Guide to Foster Care & Adoption
Foster care and adoption give a child an opportunity for change, happiness, and growth. The foster care placement process might be challenging, but creating smiles and offering stable homes for children in need certainly outweighs all concerns. Adoption also can be a challenging process, but in most cases, it’s a worthwhile one.
We’ve created a guide to foster care and adoption to help you navigate these vital services that support underprivileged children in our communities. Follow along to learn about:
- What Is Foster Care? What Is Adoption?
- How Does Foster Care Work?
- Becoming a Foster Parent
- What Type of Children End Up in Foster Care?
- Foster Care Statistics
- How Does Adoption Work?
- How Adoption Affects Child Development
- What To Do Before Considering Adoption
- Finding an Adoption Agency
- Taking Care of an Adopted Child
What is Foster Care? What is Adoption?
- Foster care is a vital service that temporarily places a child with extenuating family circumstances into a different, safer, and more stable home under the care of one or more certified individuals—the “Resource Family.”
- Adoption is a process in which a child under the ward of the state, or a foster family or entity, becomes a complete member of a family: legally, socially, and emotionally.
Difference Between Foster Care and Adoption
Foster care and adoption often work together to minimize the harm done by abuse. From the foster care system, many children are adopted and given a permanent, loving, and caring home. Read more about the difference between foster care and adoption.
Foster Care vs. Adoption for Children
Foster care provides a temporary home in which the child is provided food, shelter, guidance, and discipline as he or she navigates childhood. Unless the child is adopted by the foster family, the child will eventually leave the foster family either for another family or as they age out of the foster care system.
Adoption is the permanent placement of a child with a family, which results in the stronger formation of bonds between the child and his or her parents, siblings, and extended family. The child is treated as a full, legal member of the family with the same rights and expectations as any other family member.
Foster Care vs. Adoption for Parents
Parents can participate in the foster care system by becoming “Resource Families.” Resource parents are vetted and must fulfill important requirements before being considered to house a foster child. This includes an examination of the physical space the child will occupy.
Parents also undergo a rigorous screening process before an adoption application is accepted. Adoption is a permanent placement of the child, so parents should be ready for a lifetime commitment to the child.
How Does Foster Care Work?
At any given point, there are about 500 children waiting for adoption in Los Angeles County, alone. The Children’s Bureau’s foster care process is different than, but complementary to county DCFS or probation agencies.
There are several ways a child becomes involved in the foster care system. Occasionally (about 15 times per year in the Southern California area), children under 72 hours old are accepted as babies for adoption if they are surrendered safely to either a “Safe Surrender Site” or to an employee of a hospital, fires station, or other Safe Surrender Site. When surrendered, a parent has 14 days to reclaim the baby.
In cases of abuse or neglect:
- Suspected child abuse or neglect is reported to the Child Protection Hotline at 1-800-540-4000.
- An emergency response social worker investigates the alleged abuse or neglect.
- Founded claims of child abuse or neglect where the child is deemed unsafe with their parents will result in the child being separated from them and taken into protective custody.
- DCFS will first look for a relative who is available and able to be approved to take in the child. If no one is identified, DCFS will look for an approved Resource Family to care for the child.
At Children’s Bureau, we focus on foster care adoption, otherwise known as “adopt from foster care,” when a family fosters one or more children with the intent to adopt them into their family. We have prospective foster parents go through the process of becoming “Resource Parents” and a “Resource Family.”
Becoming Resource Parents
Becoming a Resource Parent (a potential foster parent) or Resource Family means that you are willing and able to accept these responsibilities:
- Protect and nurture the child.
- Meet the child’s developmental needs and address developmental delays.
- Support relationships between the child and their biological or previous family.
- Connect children to safe, nurturing, and hopefully life-long, relationships.
- Work as a member of a professional team in support of the child.
As a Resource Parent, you would be prepared to provide foster care, adopt a child, or accept legal guardianship without going through additional approval processes. You also:
- Make careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the child’s health, safety, and best interests.
- Ensure that the children and teens in foster care live as normal a life as possible.
- Ensure that the foster child participates in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities.
- Receive and use financial stipends you would receive as a foster parent.
- Accept the responsibility of caring for the child’s health, which is monetarily supplemented by state-provided Medi-Cal medical and dental insurance.
Becoming a Resource Parent involves these steps:
- Complete and submit the application.
- Participate in a pre-assessment process.
- Join the Children’s Bureau’s P.R.I.D.E. Model of Practice training.
- Undergo a family assessment and home safety check to fulfill foster parent requirements.
- Successfully complete the program and be recognized as an Approved Resource Family for foster care and adoption.
Start the process of becoming a foster parent or adopting a child at our Family Foster Care and Adoption page.
