If you are interested in foster care adoption, you need to understand the steps that you need to complete to qualify. Foster care adoption is different from the other kinds of adoption, because the children are in the custody of a state’s child welfare system.
Below are the steps for the foster care adoption process:
- Find an agency, either private or your local Department of Human Services (DHS) and apply for and complete an adoption Family Assessment or a Pre-placement Assessment (also called a home study). The process takes about three months to complete. During this time you will undergo training to learn how to care for a foster child as well as qualify for a state-required foster care license. You will pay a standard fee (which varies from state to state) when you file your application. At this stage you do not need to look for a child to adopt yet.
- Once the Family Assessment starts, an agency social worker will visit for a series of consultations to evaluate you, your family and your home environment. This includes knowing yours and your family’s personal history, the health history of each member of your family, a criminal background check, your financial capability and personal character references. All these will be documented and will be used as a basis for the issuance of the foster care license and qualification to adopt.
- When your Family Assessment is complete, the agency social worker and you can start looking for a child who will fit in your home. The social worker will share the findings that were gathered about you and your family with the child. A visitation will be scheduled if the child is willing to be adopted. The child may be brought to visit your home three times a week for a few hours, stay overnight or during the weekend. This is meant for you, your family and the child to get familiar with each other and gauge your compatibility before the final placement is made.
- The legal process of adoption formally begins once the child is brought to your home. The state requires that the child should be in your home from 3 to 6 months before the process is completed. In this time span, the social worker will continue the regular visits to provide assistance, give you support during the interim period and offer other available services that you may need.
- The agency social worker and a lawyer will provide assistance in filing the legal papers. If all the legal documents have been filed, reviewed and evaluated, you will receive a Decree of Adoption and the process is legally complete.
Under the Federal Title IV-4 adoption assistance program, you may be reimbursed for up to $2000 for expenses incurred during the legal adoption process of a special-needs child.
- You may also avail of the State-funded adoption subsidy for a qualified child with special needs. This is a program to offset some of the costs of adopting a child with special needs and falls under the category of Recurring. Adoption Assistance. The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) website (http://www.nacac.org/) provides a summary of state adoption assistance program.
- Adoption subsidies should be negotiated with the state agency so a contract can be drawn. This should be done before the child moves in with you or at least have been with you for a few weeks. Learn more about adoption subsidies here.
After adoption, the social worker will not make regular visits. It is now your turn to be a true parent to the child who will take your last name and be entitled to an equal share of your estate. So you have to be prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and financially before considering being an adoptive foster parent.