At the current time, there are approximately 550,000 children who reside within the foster care system nationwide. Over 134,000 of these children are available for adoption
1. Who are the children in foster care
Children may be in foster care for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is the birth parents’ inability to offer the child a safe and suitable home, coupled with adequate supervision. This can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and/or substance abuse. Typically, the children are taken from the care of their birth family and are placed with a foster family to remove them from immediate harm. Most birth families are offered the opportunity to work on the issues that led to the removal of their child. If the birth family failed to remedy the issues, parental rights will be terminated in order to provide for permanency for the children. Many of the children are a part of a sibling group. The children come from all ethnic groups; however, there is a growing number of children that are African American, Hispanic or from mixed ethnic heritages. The issues that the children have vary greatly. Some may have physical handicaps, cognitive challenges, and/or emotional handicaps from the trauma of abuse or neglect. A large majority of the children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Deficit and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, some children may be classified with special needs due to their age or the number of siblings that will be placed together as a sibling group.
2. What is the process for a special needs adoption?
The first step in the process is to complete a home study and family preparation sessions. Once a family is “home-study ready”, their agency, in cooperation with the family, will submit their paper work for consideration for a child or sibling group currently in foster care. With the advent of the internet photo listings and the 1997 Safe Family and Adoption Act, a family may seek and be considered for a child in any state. Families are encouraged to register on various matching web sites for added exposure. Once a family has been selected for being a potential adoptive resource for a child or sibling group, a staffing will be held with caseworkers to ascertain which family will be the best suited for a pre-adoptive placement.
Once the family is selected, they will meet with the chi1d and the caseworkers involved with the child. This meeting helps a fami1y to learn about the child’s needs and history. After the face-to-face meetings, the family and staff will decide if the adoptive placement is still a good match. If so, Interstate Compact for Protection of Children will be applied for if the child resides outside of the state. A placement may proceed once the Interstate Compact Compliance has been met. The family will provide care for the child until the finalization takes place. During the time from placement until finalization, the family will be supervised by a local licensed agency. The agency staff, an attorney, and the Family Court system will assist in the finalization of the adoption.
3. How long does it take for an adoption from foster care?
While the time varies, the use of the internet photo listings and the implementation of the 1997 Safe Families and Adoption Act has decreased the time dramatically. A good estimate of time is around one year, once the TPR has been completed. This estimate can vary on either side, however, depending on the issues surrounding the termination of rights of the birth parents, and state law. In addition, the flexibility of the family’s degree of acceptance of various factors can determine the amount of time before a match is found. There is a great need for families that are open to large sibling groups, children of color, children older than eight years old, and children with emotional needs due to abuse and neglect.
4. How much does an adoption from foster care costs and where can I find help?
The costs of an adoption from foster care are minimal. In fact, a foster care adoption can often be cost-free due to special programs such as purchase of services between states, the non-recurring costs program and tax incentives. Most public programs that work with foster care adoptions assist the family in the cost of transportation, medical needs of the child, finalization costs, and a monthly subsidy for care. Families should also be aware of their employee reimbursement programs for adoption as well as state and federal tax credits for families that adopt. The Hope for the Child tax credit is an excellent example of public policy in action that assists families in their adoption efforts. You may find out more about this legislation from your local congressman’s office or your tax preparer.
5. Where can I find out more about adoptions from foster care?
Below are links that may assist a family in finding out more about adopting a child from foster care:
- www.adoptuskids.org – national photo listings
- www.capbook.org– additional national photo listings
- www.adopt.net – information, resources and support for adoption
- www.adoptivefam.org_ – adoptive families support group
- www.nacac.org – North American Council on Adoptive Children
- www.adopting.org.ncsap.html- National Council For Single Adoptive Parents