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Changing lives: Adopting a child from foster care

Children, Family/Kids

The month of November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. This year’s focus is on adoption of children who are currently in foster care.

Adoptive parents play an important role in providing a foster child with a permanent and safe home in which to thrive. In the United States, there are nearly 70,000 foster children awaiting adoption. In a little over 50 percent of the cases, foster children will be reunified with their parents, which leaves thousands of children in need of a loving home.

While a small number of infants are placed in foster care, the vast majority of foster children range from toddlers to teenagers. According to the federally-funded organization AdoptUSKids, eight is the median age for children living in foster homes. Unfortunately, the children placed in foster homes have often been removed from their original homes because of traumatic experiences with their biological parents or other family members. In some cases, the foster child’s biological parents or guardians have been abusive or negligent.

It’s crucial that people understand what they are committing to when they adopt a foster child. Many state agencies that are responsible for foster children encourage people who are serious about adoption to become foster parents first to help them decide if adopting a foster child is right for them.

Fostering before adopting

Many states encourage prospective adoptive parents to become foster parents first. To become licensed to foster, people must take training courses and go through screenings to ensure their home is a suitable environment for a child.

By becoming a foster parent before deciding to adopt, families can open their homes and begin to parent children sooner. Fostering is a great way to learn strategies for creating an environment that is well-suited for children, and it gives parents a chance to hone their communication skills and sensitivity.

Additionally, if a child and a foster parent decide that they are an excellent permanent match, being licensed to foster can help reduce the time associated with adoption processing. Sharing the bond of fostering can also serve as a common ground between parent and child.

If you do plan on becoming a foster parent, keep in mind that over half of all foster children are reunified with their biological parents or initial guardians. The court and the foster agency that oversee a child’s case tailor a plan for each child, and if the parent meets the court’s standards, they can recover guardianship. When foster parents agree to care for children, they must be committed to supporting reunification.

Parenting children with trauma

Many foster children have been subjected to trauma, abuse, and neglect. Trauma has a profound developmental effect on children’s emotions as well as their behavior. To best learn how to support children who have experienced trauma, prospective adoptive parents may be required to go through specialized training. The following are a few qualities that adoptive parents must possess to be well-suited to the process:

  • Patience — Remain patient and compassionate through tense situations, allowing your child to make mistakes without losing your temper and demonstrating to them that they are in a safe environment. The child may not have been corrected by their previous guardian, or they may have been harshly punished.
  • Communication Skills — When conflicts and strong emotions arise, encourage your child to communicate with you. To promote open discussion, you will need to create a comfortable and safe environment for your child to express themselves.
  • Resourcefulness — Coming to agreements or finding solutions that help your child may take some creativity. Remaining flexible and adaptable will help your child understand that you are committed to finding the right answers with them.

Taking steps to adopt a child in foster care

If you are interested in taking the first steps toward adopting a foster child, begin researching agencies and guidelines specific to your state. Information on local agencies, licensure requirements, adoption and fostering fees, parental support groups, and additional resources are available to help you take the next steps in growing your family.

You can also learn more about the legal process for adoption, and find adoption attorneys near you on Avvo.