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How to Adopt a Foster Child

Angela was a foster parent for eight years and has four daughters, one in which is adopted.

Learn about adoption through the foster care system and how to get started as a foster parent.

Learn about adoption through the foster care system and how to get started as a foster parent.

Can You Adopt a Foster Child?

Adoption through the foster care system is tough because it is never a sure thing until the court issues the adoption papers. The objective of the foster care system is to rehabilitate the biological parents to a degree where it is safe for the children to go back home.

The government feels that keeping biological families together is the best thing as long as the child can be safe; therefore, if biological family members step forward after a parent's rights are terminated, it is likely permanent placement could go to the family member.

Another thing to keep in mind is that more than half of foster care children will go back to their biological parents. That said, adoption through the foster care system is possible, as long as you are prepared for a long, sometimes painful wait.

Infant adoption is difficult, but not impossible through the foster care system. Usually, they will be one by the time the adoption is finalized though.

Infant adoption is difficult, but not impossible through the foster care system. Usually, they will be one by the time the adoption is finalized though.

First: Become a Licensed Foster Parent

Becoming a licensed foster parent is a very invasive, extensive process. To become a foster parent, you need to ask your county's Department of Human Services when their next foster care licensing class is, then sign up.

This class will begin with an orientation warning you of what to expect as a foster parent. Half of your classmates will not continue after this first meeting. Some will not continue because they were unaware of the true nature of foster parenting—it is harder than parenting, while others realize their past transgressions will inhibit them from becoming licensed foster parents. One red flag is that if you have ever had a domestic dispute, you most likely will not become licensed.

Training: After the orientation, you will continue with a certain amount of hours your state requires in training. There, you will fill out extensive paperwork, watch videos, and have a background check.

Paperwork: The paperwork will ask you everything from where you keep your medicine to how you handle stress. Many of the questions can become very personal such as, “What was the greatest loss you have ever experienced?” This question is crucial because it helps you gain perspective on the loss your foster child will experience.

They lose their parents, sometimes siblings and other relatives, their house, most of their toys, their clothes, their blanket, their pillow, their stuffed animals, and more. They usually come with one toy and three outfits, if they are lucky. One child came to me in the winter, without a coat or shoes, four diapers, the outfit she was wearing, and the two outfits that the Department of Human Services provided. It was 10 o’clock at night when they arrived.

Background Checks: The background check is equally invasive. They will request you to be fingerprinted, as well as provide three references. Some questions on the reference questionnaires include, "How big is their support system?" as well as, "What are their views on discipline?"

Home Study: Once background checks are cleared, they will begin your home study. The worker will ask many of the same questions asked in the paperwork that you already filled out. They will also walk through your house looking to see if you fulfill specific requirements.

They will want to know where you keep your cleansers, medicine, matches, guns, and ammunition. They want to make sure that all things that could harm children are out of reach, with special instructions for firearms. The firearms and ammunition are kept locked up separately. The guns each need to be trigger locked in addition to being locked in cases. Each state has different requirements you also need to fulfill.

Continued Education: Once the background check and home study are complete, you become officially licensed and are ready for children to be placed with you. Each year, you are required to complete a certain number of hours of training. They will also do a much briefer home study.

Finding Children to Adopt Through the Foster Care System

There are two ways to find adoptable children. One is a passive approach, where you wait for a child to enter your life, and the other is a more active approach where you actively look into adoption profiles.

Waiting for an Adoptable Child (The Passive Approach)

The passive approach would be waiting for a call from the Department of Human Services or another company, for a foster child to be placed with you. You may wait six months, or you may wait six hours before a foster child moves in with you from the completion of your license.

The children you will be called about need homes now, and no one knows for sure whether they will be reunited with their biological family or need an adoptive home. When the children come into your home, you will be told very basic, sometimes inaccurate, information about the children. For example, when they called us for our second set of foster children, I was told they were one and two, and their names were James and Jessica. Well, their names were not James and Jessica, but their actual names were similar. They also were two and three.

Also, the likelihood of being able to adopt the children placed in your home is less than 50 percent, since the ultimate goal of foster parenting is not adoption, but reuniting the children with their rehabilitated parents. My friend, who is no longer a foster parent took this route to find adoption. She was a foster parent to six different children at different times, who came into her home. She was able to adopt three of them and could not be happier. She also felt at peace with the outcome of the other three. I have given a home to five and was able to adopt one.

Becoming a mom is the most wonderful thing!

Becoming a mom is the most wonderful thing!

The Active Approach

There is a more active approach towards adopting through the foster care system, which allows you to seek out children who are already seeking a forever home. Many of these children are either older children, younger children with severe disabilities, or a sibling group that does not want to be split up into separate adoptive families.

To find a listing of these children, you need to find the company website that deals with the adoptable foster children in your state; for instance, Michigan’s website is If you google, "[your state] photo listing of adoptable children," you most likely will find it, or you can talk to your county's Department of Human Services. They can tell you the name of your state's adoption agency.

There you will be able to search children’s profiles based on disability levels from none, mild, moderate, to severe, as well as minimum and maximum ages, along with how many children you are willing to take at one time. Once you input this data, a list of adoptable children’s profiles will pop up, where you can read about them. Some states have limitations on what they are allowed to share. You then can submit an inquiry if a child is an appropriate match for your home.

