Financial Considerations of Adopting a Child in Foster Care Part I

So, you’re thinking about adopting a child. We think that’s admirable. But while raising children can be rewarding, there are also many financial considerations. Adoption comes with its own set of financial challenges. For some people, the question becomes, how can they best provide for their child financially as well as emotionally?

The Cost of Adopting a Child

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Planning for Adoption: Knowing the Costs and Resources, the average U.S. private agency adoption costs can range from $20,000 to $45,000, and international adoptions can average between $20,000 to $50,000. While both of those are great opportunities for some families if finances are planned accordingly, for others, the costs associated with the process can be disheartening. There is another option, however – adopting a child in foster care.

Families who work directly with a public agency to adopt a child out of foster care typically incur no costs, according to AdoptUsKids. And there are thousands of children in foster care waiting for their forever family. Data from the most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) report states that as of June 8, 2016 there were 428,000 children in foster care and 26% of those children are waiting to be adopted.

The Process for Adopting a Child in Foster Care

There are two basic ways to adopt a child who has been in foster care:

  • Direct Foster Care Adoption - parental rights have already been terminated for the child and case workers are actively searching for a family.

  • Foster to Adopt - The child has been removed from their biological parents and placed in foster care. The foster family is usually given first choice at adoption if reunification is not possible with the birth parents.  

There is a common misconception with children available for adoption that a biological parent will be able to take the child back. This is not true. Once a child has been legally made available for adoption, the birth parents cannot claim the child nor petition for their return.

Children waiting in the foster care system can range anywhere from infants to young adults; however, the average age is eight years old. If you decide you’re interested in adopting a child from the foster care system, these following steps will help get you started:

  • Educate yourself – Review online resources, books and magazines about adoption. The AdoptUsKids’s website offers links to state adoption guidelines and information.

  • Review subsidies – A child adopted from foster care may be eligible for federal or state adoption assistance subsidies. These need to be finalized prior to adoption.

  • Evaluate benefits – Review any employer benefits, tax credits, loans and grants available. Your financial planner can assist you in examining these options.

  • Choose an agency – Your local Department of Social Services can provide a list of agencies licensed in your state. Contact a couple of agencies and request references.

  • Complete a home study - Your agency social worker will partner with you and your family to review official documentation, assess your home and ensure that the entire family is prepared for the new family member.

  • Visit the child - Once you have selected a child, there will be several visits over a few weeks for you to get to know one another.

  • Receive a placement date - This is the date when the child officially gets to come live with you.

  • Finalize adoption - You all attend a court session during which a judge finalizes the child’s adoption and you officially become a family.

Once the adoption is complete, it’s important to know that you will still have access to no-cost and low-cost, post-adoption resources to help your new child thrive within your family. The Center for Adoption Support and Education and the Child Welfare Information Gateway are two resources for adoptive families.

In “Financial Considerations of Adopting a Child in Foster Care Part II,” we will review the different adoption subsidies and financial assistance designed to help offset the short and long-term costs associated with adopting children in foster care.

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

“Finance Made Simple” blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

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