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Foster or adopt: can I really do this?

It’s a question that our foster care and adoption specialists are asked every day. People attend an orientation or spend just enough time on our website to realize that they have a lot to learn before taking the next step toward fostering and adopting.

Here are a few things we often talk about with people who are wondering if fostering or adoption from foster care is right for them.

A home study is exactly that.

The home study—which usually happens after your training and before you are licensed to adopt—is a social worker’s opportunity to confirm that a child placed in your home will be safe and have their needs met.

As part of this assessment, they will check your home for general safety measures, like fire extinguishers, childproofing, and water testing if you have a well. It is not a white glove test. The basics are the ability to provide food, clothing, and shelter.

You’ll also be asked to complete the child abuse and state police clearances. If you have had past run-ins with the law, like a DUI in college, it’s best to be up front about those from the beginning.

Read more about the home study process on our website.

You’ll need a support system—and your agency can help you create one.

You’ll often hear that having a strong support system is important when adopting from foster care. Many families tell us that they rely on nearby relatives, their faith community, and friends who have adopted for support and a break when they need it.

If you don’t already have a support group, never fear! As you go through training and the home study process, you’ll meet people who could become the support group you’ll need going forward. You’ll also be directed to existing parent support groups by your social worker and other professionals.

Your family may grow in ways you didn’t expect.

Families often tell us that when they started out, they did not envision having a relationship with their children’s birth family, but that is exactly what happened.

As one father who adopted five boys told us: “We’ve included the boys’ birth family in our life. We had Mom over for Thanksgiving last year… The boys talk with her on the phone regularly, and my wife sends her regular text updates. It’s helping the boys now to stay connected and know their mom is safe. And I’m sure it will prevent them from having unanswered questions in the future.”

It pays to be patient.

One of your first questions may be “How long does it take to adopt?” Unfortunately, this is a very hard question to answer! On average, it takes from four to twelve months to get licensed. The time it takes to be matched with a child varies. But as one mother of four siblings told us, “Never give up! If you have to go through the heartache of six years of searching like we did, do it! Adopting from foster care is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Keep going, don’t stop.”

Ready to learn more?

Take our quiz to learn more about the children in foster care and skills you need to be a parent to them.