With more than 400,000 kids in foster care across the country, many people choose to grow their families by adopting from the foster system. Giving kids a stable, loving home after they’ve experienced trauma can be incredibly rewarding, and for adoptive families, it can redefine what they expected from parenthood.
However, adopting from the foster system looks considerably different from other domestic adoptions. Children tend to be older or part of sibling groups. Some may have special needs. Many have emotional, physical or behavioral hurdles to overcome after experiencing abuse or neglect.
It’s important to remember that not all children in foster care are eligible for adoption. More than half of kids in the foster system are ultimately reunited with their parents. But for those who cannot return to their parents and who are not adopted by other family members, adoption from the foster system offers a chance for a safe, loving and stable home.
In Georgia, the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) oversees foster care and adoptions from the foster system, though they also contract out to private agencies. DFCS also manages foster care, coordinating the placement of kids who may need a safe home for months or even just a few days.
However, parents who are hoping to adopt from the foster system can express this intent upfront. The state will then only place kids who are already eligible for adoption in the home—kids whose biological parents have already lost their parental rights.
If the prospective parents and their caseworker agree, “legal risk” kids are also sometimes placed in the homes of parents hoping to adopt. In these cases, parental rights have not been fully terminated, or the biological parents have appealed the termination. With legal risk placements, there is the possibility that the foster family will have to give up the child. However, the state tries to make legal risk placements only when there’s high certainty that parental rights will be terminated.
In Georgia, potential adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old if single and at least 10 years older than the child. If married, prospective parents must also be at least 10 years older than the child.
After contacting DFCS, interested families will attend an information session.
Next, a resource development officer visits the home.
If the family decides to pursue adoption from the foster system, pre-service training comes next—a 23-classroom-hour course. A case manager meets the family during training and starts a complete home assessment and family evaluation, including medical and background screenings.
After pre-service training and evaluation, the family’s information is sent to the adoption exchange.
When the family identifies a child, or when DFCS identifies the family as a good match for an eligible child, the family can review the file and move forward if they wish.
After placement, the family’s attorney files an adoption petition.
Adopting through the foster is considerably more affordable than the $20,000-$50,000 expense of most domestic and international adoptions. In some cases, families may be reimbursed for expenses, especially when:
When you’re adopting from the foster system, it’s important to understand the process, minimize your risk and protect the rights of your growing family. If you’d like to talk through your options, contact the Atlanta adoption attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott LLC to schedule a consultation. Call us at 404-793-6530 or at 866-527-2630 to make an appointment.