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Written by Washington Foster Team
November 20, 2019

In a recent post on the question and answer site Quora, someone asked: What’s it like to adopt a child from a foster care program in the U.S.?

Responses to the question were given by both people who had succeeded at adopting from foster care and those who had attempted adoption but were unable to. In both cases, however, there was one common theme: the process is long, often frustrating, but can be rewarding.

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Here is some of what the responders had to say.

Set The Right Expectations

“Overall, if you want to do fostering and then adopting it is important to know how long it could actually take and that at any point in time her parents, or parents’ family members, could take the child away from you because it is their legal right."
— Anonymous

Understand The Effects Of Trauma

“You will be adopting a traumatized child. Adoption is trauma in the context of attachment. The more placements in foster care the more reinforced the trauma will be. It will be normal for this child to feel you will abandon him/her because that’s what life has been.”
— An adoption education and family counseling professional

Know That Adoption Is Never The Goal

“The process we went through was very frustrating and costly. I highly advise that you really look at the agency you are working with if they will support you as foster/adoptive parents. Don’t just take their word for it, get state statistics to back it up and references. If they do minimum adoptions and your goal is adoption, look elsewhere. Different agencies have different motives. They also have different approaches.”
— A foster parent who successfully adopted a child

Sound Discouraging? Read On.

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While these responses can seem discouraging, they also reflect the reality of most foster-to-adoption situations in Washington State and across the U.S.

As we’ve often discussed, the end goal of every fostering placement is reunification with the parents or other family members. In addition, as the responders stated above, a lot of children in foster care have experienced trauma, which can further complicate the adoption process.

Another important thing to remember is that the vast majority of kids in need of adoption are ages 11-17, and they often need adoptive parents who are skilled in dealing with therapeutic parenting.

Of course, there’s no one common experience when it comes to foster-to-adoption cases. Every situation, just like every child, is different.

Transitioning From An Adoption To A Reunification Mindset

The fact of the matter is that most fostering agencies are focused on reunification first and foremost. Anyone looking to make a difference in the lives of children in need should explore fostering with the expectation to have the child reunify with their parents.

Why? Because ultimately, this is in the best interest of both the child and the entire family.

If you’re not sure if you’re up to the task, read this incredible story of a local woman who recently had to reset her expectations when going into foster care and is so glad she did.

Your help is needed, and you can make an incredible impact.

For more on foster parenting, download our free resource The Essential Guide To Becoming A Foster Parent In Washington State.

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