If you are fostering a child who cannot be returned to his or her biological family, there’s a lot you have to think about. In many cases, foster parents are given one of the first opportunities to adopt a child who cannot be reunited with his or her birth parents or other relatives. Some foster families have formed deep bonds with the children in their care and would be thrilled at this opportunity — but what if you’re not sure that adoption is right for you? What if your first thought is, “I don’t want to adopt my foster child?”
Some foster parents feel guilty for having these thoughts, but you shouldn’t feel ashamed if this is your situation. This question gets asked more often than you think. While adopting a child is a beautiful opportunity, one that many hopeful parents pursue to build the family they’ve been dreaming of, it’s not for everyone. In fact, foster care is meant to be temporary, and many foster parents come to this process with the intention of providing a loving home until their foster child can be reunified with their parents. Fostering without adopting is definitely an option — and temporary foster parents are in high demand. So, there’s no shame in not being able or willing to commit to adoption if a child you’re fostering becomes available.
Although it’s can be rewarding, adoption can also be hard on hopeful parents. It’s known for being a stressful and emotional, and many couples, foster parents included, aren’t ready to take on such a weighty challenge. If this is your situation, know that you’re not alone. Here’s some information on what it’s like to foster a child with no plans of adopting them.
Why Do Some Foster Families Choose Not to Adopt?
“I don’t want to adopt my foster child.” It’s a thought that might make you feel guilty, conflicted, or even pressured to change your mind.
But you are not alone. There are many reasons why adoption might not be the best fit, and all of them are valid. Here are a few of the reasons why a foster family might choose not to adopt a child who becomes available while in their care:
They already have permanent kids
Often, a family will choose to foster when they have other, “permanent” kids in their home. In this case, it might be too overwhelming to add another permanent member to the family. Parents in this situation could want to keep their home and hearts open for other foster children who need somewhere to stay temporarily.
They might be unsure about a special needs situation
Even if a family is comfortable with fostering a child who has special needs, they might not have the means to permanently adopt them. In that case, they might not feel that they’re the best family for a permanent placement.
They’re not ready for adoption
Some families choose to foster first and adopt at a later point. For them, giving the gift of a loving home may be the only goal they have, or they might be looking for the perfect match while they foster. While they might change their mind about adoption later in life, it’s not their end goal right now.
They don’t want to adopt at all
Some foster families never want to adopt, and that’s okay. Not everyone sees adoption as their final destination. If you’ve always known that fostering is the only option for you, you shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing not to adopt a foster child.
If any of this sounds likes your reason for deciding not to adopt a foster child, remember that you’re not alone. No matter what the reason is, there are still ways that you can help a child, even if you don’t adopt them.
Becoming a Foster Parent without Adopting
If you’re considering becoming a foster parent, but you’re worried about potentially having to turn down an adoption opportunity later on, you might be asking, “Can you foster a child without adopting?”
The answer is yes. In fact, not every foster child even needs to be or is eligible for adoption. When a child is placed in the state’s care, the primary goal is reunification. Most of the time, this means that a child will be reunited with their biological parents or another family member. When reunification is the end goal, you often will not even have to worry about the topic of adoption ever being brought up.
To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 400,000 children currently in foster care — and only about 100,000 of these children are eligible for adoption. The need for loving, temporary foster parents is great. Some states are even facing a shortage of qualified foster parents to provide the care these children need while they are awaiting permanency with their biological family or adoptive parents. You can absolutely help by becoming a foster parent, whether or not you are interested in the possibility of eventually adopting.
If you’re unsure about fostering without adoption, don’t forget that you can always talk your caseworker for support and information on your options.
Answering the Hard Questions
If you are deciding not to adopt a foster child in your care, there are probably some questions and situations that you are worried about.
How can I talk to my caseworker?
The most important thing is to always be honest about what you’re looking for. Remember, you can always ask your caseworker if the goal is reunification or adoption before you accept a placement. It’s not a good idea to accept a placement if it’s not going to be a good fit for you or the foster child. However, keep in mind that the goal could also change — a child’s goal often starts as reunification, but may eventually change to adoption. Your caseworker may be able to give you an idea of whether or not this is likely to happen in your specific case. No matter what the circumstances, let your caseworker know upfront what your goals are, so they will be prepared if your foster child becomes available for adoption.
What if I feel pressured to adopt?
You are the only one who gets to make this decision. No one else can decide what’s best for your family but you. If you feel guilty or unsure about choosing not to adopt a foster child, know that those feelings are normal. Remember that your caseworker is there to help, and they can listen to you at any time as you try to navigate those feelings.
What if my foster child asks about adoption?
While you may know that a placement might not be a good match, a child won’t always understand why. If you know that the goal for your child is adoption and you will not be the one adopting them, let them know that, even though you love them as your own, you’re not the best fit to adopt them. Talk to your caseworker for suggestions on how to have this conversation and how to prepare your child to be adopted by their new forever family. Make sure your foster child understands that it is not their fault that you are making this decision — it’s not because they are “bad,” unwanted or unloved. Even if you don’t plan on adopting, remember to treat them as you would any member of your family while they’re there.
What Happens Next?
If you’ve decided not to adopt your foster child, know that you’re not a bad person for doing so. Being a foster parent is so much harder than people think. Fostering a child for a temporary period of time is not the same as making a permanent commitment through adoption, and not everyone has the means or resources to give a child in foster care the life they deserve long-term. You shouldn’t feel pressured into making a decision that’s not right for you. If you have any questions about foster vs. foster to adopt, remember that you can always talk to your caseworker for more information.