Happy Wednesday sweet friends!
I am so excited to share this post with you today! Since sharing our story with you, we have received so many questions regarding the process. I love hearing that so many of you have the thought of adoption in your heart. As you know, we are going through our own journey right now and since no story is the same I have reached out to the experts at our agency to answer your questions.
Let’s start off by sharing a little more about the agency that we chose to work with.
Arms Wide Adoption Services
- Arms Wide Adoption Services, formerly Spaulding for Children, has been expertly and compassionately transforming the lives of children in foster care since 1977 by finding them safe and nurturing adoptive families.
- During its 41 year history, Arms Wide Adoption Services has successfully placed more than 2,100 children in permanent homes.
Why What They Do Is So Important:
- Currently there are 20,000 – 30,000 children in Texas’ foster care system. Of these, approximately 6,000 are legally available for adoption.
- Each year, more than 1,000 children in foster care turn 18 years old, thus aging out of the system without a family.
- Within two years, some 25% of the children who have “aged out” of the system will be homeless. Approximately another 25% will end up in prison. Within four years, 40% of the children who have “aged” out of the system will have children of their own, who are twice as likely to end up in foster care.
These statistics break my heart. If you are one of the people who sent in your questions and are wanting more information please reach out to armswide.org or you can always attend one of their meetings to get more information. I know this is a huge decision and I know that there are a lot of you who would like to help in other ways. Arms Wide talks about one way in question/answer number 2.
Again, I want to thank the Manager of Adoption & Foster Care Programs at Arms Wide for taking the time to answer these frequently asked questions for us!
- What is the difference between open adoption and closed adoption?
You typically hear about open adoption when considering private adoptions. Ultimately, an open adoption means that an adoptive family agrees to have some level of contact with the biological family after adoptive placement. The level of openness depends on the individual agreement in each situation and can include full disclosure of identifying information such as phone numbers and addresses or can be facilitated through an agency so that no identifying information is disclosed.
Open adoptions can come in many forms. One family may agree to annual pictures and a letter while others may send monthly letters and pictures to the birth family. Some families even create non-identifying e-mail accounts so their child’s birthmother can contact them whenever it is the right time for her. I have been a part of adoptions as open as the adoptive mother being in the delivery room when the baby is born, the adoptive family staying in the hospital with the birthmother and baby and, once placement occurs, continued contact through facetime and regular visits. Some adoptive families ask their child’s birthmother to babysit their child and invite them to school plays and birthday parties. The thing to remember about an open adoption is that it is based on the level of comfort of all parties involved and is only practical when in the best interest of the child. For example, if a birth family member is into drugs and is unreliable, contact may reduce to only letters until the family can be sure the child will not be hurt or disappointed.
Closed adoptions refer to those adoptions that do not include continued contact with a birth parent or birth family. In the past, most CPS adoptions, where children are adopted from foster care, were closed. However, today more and more adoptive families are including their child’s birth parent in their lives through emails, phone calls and even visits. In addition, many adoptive families continue contact with their child’s birth siblings that are placed with other adoptive families or with one of their relatives that is not related to their child. Again, it is important to determine that the relationship is safe and in the child’s best interest.
2. If someone is not quite ready to adopt, what other ways can they help these children?
If a family is not ready to adopt, they can always consider foster care. There is a statewide capacity crisis in Texas, which means there simply are not enough foster homes available for children in foster care who need one. If a foster home is not available for a child needing placement, that child will have to go to a shelter. Foster families ensure every child is able to live in a family-like setting during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
If foster care isn’t the right path for a family, they could also consider providing respite care for foster families. A respite care provider is a licensed foster home that only cares for children on a temporary basis. For example, children already in a foster placement with a family and the family needs a break or has a need to travel outside of the state or country without the child so they don’t miss school, etc.
Additionally, families at our agency need approved babysitters. When providing foster care, date nights are still important! So, becoming an approved babysitter is a great way to provide support to a family and to help foster children AND it is an easier process!
3. Is it really “easier” to adopt an older child?
I would never use “easy” in the same sentence as adoption!! No matter which route you choose to go about adoption, it is an demanding amount of paperwork, training and emotion. That being said, I think many people believe that adopting an older child is easier for a couple of reasons. First of all, more families come to adoption wanting a younger child or a baby. What this means is that families who are more open to older children have the opportunity to be presented more children in the long run. In fact, there are many older children waiting to be adopted right now, although not every family is the right family for every child. Secondly, when thinking of a private infant adoption, many girls are choosing to parent their children today versus placing them for adoption. Being an unwed mother is less frowned upon today, thus less babies are available for adoption.
4. What is the cost of adoption?
In regards to a private infant adoption, there is a significant fee associated with the process and placement of a child. The fee differs depending on the agency or attorney you work with.
When it comes to foster care adoption, there is no adoption fee involved. The state agency pays a minimal fee to Child Placing Agencies when they provide adoption placement or adoption supervision services.
