"There is an instinct in a woman to love most, her own child -
and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own."
That quote warms my heart!
It's human nature that before we seriously consider something as large as fostering/adoption, we want to know the experiences of those who have already done it. I wish the process was not filled with meetings, paperwork, and waiting but, since it is, here are some tidbits I've learned so far. By sharing this, I hope to encourage others to fight back the fear of the unknown. (most of this is information is for my state and could vary by agencies as well)
How many children are in foster care? In my state, it's reported that there are around 28,883 children in foster care with 10,768 of these children waiting for adoptive families (that's right, ten thousand+ are waiting for a family to call their own!) and in the US it's reported to be as many as 400,540 children in foster care!
Can singles foster/adopt?
Yes. Not every agency accepts single parents but there are some. It's more challenging if you are a single parent who wants to adopt internationally but that's not impossible either.
What are the options?
The options that I've been learning about are fostering, fostering to adopt, and straight-match adoption. There are different certifications needed for each option and possibly for the number of children you want to adopt. There are more avenues besides these three - you can find one that fits your situation best with just a little research! :)
What's the difference?
Fostering certification allows you to foster only. Fostering to adopt certification means you get certified to be a foster care home and if in the future one of your foster care children seems like a good match, then you could possibly adopt depending on the situation with the biological family. Adoption (or straight match adoption) means you get certified to adopt, review with your case worker & CPS possible good matches and if a good match is agreed upon, after many meetings and a 6 month live in period, you can become the legal parent of a child/children who have become wards of the state and are in foster care. Cost could also go up because of travel if the child you decide to adopt is in another state. If the child's in your state, then the travel cost is much less.
It's important to mention here that the mission of foster care placement is the child's reunification with their biological family if at all possible. "If your end desire is to adopt, then fostering might not be the best avenue for you. ~case worker from my agency"
What are the costs?
So far for me and considering the agency I'm using, not much. They cover the training and other fees even for the home study for both foster/adoption. I will pay out of pocket (about $60) for the fingerprinting/background check and the fire/safety home inspection but I can get reimbursed for that. So far, the largest cost besides buying beds for the kid'os will be the legal fee (lawyer) at the final adoption proceeding. (est. between $1,250-$2,000; the final adoption is less expensive because the child/children will already be wards of the state) **Update** I just learned that my agency will most likely cover the cost of the legal fee's for the adoption.
Does the state help with costs?
Yes. I am exploring this more but there are monthly state subsidies (beginning at $23.5 per day or just shy of $700 per month) and college tuition assistance for children in foster care especially if the child/children are considered 'special need." (even after you've adopted since they were once in foster care!) After adoption the state still provides a subsidy (until they are 18, I think). The amount decreases some...I think to around $400? There are also adoption tax credits that you can look into, etc...**Update** The county that my daughter is from provides small assistance with clothing each quarter too. Additionally, you can provide respite care to other foster children once certified and they provide some reimbursement (and you get some practice!) Finally, these children are on Medicaid health insurance which GREATLY reduces a family's costs. I have paid nothing out of pocket for my daughter's health care so far and that's great for this single momma!
What is "special need?"
Special need does not just mean a physical/mental need. A child can be just fine mentally and physically but the state considers them to have a special need because of age. So basically, if the child is white & 6 yrs old+ or a minority & 2 yrs old+ then they qualify as a 'special need' child. Also, sibling groups are in the category of special need because they tend to be harder to find families willing to take 2 or more.
How much space is required by the state to have in your home? 40 sq ft. (yup, that's it!). So basically the child needs to have a bed of their own and a dresser.
If you are exploring the options of fostering or adopting, then my friend and I highly recommend these books below. :)