Adopting Through Foster Care: Is the Low Cost Worth the Risk?

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?


By , on Jun 13, 2012
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Thanks for the information on adoption through foster care.

  2. Claudia Scholz:

    We adopted through foster care in TX four years ago. The children are 6 and 8 years old now. We specified that we were interested in children whose parents had already had their parental rights terminated (that is, they were “adoptable”) That lessened the risk to us of having the children pulled back into their abusive home. I’m told this is easier in TX because termination of parental rights is faster. We fostered for 6 months before finalizing the adoption. We still receive a subsidy even now because the children were considered “hard to place” (Hispanic, sibling group, over 2 years old) We have been going to post-adoption support group meetings and trainings, but the state has severely cut these services. The children are still eligible for medicaid and for college scholarships. We’ve had some rough patches but it’s been worthwhile.

  3. Love, Love, Love!!!

    I’m so happy for you guys! Thank you for sharing your perspective on adopting via foster care. We’re waiting for our background checks to come through so we can start our homestudy. Some day soon…. :)

  4. My hat is off to anyone who goes thru the adoption process. I couldn’t be a foster parent. I would have trouble letting the child go. I tend to get attached.

  5. Rachel W:

    Congrats on your adoption! We have one child we adopted from Russia in 2008, and we currently have a young foster child in our home, whom we hope to adopt, but as you said they try to reunite with family first. We’ll be heartbroken if we lose him, but for us it’s a chance we are willing to take. Nice and truthful post!

  6. Vickie Couturier:

    We adopted thru foster care also,,,our daughter was 12 the first time we got her an 14 when she was returned back to us after 2 yrs of abuse by the same ppl that had abused her the first time,,,,If I were going to do it again it would be with a younger child not a teenager,,its been a very rocky road with her,,she’s 20 now an its still rocky,,she acts like she is “owed” something,,but to adopt thru foster care is the cheapest way to go,just be sure to take the therapy too….would I do it again,yes but not a older kid,if she had been allowed to stay with us when she was 12 I think it would have turned out so much better,but those 2yrs of running wild an abuse was a lot to overcome,,an we werent allowed any contact during those 2 yrs so she thought we had left her too…

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