When Does a Foster Child Become Adoptable?

Even though many foster parents had no intention of adopting their foster children, foster parents may grow connected to them and find it difficult to say goodbye. So you want to know, when does a foster child become adoptable?

Not all foster children will become adoptable. For those foster children who may be eligible for adoption, the process is long. The state will almost always try to reunite the child with the biological parents, often offering several attempts before it’s clear the child cannot go back to its original home.

Unfortunately, your family, friends, neighbors, and even total strangers will most likely ask you this question more often than you want to hear or respond.

Before you can ask when is a foster child adoptable, you first need to realize that not all foster children will be available for adoption.

Young children smiling and drawing.

When Does a Foster Child Become Adoptable?

There isn’t a simple or quick solution. There are no hard and fast rules because each situation is unique and unpredictable. Nothing is guaranteed until you are in the courtroom signing the adoption papers, and there is always the possibility that something will happen and circumstances will change.

If an appropriate family member cannot be found, some children will be placed in a relative’s home or kinship placement.

When the courts determine that it is safe and they have completed their case plan, some children will return to their parents.

When a child is first placed in foster care, the primary goal is usually reunification. That does not guarantee that the goal will be met, but you won’t know for sure until later.

You’ll have to wait for a long time, perhaps up to two years or more.

Foster parents should be supportive of the aim during this period and should not interfere with the child’s ties with his or her parents or sabotage their reunification efforts.

The courts usually give the birth parents at least a year to work on their case plans. The children should be reunited with their birth parents once their case plan is completed.

This transition might be swift or gradual, with visits increasing in frequency and length until the children are reunited with their parents full-time.

If the parents do not finish their case plan by the deadline, the court will very certainly grant them an extension (possibly 6 months to a year).

If they do not receive an extension, their parental rights will most likely be revoked, and the county will take permanent care of the children until they can be adopted.

The birth parents have a limited number of days to object to the decision or appeal it. They can usually appeal twice, which can cause the case to be delayed for another year or more.

What Is a Foster Care Adoption Subsidy?

Regardless of what type of adoption you choose, expenses add up quickly. A common question is, “What is a foster care adoption subsidy?”

A foster care adoption subsidy is adoption support designed to assist foster parents in meeting the needs of foster children they adopt. Depending on the child’s background, he or she may be eligible for federal or state adoption assistance. While these monies are helpful, they’re not meant to increase lifestyle.

Adoption aid, also known as adoption support, is available to parents who are considering or are in the process of adopting a child from foster care.

Adoption support programs are designed to assist parents in meeting the needs of the foster children they adopt.

Depending on the child’s background, he or she may be eligible for federal or state adoption assistance.

Before placement, you must also demonstrate that you are financially capable of being a foster parent without these benefits.

You don’t have to be wealthy to adopt a foster child, but you must be financially prepared to face all of the hardships that come with raising a child for however long they are in your care.

Unfortunately, some foster families take advantage of the foster care adoption subsidies for reasons they don’t need.

Some agencies may require foster parents to keep track of their spending to assist prevent this. They can be confident that the money is going to the proper destination this way.

Keep in mind that while caring for their foster children, foster parents will get a stipend.

Qualifying for an Adoption Subsidy

Some children in foster care may qualify for an adoption subsidy based on what the states refer to as having special needs.

The term “special needs” is referring to certain criteria that may prevent a child from being adopted. Each state is different, yet there are similar criteria that are the same with some small variances.

A foster child with special needs is typically required to meet one of the following similar requirements:

  • The child comes from a minority ethnic group
  • At the time of the adoption support application, the child must be at least six years old
  • The child is part of a family with three or more siblings
  • The child belongs to a sibling group in which one or more siblings meet the criteria for special needs
  • A physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, or emotional handicap has been diagnosed in the child; or
  • Because of prenatal exposure to chemicals, a history of major abuse or neglect, or genetic history, the child is at risk for a diagnosis of a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, or emotional handicap.

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How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Child From Foster Care?

Adopting a child from foster care is a thrilling prospect, and, normally, you’d want to learn how to adopt from foster care as soon as possible. So you’re wondering, “How long does it take to adopt a child from foster care?”

Adopting a child from foster care can take between 9-18 months or longer. The process of becoming a licensed foster parent alone is lengthy, and then there is a longer wait for a child who may or may not be available for adoption someday. The focus is always to reunite the child with their bio-parents.

Not all children can be reunited with their biological families. The child’s parents are often given multiple opportunities to reunite with their children.

When it becomes clear that reunification is not possible, the child is then eligible for adoption.

Although the wait may be longer or shorter than expected, it is always worthwhile in the end.

However, several other issues could cause the adoption timeline to be extended through foster care.

For example, if you are a foster parent who hopes to adopt a child in your care in the future, your foster-to-adopt timetable will differ from that of a family who is applying to adopt a child.

Let’s go over each step in the process to get a better look at why adopting from foster care can take so long.

Becoming Licensed

Like other types of adoption, being a foster parent involves state-specific eligibility standards that prospective parents must complete.

At the start of the journey, being a certified foster or adoptive parent entails completing the following steps:

  • Orientation and pre-service training
  • Adoption home study
  • Required adoption or foster paperwork

These certification requirements can be time-consuming, but they are necessary for all hopeful foster parents to ensure that every foster child will be placed in a safe, caring home.

We understand that going through all of the paperwork might be daunting, but it will be finished before you know it.

You’ll want to be as comprehensive as possible because this is a crucial step toward adopting from foster care. Staying organized and on top of deadlines will help you cut the time it takes to adopt a child from foster care.

Remember that your caseworker is accessible to answer any questions you may have at any time.

They want to help you in any way they can during your adoption process, so don’t be hesitant to ask for assistance if and when you need it.

Playing the Waiting Game

You’ll move on to the next process, which is matching and placement, once you’ve been authorized.

When adopting from foster care, the time it takes to find a match varies. You may get matched quickly if you are open to a wide range of adoption settings.

Temporary foster homes are also in high demand, so families that are fostering and intending to adopt may be able to find a placement relatively immediately.

Keep in mind, however, that this match may not necessarily be with a kid you will be able to adopt in the future.

If you want to adopt a child directly from foster care without first fostering, your caseworker will work with you to discover the best match so that your family can meet the needs of the child you want to adopt.

The waiting period, like that of other types of adoption, can be lengthy.

You’ll go through a post-placement supervision phase after accepting your adoption placement. After that, you’ll go on to any remaining post-placement needs and finalization.

Your foster child will become a permanent, legal member of your family after your adoption is finalized.

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Adopting a Foster Child After Becoming Licensed

So now you have a better idea of how long it might take to adopt a child who is currently in foster care. But what if you’re already a foster parent and want to adopt one of the children you’re looking after?

If you’re wondering how long it takes to adopt a foster child, the answer is that it depends on a lot of factors.

It may be difficult for hopeful parents interested in adopting their foster child, but it doesn’t imply it’s impossible.

Because foster care is only meant to be a temporary option, the main priority will always be reunification with a child’s birth family.

If reunification with the birth parents isn’t possible, and no other biological relatives are willing to adopt the child, the foster family will normally be given the next chance to adopt.

If the foster family does not want to adopt their child, the state will hunt for adoptive parents who want to expand their family.

This means that foster parents who aspire to adopt their foster child one day may face a long wait during the foster-to-adopt process and that some foster children will never be available for adoption at all.

When a child is placed in foster care, every attempt is taken to place them with a biological relative before becoming available for adoption.

Before parental rights are terminated and a child is put up for adoption, the long waiting period assures that every effort has been taken to restore the child to their biological parents.

Foster parents will have the opportunity to adopt their foster child only if and when a judge deems that reunification is impossible.

Because biological parents are sometimes given multiple chances to complete a reunion plan, and extensive efforts to find a relative placement are frequently done before a foster child becomes eligible for adoption, parents wishing to foster to adopt may face a lengthy wait.

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

Adopting a foster child is more common than you might believe, and it appears to be on the rise.

Take a look at the below facts regarding adopting a child from foster care that you probably didn’t know.

Our foster care system is designed to assist birth families in healing and reuniting with their children.

Foster parents, whether or not they intend to adopt, must realize that their responsibility is to assist the family in reuniting with their child until the caseworker determines that reunification is not an option.

It’s also worth noting that school-aged children are the most in need of adoption from foster care. Nonetheless, a rising number of babies are entering foster care, and their foster parents are adopting more of them.

Here are some interesting facts regarding adopting a foster child.

  • Almost half of all babies (46 percent) enter the foster care system due to physical neglect or failure to thrive.
  • Since the early 2000s, the number of children in foster care has been steadily decreasing, as has the number of children waiting to be adopted.
  • It is possible to adopt a child who has been placed in foster care. Infants, or children under the age of one year, make up a growing percentage of first-time foster care admissions.
  • Many of the babies in foster care who are available for adoption are part of a sibling group.
  • The majority of children adopted through the child welfare system are under the age of three. Adoptions of children who entered foster care before the age of one account for over half of all adoptions.
  • Approximately 57 percent of families with babies in foster care say they are encountering financial difficulties.
  • Children of color make up to 60% of babies in foster care, with 39% being Black and 21% being Hispanic, compared to 46% for older age groups.
  • In foster care, 61 percent of infants had experienced parental drug or alcohol misuse. Parents considering adopting a child from foster care should expect that the child has been exposed to drugs and/or alcohol before birth.
  • Foster parents adopt about 54% of children that are adopted via the child welfare system.

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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.