Statistically, there are over 104,000 children in the foster care system nationwide who are waiting for adoption, according to Adopt US Kids, an organization which hosts a website, listing foster children from across the United States who are legally available for adoption. Of the children who are awaiting a forever family, an estimated 18,000 will “age-out” of the system, which means they will become too old, usually 18, to remain under the foster care umbrella. With no one to turn to and no where to go, they typically end up homeless, or in prison, the outlook for society’s orphans is often bleak.
It is true, adopting a child out of the foster care system is not for the faint of heart. However, if you and your spouse are up for the challenge, this method of adding to your family can be very rewarding.
First Things First
Before you go any further, you will need to determine if adoption is really right for you. Not everyone is cut out for adoption and, as mentioned earlier in this article, often children who are in the foster care system carry with them unique problems and behaviors. So be sure that adoption is right for you. Also, do not forget your spouse. If he or she is hesitant, deal with those concerns first before proceeding. Make sure your relationship can withstand the demands of an emotionally, and perhaps physically and/or mentally needy child. If you already have children, prepare them as well. Adoption brings big changes to the entire household. Make sure that everyone is prepared and on the same page.
It is also a good idea is to consult with your extended family and friends. Are they open to adoption? Will they accept an adopted child, especially a child with handicaps or of another race? Begin now to build up a support system for your family. This will be invaluable to you throughout the adoption process.
Next, contact your local child placement agency. Many states require you to attend specialized training courses, usually free of charge, which you will need to complete before moving on to your home study. These classes are an excellent way to learn more about adoption and foster care, and gives you much insight into the world of the foster child.
The Adoption Home Study
The child placement agency will also help you to prepare for your home study. A home study basically is a study of your home and family. You will have many documents you will need to gather together, such as: marriage licenses, divorce decrees, financial documents, health assessments, and letters of reference. It is work, but it’s worth it.
A social worker will interview you, your spouse, and your children, at least once, but typically two to three times during the home study process. The worker will also want to do a walk-thru of your home to make sure you have ample space for a child, and that it is free of safety hazards.
Finally, everyone living in the home, over the age of ten (although the age may vary from state-to-state), will need to have background checks run on them, and possibly be fingerprinted. These checks will look at the presence of criminal history and past child abuse or neglect allegations or charges.
Once you have your approved home study, the agency will then help you to find the child, or children, who are the right fit for your family. Most agencies remain involved even post-adoption to continue to assist you and your newly adopted child as you both adjust to your new life together. Despite the challenges of adopting a foster child, the rewards for both your child, and yourself, are far greater and lasts a lifetime.