What is Foster Care Adoption? Adopting a Foster Child

Foster care adoption is a domestic adoption option for those considering adopting a child. So what is foster care adoption?

Foster care adoption is available to foster parents fostering a child who will not be returned to their birth parents. Biological parents are given ample opportunities to rehabilitate and earn being reunited with their children. When reunification fails, a foster child may be available for foster adoption.

Because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, children enter foster care through no fault of their own.

These children, due to their challenging experience,  are in the state’s temporary custody while a birth parent is allowed to complete services that will allow them to reclaim custody of their children if it is in the best interests of the children.

Three children outside playing.

What is Foster Care Adoption?

Only around half of the children who are placed in foster care return to their birth families. Many of the youngsters who become available for foster adoption are adopted by family members or foster parents.

When you’re thinking of adopting a child from foster care to add to your family, it’s a good idea to look into the many information and support services available. 

Foster adoption whose birth parent rights have been terminated by a court is known as foster care adoption.

Foster parents or another adoptive family may choose to adopt the child. A foster child’s mental health will need to be paramount when considering adopting a foster child, as they have gone through so much. Healing will be a long process, so counseling is expected. Foster children with developmental issues due to in-vitro drug or alcohol abuse will also have special needs that will need to be considered.

Families that desire to adopt a child directly from foster care may not always have to become foster parents first; nevertheless, some states require that they first become approved foster parents.

Some foster children with behaviors resulting from the trauma they have endured will most than likely require professional help and counseling.

Foster-to-adopt families are those who become foster parents and subsequently adopt. Respite care, otherwise known as foster care that offers temporary relief to full-time foster families, may also apply to adopt an eligible foster child. 

The state foster care system, whether through foster parenting or foster adoption, is now the most common manner of expanding one’s family. 

Although there are other types of adoption such as international adoption, domestic adoption, and adoption through foster care rescues a child who needs you.

Anyone may fill out an adoption application to adopt a foster child, yet a child’s relatives and current foster parents are generally always given priority.

Anyone interested in foster care adoption is encouraged to reach out to their local Department of Human Resources.

Foster care agencies do not discriminate based on color, race, gender identity, religion, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), marital status, sexual orientation, or military status. 

Foster Care Statistics for Infants

  • The number of infants entering foster care climbed dramatically from 2011 to 2018, totally reversing the 2006–2011 decrease in infants entering foster care. Infants, or infants under the age of one, made up a growing percentage of all children entering foster care.
  • During this time, the number of infants in foster care increased roughly 13 times faster than the number of other age groups. More than 70% of the overall increase in entries came from infants.
  • There was an increase in the number of newborns entering foster care in 44 states. The percentage increases varied from 2% to 124 percent.
  • Within states, baby entrance rates vary widely from one county to the next. Half of the counties with the highest baby foster care entrance rates were located in states with the lowest overall rates of infant foster care entry.

How Does Foster Care Adoption Work? 

Adopting from foster care is comparable to other forms of adoption in that a family’s desire is realized once all of the decision-making, paperwork, and preparation is finished. Unlike other types of adoptions, foster care adoptions, on the other hand, are unique in several ways:

Although it is possible to adopt a child from foster care, the children eligible for adoption often range in age from toddlers to twenty-one years old. The average age of the children is eight years old.

Parents who adopt from foster care receive special training to understand the consequences of trauma and how to help children heal because all children in foster care have suffered some sort of trauma.

Adoptive parents frequently work with a government agency or a commercial business that has a contract with the state to offer services.

Adopting a child from foster care is a low-cost or no-cost option.

There are times when foster parents are provided monthly adoption allowances when adopting what is known as a hard-to-place child.

Because of his or her parents’ neglect, physical abuse, or substance misuse, a child may be removed from his or her original home and placed in a foster family.

When a child enters foster care, the main objective is to reunite them with their biological parents as soon as possible.

A judge will give the biological parents a reunification plan outlining the measures they must take to make this reunification feasible, and a state caseworker will assist them in following it.

If the biological parents do not complete the reunification plan over some time, their parental rights will be revoked, and the child will be available for adoption.

Meanwhile, the child will be placed with a permanent family, which will most likely begin with relatives. If no relatives are available for adoption, the foster family will frequently be given the next chance to adopt the child, a process known as foster-to-adopt.

If the foster family is not interested in or capable of adopting the child, the child becomes what is referred to as a waiting child until a permanent home is found.

This is when the state will begin looking for adoptive families from the state’s foster care system. 

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How Long Does It Take To Adopt a Child From Foster Care?

The average time it takes to adopt a child who has been in foster care varies significantly. The entire procedure usually takes 9–18 months.

However, several other factors might affect the adoption timetable in foster care.


If you’re a foster parent hoping to adopt a child in your care in the future, your foster-to-adopt timeline will be different than a family trying to adopt a waiting child.

It’s vital to keep in mind that simply obtaining foster parent licensure might take a long time. After that, you wait for a kid to be put in your home, and then for a child to become available for adoption.

Some foster children in care will be available for adoption, but not all of them will. The procedure will need some patience as well as a realization that it will not be completed overnight.

Expect difficulties during the foster care process

The child welfare system is difficult. There are a lot of rules and regulations to learn, and it might be tough to locate someone who can answer your queries.

It’s not that your organization is being deliberately slow to respond; foster care caseworkers are often overworked.

In truth, the foster care system as a whole is under pressure, which can result in a plethora of problems that obstruct your progress.

