How to Adopt a Child from Foster Care

Looking for adoption to make your family complete? Adoption from foster care is an option that not only provides our nation’s children with a safe, loving home, but also gives you flexibility and options that may not be available to you in international adoption cases. In 2020, there were over 420,000 children in foster care nationwide. Alabama, for example, experienced a record number of adoptions from foster care as 814 children were united with families. The many resources outlining the adoption process can become overwhelming. This article is to provide a starting point for your journey.

When considering the adoption process, learn as much as you can about adoption in your state. A good place to start is identifying your state’s foster care system, commonly housed within the Department of Human Resources, Department of Family and Children Services, etc. In addition to identifying the Department and their state specific requirements, search for local adoption agencies within your area. Join local adoption support groups and identify your personal needs for moving forward.

Steps & Information Required

Choosing to utilize an adoption agency or adopting directly from the Department is something you will want to consider and decide based on your personal and family needs. Each will require a variety of documents and steps to facilitate the adoption process.  The steps may include (but are not limited to) training courses, a criminal background check, a personal background check, child abuse and neglect clearance, and a home study that includes a social worker’s recommendation and summary. Additional requirements may also include medical history of family members, highest level of education, employment history, financial history, character references, as well as additional personal information.

adopting from foster care
Laughing mother sitting with two children playing with her hair

Different agencies and the Department in your area will require a range of fees for the adoption process including home study and background checks. In Alabama, the Department of Human Resources waives the fee for the adoption home study and 30 hours of training to become a licensed adoption resource when you choose to adopt through their agency. When selecting an agency, schedule to attend an orientation meeting to learn more about their expectations of you and your family, requirements, and fees. Your state will have specific requirements for becoming an adoptive resource that may include minimum age, length of marriage or significant relationship, United States citizenship, housing and personal space, and standards of health.

After selecting your agency, you will begin following their agency specific requirements and application process. In this process you will write a family narrative, complete trauma-informed training, complete the home study process, and begin the process of searching for a child. Many children eligible for adoption are considered to have special needs. Special needs are defined as: children over five years old, parental backgrounds that include substance abuse, mental illness, or lack of mental capacity, varying degrees of mental health, physical health, or emotional issues, and sibling groups of two or more.

When selecting a child or sibling group, your designated worker will communicate with the child/children’s social worker to exchange information including your home study, family narrative, and other pertinent documents. If the child’s worker believes you and your family will best meet the child or children’s individualized needs, you will be considered for selection. Meetings and visitation will be scheduled based on your child’s agency requirements. Steps to come include pre-placement and post-placement supervision and a legal intent to adopt petition.

During this process and after finalization of your child’s adoption it is encouraged to continue to seek opportunities of connection with adoption support groups and trainings to learn the best techniques to meeting your adoptive child’s needs.

~ Haley Roberts has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Auburn University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of New England. She is currently working as a Moderate Care Residential Program Therapist and is a Licensed Master Social Worker by the Alabama State Board of Social Work Examiners.

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