What is Fostering to Adopt?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Foster care tends to have the goal of helping to reunify birth parents and children at some eventual point. Yet many children remain in the foster care system and their parents are unable to meet the requirements to resume custody of their children. When parents permanently lose custody of their children, these kids are then adoptable. While many foster families work to support this goal of eventual parent/child reunification, others participate in fostering to adopt programs, where they might ultimately gain the right to adopt a child out of the foster care system, if that child’s parents lose parental rights permanently.

Foster parents may gain the right to adopt a child out of the foster care system if a child's biological parents lose parental rights.
Foster parents may gain the right to adopt a child out of the foster care system if a child's biological parents lose parental rights.

A number of agencies offer fostering to adopt programs, and these programs have both advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes agencies that run foster care programs are more reluctant to place kids with fostering to adopt parents, if the foster care parents aren’t committed to the goal of parent/child reunification. It is much easier to place a child in a foster home on a temporary basis than it is to place one in a fostering to adopt situation, when that child is unlikely to be adoptable. Some foster parents sign up for foster to adopt programs but are also quite willing to take kids on a temporary basis, fully aware these children are likely to be reunited with parents.

While placement may be easier for the child who is only temporarily removed from a parent’s custody, or when it’s unlikely a parent will every willingly surrender custody, the number of foster care children in social systems is extraordinarily high. Many of them may need parents, and one glaring problem is that children who age out of foster care tend not to have the continuity of parental support that children living with their birth or adoptive parents would. Fostering to adopt programs can really benefit these children especially when parents are open to adopting older kids, who would probably not be adopted under most circumstances. Providing a permanent home for an older child or young teen may be that child’s saving grace.

However, some parents are quick to point out that foster to adopt programs can also be heart wrenching. Those hoping to adopt may face years of waiting before they can officially adopt kids, and they may form very close attachments with children who will ultimately be reunited with parents or with other family members. Some people claim that it is much easier to simply work toward adopting a child who is either parentless or whose parents have already permanently lost or surrendered custodial rights. Waiting can be hard and losing a child you hoped to adopt, even more difficult.

On the other hand, parents who have successfully navigated fostering to adopt programs and been able to adopt children say the potential heartache is worth the risk. Foster parents are typically first in line to adopt a child, and are able to have an influence on that child sooner and more directly than they would if they participated in a traditional adoption. There is more time for bonding, and more time to give a child a great start. Even if you are unable to ultimately adopt, the emotional investment in a given child may serve that child tremendously.

Every foster to adopt program is different, so it’s important to get information on how your local plans are administered and what requirements you may need to meet in order to qualify. You may want to start by contacting your local child protective services office to find out how you can gain access to these programs. There are often age and health requirements, and you will likely fill out many forms and participate in some interviews. You may also need to take special foster care training before being approved as a foster parent. If you are considering foster parenting, there are many online support services for fostering to adopt parents, which provide a fantastic means of asking questions and finding others who pursue this challenging but rewarding path to adoption.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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