I received an email chock full of great question about adopting out of foster care. I thought I would post my responses since Adam and I had similar questions when we first switched gears from our Colombian adventure to US foster care. My hope is that it may help anyone who is debating a similar decision. :)
I was wondering if you could help educate us a bit more on the US foster care adoption process??
Adoption out of foster care varies by state, and even by county. But I will share our experience specific to Nevada. Our initial foster/adoption license was approved in July 2010. Our open beds showed up in the DFS system in August. In September, we were contacted by a worker in the adoption department with a potential placement. (She was given our profile by our initial licensing worker) In our county, a HART team is who decides which family will get the adoption placement. The team chose us for the placement of Jo Jo, Brian, and Annie in Mid-October, and we brought our kids home on Halloween. A lot of the time, there is a transition period from the current foster home to the permanent home (usually around a month or so). But in our case, the kids were with a foster mom who really wanted them to move on quickly. We met the kids on Friday, and picked them up on Saturday. CRAZY, albeit awesome!
Before diving into the foster care system, we were under the impression that there was a foster-to-adopt program, but it seems that is out of vogue in most states now. There is not a separate license or training for adoption. It is the same training and same license. I have a friend in my neighborhood who has fostered and adopted off and on for years. Most recently, she and her husband decided to adopt out of foster care. She contacted our adoption worker and had a placement of two siblings (ages six and two) within a month. They are moving toward adoption finalization. I have another friend in Washington State who had a “slam dunk” adoption placement… She recently lost both of the siblings after three years. Very sad for the adoptive parent, but a reality when dealing with so many moving parts and people.
Do you know if it is possible (or likely) that we could adopt a sibling group of either 2 or 3 children up to age 8 or even younger?
Possible and likely. I do not believe the state systems place age limits on the adoptive or foster parents like International programs can and do. In that respect, there is not a problem for the two of you. And, in my limited experience, it seems that there are many many sibling groups that need homes. The age ranges are so wide and varied, I do not think it would be difficult to fit your parameters. Our placement was 6, 5, and 3. My girlfriend’s recent placement was 6 and 2. My other girlfriend’s placement was 2 and 0.
Is it easier to adopt a sibling group of 3 rather than 2 (is there more or less availability do you know)?
In my searching, I have found the larger the group the less there are to choose from. There are many one child and two child placements available. The reason the larger groups are more readily available is because people are less likely to take a placement of more than two. Sooo, fewer larger groups, but more people willing to take the smaller groups. I think it pretty much equals out…and if we are committed can find the children that fit, and belong, in our home.
How long did your process take? Do you get a referral? or how does it work? Do you have to foster before adopting?
For us, that first placement out of Foster Care was very fast and easy….since we had no complications with bio parents rights and such (both parents are completely off the grid), the adoption process went quickly. In Nevada, the children must be placed in the home for six months before the actual adoption process can move forward. Our adoption was finalized in August of 2011–9.5 months after placement. (it actually could have been June, but Adam was traveling for work).
You do not have to foster before adopting. In fact, at least here in Nevada, if you have a foster placement while you are being considered for an adoption placement, they will not place the referral with you because they are unwilling to displace the current foster children in your home to make the adoption placement happen. That meant for us, that we could not take any temporary foster placements while we were waiting to hear if we would get our kids…just in case.
How certain were you that parents rights had been relinquished? Do your children have contact with bio-family members and is it a requirement?
Our placement was technically a Legal Risk placement, which most coming out of foster care are. Rights had not been terminated, but were schedule to be in January. We knew that information going in. We also knew there was an uncle in California that was also a possibility (however small) who would come forward and decide to take them. But mom and dad had not been in the picture at all for over a year (our kiddos were abandoned) so the team felt fairly confident that they would not reemerge at the last minute. That meant we didn’t have to schedule visitations before rights were terminated.
As for extended bio family contact, we are completely open to it. But as of now, grandpa and uncles have shown no interest in any kind of communication. If that day comes, we will consent to whatever we feel is best and appropriate for the children.
Required contact with bio family is part of what you negotiate at the time your adoption agreement is drawn up. We worked on this with our adoption worker who is assigned by DFS to help facilitate the adoption with all parties. This is the time when you also negotiate for any adoption subsidies, medicaid, treatments, etc… Again, ours was pretty straight forward since there are no medical issues, and parents are gone. I have a friend who’s daughter was adopted as an infant out of foster care, and she has visitation written into her agreement. The child is now five, and visits her birth family regularly.
Do you have any contacts to help us get started with foster care adoption? We contacted the person in charge of foster care adoption in our county but she is slow to respond. I was wondering if there is someone who facilitates adoptions between states to contact?
The facilitation between states is called ICPC. Each state’s child welfare program has an ICPC office. I’m sure you could find your state’s by googling it, or calling the general number for your CPS offices. But here is what I know:
In order to adopt from any state, you must have a home study, just like with a private adoption. In Nevada, we aren’t allowed to have a private agency do our home study for foster care. Some states do. So our home study was done by our licensing worker as part of our training. That was actually great because it was free…except for fingerprinting and background. Very different from international. :) The possible downside to this is, as we are looking at adopting from other states, we seem to be stymied on one of the national boards because we don’t have an actual “agency” or “worker” helping us. We are hoping this will resolve itself.
Here are the US foster care based websites we search most often:
www.adoptuskids.org (national site with tons of information…and a children’s gallery of waiting children)
www.adoptex.org (this is a regional site, but it gives you an idea of what is out there. And sometimes the profiles will say they are accepting homestudied couples from all states….so worth checking out)
All in all, adoption from foster care is real. It is possible. If you are seriously considering it, I would see if your county holds regular information meetings on foster care. We were actually required to attend one here before being allowed to move forward. You could also find out how you “get started” to foster in your county and just start the process….you will quickly have your basic questions answered. It will also give you a feel for working with CPS in your county, and if that is right for you. That’s what we did. After the first meeting, we dove straight in, and had our questions answered along the way.