What are foster care agencies?
Frequently, when someone refers to a foster care agency, they’re talking about a public adoption agency that acts on behalf of the state government to coordinate its foster care system. These public adoption agencies work with families hoping to foster children as well as families hoping to adopt from foster care — and those families who are willing to do both.
In some states, however, the need for foster care agencies is so great that the respective state government contracts a private agency to help with the needs of the foster care system. In California, for example, both public and private agencies work to find both temporary and permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Family Connections Christian Adoptions, for example, is one of these such private adoption agencies that specializes in private domestic adoption (or the adoption of newborns) as well as works with the state to facilitate adoptions from foster care.
To find foster agencies in your state, start with the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. Adopting.com also has a helpful map for finding both public and private foster care agencies by state.
What services does a foster care agency offer?
The services offered by a foster care agency may depend on the agency itself. Frequently, a foster care agency will offer parenting classes that you may be required to attend, like PS-MAPP (Partnering for Safety and Permanency – Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) or PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) classes.
Any foster care agency you work with, however, should help you to complete a parent profile, which tells your caseworker about you and your life as well as your interests in regards to foster care. A foster family agency should also help you to complete a home study, which is a necessary step before bringing a child from foster care into your home. Private foster care agencies may have social workers on staff who are qualified to complete home studies, while public adoption agencies may be more likely to direct you to a separate professional.
Pros and Cons of Adopting Through a Foster Care Agency
There are many unique pros and cons to adopting a child from a foster care agency. Some of the benefits are:
- You’re less likely to experience an adoption disruption when you pursue adoption through foster care. If a child is available for adoption in the foster care system, this means his or her parents have already had their rights terminated by the court. This means there is no chance the parents can gain back custody of the child, and he or she will remain in foster care until finding a forever family or turning 18.
- There were 427,910 children in the United States foster care system as of September 30, 2015. Of that number, 111,820 kids were legally available for adoption, meaning their parents’ rights had already been terminated. Each of those 427,910 children needs a family to take them in, whether that’s on a permanent or temporary basis. Adopting a child from a foster care agency helps to reduce the amount of kids searching for forever homes.
- Adoption — particularly private adoption — can be expensive. Private domestic adoption can cost up to $47,000, and while there are many reasons for this, it doesn’t change the fact that that’s a hefty amount for some families. The only cost typically associated with adopting through foster care is that of the home study, which, depending on the foster care agency you work with, is a cost that may be reimbursed. The entire adoption process when adopting from foster care shouldn’t cost you more than $2,500.
- In 2014, 91 percent of families that adopted foster children qualified for an ongoing “special needs” subsidy to help with the costs of raising a child. To meet these qualifications, a child may be part of a sibling group, a minority, 5 years old or older, or dealing with a physical, mental or emotional problem.
While we believe the benefits of growing your family through foster child adoption agencies outweigh the potential negatives, there are still possible cons. These include:
- If a child is in the foster care system, that generally means he or she has encountered some difficult experiences before — and possibly after — getting there. He or she may have some more issues to work through than a child who has spent their entire life in a loving, stable home. This may require special attention or counseling that can cost time, money and emotions. (This also makes the potential for growth that much greater, but it’s still an obstacle to adopting through foster care that should be considered.)
- Many families who are ultimately interested in pursuing adoption through the foster care system do so by “fostering to adopt.” This refers to the practice of providing a temporary foster home for a child in the hopes that their parents will have their rights terminated and that the child will be able to join the family on a permanent basis. This path, while admirable, can lead to some serious heartbreak. There is never a guarantee when agreeing to foster parent a child that he or she will eventually be able to permanently join your home. The goal of the foster care system, until the parents no longer have any rights, is almost always to reunite a child with his or her parents.
Adopting a foster child, no matter what type of foster agency you use, can be a beautiful gift for a child as well as an excellent way to grow your family. For more information about foster care and foster care agencies, check out the following resources: