For many families, adopting a child is a wonderful way to expand their family. One option for families interested in adopting a child is adopting a child from the state foster care system. There are thousands of children in the United States currently in state foster care, dreaming of becoming a permanent part of a family.
Below is an outline of steps needed to adopt a child from foster care. Adoption laws and procedures vary from state to state; therefore, the steps below are general information. Your local human services or social services office can provide more specific information.
The first step toward adoption is contacting your local office for an application. In some states, this will be a local office of the state’s Department of Social and Health Services. In other states, adoptive services are administered through the county, under the Department of Social Services or Department of Human Services. Phone numbers for these offices can be located in the government section of the phone book.
Once you complete your application, the next step is to become licensed as a foster care provider and completing a home study. In many jurisdictions, foster care licensure is required before a child can be placed in your home. The licensing process varies from state to state, but will likely include several components. These include completion of required training, conducting criminal background checks on all adults in your home, and checking references. The home study gathers detailed background information. Your medical history, financial status, and family history, are all information that will likely be gathered during interviews with your social worker. This information will be used to help match you with a child.
Once the home study and foster care licensure is completed, the next step is selecting a child. This can occur in two ways. First, a social worker may contact you about a child they think would be a good match for your family. Second, you may contact your social worker about a child you find in an adoption registry - a book or Web site that contains basic information about children available for adoption.
Next, you and the child will meet. Over time, visits will become longer in duration and frequency until the child moves in to your home. A social worker will continue to work with you and your child until the adoption is finalized.
Lastly, legal steps will be taken to finalize your child’s adoption. You may need to hire an attorney, who will file an adoption petition with the court. If you've managed to pick up a human services degree during the long process of adoption, you may be able to help draft any additional paperwork that may be needed. Many states will reimburse you for attorney and other legal costs. After all the paperwork is done, you will have a finalization court hearing – an exciting day when your child will legally become part of your family!