The Ins and Outs of Adopting Through Foster Care

Thinking of adopting but worried it is too expensive?

According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, private domestic or international adoptions may cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, but adopting through foster care can cost “next to nothing.” And with more than 400,000 youth in American foster care, there are thousands of young people right in our own backyards looking for families.

Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the nonprofit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption explained:Because these children are in the custody of the county or the state, that county or state covers all those court costs that an individual would pay for a private agency.”

Parents may need to pay upfront for a home study (when a social worker interviews the family in their home) … but typically those costs can be reimbursed through workplace adoption benefits, military adoption benefits or adoption tax credits. The majority of children adopted through foster care receive a financial or medical subsidy from their state … and many states offer college tuition waivers for adopted youth, which can further reduce a family’s costs.

The median age of foster youth is 8.5, and families who adopt older children often have shorter waits than those who adopt younger ones. Sometimes age can be a sticking point for potential parents who are concerned about behavioral issues, but Karen Sauer, who adopted two young people through foster care, shared some advice:

“It’s important to know that these kids are not bad. They come from bad situations but they’re not bad themselves.” Her mother had initially been skeptical of her adopting an older child, asking ‘What if you get a bad one?’ But Sauer laughed it off, joking in her response: “You gave birth to my sister.”

Families who adopt through foster care must pass criminal background checks and demonstrate that they can financially support their households without the money provided by the state. Home ownership is not a necessity, and in most states single parents of both genders, military families and same sex couples can adopt through foster care.

Kathy Ledesma, national project director for AdoptUSKids, a project of the U.S. Children’s Bureau offering resources for families and child welfare professionals, explained adoptive parents just need to be able to provide kids with love and support.

“You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent,” Ledesma says. “If families are waiting until they have their house exactly how they want it or have a brand new car, they don’t have to wait for those things. These children just need permanent, loving families.”

Adoption through foster care typically takes between 12 and 24 months. For Sauer, who adopted two children, the process took a few years. After she decided to adopt, she took classes, waited and had each child live with her for at least six months. She says it was well worth the wait.

On the drive home from her son’s adoption, he rolled down the car windows and announced his adoption to the world. She says her daughter grinned ear to ear on the day of her adoption.