Private adoptions and adoptions through foster care

If you’re considering adoption, there are a number of different routes to finding that special little one who will be the newest member of your family. Two routes to adoption are what are called public and private adoption. Public adoption involves fostering to adopt, and private adoption can also be called independent voluntary placement.

Just what does it mean to foster to adopt?

To understand what it would mean to foster to adopt, you have to first understand the foster care system in the U.S. Foster care is a state-funded system, and its primary goal is for biological parents who cannot presently care for their children to be rehabilitated so that they can regain custody of their children.  

If a child is brought into the foster care system, it is because the state or Department of Social Services had to intervene, and has either temporarily or permanently terminated the parental rights of the biological parent or parents. This can happen for any number of reasons, including neglect, illegal activities, or misconduct. Children are placed in the custody of extended family, if they are available. If not, children are placed with foster parents. This arrangement is always a temporary one, because again, the goal is for the birth parent to be granted custody of their children once they comply with the state’s requests and can care for them again. This kind of fosterage is often called “interim care.”

A foster-to-adopt arrangement is when the foster family who is caring for a child moves to adopt that child permanently. Adoption through this process adds some unique elements into the mix. For one, birth parents may be working to regain their parental rights, which can make this arrangement feel precarious for foster families. Children placed with foster families can range from newborn to 17 years old. While some older children are adopted quickly, there can also often be a long wait time for adoption to take place. The trade-off for time, though, is often money. In the case of public adoption, this sort of an arrangement can be much more affordable compared to private adoption because a state will cover most expenses, including an adoption tax credit. In this sort of an adoption arrangement, there is often little to no contact between biological parents and adoptive family.

Foster parents must first go through an intake process of becoming foster parents, which involves an application and background check, visits to the family’s home to check for safety, and to interview all family members, and training or classes. After a foster placement occurs, foster parents are monitored for some time so that the state can be certain that they are good caregivers and fit to care for the child or children.

How is private adoption different?

Private adoption is adoption that takes place outside of the public, state-run foster care system. Unlike foster care placement, which takes place when the custody of a child is taken away from the birth parents, in private adoption, birth parents chose to voluntarily place their children for adoption with families of their choice.

For families hoping to adopt newborns, private adoption may be something to consider because it’s more common to adopt a newborn through private adoption than through foster care. Prospective parents who want to adopt a baby through private adoption may wait some time to be matched with a birth mother, and may be asked to pay for legal expenses, expenses the birth mother might have while pregnant, travel for the birth of the child, and, potentially, a number of other fees. These expenses will depend on the state in which the adoption is finalized. This arrangement does, however, often feel less precarious than foster-to-adopt, since in that case biological parents may attempt to regain parental rights, and in private adoption, the birth parents independently choose to relinquish parental rights. In private adoption arrangements, there are many different options for levels of contact between birth parents and adoptive families, including open adoption, semi-open adoption, or closed adoption.

If you’re considering adoption, which type of placement might be best for you?

There are several beautiful ways to add to a family, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Since each of these options has many different caveats, you’ll have to consider what’s most important to you and what seems like it would be the best fit for your own unique situation. Do you want to adopt a newborn? Are you open to adopting an older child? Would you be open to adopting a child of color? Do you have the capacity to care for a child with mental or physical limitations? Have you thought about being a foster parent before? Is the cost of adoption a concern? Is a certain timeframe important to you? These are all important questions to ask yourself, and even then, this is only the beginning of what will be an involved and considered process. You may want to speak to a state-run foster expert or a private adoption agency to start learning more.

  • “Adopting from foster care.” Adoptive Families. Adoptive Families. Retrieved September 13 2018.
  • “Public vs. private adoption.” AdoptHelp. AdoptHelp. Retrieved September 13 2018.
  • “The differences between private and foster adoptions: Wait times, degree of uncertainly, cost, and ages of children.” American Adoptions. American Adoptions. Retrieved September 13 2018.
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