What to Expect With the Active Approach

There are sites where you can seek out children from all over the country, such as, which will work much the same way as the individual state sites, but these are children from all over. You will also need to have your home study through the foster care system completed before you can inquire about a child. Inquiring about a child allows the adoption worker to know that you are interested in adopting a child. Once you show interest in a child, they will review your home study and choose a family they feel is best suited.

If notified, they will introduce you to the child. From there, you will have visitations until they feel an overnight visit is appropriate. The next time, the child may stay with you longer, until the social worker feels it is suitable for him or her to move in with you. Most states require the child to live with you for at least six months before you can request an adoption hearing. Through these six months and up to the point of the adoption, you will be met with both a foster care worker and adoption worker, usually at separate times, once a month until the adoption is finalized.

Having gone through this experience and attempted adoption through both active and passive approaches, I understand the frustration and heartbreak you will experience. It is a long, tedious process. One that I continue to go through in hopes of adopting more children. Yet, I remain diligent, as it is gratifying on adoption day. A day you will never forget. I wish you luck in your search to adopt a foster child.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How much does it cost to foster or adopt a newborn child?

Answer: These are two very different questions. To foster a child, you will actually get paid while they are in your care. If you get lucky enough to adopt them, then it costs $5,000. If it goes straight to adoption, and they were never technically placed in foster care, then you pay the costs of lawyers and such. I heard someone say around $5,000, but there are so many factors that play a part in how much it costs.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 31, 2018:

Jessica, it really depends where you are from and who takes care of foster care. The first place to try is a company or state agency that is responsible for foster care.They will be able to direct you where you need to go. I am going to be honest, having a successful foster to adopt infant is not easy. We were never successful with all eight of the babies we fostered. My friend was successful with the second she fostered, but the first she had to give to a family member at eighteen months. Foster to adopt is not easy and not a guarantee.

Jessica Minter on July 31, 2018:

My husband and I wanna adopt an infant. But we don't wanna go thru adoption program. Cost too much. So we wanna do foster care into adoption. Who do I talk to directly? New to this. I was adopted and so was my husband.

thehouseofinfo on March 12, 2013:

ALL children are adoptable. Is this article only for those seeking babies out of foster care. I have 2 children that I have adopted out of foster care. Both were 11, and deserved a home. Charming Char

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 07, 2012:

Thank you very much... looks like you might be someone I want to follow.

FosterCareVisions from Cambuslang - the Florence of the north on May 07, 2012:

Great stuff, I wish you the best of luck

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 05, 2012:

I will have to look into that.

BakingBread-101 from Nevada on May 05, 2012:

The fast tract program is the legal risk adoption program. This is where the children are in foster care but it is expected that they will be free for adoption at some point in the future (about 2 years). While reunification is always the effort the courts will make, some children just cannot be reunified with the birth parents and termination of the birth parents rights is completed. Those children are then available for adoption. For example, children who are abandoned (absolutely no contact for 6 months by a birth parent)are usually in the fast tract/legal risk program. Children whose birth parent has had their parental rights terminated previously and this child is in the State's custody and the birth parent is not completing the parenting program are usually in the fast tract/legal risk program. There are many examples, but fast tract and legal risk are different terms for the same situation. The child in foster care is expected to be free for adoption within two years.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 04, 2012:

It has not been an easy road, but it did work out. I looked on your page and was not easily able to find it. Can you give me the link. Thank you.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on May 04, 2012:

Very well written.

We tried to adopt from foster care, and it was a nightmare. I wrote a hub on what we went through, and one should read it before considering adoption from foster care. While it can be a rewarding experience, for us, and for many families it turns south.

I am glad it worked for you.

Be Well!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 03, 2012:

I'm not sure what you are referring to, the fast tract program?

BakingBread-101 from Nevada on May 03, 2012:

Having formerly been a foster parent, and having adopted my 2nd foster child -- there is another way. Become a foster parent in the legal risk, fast tract program if your county/state has one. My first child was with me for just ove 2 years before reunification with the birth parent happened. My second child was on police hold at birth, and I was her 4th placement in the first 4 months of her little life. If you go private adoption agencies, you need to know how many birth mothers they are working with before you give them $thousands. No matter what, make sure you keep copies of everything because you will answer the same questions dozens of times and your answers need to match. Skip the county/state adoption program for the most part because you'll wait forever and a day; whereas the fast tract program I was offered 17 children the first month (including a sibling group of 5). At least, this is my experience.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 03, 2012:

It's kind of like having children, if you wait for you to be financially set, you'll never be ready. Good luck in whatever you decide.

Suzie ONeill from Lost in La La Land on May 03, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this information. I've thought about becoming a foster parent but I never seem to be in a financially secure enough position to do so. It's definitely something worth looking into though.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 02, 2012:

Thank you so much. It truly is a very frustrating process.

Sophie on May 02, 2012:

Informative and well explained. I did not realize that the process was so complicated. Thanks for sharing. I have learned a few things here. Have a lovely day!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 02, 2012:

Thank you very much. :)

Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on May 02, 2012:

Very informative, well researched and from the heart.... Up and beautiful.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 02, 2012:

Thank you so much Kaz!

Karen Creftor from Kent, UK on May 02, 2012:

*Voted up*

Very thought provoking hub thank you!

~Kaz x