Adoption is a WONDERFUL thing and people choose adoption for all sorts of reasons. You basically have a few choices when it comes to adopting. You can adopt privately through a firm, which will cost a lot of money or you can adopt through foster care which is free.
If you think you want to adopt from foster care — you NEED to read this all the way through and think about what you’re reading. I don’t want this to scare anyone and it isn’t meant to chase away possible adoptive families. It is meant to give a realistic view of adopting through foster care and if the picture you see isn’t what you thought and isn’t what you wanted to sign up for then maybe it isn’t best for you.
Reality #1: The process is not a quick one.
You need to be prepared to follow the same timeline process as attempting to conceive and then going through a pregnancy. It’s not an instant gratification process.
An adoptive home has to go through the same process as a home opening for foster care. You have to attend an informational meeting, fill out background paperwork, get fingerprinted, attending 30 hours of PRIDE, do an in-home consult with DCFS, and then complete your home study. That process could take anywhere from 6 months (best case scenario) to 1 year (or longer if there’s an issue with paperwork).
Reality #2: You will probably not have a child placed with you immediately.
Once you’re open, it’s like getting that Big Fat Positive pregnancy test. You know you’re able to get a child now, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. You have to wait. Unlike pregnancy, the wait time varies. It could be six weeks, six months, a year, or longer before you get that call saying that you’ve been matched with a child.
Your specifications in what you’re wanting to adopt will affect how long you wait. Depending on what age, gender, race, health, and number of children you’re willing to take affects how long you’ll be waiting. If you’re willing to take a sibling group — you may not be waiting as long as someone who is only willing to take a single child.
Reality #3: You will wait a LONG TIME to get an infant or newborn.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances surrounding a case, biological parents have 12-18 months (or longer) to get their children back. That means even if a child is taken from the biological parents at birth, that child will probably be around a year old before rights are terminated, possibly older.
Also, there is a list a mile long of people sitting on a waiting list hoping to adopt an infant from foster care. That means when an infant does become available, it doesn’t take long for that infant to be placed with an adoptive family that’s been waiting.
The other hurdle in this particular situation is that when a child becomes available for adoption, the foster family (if they’re interested) is looked at first as a potential adoptive family before they even start looking at that mile long list. Only about 20% of all children adopted from foster care last quarter were children under a year old.
Reality #4: You will probably not get to pick out a child.
It’s not like adopting a puppy where you get to scroll through a picture list of children and say, “I want that one.” Each child has an adoption specialist and that specialist will choose a family that fits the child’s needs. They will look at things like whether the child should be in a one or two parent home, should there be other children, should they be the oldest in the home, should they be the youngest in the home, and other things like that.
You can attend adoption events and meet children that you might be interested in adopting or find children through The Arkansas Heart Gallery that you think might fit your family. At that point you can either contact your caseworker or the child’s adoption specialist and let them know you’re interested. The child’s adoption specialist will then see if you meet the specific needs of the child. If things look good, they will move forward with the possibility of you adopting that child. If not, they will let you know that you didn’t meet the specific criteria for that child. It may be a situation where you’d be a good fit, but another family has already been screened and chosen as the best fit for that child.
Reality #5: ALL children adopted from foster care will have baggage
Many people who plan to adopt go into thinking they’re about to fulfill their dream of the perfect family. They’ll get that blonde-hair, blue-eyed child that they’ve been wanting that ADORES them. After all, they’ve given them a mom and a dad and a safe home. What’s not to love?
However, regardless of age, these children have suffered various traumas and hurts in their lives and they will need time to heal. Being placed in an adoptive home can trigger painful memories and those first few weeks or months or year in the adoptive home may not be glorious ones.
There are lots of children who are eager to find their forever home and get a permanent mom and dad, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be hurdles. There may not have been devastating or horrific traumas, but something caused those children to be put up for adoption and those “somethings” will come up at some point.
Families should not be surprised when things don’t go perfectly from the start, but be willing to stick it through and see how that bond grows over time.
A final note:
If one of the above realities surprises you, you may need to re-evaluate if adopting through foster care is right for you. We don’t ever want to discourage someone who wants to adopt from foster care, but we also don’t want people signing up thinking that the process is going to be easy and then drop out because they find out it’s not.
There are over 500 children in Arkansas that are WAITING to be adopted — not waiting for termination of parental rights — sitting in foster homes in the custody of the State waiting for that perfect family to be matched to them.
If you read all five realities and said, “I can do that,” then PLEASE attend an informational meeting, message us on Facebook, or call us so we can get you started!