How easy it is to adopt from foster care will be determined by your particular experience with the system.

Foster children are under the care of the state for a limited time.

This means that the goal will always be to reunite a child with his or her biological family, until this is impossible, in which case parental rights will be removed and the child will be eligible for adoption.

Fostering for adoption is sometimes hindered by the reality that not all foster placements are permanent, which is generally the biggest roadblock for hopeful parents who want to adopt.

Some parents who have waited so long to add a child to their family and experience the joys of motherhood may find it difficult to watch a foster child depart after so much time spent together.

Before accepting a child into their house, foster parents, like any future parents, must be fully prepared for every scenario. 

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child From Foster Care?

When you consider legal fees, birth mother expenditures, hospital charges, and advertising, a typical adoption may cost upwards of $50,000. These enormous costs might be disheartening to would-be parents. But what about adoption from a foster home? Is it free to adopt a child who has been in foster care?

Costs to adopt from foster care can range from $2,600 to $0. Those wanting to adopt through foster care should ask about the process of becoming a foster parent with their local Department of Human Services. Foster parents may pay less to adopt a foster child than prospective adoptive parents not licensed.

To adopt a foster child, prospective parents do not need to be certified foster care providers; nonetheless, foster parents are usually given first preference when a child becomes available for adoption.

Adopting a child from foster care is usually subsidized by the government, with little or no out-of-pocket expenses in most cases.

Parents might seek expert assistance in this process by contacting a professional agency. These families may incur out-of-pocket expenses, which are normally reimbursed via federal or state programs once the adoption is completed.

Foster care adoption refers to the adoption of children who are considered wards of the state they are in. These children are frequently orphaned or separated from their relatives for their safety.

A prospective adoptive family can adopt a child from foster care in one of two ways:

• Children whose parent’s parental rights have been completely terminated can be adopted quite quickly by a family.

• Children who require a temporary or permanent family and whose parent’s parental rights have not been withdrawn. Temporary homes with foster parents are necessary while the parents’ legal matters are being resolved. If the court decides to remove the parents’ rights fully, the children will require permanent residence.

Not only will the strategy you take affect the cost of your foster care adoption, but it will also affect the time of the procedure.

As a result, we recommend that any aspiring adoptive parent consults with a professional for the most up-to-date information on the normal cost of foster care adoption in their region.

If There Are Costs Involved in Adopting a Foster Child, What Are They?

Costs incurred while adopting from foster care may include the following:

Home Readiness
The home study’s house visit phase may reveal some difficult areas in your home that need to be addressed, such as cabinet locks or cushioning on sharp corners and edges.

Nominal Legal Fees
In many places, the state will cover the legal expenses for adoptive families. Legal expenses, if the adoptive family is required to pay them, are frequently insignificant.

The Required Home Study
A home study is required of every adoptive family, and it confirms to the state that your family is ready to adopt a child. Some states reimburse families for the costs of home studies.

Regardless of whether there will be costs incurred during a domestic adoption through foster care, adopting through foster care is thousands of dollars cheaper than traditional adoption.

How Many Newborns Are In Foster Care?

From 2011 to 2018, the number of newborns entering foster care increased considerably, completely reversing a decline from 2006 to 2011.

Infants, or children under the age of one, accounted for an increasing proportion of all children entering foster care.

The number of babies in foster care rose nearly 13 times faster than the number of other age groups during this time. Infants accounted for more than 70% of the entire increase in entries.

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How Hard Is It to Adopt a Baby From Foster Care?

When babies are placed in foster care, they are frequently reunited with their biological parents after a short period.

They may be placed with hopeful families that are interested in domestic infant adoption, although nearly all of these placements will be temporary.

Reunification with biological family is generally always the objective for children who enter foster care.

Their parents are allowed as many chances as a court sees fit to change their home circumstances to reclaim custody of their children and keep the family together.

A child becomes eligible for adoption only when the parent’s legal rights to their child are permanently severed.

Biological parents are frequently allowed a year or more to finish their reunification plans, and the majority of them are successful.

As a result, domestic infant adoption through foster care is uncommon since, by the time their parents’ rights are terminated, the children have either been reunited with their biological parents or have reached adulthood.

When a parent’s rights are removed, the objective shifts to permanent placement.

The baby’s existing foster parents or any other biological relatives who are willing and able to parent the child are given first consideration for placement.

It’s uncommon for a newborn to not find a permanent home at that time.

That is why, unlike older children who may have to wait years for permanent placement, there are rarely foster newborns available for adoption. In the end, the odds of adopting a baby from foster care are limited.

Your chances of adopting a baby would be a bit higher through other adoption methods suck as international adoption or domestic adoption.

Older Foster Children Need You

Although there are usually a lot of individuals who want to adopt a newborn from foster care, there are significantly fewer people who want to adopt an older child.

While adopting an older child should never be done without extensive study and planning, it is a much more popular approach to start a family through foster care than adopting a baby.

There are several concerns about adopting an older child, particularly in terms of trauma and connection.

Keep in mind, however, that all foster children, even infants, have suffered some form of loss or trauma. When given enough time, affection, and consistency, children are equally capable of building strong and healthy bonds.

Adoptions, regardless of the age or origin of the child, come with certain challenges in addition to the numerous benefits.

Adopting an older child is not for everyone, and it is a unique experience. It may, however, be just as fulfilling as adopting a newborn from a shelter.

If you believe you might be interested in adopting a child older than a baby, talk to your foster care provider or start looking at waiting child profiles. 

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Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.