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TAGS: Reunification
Written by Foster Team
March 5, 2019
“Indeed, unless children are already legally free (meaning that all parental rights have been terminated) there is no guaranteed path from foster care to adoption.” — Let’s Talk About the Term “Foster-to-Adopt”, Amara

“Foster-to-adopt” is a phrase we hear a lot, but it represents a few misconceptions about the role of foster care.

While it is true that foster parents sometimes end up adopting a child they supported through foster care, it is rare. Only 16% of children leave foster care through adoption.

Rarity aside, the problem with using “foster-to-adopt” is that it misrepresents the goal of foster care: reunification.

Foster Care Isn't Forever

“Removing a child from their birth family is meant for the child’s safety, but is not intended to be permanent unless circumstances are dire,” says Amara, a foster care agency. “The idea is for children to be safe, loved, and secure with their foster family while their birth family is given the opportunity to receive the support they need to parent their children.”

A foster parent provides support in a time of transition, whether that period lasts a few days or a few years.

No matter how long it lasts, reunification is always the ultimate goal. “We are asking them to enter into a challenging situation, bring a measure of healing and hope to children, and then be prepared to step aside if that is in the child’s best interests,” says Amara.

Adopting from Foster Care

If you're looking to adopt a child, foster care may not be right for you.

There are many challenges that come along with the concept of "foster-to-adopt", including:

  • Tough odds — Over 50% of foster children get reunited with their parents in Washington State.
  • Reunification is the goal — Not only does it provide stability and security for the child, but it also ensures they stay at home with their traditions, cultures, and family.
  • Foster agencies are not adoption agencies  — Because of that, they won't be looking for the best way to help you adopt. Rather, they're working to get the child back with their family.

While fostering to adopt is not always the best option, it's worth noting that if that does happen, older youth are the most in need of homes. 

Older kids, often ages 11-17, are most likely to desperately need a permanent home. They are also more likely to need adoptive parents skilled in dealing with trauma and therapeutic parenting.

It’s Challenging, But It’s Worth It

We understand that giving up a child that you’ve supported is an incredibly challenging thing, especially if you’ve known them for months or even years. But, that relationship is part of what makes foster parenting such an incredible demonstration of love.

If you're still not convinced, here's one woman's story of how her foster care experienced helped her transition from an adoption to a reunification mindset.

The key is to remember this: even if adoption is not the result of your time as a foster parent, you will always be a part of that child’s family. Nothing can take away from the time and love that you gave them, and that they gave you in return.

If you're thinking about becoming a foster parent but aren't sure if you're up for the task, download our free resource: Is Foster Parenting Right For You?

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