Being a foster parent can be very rewarding. You get to care for another child as if they were your own, and oftentimes, that child really does come to feel like your own after some time. If you feel particularly close to a child you've been fostering, you might even be thinking of adopting them. Is this possible? What does the process involve? Keep reading to learn.
Is the child up for adoption?
Not every child in the foster care system is available for adoption. Some are only in the system for a few weeks, months, or years while their parents are incarcerated or awaiting a trial. Others are in the system temporarily after the death of a parent, before other family members are available to step up and adopt them. If you do not already know the history of the child you are fostering, inquire with your social worker. They may or may not be able to give you all the details, but they should at least be able to tell you whether the child is a "permanent foster," or in other words, available for adoption.
Have the birth parents terminated their rights?
Some children in foster care are wards of the state. This means that their birth parents have terminated their rights. Others are still legally bound to their parents. Once you find out that a child is available for adoption, you'll need to learn whether their parents still have legal rights. If the parents do have these rights, your adoption process will have to involve the termination of those rights, which can be time-consuming. If the parental rights have already been given up, then the process will be simpler; you'll just have to work with the state.
How do you begin the process?
Once you know a child is available for adoption and you've confirmed that your family wishes to adopt them, it's time to contact a professional family law attorney. They can work with the foster care system—and if needed, the birth parents—to draft a contract. The whole process may take a year or more, so be patient. In the meantime, the child can usually continue to live with you. Be careful, however, not to tell the child too early in the process that you are adopting them. You should only share this news when your lawyer tells you that it's a sure thing, just to be careful.