Adoption and Foster Care
Adoption and foster care services are operated by each state's Department of Family and Protective Services. This department's primary goal is to ensure that children under its care are placed in safe and secure homes. To make sure proper placement is provided, the state has developed a comprehensive process to identify, evaluate and train prospective adoptive and foster care parents.
Whether you are considering becoming a foster or adoptive parent, the first step is to attend an informational meeting in your area. This initial meeting is to help you determine if becoming a foster or adoptive parent is right for you and your family.
The meeting covers the basic responsibilities involved with adoption and foster care in your state. If at the conclusion of the meeting you are still interested, you will be asked to complete an application to start the process.
While it is recommended to attend an informational meeting, some states also allow you to download a comprehensive guide in place of going to a meeting. Once you have read through the packet, you can contact the department in your state that represents children to begin your application.
Adoption and Foster Care Requirements
There are several requirements that must be met to qualify to become an adoptive or foster care parent including:
- Meet your state’s age requirement
- Prove that you are financially stable
- Answer personal lifestyle and background questions
- Provide a list of several references
- Offer proof of marriage or divorce, if applicable
- Pass a home study
- Submit a comprehensive criminal and child abuse background check
- Attend the required training in your state
Foster Care Process
The state foster care system has additional requirements that prospective foster parents must meet including:
- Have appropriate sleeping accommodations for every member of the household including incoming foster children
- Have no more than six children, including the foster parents own children, living in the home
- Have all pets properly vaccinated
- Agree to a nonphysical discipline plan
- Complete a TB test
- Agree to a home health, fire and safety inspection
- Complete CPR, universal precautions and psychotropic medication training
- Complete 20-30 hours of additional training every year
The process to become a foster parent, typically takes anywhere from two to four months depending on your state’s process and how quickly you are able to complete all requirements. There are only nominal fees, such as for a background check and a TB test, involved to become a foster parent.
Unlike foster care, which is oftentimes a short-term commitment, adoptive parents agree to become the child's parent on a permanent basis. To adopt, you can choose a public adoption through the state department or a private adoption with an adoption agency and/or family law attorney.
In both cases, a child cannot be adopted until the rights of both parents have been terminated. Once everything is approved, the adoption must be finalized through the court system.
The process for adoption can take anywhere from two to four months, or even longer depending on each situation. The average cost of a public adoption is less than $1,000, whereas private adoption fees can range from $10,000 to $30,000. Adoption assistance and tax credits are available to help defer some of these costs. You should contact your state regarding assistance and relevant credits.