There are countless reasons why a couple wants to adopt a child, but the concept can be daunting. If you’ve been thinking, “I want to adopt a foster child” but shy away due to lack of information, here are four key things you should know in order to become foster parents.
1. You Will Take Classes
“You will need to take classes to become certified as a foster parent,” Crystal Rice, a Licensed Graduate Social Worker and therapeutic consultant at Insieme Consulting tells Parentology. Rice, who facilitates support and education groups specifically for foster and adoptive parents, is also the mother of two adopted children. The info she relays, “These classes cover everything from contact with birth families, trauma, discipline, financial issues and parenting a child that differs in race, religion, sexual orientation, etcetera.”
Katria Jenkins, Ed. D, executive director of Osceola County Child Welfare Operations, explains that all parents adopting through the Child Welfare System need to complete 30 hours of this training. Nicknamed PRIDE, it’s short for Parent Resource for Information, Development and Education.
2. Denial of Foster Parents
Rice also shares, “[Y]ou are not required to adopt a child just because you are fostering them. Some kids, depending on age, can choose to not be adopted even if you have a desire to do so. There is a requirement for a child to have a permanency plan in place before the two-year mark of consecutive time in care, so it’s very rare these days to have a child in foster care that does not move to some permanency plan within that timeframe.”
Sometimes birth parents can also deny the adoption for personal reasons. The National Council on Disability shared the story of a couple who had to give up a brother and sister because the mother decided she did not want her children placed with a disabled couple. The foster parents were wheelchair-bound.
3. Adoption Is Partial Loss
Rice cautions parents to remember that while adoption is a happy moment for them, it may not always be the same for the child. Adoption is still a moment of loss, especially when children were forcibly removed from their home due to neglect, abuse or a parent’s criminal conviction. In some instances, their parents may have died.
It’s important to keep this in mind as both adoptive parents and adopted children learn to adjust to a new life together. Parents may sometimes need to change their parenting style to make room for this, while also letting go of the belief that adoption is a “last-ditch effort.”
4. All Children Need Love
According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, more babies and toddlers are now entering the foster care system at higher than normal rates. Note that a significant percentage of these children are victims of the opioid epidemic sweeping across America.
“Most children available for adoption are teens, sibling groups or children with special needs,” Jenkins says. “Nevertheless, they all need loving homes with parents who can help them reach their full potential.”
Start the Process
Bear in mind that specifics of adoption vary by state. Public adoptions are also not the only options available to parents, but it is often the most affordable route. To get the process started, call 1-866-90-CHILD (24453).
Foster Parents — Sources
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Female Infertility
Katria Jenkins, Ed. D, Osceola County Child Welfare Operations
Crystal Rice, LGSW, Insieme Consulting
National Council on Disability: Chapter 10: The Adoption Law System
The Pew Charitable Trusts: As Drug Crises Surge, Babies Enter Foster Care at Higher Rate