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Myths About Foster to Adopt

Robyn Harrod, LCSW
Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency

Published April 2011
Edited May 2011

Myth: You will eventually be able to adopt the child.

Busted!: It is true that in many cases when you are adopting through the foster care system you will be able to adopt the child who is placed in your home.  However this depends on many factors; including how long the child has been in foster care and where they are in the court process, as all children in foster care are dependents of children’s court.  Sometimes a child placed in your home is reunited with their birth parents or birth family.  If that is the case plan for the child, and the birth family follows through with what they have to do for reunification, that child will be reunited and returned to their care.  It is more than likely that if you choose to adopt through the foster care system you will be able to adopt.  It just may not be the first child who is placed in your home.

Myth:  All of the children are mentally or physically disabled, emotionally unstable, or somehow “damaged.”

Busted!: Children in the foster care system are in foster care because something negative or traumatic happened to them.  Therefore many of the children experience some emotional difficulties related to loss and abandonment, and it may be difficult for them to develop trust when they first meet new people.  All of these issues are “normal” in response to the history they have had.  “I would say these children have deeper challenges, rather than special needs,” says one adoptive parent. “I know with my child I can make a difference, and help him grow into a productive member of society.”  Overall, the children who are in foster care are physically healthy, emotionally stable and happy young people.  They are not damaged. There is a percentage of children in the foster care system who do have medical problems, disabilities, or more severe emotional needs, however this is the not the norm.  For parents who choose to adopt children who have special needs, the joys are much greater than the challenges.  

Myth: You can never adopt a baby.

Busted!: It is possible to adopt children of all ages from foster care.  Many families are placed with newborns directly from the hospital.  Today, families wanting to adopt a young child (birth - 3 years) from the foster care system will become familiar with two key phrases:  resource family and concurrent planning.  A “resource family” is one that will become dually prepared for both foster care and adoption.  “Concurrent planning” means that when young children come into the foster care system, two tracks are followed simultaneously.  One is reunification with their birth family; the other is adoption if reunification fails.  To prevent children from being moved from one home to another, they are placed with a “resource family,” one that is ready and willing to adopt, should the child not be reunited with the birth family.  Therefore, an infant might be placed in your home directly from hospital, and although they are placed there on a foster care basis, if the birth family does not follow court orders and reunify with their child, the foster family will be the next option for permanency. 

Myth: It takes a long time to have a child placed in your home and even longer for the adoption to take place.

Busted!: In the United States there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care.  About 115,000 of those children are available for adoption.  They range in age, ethnicity, single children or sibling sets, family history and their own personal coping skills and resiliency.  There is no shortage of children for those who want to adopt.  The time frame for having a child placed with a family varies greatly, depending upon the family’s desires with regard to age, gender, ethnicity and birth family history.  The more open the family, the faster a placement is made.  Once a child moves into a foster/adopt home, the amount of time it will take until an adoption is finalized is difficult to predict because of the many variables involved.  Much depends on the status of the case in the legal system, the birth parent involvement and family history.  For those placed with newborns and very young children, few adoptions are finalized before the child celebrates a first birthday, and most take longer.  However, for those who are interested in older children, or sibling sets, the adoption could finalize much quicker.

Myth:  Adoptive parents are on their “own” after an adoption finalizes and have no support or resources to help them.

Busted!:  Families who adopt through the foster care system have many resources available to support them after their adoption finalizes.  If fact, there is much more support for foster care adoption than there is for Independent or International adoption.  In California, all children adopted through foster care are issued a Medi-Cal card, which gives the child access to healthcare until they are 18 years old.  Children experiencing developmental delays qualify for services through the State of California’s Regional Centers.  A monthly stipend payable until the child’s eighteenth birthday is also available to help with the care of the child.  Public agencies and some private agencies have a Post Adoption Services unit that is a resource for referrals and other services until a child turns 18 years old.  These services can include individual therapy for the child, family therapy and support groups for the children and the parents.