Transferring children from birth parents to foster families and adoptive individuals or families is a complex process, involving social services, the legal system, and state mandates. Foster and adoptive parents will need to rely on professionals for advice and guidance. Social workers are invaluable in helping them navigate this process, thereby giving children a second chance at a happy life.
Couples and individuals who decide to adopt an infant or child have several options to choose from. Although private agency and relative adoptions were once the most common means to adopt a child, today public agency and inter-country adoptions account for more than half of the 127,000 children adopted in the United States each year. More than 40 percent of adoptions were arranged through publicly funded child welfare agencies in 2001, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC).
When deciding where to adopt a child, prospective parents must consider their ideal age of the child, the amount of contact they want with the birth parents, the nationality, race, and other characteristics of the child, adoption fees, and the waiting period prior to adoption. NAIC offers useful guidelines for prospective adoptive parents.
- Adoption subsidies are available to help offset the high costs of adoption and child rearing. Depending on state mandates, they may include:
- Federal and state adoption tax credits
- Federal and state adoption subsidies for children with special needs
- Reimbursement for adoption expenses for foster children adopted from the public child welfare system
- Employer benefits for adoption expenses
- Adoption loans and grants from various agencies. The National Adoption Foundation offers information on adoption grants and loans.
When parents are no longer capable of caring for their own children, the child welfare system steps in. The children may be removed from their home and temporarily placed in foster care. Foster care is designed to provide a stable, safe, and nurturing environment for children of families in crisis.
Children are placed in foster care when it is proven that they have been abandoned, abused, or neglected, due to parental problems such as alcohol or drug abuse, incarceration, or physical or mental illness. Youth in foster care often have special emotional, developmental, and health needs as a result of their abuse or neglect.
Foster parents open their home to children and commit to providing protection, guidance, and nurturing for children who have entered the foster care system but who are not in their custody. The process of becoming foster parents typically occurs after foster parents complete a home assessment process and attend training. They must demonstrate that they are responsible and financially and emotionally stable.
Foster parents receive a monthly reimbursement that varies in amount by state to help offset the costs of food, clothing, and other necessities. Medical care and counseling services are provided for children at no charge to foster parents.
There are many highly trained social workers are available to help prospective adoptive and foster care parents through the complicated process of adoption.
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