There are several reasons people choose to adopt from foster care. Compared to domestic newborn adoption and international adoption, the cost is minimal or even free. An average domestic newborn adoption facilitated by an adoption agency generally averages between $20,000 and $30,000, and international adoptions can cost upwards of $50,000 once travel and USCIS fees are factored in. On the other hand, adopting from foster care with the help of a private agency generally runs less than $5,000, and adopting via the state might be no more than the cost of a homestudy, and sometimes not even that.
In addition, there are various government programs available for families with children adopted from foster care, from health insurance to college tuition to monthly stipends that help to offset the time of fostering before an adoption is finalized. In some cases, especially when the child has special medical needs, certain benefits continue even after adoption.
Not every hopeful parent is “a baby person”. Since most children awaiting adoption in foster care are school-aged, this works out well. One reason an older child may be preferred to a newborn is that an older child comes with already-established likes and dislikes, as well as personality traits, so parents and child can bond over shared interests. It’s also easier for them to fit right into a family’s activities without necessarily turning the household upside down with the non-stop needs of a baby in diapers. Some families adopt an older child because the age range fits with their other child(ren) already in the home.
Finally, for those who may have some lingering doubts about adopting from foster care, fostering-to-adopt may be just the program for them. While fostering involves providing temporary care to a child who is expected to be reunified with their birth family, fostering-to-adopt limits the placements of children to only those whose parents’ parental rights are being (or have already been) terminated by the courts. A family agrees to foster a child expected to be in need of an adoptive home at some point in the hopes of eventually adopting the child.
Fostering-to-adopt is not without its difficulties. Paramount is the lingering possibility that the child’s plan will be changed from adoption back to reunification. If this happens, the foster parents must facilitate transitioning the child back to the birth family, and this is often heart-wrenching for many foster parents and children alike. However, because fostering-to-adopt is still a temporary situation until final termination of parental rights takes place, if it becomes evident through parenting that it is not a good match, the foster parents can then choose not to adopt the child and instead help transition him or her to an adoptive family that is a better match.
Especially with older children, it makes sense to allow for a period of getting to know each other before jumping into lifelong commitments that may not be able to be kept. Adoption disruption (before the final decree of adoption is issued by the courts) and adoption dissolution (after adoption finalization) are very difficult on the family and especially the child. Fostering-to-adopt comes with a built-in trial period where it can be best determined if the child can thrive in the foster home.
Adopting an older child from foster care also comes with a sense of fulfillment. A family is taking on the challenges of helping a child who has been neglected or abused, and can see first-hand what a difference their commitment makes to that child. Adoption should never be undertaken for purely humanitarian reasons, as this places an unrealistic and unfair burden upon the child, who may be expected to be “grateful” for having been adopted. However, there is no reason not to acknowledge that there is an element of satisfaction that comes from adopting a child in need.
Credits: Karolina Maria
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.