionals may ask a child how he or she feels about the adoption and take that into consideration.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not the adoption is in the child’s best interests. If you can, try to help your child work through their feelings before the adoption. With some effort from you, or even an adoption professional, you could help them open up about their feelings on not wanting adoption. Foster children should always feel like someone has their back, even when it’s difficult. As your child’s foster and adoptive parent, you can play a key role in helping a foster child choose adoption and transition to permanency.

If you have any questions about the rights foster children have in your state and whether foster children have a say in who adopts them, start your search here.

My Foster Child Does Not Want to Be Adopted – Now What?

If, even after talking with them and helping them work through their feelings, your foster child truly doesn’t want to be adopted, and if your child’s caseworker agrees that adoption with you is not in their best interests, remember that there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to foster them or other children. Every child needs a loving home, even when it’s only temporary. We know that it’s hard, but there are other opportunities available if you have your heart set on adoption. Every year, more and more children who are eligible for adoption enter the foster care system. You could be the forever family they’ve been looking for. To learn more, speak with your caseworker or an adoption specialist about your options when a foster child doesn’t want to be adopted.