The next step is filling out and submitting an application to become a foster parent. Once your application has been received, you will have a meeting with a caseworker, several online and face-to-face training sessions to complete (Click here for our blog about foster parent training), and a home study.
Home studies are used to determine the suitability and capability of the family and to ensure each child or youth is placed with a family that can best meet their needs. During these initial steps to become a foster parent, you will need to decide if you want to be a foster home, a temporary or long-term home for youth in foster care, or if your goal is to seek a child who is available for adoption. Regardless of which route you take, both begin with becoming a certified foster parent.
Children are only eligible for adoption once parental rights are terminated. This means the biological parents have had opportunities to attend parenting classes or seek drug treatment but have failed to successfully comply after numerous opportunities to succeed. The goal for the child at that point is a permanent, stable home. Family members are almost always front runners to take custody of the child, pending their desire to take in the child, their ability to provide care and support, pass a background check, and follow through to take the required training necessary to foster. Foster care is a temporary living situation for children, while the goal of adoption is to match the child with a family in a permanent home.
Adopting a child in foster care is possible, however the length of time it will take from beginning to end to finalize the adoption cannot be estimated because of the variations involved in each child’s circumstance. Some foster parents who want to move quickly into adoption may consider a legal risk placement. That means the goal for the child is to place them in a home that could potentially be permanent, pending termination of parental rights. Once an adoption is complete, the child’s birth certificate will reflect the adoptive parents’ names and you can move forward as a family unit.
The Benefits of Fostering to Adopt
Children coming into foster care have experienced some level of abuse and or neglect. When you take the required courses to become a foster parent, you will learn that children can endure abuse and neglect for years before child protection ever becomes involved. The effects on a child’s ability to respond, cope, and how they trust adults can be deeply affected. Cooperating and adjusting to their new family is a physiological change that happens in small degrees and over various lengths of time, depending on their age when the abuse or neglect began.
The consequences of abuse and neglect will eventually manifest themselves in various forms; some can be seen immediately and other behaviors will be revealed over time. Having the opportunity to spend time with your foster child and learning to care for their physical and emotional needs can help foster parents decide if the child is the right fit for their foster family and vice versa.
Meeting other foster parents and learning about their experiences could also be extremely helpful during your journey. One of the things that sets Pathways apart from other foster agencies is our integrated behavioral health services. These services include assessments, treatment planning, and ongoing therapy for stress management, anxiety, depression, trauma and other issues. Families with a desire to adopt children usually begin the process with many questions and we believe experience is always the best teacher; so, do not be afraid to reach out to families who are currently fostering or adopting for additional support.
There are many foster and adoption agencies out there; choosing the right one for you will be key to your success and sanity. It is completely acceptable to write a list of what you may want and situations that simply do not appeal to you when searching for an adoptable child. It is also critical to find an organization that you feel comfortable working with and that you feel confident they can help answer any questions you have.
If you would like to learn more about how you can partner with Pathways on your journey to becoming a foster or adoptive parent, sign up to attend an orientation. These sessions are both informational and open forums for questions. Pathways supports its foster families through a team with years of adoption and foster care experience and in-house behavioral health services, so you know you’re in good hands. Pathways was founded by foster parents and we continue to operate with that same level of care and compassion that our founders had for helping children in need.