In some cases, people step into the world of parenting through foster care adoption. For some, this type of adoption is the easiest way to become a parent. While some people choose to involve themselves in foster care without a goal of one day adopting, others look at foster care as a means of eventually finding a child to love and nurture permanently.
The Foster Care Adoption Process
Foster care adoption involves a different process than a typical adoption. This form of adopting has its own set of criteria and a set series of legal steps that must be followed before the adoption can be finalized.
Child Welfare Agency's Responsibilities
The child welfare agency has specific responsibilities, including the following:
- Identify placement of the child
- Initiate and later establish a change or a goal for the child's placement
- Complete a diligent search of birth parents
- Begin recruitment process for adoptive home
- Select and approve an adoptive home
- Handle services, including adoption subsidies, transition to the home, etc.
- Provide post-adoption services to the family
The court system also plays an important role in the placement and subsequent adoption of a child in foster care. The court must:
- Establish reason for foster care and later adoption, such as abuse, abandonment, and neglect
- Hold a hearing for the placement of the child
- Handle proceedings for terminating parental rights of the birth parents or guardians
- Handle proceedings for the adoption
Goals of the Welfare Agency
The goal of the welfare agency is to find a home for the child. This is referred to as permanency planning, and the courts must give the child a hearing on this subject within 12 months of his or her entering into the care of a welfare agency.
There are several options: eventually returning the child to his or her parents or guardians, providing foster care for a period of time with the hopes of returning the child to his or her home, or terminating parental rights and placing the child up for adoption.
Terminating Parental Rights
Once a welfare agency decides to place a child for adoption, the process for terminating parental rights begins. In some cases, birth parents will voluntarily give up their parental rights. In others, parental rights must be terminated without the parents' consent.
The agency must search for absent parents, as well as extended family members who might care for the child. Sometimes, there is also a lengthy court process wherein the parents appeal their termination of rights.
Foster care adoption processes differ from state to state, and it is important to check with your state if you are considering this type of adoption. Adoption subsidies, which provide monetary aid, and post-adoption services should be a part of the process as well.
Goals and Benefits
Several decades ago, foster parents were discouraged and often denied the opportunity to adopt a foster child. Now, child welfare advocates concede that often the best solution is to allow the foster family to adopt the child. The benefits are numerous and include the following:
- Foster parents already know their foster child. There won't be many surprises in the behavior and/or abilities of the child, mentally or physically.
- The foster family and the child have most likely already formed a bond with each other, and the child already feels like a member of the family.
- The foster family may not be as concerned about the birth parents, because the family is already familiar with the child's situation.
- This child will not have to experience another drastic change in his or her living situation, school, family, friends, pets, schedule, etc.
- The child already has a place in the home and within the family.
If you are interested in foster care adoption, there are numerous articles, Internet sites, and even support groups to help you. Check out the following links, contact your state's child welfare office, and talk to other adoptive parents as well:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services