Adopting a child you’re fostering whom you’ve come to love like your own is one of the most rewarding ways to build a family. As more children enter foster care every year, the need for loving parents only grows. If you’re already foster parents considering adoption, or if you’re thinking about becoming one, here’s everything you need to know about foster-to-adopt.
What is Foster to Adopt?
Let’s start with the foster-to-adopt definition. What does foster-to-adopt mean?
In a foster-to-adopt situation, prospective parents become a foster family in the hopes that one day they will be able to adopt their foster child(ren). In this situation, an adoption can only occur if and when the child’s birth parents’ parental rights have been terminated. Every state has its own requirements for parents who wish to adopt a foster child. Take a look at those to learn more about foster-to-adopt requirements in your area.
Not everyone sets out to adopt a child when they foster them, and not every foster child will become available for adoption. But, if the court determines that reunification is not possible and it’s too painful for the foster parents to say goodbye, adoption often feels like the next logical step. While a foster child is in the family’s care, hopeful parents have the opportunity to bond with the child, gain important parenting skills, and even build a relationship with the birth parents, if it’s safe to do so. Fostering before adopting also presents a stronger case for adoption, if the foster parents choose to pursue this route.
However, the most important thing to remember is that not every foster placement leads to adoption. If you do plan on pursuing foster-to-adopt through CPS, your primary goal should always be to support reunification, even when it’s hard.
This type of adoption is usually completed through your Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) foster-to-adopt program (or the equivalent public foster care agency in your state). For more information about fostering with a view to adoption and how this process works in your state, contact your local foster care adoption agency.
What is a Foster-to-Adopt Program?
Some foster care agencies have specifically established programs for foster parents who want to adopt, should the opportunity arise. Different organizations may have different names for these pre-adoption foster care programs: concurrent planning, fostering for adoption, becoming a resource family, etc.
Concurrent planning, or concurrent adoption-fostering, is when there is a plan to reunify a child with their biological parents or family members, as well as a plan to help a child achieve permanency as soon as possible — often with the foster parents. In concurrent planning, if the initial reunification plans fails, foster-to-adopt parents are committed to adopting their foster child.
How Long Does Fostering to Adopt Take?
There are so many variables involved in terminating a parent’s rights and moving a case toward adoption, so we can’t give you an exact answer for how long it will take. Sometimes, it could be a short as six months, while in other cases it can take as long as 18 months or more. Fostering turning into actual adoption is possible, but for many families, the wait can be overwhelming. And even then, there’s still no guarantee that the parental rights will ever be terminated.
Before you bring a child into your home, there are some things you need to ask yourself and answer as honestly as possible. Will you be able to handle the joys of becoming a parent and the feeling of disappointment if your foster child has to leave? Will you support their biological parent’s reunification plans 100%, or is your primary goal adoption? Ask yourself these questions before you choose to foster to adopt.
What is it Really Like to Foster to Adopt?
Every adoption experience will be different. While all of the hard work can be worth it in the end, there are some things that you should keep in mind as a foster parent planning to adopt.
Generally, this method of building a family is riskier than other types of adoption. A child being placed in your care does not guarantee that they’ll become a part of your forever family. If you keep thinking that every foster-to-adopt placement you receive is going to lead to adoption, you’ll end up disappointed. That’s why fostering with a view to adoption can be harder for everyone involved.
You should also remember that reunification always comes first. It’s only natural to become attached to a child once they come into your life. This means that if you have your heart set on a particular child, it can be heartbreaking to have to let them go when the time comes to reunite with their biological family. Again, there’s no guarantee that the parental rights will be terminated. Know that adoption and fostering to adopt is a stressful process and that you’re not alone.
While we can’t erase all of your fears, we can tell you that foster parents who want to adopt find this path more than worth it in the end. Many families choose to foster first, opening their home to a child in need. Others have always wanted to adopt and see foster care as a low-cost method compared to other types of adoption. Your foster-to-adopt experience will be unique, so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth any challenges you may face.
The Next Steps
The truth is that adopting a child you are fostering won’t be easy. It will take a lot of time to decide if pre-adoption foster care is right for you. If you have any questions, reach out to an adoption professional near you today for more information.