Adopting from Foster Care: 6 Things to Know

Williamsport, PA, adoption counselor Jennifer Lake shares her insight about foster care adoption

By Bethany Marcello March 1, 2018

Adopting from foster care abounds with misconceptions and fear. "Will the child bond with his family? Will the birth family take her back?" But while the fear is great, the love is greater. Since February is a month that celebrates love of all types, Jennifer Lake, Resource Family Development Specialist and Post Permanency Specialist at Bethany Christian Services shares...

What are some common misconceptions or fears about adopting from foster care? Any way to overcome?

Some common misconceptions about adopting from foster care include:
1. “It’s too expensive.” The reality is that the costs are very minimal. Adopting a child from foster care is often funded by the state, and in many cases, there are little to no fees (varies by state). Medical assistance and financial subsidies are often available as well.

2. “An older child will never be able to bond with our family.” This is simply not true! Sure, kids in foster care come with a lot of hurts and they will have a hard time trusting adults again when their experiences with adults have not been safe thus far. While there are some kids in care who will struggle significantly with attaching to anyone, the majority of kids in foster care are able to trust, bond, and love a family after enough time has gone by and they feel safe again. There will always be triggers for a child who has come from some of the things that children in foster care have had to come from, but they are never beyond hope. They need unconditional love. They need consistency. They need someone to show up for them. They need a family.

3. “If I adopt from foster care, the child could still go back to their birth family.” If a child is adopted, they are legally your child now. There is no threat of that child going back to their birth family. However, in some cases, we do encourage that the adoptive family continues a relationship with birth family members who their adopted child has had a positive experience with. Any child who has been adopted, regardless of the age the child was adopted at, will struggle with abandonment issues. If we can help a child feel connected to the loving and positive parts of their family of origin, then we have a responsibility to do so. It takes a special family to be able to foster this relationship, but if it is in the best interest of the child, then it is the right thing to do.

What are some common setbacks when adopting from foster care?
Foster care isn't for the faint of heart. To be successful, you must be able to be flexible with change, roll with things outside of your control, be a learner, and practice patience with both the children and the process in general. There are many potential challenges, and each child's situation will be unique.

Do you recommend fostering before adopting?
Not necessarily. We need both. We need families willing to be foster families, with the understanding that the goal is for the child(ren) to be reunited with their birth family as soon as it is safe to do so. We also need families that are open to taking older children and/or sibling groups who are in the system and are legally free for adoption. This means that the parental rights of that child’s biological parents have already been terminated and they are waiting for their forever family. There are currently over 100,000 children nationwide in the foster care system who are legally free for adoption. These children range in age and need.

How do private adoption agencies compare to public agencies?
Typically, an affiliate agency is going to be able to provide much more training and support to a family than a public agency is able to do simply because of caseload and demands.

Is it important to preserve birth order when adopting?
I think this truly depends on the family dynamics, personalities of the children, and ages of the children already living in the home. There is no “one size fits all” with foster care adoption.

What are the first steps when adopting from foster care process?
The first step would be to attend a Foster Care/Foster Care Adoption Orientation and learn more about the process, ask questions, and be educated on the facts. After going through an orientation, families that decide they are ready to become foster parents or adopt through the foster care system will go through training classes to prepare them for what’s to come.