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A Guide to Foster Adoption Agencies

A lot of people find it hard to choose an adoption agency. After all, there’s a lot riding on this decision, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

If you’re thinking about adopting from foster care, then you’ve probably heard adoption agencies referred to as either “public” or “private.” But, what do those labels really mean? And how much of an impact will the type of agency you choose make on your adoption?

In this article, we’ll talk about the differences between both types of foster-to-adopt agencies, along with everything else you need to know about foster adoption agencies in your state. Keep reading to find out which one is right for your family.

What’s the Difference Between a Public and Private Adoption Agency?

As you may already know, there are generally three types of adoption: foster care, international adoption, and private domestic adoption. Along with that, there are many types of professionals that a prospective birth parent or adoptive family might work with, such as a national adoption agency, a local adoption agency, an international adoption agency, and so on.

In a foster care adoption, the most common type of professional a family might use is a public adoption agency, with private adoption foster care agencies as the runner up. Both types are similar, but they do have some notable differences. Here’s a brief overview of both types of foster adoption agencies that hopeful families might choose from:

Public Adoption Agencies

Because foster care is a state-run system, most foster care adoptions are coordinated by public agencies. Public adoption agencies are funded by the state and in many cases are synonymous with the state’s social or human services department. These foster-adopt agencies work with families who are looking to adopt a waiting foster child, become foster parents, or foster to adopt.

The ultimate goal of a public adoption agency is to reunite a child with their biological family. In many ways, the foster care system is actually considered a temporary solution to a difficult problem at home. But, there are some cases in which a child can’t be returned to their family at all. In these cases, the public adoption agency will arrange for the child to be adopted by their foster parents or another waiting adoptive family.

While there are children who are already eligible for adoption, there are many more foster children who are in temporary foster homes while they wait to be reunited with their biological parents or have their parents’ parental rights terminated before they can be adopted. If parents are fostering a child whose parents’ rights have not yet been terminated with the hopes of adopting the child, they are pursuing a process called “foster to adopt,” rather than a straight adoption from foster care.

In a foster-to-adopt situation, the birth parents still have time to regain their parental rights and custody of their child. Adopting from foster care and adoption agencies is often uncertain, because there’s no telling if a child will be eligible for adoption or when the adoption will be finalized. This means that, depending on how you decide to adopt from foster care, you could be in for a very long wait.

Private Adoption Agencies

Private agencies, on the other hand, are privately-owned adoption professionals that provide services to prospective birth parents and hopeful adoptive families. This type of agency is most commonly associated with private domestic adoption, in which a birth mother will place her child up for adoption voluntarily. These types of agencies are normally associated with infant adoptions, but there are some centers that offer services for older children and foster adoptions. When private adoption agencies are involved in foster care, the state government contracts with them to provide foster care services to complete these types of adoption.

In most cases, a family adopting from foster care will just work with their state department (a “public agency”). In fact, in some states, families may not have the option to work with a private agency if their state department does not contract with private agencies. However, there are some private foster care adoption agencies that do contract with the state to offer foster care programs. Sometimes, these private agencies will offer more specialized programs than public agencies; for example, some private agencies may focus on lower-risk placements of children whose parents’ rights have already been terminated.  If you’re looking for a few agencies in your state, check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

What to Look for in a Foster Care Agency

There are all kinds of adoption agencies across the country, but there’s only one that will be right for your family. If you have the opportunity to choose from more than one professional for your foster care adoption, you should look for an adoption and fostering agency that:

Don’t be afraid to be picky when you’re trying to decide which foster-to-adopt agency is right for you. The agency that you work with will have a huge effect on your overall experience, so you want to make sure you’ve found one that you can count on. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to keep looking.

Where Can I Find the Best Foster Care and Adoption Agencies?

Like we mentioned earlier, each state has their own foster care system. You can find the agencies that are available in your state here.

Depending on how many professionals are in your state, you might be feeling a bit of choice overload. That’s normal, but don’t be afraid to take your time.

What’s Next?

We know that choosing an adoption agency for foster care can be confusing and overwhelming. If you have any questions after reading this article, don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals in your area for more information. A local foster care professional would be happy to answer any of your questions.