What Type of Children End Up In Foster Care
About one-third of foster kids are between 0 and 4 years old. About 25% of foster kids are between 5 and 9 years old, another 25% are between 10 and 15 years old, and about 16% of these children are over 15 years old.
Six out of 10 (60%) foster care children are of Latino descent. 25% are Black, 11% are Caucasian, and 4% are of other ethnic descents.
Foster care and adoption are both critical for saving and enriching the lives of children who may have suffered from:
- General or severe neglect
- Physical abuse
- Caretaker absence
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Exploitation in their previous home
Youth of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities may end up in foster care. About 44% of U.S. adoptions are transracial, meaning that the racial makeup of the child doesn’t match the Resource Family. Read our blog on transracial foster care and adoption to learn more about what challenges to expect and how to prepare as a Resource Parent.
Often, children enter the foster care system with siblings, so an extra effort is made to home children with their siblings. Many of these children and teens also have medical, emotional, and educational challenges.
It’s important to remember that all of these children have experienced trauma.
Foster Care Statistics
- California accounts for 13% of the children in U.S. foster homes.
- One out of every three cases reported is about children under 5 years old.
- In California, children enter foster care for abuse and neglect 12% of the time.
- Children usually stay in the foster care system between 12 to 20 months.
- The average age of a foster child is 7 years old.
- About 4,000 children age out of foster care in California every year.
- Out of the children who age out of the system, 20% unfortunately end up homeless.
How Does Adoption Work?
Considering adoption is in itself a giant leap toward potentially saving a child’s life—it can also have tremendous benefits for yourself.
- Fulfills lifelong dreams of raising a child
- Brings the joy and blessing of adding a child to your family
- Builds new, meaningful relationships
- Helps you with adopting routines
- Leads to new cultural traditions
- Exposes you to new activities and interests
- Leads to continuous learning and growth
- Improves quality of life
- Improves physical health and well-being
However, the adoption process can get exhausting, tedious, and confusing. Follow below for a quick rundown on how adoption works, and visit our California adoption process guide for more details on each of these steps.
How Adoption Affects Child Development
Adoption isn’t immune to some of the more complex issues that arise, including effects it can have on a child’s behavioral health or mental health.
For an adopted child, this could mean dealing with:
- New siblings who also have a biological connection with parents
- Feelings of curiosity about their biological birth parents
- Exhausting and painful attachment disorders
- Feelings of grief, loss, rejection, shame, guild, identity, intimacy, and mastery and control that occur when they find out they are adopted
- Identity crisis—trying to find their place in the world
- Behavioral issues such as depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, social anxiety, and substance abuse and addiction.
What To Do Before Considering Adoption
Ask yourself the following questions before considering adoption.
- Are you fully committed to adoption?
- Are you OK with your child not being biologically related to you?
- How do you envision your relationship with the child’s biological parents and birth family?
- If you have a spouse or partner, are both of you on board?
- Are you financially and locationally stable enough to bring in a new family member?
- Will you adopt a newborn or would you be open to adopting an older child?
- Will you adopt domestically or internationally?
- What gender do you prefer for your adopted child?
- Are you open to adopting a child of a different race or citizenship than yourself?
Finding an Adoption Agency
Consider the following when looking for an adoption agency to partner with.
- Find an agency that accommodates you and makes you feel comfortable.
- Public child welfare agencies that provide adoption services are often cheaper than private agencies, but also often take more time due to government bureaucracy. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Make sure you are financially stable enough to pay costs of the adoption itself along with the investment it takes to raise the child.
- Consider if you want to go through the Foster-to-Adopt process—it helps build a greater initial connection between the parents and child and usually costs less than other adoption methods.
- Prepare yourself and your home for safety and behavioral checks.
- Don’t be discouraged by the time the adoption process takes. Be patient!
Taking Care of an Adopted Child
Caring for your adopted child’s physical needs is a responsibility you have until they reach adulthood. As an adopted child’s parent, you will continue to receive financial support and Medi-Cal insurance for your child until the age of 21. However, giving your child the love, empathy, and respect you would give to any family member is a lifelong responsibility.
It’s important to make your child feel wanted and as comfortable as possible with their place in the family. Some tips include:
- Allowing them to express their individuality
- Making meals they enjoy
- Requesting their help in family activities, such as decorating the house during the holidays
- Adopting a pet, if possible, to help them with the transition
- Making what is important to the child a priority in their lives at home
- Treating them like your other children with love, empathy, and excitement for having them be a part of your family.
Taking the Next Step
At Children’s Bureau, our foster care and adoption services are set up to give disadvantaged children the support they need to develop in a home that is safe, secure, healthy, and the best situation possible. Learn more about foster care and adoption in Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Ventura County, Kern County, and Riverside County.