Q: I read your article about being eligible to be a foster parent, but would like to learn more about adopting through foster care. How do children become eligible for adoption from foster care?

A: Foster care adoption is a system in which children, ranging in age from infants to teenagers, are temporarily removed from their birth parents for a variety of reasons and are placed into the homes of certified, foster parents. The system is intended to provide a safe temporary home to a child until he or she can be reunited safely with his or her parents or be adopted. Foster families have an obligation to actively support the goal of reunification.

Children are placed in foster care in two ways: An involuntary placement (i.e. due to neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse) is by court order, whereas a voluntary placement is because the child’s parents are willing to have them cared for temporarily outside the home.

This latter placement is an option in several situations, including if the child has behavioral problems requiring special treatment, or if the family experiences a serious medical, emotional, and/or financial problem that hinders the parents’ ability to care for the child. The parents sign a “Voluntary Placement Agreement” that transfers the care and custody of the child to an agency.

If the child has been in foster care for 15 out of the past 22 months, and the biological parents have not sufficiently cooperated with the agency’s plan for permanency, then the biological parents’ rights must be terminated before a child in foster care may be adopted. A child may also be freed for adoption via a voluntary surrender, where the biological parents voluntarily and permanently give up all parental rights and transfer custody and guardianship to an authorized agency.

In the case of a termination of parental rights or a voluntary surrender, a child may then be adopted by his or her foster parents, or the agency may seek another suitable permanent home for the child. A foster parent who has been caring for a child for at least 12 months is given the first opportunity to adopt, which your adoption attorney can assist you with. There are no legal fees — the service is free for adoptive parents through the foster care system.

Please Note: The information provided in this article, or its content, is about legal issues but it is not intended as legal advice.

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