When Might Foster-To-Adoption Be The Right Choice For Your Family?

Posted on: 9 October 2015

If you've always dreamed of having a larger family but have found that biology doesn't always allow these dreams to come true, you may be wondering about your next steps. Both in vitro fertilization and international adoption can be expensive, and you may worry that you'll still be left with empty arms despite spending tens of thousands of dollars. However, one less expensive alternative may offer you the chance to make a difference in the lives of multiple children while opening your home to the child who could legally become your own. Read on to learn more about the foster-to-adoption process to determine whether this is a good option for you and your partner.

What is the foster-to-adoption process?

Some foster parents don't intend to keep any children long term, but instead wish to serve as a safe place for children or teens whose families are unable or unwilling to provide stable care. These foster parents may rotate through children frequently, returning them to the biological parents once the issue has resolved (or to a more permanent foster placement), or they can keep children for longer periods of time, but never with the intent to make it a permanent arrangement.

However, other foster parents may long for a permanent placement that eventually turns into a legal adoption. This process can be a great way to ensure that a child is a good fit for your family before finalizing a legal adoption. Generally, to go through the foster-to-adoption process, you'll need to become a state-certified foster parent and then make yourself available for long-term placements. Local social workers will work with you to identify children who fit your desired description (age, gender, race, and the presence or absence of certain handicaps) and whose parents are headed down the path toward having their legal rights terminated. Once these parental rights are severed, you'll often be able to step in as a legally adoptive parent, just as if you had adopted this child from birth. 

On the other hand, if the placement doesn't work out, you'll be able to return the child to another foster home that may be a better fit. This isn't an option when going through a traditional adoption -- in fact, one mother who sent her child unaccompanied on a plane back to Russia found herself at the center of an international adoption controversy and was even ordered to pay child support.

What are some potential hurdles to adopting through the foster system?

While the adoption process can be lengthy and often frustrating, the process of becoming a foster parent can sometimes be more rigorous than going through the adoption process (depending upon the country from which you're adopting). Often, when doing a foster-to-adoption, you'll need to repeat a portion of the home checks and other documentation before your foster-to-adoption is finalized by the courts. For example, during the home check for a foster care license, most states will require that all medication and weapons in the home be secured in an inaccessible place, like a biometric safe. Other states may even require you to purchase a lock for your liquor cabinet before clearing your application. Your family and friends may be interviewed about your temperament, your experience with children, and any potential red flags that may arise. 

Another potential risk of the foster care process involves your emotional health. Because many children in the foster care system still have parents fighting to get them back, there is always the risk that your child may spend months or years as part of your family, only to later be placed back with his or her birth parent(s) at a court's bequest. If this scenario is a particular concern for you, you may be able to request to receive only placements of children whose parents have already had their legal rights terminated. However, the children who are most in need of immediate stability are often those going through turbulent family situations.

It is important to keep in mind that there are potential pitfalls to the adoption process even for those who have never been foster parents. If you're confident you and your partner can handle the challenges a fostering lifestyle can throw your way, you'll often be rewarded countless times over through the love and lifetime affection of a former foster child who later became your legal child.

For additional info, you may want to contact local adoption or foster agencies, or you talk to a family law attorney about your options.