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What is the difference between foster care and adoption?

Foster care is temporary. Foster parents care for children while their parents work to create a safe and stable family environment for them to return home to. Reunification with birth parents or other family members is the goal.

Adoption is permanent. Children become eligible for adoption if their birth parents’ rights are terminated. Once a judge finalizes an adoption, the child is legally part of the adoptive family, just like a biological child.

For more information on the differences, please see How to Choose Your Path.

How much does it cost to adopt from foster care?

Adopting a child from the child welfare system is usually free. The minimal costs involved are usually covered by the agency that completes the adoption homestudy or the agency with custody of the child. Any costs that are not covered by agencies can usually be reimbursed through adoption subsidies.

For more information, please see Adoption Costs.

Is any financial assistance available after children are adopted?

Yes! Most children adopted from the child welfare system are eligible for adoption subsidies. Different subsidies are available depending on the child’s circumstances. Once you are matched with a child, the county agency with custody of the child can help you determine eligibility and begin a negotiation process. In addition, nearly all children who are adopted from the child welfare system receive Medicaid coverage.

For more information about adoption subsidies, please see Adoption Costs.

Can I still be a foster parent if I work full-time?

Absolutely! In fact, foster parents are required to maintain an income that meets the needs of the household without the foster child. However, it is important to remember that foster parents are responsible for getting children to appointments, just like with their own children. Some agencies may offer assistance in this area, especially when it comes to visits with birth parents or other family members. This is a good question to ask when you’re looking for a foster care agency.

For more information about foster care, please see Foster Parent Costs.

Do children in foster care have to have their own bedroom?

No. Children in foster care can share a bedroom with other children in the home, but they must have their own bed. Children of the opposite sex can share a bedroom as long as all are under age 5. Children in foster care cannot sleep in bedrooms in a basement or an attic unless approved by the agency and a state fire inspector.

If I become a foster parent, do I have to work with birth families?

Foster parents are strongly encouraged to work with birth families and develop a relationship. It is in the child’s best interests to see everyone working together. On the very rare occasions when there are safety concerns, the agency will not expect you to put yourself or your family at risk.

How long does it take to be licensed to foster or approved to adopt?

It varies. The goal is to have a homestudy completed within six months of the date the family completes the application. During that time, the family has to complete several training sessions and documents, and the agency has many requirements to meet, as well. The average time from start to finish is approximately three to four months.

I really want to adopt an infant. Should I become a foster parent?

If your goal is to adopt an infant, then it is not recommended that you become a foster parent. Foster parents must be able to work with all members of the child welfare team toward reunification with the birth family. Most children in foster care are able to return to their birth families or to be placed with kin.

Do I have to be married to foster or adopt?

No, you don’t. Many amazing foster and adoptive parents are single.

I don’t have my own children. Can I still become a foster parent?

Yes, you absolutely can. You don’t have to have biological children to become a foster parent. In fact, providing temporary care to children who have been through the trauma of abuse and neglect is very different than raising biological children from birth in a stable and loving environment. Perhaps even more so, it requires patience, commitment and flexibility. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.

Am I too old to foster or adopt?

No, there is no maximum age for fostering or adopting. As long as you are healthy enough to care for a child, you can foster or adopt.

I have kids already. Why do I need training to be a foster parent?

Even parents who have raised their own children must complete pre-placement training to become foster parents. Not only is it required by law, but it’s also a really good idea. Pre-placement and ongoing training teaches you strategies for caring for children who have been through the trauma of abuse or neglect. Attend training with an open mind, and be ready to learn.

For more information, please see Foster Parent Training and Continued Training for Foster Parents.

Do I have to own my own home?

No. Foster and adoptive parents can own or rent. They can live in a house or an apartment. The only requirement is that there must be adequate space for the child and their belongings.

What does it mean when I hear that most children in foster care have “special needs”?

The term “special needs” is often used in child welfare. Children can be determined to have special needs for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • Minority race
  • Part of a sibling group
  • An older child
  • Medical condition
  • Mental or behavioral health issue
  • Learning or developmental delay

I adopted years ago, and now we are having some issues. Is any help available?

Yes, help is available! It’s completely normal to need help, even years after an adoption finalizes. Numerous online resources are available, as well as adoption-competent counselors and therapists. Do not be afraid to ask your adoption agency or your county children services agency for help understanding what’s going on and meeting your family’s needs, they can help connect you with services and programs available to your family.                

For more information, please see Support & Resources for Adoptive Parents.

What if I only want to foster or adopt a school-aged child? Can I do that?

Yes, foster and adoptive parents can choose the type of child (age, gender, number of children, etc.) they believe they are qualified to parent.

Why are so many older children available for adoption from foster care?

Children of all ages come into the child welfare system, including infants. More than half the children who come into care are able to reunify with their parents or go live with a kinship caregiver. For the younger children who can’t return home or live with kin, most are adopted by their foster parents.

Why should I adopt a teenager from foster care?

Because teenagers and young adults need parents, too. Being a teenager in a stable, loving home is challenging enough. Imagine being a teenager on the brink of independence without a stable, loving home during the transition to adulthood.

Research shows that young adults who age out of foster care without permanent families are more likely to have negative outcomes, including homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and unexpected pregnancies. Adopting a teenager can provide them with the support and guidance they need to become independent, successful adults who live up to their potential.

Adoption also can provide the lifelong supportive connections that we all need. You can be there at holidays, to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day and to be grandparents to their children.