What To Expect When You Adopt a Child Through Foster Care

Are you considering adopting a child from foster care? Do you currently serve as a foster parent for a traditional foster care home or therapeutic foster care home? If so, you probably have already done some research on the topic. Adopting a child from the foster care system is rewarding for not only yourself, but also the child or children who you will be embracing with welcoming arms. There are many things to consider when looking into becoming an adoptive family. Some things to expect include: emotional needs, behavioral needs, financial needs, and agency/department needs.

adoption through foster careFirst, I would like us to look into the emotional needs for both you, the caretaker, and your adoptive child. Emotions run high in this experience on both sides. You may be experiencing feelings of fear, inadequacy, worry, excitement, wholeness, and joy. It is common to experience a mixture of emotions as you embark on any new adventure, but especially parenthood. Your adoptive child may be experiencing many of the same emotions you are. The ability to communicate openly with your child about worry, fears, and happiness will be vital to your bonding and relationship.  Practicing self-care for yourself will encourage the use of self-care within your family unit.

When emotional needs are not met, behavioral needs may surface. Without the language and ability to communicate wants and needs, actions are utilized as another way for the child to meet the need themselves. These actions may be positive on occasion, but are most commonly negative. Food hoarding, stealing, and hiding snacks is a way to communicate food insecurity for a child who does not have the language to communicate that verbally to you. Keep in mind behavioral actions are layered with a greater emotional need. Connect with your child from a place of understanding to encourage emotional growth to reduce negative behavioral actions. I encourage you to shift the mindset from “attention seeking” behavior to “connection seeking” behavior.

If you desire to be an adoptive or foster parent, but feel as if your finances are holding you back, look into financial resources in your area to aide in this process. Some departments or agencies may waive a fee or pay for training in order for you to become a foster and/or adoptive parent for their organization. You may also be eligible for stipends or financial assistance to help care for the children after they are placed within your home. Obtaining a personal financial coach or consultant can also aide in money management and savings to support your dream.

Know Your Foster Agency

In addition to emotional, behavioral, and financial needs, it is also beneficial to know the needs of the agency, department, or organization you will be adopting through. Many agencies require training in the form of in-person classes that range from six to ten weeks before becoming eligible as foster and/or adoptive parents.  Other steps to consider are the filing of legal documents for adoption of the child, a home inspection, background checks, drug and alcohol screening, and a medical wellness physical exam.

Interested in learning more about your foster/adoptive child’s mental health needs, trauma responses, or other skills to enhance your experience as a foster/adoptive parent? Check out the many online resources that provide free training and education material categorized by topic. A popular agency in my area offering these resources is the Children’s Aid Society of Alabama. Check out their website, or a similar agency in your area.

~ 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.


*This article was not endorsed by the Children’s Aid Society of Alabama. This article is not a sponsored advertisement for this agency.

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