Although there is no fee for the family for CPS adoptions, there are costs involved. For example, there may be costs related to bringing your home up to compliance. Every home will need at least one fire extinguisher; two story homes will need an additional fire extinguisher and a fire escape ladder for the second story of the home. Every home will need lockable boxes for medications and double locks for psychotropic medications. Additionally, when foster care is involved, homes will be required to get a Fire Inspection by the Fire Marshal and some will need an Environmental Inspection. These requirements differ based on the county in which the home is located. Fingerprints for each household member over 14 years old are a requirement which entail a fee as well. Other than that, there may be costs related to child-proofing your home or making small repairs that prevent compliance.
Lastly, once an adoption is ready for consummation, there may be attorney’s fees and court fees. Again, these fees will vary based on the situation.
5. How much information will we know about the family or child before we adopt?
When a child is placed from foster care into adoption, the family will be able to read the child’s entire redacted record – in other words, their CPS record that has identifying information removed. That being said, the record is limited to what CPS knows related to the child and their birth family. If birth parents are unknown there will be no past history. Even if birth parents are known, the record is limited to what past information was provided to CPS. Sometimes a record will only include information related the child’s involvement in CPS.
6. Why do people choose to “foster to adopt” rather than just adopting?
When it comes to foster care adoption, choosing to foster to adopt gives a family many more opportunities for placement than straight adoption. The ultimate goal of CPS is to get a child to permanency as quickly as possible with the least possible moves.
Agreeing to provide foster care before adopting benefits the child and the family. Once CPS recognizes that a birth parent is not “working their services” (completing drug rehab, securing housing, obtaining a job, testing clean for drugs, anger management classes, etc.) they will likely request agencies submit foster to adopt home studies. Moving the child to a foster to adopt home before the end of the legal case allows the child to be placed in foster care with the family that will adopt them once parental rights have been terminated rather than spending additional time in a foster home that does not plan to adopt them. Ultimately, this allows the child to start getting to know the family sooner and have an established relationship before adoptive placement occurs. Although there is a still a risk involved for the family, this is in the child’s best interest.
Families that choose to “straight adopt”, meaning adoption once parental rights have been terminated, will often wait longer because these children will need to go through their entire legal process before placement can occur. The legal process is often long with many court resets and a 90-day appeal timeframe once termination occurs.
7. Can I adopt if I’m single?
Absolutely. When an agency completes a home study, they are looking at ability to parent in general. If a single parent meets the minimum qualifications, is stable and has a strong support system, there is no reason they would not be approved to adopt.
8. What should be the first step if a couple is considering to adopt?
After completing research to determine which route to take – CPS adoption versus private adoption, the first step is to attend an Information Meeting. I suggest that families attend more than one agency’s adoption information session to get a feel for multiple agencies. It is important to choose the agency that feels right for you; after all, these are the professionals that will walk next to you through the entire adoption journey!
9. How many children can one couple adopt?
This answer is different for each family. The easy answer is that a family providing foster care or adopting through CPS can have up to six children in their home. If a family doesn’t have any other children living in their home, they could adopt a sibling group of six, but placing six children coming from trauma at one time with new parents would be way too much! If a family has two children already living in the home (whether biological, adopted, fostered, or unrelated), they could accept four more children for a total of six.
10. How long does the adoption process take?
This is the million dollar question for sure! There is also no easy answer! After attending an information meeting with an agency, the family can start the application process. This includes filling out the actual application, providing supporting documentation such as pet vaccinations, proof of auto insurance, proof of income, etc. The agency will also run background checks including FBI fingerprints. Once all of the supporting documentation is received, the family can attend pre-service training. Once the application process and training is complete the family will be assigned to home study by the agency. Ultimately, this part of the process and how long it takes really depends on how quickly the family is able to get all of the documentation submitted and how flexible their schedule is related to training and scheduling home study visits. I would say an average time frame for this is three to six months.
After the home study is approved, actual placement of the child is out of our hands. The agency acts as the agent to get your home study submitted to CPS for the children that would benefit from your strengths as a family. That being said, we also look at matching your family with a child in the age range, gender, race, etc. of your preference. The more specific you are in what you are willing to accept, the longer you will wait. For example, limiting your preferences in gender to only one male or one female will reduce your opportunities by half. If you are only willing to accept a Caucasian child, this decreases your opportunities tremendously. If you are interested in adopting a child six and under, even being completely open to race and gender, you may wait longer because there are many families who want to adopt a child in that age range. The more open you are, the more opportunities there will be to have your home study submitted and considered for placement. Once again, being open to provide emergency foster care placements or accept foster to adopt placements will expand your home study submission opportunities.
Again, thank you so much to Arms Wide for answering these questions. I truly appreciate what your team does for these children everyday!
Thank you all for following along on this journey. It has been emotional at times but most of all it’s been the biggest blessing! Speaking of journeys, we are taking our little guy on his first airplane ride today! Eek! I’ll be sharing more of our first family trip on Instagram!
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