As human beings, we want things to be easy and quick. Microwaves, smart phones, the IRS’s 1040EZ form… Those looking to adopt from foster care may expect that as well. I’ve adopted from foster care, and let me tell you, it is hard! But it’s worth it. Here are some things to expect.
The minimum requirements to adopt through the foster care system are the following: a criminal background check, a Child Protective Services background check, references, and a home study. You may also have to submit a physician’s statement and attend a pre-service training called Foster Parent College. You may also need to become certified for adoption. An adoption agency or Foster Care agency can assist you in all these areas. You may hit road blocks during the process in some places. For example, if you have a criminal history, you may have to appeal a conviction. If one of your references comes back negative, you may have to answer some additional questions. If you have a physical condition, you may have to demonstrate that you can still care for kids. Whatever the case, be prepared to look at these not as a road block, but as an obstacle. The process may be infuriating, but it is not impossible to navigate.
Remember AOL, America Online? They were one of the first online companies in the US. They had mass marketing of CDs that promised web surfing, chat rooms and…instant messaging! This was revolutionary. But of course, the down side was that it was only dial-up, which moved at a snail’s pace. Foster care adoption is sometimes like that. The time it takes to get licensed and certified may take 6-9 months. And then waiting to be matched with a child could take a bit longer, depending on the type of child you are looking for. Keep in mind that most couples want to adopt a healthy infant. But the reality is the kids who need to be adopted the most are older kids (school-age) and sibling groups. You won’t have to wait as long to be matched if you choose one of those kids.
Hard Kids from Hard Places
Lastly, please keep in mind that that children in foster care are there through no fault of their own due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Therefore, many of these kiddos have special needs and may display behaviors that are not as prevalent in their peers. These kids may be on medication, or in counseling, or have diagnoses that you may be unfamiliar with. Do your homework! Research and request many day visits with a child before making your final decision. Be prepared to meet the child where he or she is.
According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care in America right now. Out of those 400,000, 100,000 are free for adoption.
One of those kids may be the right match for you. Is foster care adoption hard? Yes! Will it be worth it? Absolutely!
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.