The Difference Between Foster Care & Private Adoption
They really are two different worlds! I thought going into the private adoption world with our second adoption would be fairly easy since we’d been through a foster care adoption. Boy, was I wrong! In light of this, I thought I’d break it down for anyone deciding which direction they want to go and how to get started.
Most people think of DCFS when inquiring about foster care, but there are smaller agencies that contract with the state to provide foster care services. For instance, we went through LCFS (Lutheran Children and Family Services). The benefit of going to a smaller agency is that they often don’t have as big of a case load per case worker. For you as the foster parent, that means it can be easier to contact them and get your questions answered. To become a licensed foster parent, prospective foster parents are required to have a home study and take classes.For us in Illinois, we went through PRIDE classes and had a home study done. PRIDE classes were every Saturday for 4 weeks where you are taught about different behaviors that can arise in children in crisis and what a typical foster care situation entails. It was insightful and so nice to go through a class with other people who would be in the foster care journey alongside us.
The home study for foster care is, well, intrusive. But they have to be! I mean, the state is entrusting hurt children to you so they want to do all they can to make sure this is going to be a safe place. We had to divulge our finances, our marriage, our individual lives (past and present), our discipline plan, and a thorough house tour. As a part of the home study, you also will need to get fingerprinted for background checks and have a physical done by your family doctor. Basically, the case worker licensing you will know you better then most of your close friends! It helped me, though, to remember why they have to know everything. It’s to keep children who have been through trauma safe, and in light of that it makes sense.
The home study cost: $0
When it comes to actually adopting through foster care, there is significant risk. From the first day you are placed with a child, you will hear the term “reunification” all the time. If the parental rights are not terminated, the goal will always be reunification; when the child(ren) is returned to their birth family. And it should be. In an ideal world, children would stay with their biological parents. However, we live in a broken world where children are sometimes not safe to be with their biological parents. Does this mean their biological parents are bad people? No. Does this mean that their biological parents don’t love them? Absolutely not! What it means is that by the grace of God, you are not dealing with the cycle of abuse or addictions or deep hurt that many of these biological parents have. So the foster care system, at it’s core, is attempting to help the parents with their hurt, cycle of abuse, and/or addictions in order to be reunified with their precious children.
We were told that it’s a consecutive three strike system in Illinois. Parents have a certain time span to meet certain goals and if those goals are not met, it’s a strike. If they get three consecutive strikes, then the goal of reunification is changed. That means if they get two strikes and then a pass, the strikes start over and that’s how children can stay in limbo for so long. There are obviously pros and cons to the three strike system, but again at the core of foster care is a whole lot of grace for parents in order to reunify children to them.
If parental rights do end up being terminated either through the state or voluntarily, then the child is available to be adopted. There are attorneys who are approved through foster care agencies to complete adoptions. Once you complete adoption classes and more paperwork through a case worker, you can start contacting an approved attorney. The paperwork will be filed through the court and a date will be set for finalization. The typical time span from rights being terminated and finalization is anywhere from 3-6 months.
The cost of adoption: $0
PRIVATE DOMESTIC ADOPTION:
Our private adoption was a little different because we were contacted by the expectant mom. I’m going to explain the process of private adoption in the typical way, though.
There a multiple agencies you can go through to complete a home study for private adoption. The home study is still intrusive but we felt like it wasn’t as detailed as the foster care one. We still had to complete background checks and physicals. We also had to complete education hours, which we were given a list of websites to use. This made it easy so we could take classes over the web, based on when it fit into our schedule. While the home study is happening, a profile book would be completed. A profile book is a snapshot of your family that you present to expectant mothers making an adoption plan. The profile book tells the expectant mother who you are, why you want to adopt, and what your home life is like.
The home study cost: Anywhere between $1,000 – $4,000
Once you are home study approved, you can begin applying to agencies who work with expectant mothers wanting to make an adoption plan. The old-school way is to stay with one agency and wait among lots of family to be selected by maybe a dozen expectant mothers throughout the course of a year. However, I recommend the multi-agency approach where you would apply to multiple agencies across the United States in order to be presented to more expectant mothers then just a handful. It’s important to note that you can only present to one expectant mother at a time, but when doing the multi-agency approach there are more opportunities to be presented.
If you are selected by an expectant mother, this is called a match. This is where the relationship can build with the expectant mother and the hopeful adoptive parents. Matches typically happen sometime in the expectant mother’s second or third trimester but can even happen days prior to a due date or after a baby has been born. Either way, though, there are fees along with adopting privately. There are a lot of opinions on this and questions of why it is so expensive. My short answer is this: There are many people involved within the adoption making sure the expectant mother is well taken care of(which includes counseling, medical care, and basic needs), paperwork is filled out appropriately, and taking all of the correct legal steps. When you consider all that is involved within adoption, it then makes more sense.
Average cost of adoption: $35,000-$45,000
There is risk within private adoption, because the expectant mother is the mother until placement paperwork is signed. Each state is different, but in Illinois the placement paperwork can be signed 3 days after baby is born. This is important, because it gives the expectant mother time after the birth to think about this huge decision. If paperwork is signed, then you are able to take the baby home (given that the baby can be discharged) if you have adopted within your own state. If you adopt outside of your state, then you will have to wait out ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) for adoption paperwork to be processed by both states. On average, the wait for ICPC is 7-14 days but it can take longer.
Once placement has happened and you take baby home, the agency that did your home study will complete post-placement visits and they will help complete paperwork for finalization. Paperwork will be submitted to the court system by either the placing agency attorney or an attorney local to you, depending on the circumstances. You will then receive the date of your finalization which is typically 3-6 months after bringing baby home. The baby is fully yours once the finalization hearing is complete and the judge signs the decree.
Average legal representation: $2,500-$5,000
Once I spell this all out, it’s common for people to feel overwhelmed by all the steps. But I know someone who can help! My sister-in-law, Susan, is an adoption consultant through Christian Adoption Consultants. She can help walk you through each step, create your profile, give recommendations on what agencies to apply to, complete your agency applications, and offer education and guidance throughout it all! You can read more about why to hire an adoption consultant on her blog.