Does one need to be trained to be an adoptive parent? The short answer to this question is yes and no. It depends on the type of adoption one is pursuing. However, even if training is not required, it is highly recommended.
To adopt a child in foster care, most states in the U.S. (if not all) require training as part of the approval process. Prospective foster and adoptive parents who desire to foster and adopt children in the foster care system typically take part in a training series that can last for several weeks or months. During this training, families learn about child abuse, neglect, the legalities of the system, working as a member of the team, the various roles that each member plays, working with birth parents, and the impact that abuse, foster care, and adoption may have on a child. For people who have parented before, some of the information may seem like common sense—especially when it comes to developmental issues. However, it is very important that prospective parents choose to look at the information with a fresh set of eyes and through the lenses of trauma.
Some states may require an additional training component for adoption. One of them is the State of Missouri. Potential foster and adoptive families are required to take a 27-hour training course called STARS. If the family is interested in adoption, they must take a 12-hour course called Spaulding. Both are required before a family can foster or adopt.
Foster and adoptive families for state-custody children are also typically required to receive ongoing training hours during their licensure period. Think of it like “on the job training.” These hours can be accomplished online, through conferences, classes, books or via support groups. Not only does ongoing training fulfill the requirements of licensure for foster and adoptive families, but it also provides specific, needs-based training on the various issues that foster and adoptive families may face when parenting children who come from hard places.
For domestic, private, and some international adoptions, training may not be required. If one is interested in adopting through these avenues, it is important to research what is required by the agency or country of choice. While training may not be required, most adoptive parents would agree that there is great value in learning and seeking resources and information regarding adoption and the various aspects that it brings to the table.
Children in need of adoption have histories that may include trauma, neglect, medical issues, and abandonment. Newborns may not have had the best prenatal care (if any), may have been exposed to drugs/alcohol or there could be genetic factors that can come into play as the child ages—all children who have been adopted also come with a loss history. The loss of their biological family and growing up with these connections is something that prospective adoptive families need to understand.
As the child ages, adoptive parents may find that they are facing issues they never dreamed they would, such as academic struggles, behavioral issues, or serious mental health diagnoses. All of it can be draining on parents—especially when there are a lot of questions. One way to face these issues head-on is through preparedness. Training can assist in this.
Although training might not be required, families seeking to adopt should seek training so they can approach adoption with an open mind and willingness to learn as much as they can. Training opportunities can also lead to connections with other adoptive parents. Often, adoptive families are each other’s best resource for knowledge.
If you are interested in adoption, start the process now by becoming a pro-active parent who chooses to learn things that can provide your future child with the structure, stability, and resources the child deserves!
Caroline Bailey is a mother of three children through adoption and a strong advocate for the needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system in the United States. At the age of eleven (1983), she underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Caroline is the youngest person to have a hysterectomy. Her life has been profoundly affected by infertility. In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became licensed foster parents. They were blessed to adopt two of their children through foster care in 2008 and 2010. Their youngest child is a relative of Caroline, and they celebrated his adoption in 2013. Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. She has been a guest speaker at churches and conferences regarding adoption and is currently working on a memoir about the impact of illness, faith, foster care, and adoption in her life. Caroline is also an avid cyclist and enjoys cheering her children on in their various sporting activities. She shares her experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, parenting, and faith in her blog. She would love to hear from you! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.