We just finalized the adoption of our toddler. We adopted through the foster care system, and though our particular circumstances were unique to us, adopting through foster care is becoming an increasingly popular way to adopt.

Why? Let’s face it. Adopting is expensive. For couples who have already spent a lot of money on expensive fertility treatment, spending thousands more on adoption might not be appealing. Adopting through foster care involves minimal, if any, expense. Plus, people who adopt through foster care are helping children along the way. So what’s not to love about the foster/adopt option?

I can tell you from experience there is a lot to consider before jumping in to the foster/adopt journey. Though the financial costs are minimal, the mental and emotional costs can be great. So before you decide to adopt through the state, make sure you consider everything that’s involved.

State Involvement in Your Life

The process to become a certified foster parent is long and tedious. Besides the required training and background check, you will need to participate in a series of interviews with your certifying social worker. These interviews will get VERY personal. You will need to answer questions about your current relationship, past relationships, relationships with your parents, and any issues such as substance abuse or child abuse in your past.

In addition, once you have children in your home, each child’s social worker will need to visit you once a month to see how things are going. You will likely feel like you are under a microscope until your adoption is complete.

The Roller Coaster of Uncertainty

There is a lot of uncertainty in foster adoption. If you want to be placed with young children, you are likely going to have to do some straight fostering, as there aren’t many young children who are already freed for adoption.

This means you never know when, or even if, one of your foster children will ever be available for adoption. Most children are reunited with their parents, and you need to be able to fully support that plan while you are fostering. Of those children who can’t be reunited with their parents, many are moved to the homes of relatives. Foster adoption is not a sure thing.

Furthermore, since foster parents don’t have many rights, often you will feel in the dark about how your foster child’s case is going. You may hear one thing from a social worker, another from the child’s parent, and still another from your child’s lawyer. While our child’s case was still going, I used to joke that nothing is ever certain in foster care. It’s the truth.

If you go the foster/adopt route, you will go through a long “mental” labor.

Overcoming the Past

Most foster children are not the perfect healthy babies parents dream of bringing home from the hospital. Children are in foster care because their families have serious problems, and these problems have a definite effect on the children.

Many foster children will have a lot “stuff” to work through before they learn to trust adults again. Some foster children will be dealing with the effects of drug exposure in the womb. Even the seemingly healthiest of children can have fears and reactions about things that seem random to healthy adults. As foster parents, you need to be committed to seeing these difficult problems through.

That’s not to say that foster children are “bad” kids. Most are great kids, who just need a little help learning appropriate ways to cope. But kids with chaotic backgrounds take more work to parent than children who are in healthy homes all along. If you’re going to adopt through foster care, you need to be prepared for that work.

Thought foster/adoption is the most financially economical means to an adoption, you need to be prepared for the mental toll it will take on you. For us, the process was worth it. When we began this process with our daughter, we never looked back. It wasn’t easy, but we wouldn’t change a thing. If you’re going to adopt through foster care, you just need to be realistic about what the process looks like.

Have you been a foster or foster/adopt parent? What were your greatest challenges in the process?