Adopting any children from anywhere is wonderful. In the United States, there are 500,000 children in social services foster care with 115,000 available for adoption now.
Single people, like me, can adopt. About 33% of all adoptions are by single females; just 2% are by single males.
If you adopt domestically through your local county Social Services, attending the orientation class is free; adoption training classes are free; looking at children is free; and when he/she/they are placed in your home, you receive foster care payments (about $500 per month per child) until the adoption is final. These payments, and free health care, can continue until the kids are 18. See step 6 below.
In California, and most states, you may not adopt until the child(ren) have lived in your home for six months. So, you need a foster care license. There is no such thing as an adoption license. When you contact Social Services, tell them you want to be a foster parent with the intention of adopting, called foster-adopt. A license requires training classes, references, a biography, a state and Federal criminal background check, fingerprinting, a physical, CPR training, and a home safety class.
1. Call your local Social Services department. Tell them you’re interested in adopting children and that you’d like to attend an orientation session. Warning: This phone call – the most important phone call you’ll ever make if you adopt – is more important to you than to them. Some social workers are indifferent to your life changing decision – ignore their indifference and move ahead.
2. Attend classes for about 30 hours. The classes deal with issues faced by children in foster care, like neglect, abandonment, hunger, etc. You’ll learn that 95% of children in foster care are there because of their parents abuse of drugs/alcohol.
3. Go online and look at children! It’s fun and you’ll be a parent someday soon…
4. After classes, interviews, background checks, etc., you’ll meet a social worker in your home for a walk-through safety inspection. He/she will issue the license right there. Note: Kids have to have their own bedroom, although two youngsters of the same gender can share a bedroom.
5. After you’re licensed, you’ll meet with a social worker and review available children.Some children are more available than others, so be careful. Ask questions. The legal (or “adoptable”) status of children is based on the legal status of their parent(s). Social Services departments are required by law to reunite children with their parents or blood family. If social workers give up they must obtain permission from a judge to stop working with the parents - called withdrawal of services. Next, in a separate legal proceeding, parents can be stripped of their parental rights, meaning the children are free to be adopted. In This is US, I describe taking in my three children before either of these steps had occurred. That’s risky.
6. You can pick age, gender, and ethnicity, but the more specific you get the fewer children are available. If you’re looking for a young Caucasian 0-2 years old, the odds are slim. Most children in the social services system are older than two, minorities, members of a sibling set, or children from an “adverse background,” meaning their parents are, for example, felons. My children were all four. The good news is that if the child(ren) you adopt meet any of those four criteria the foster care payments may continue until the children are 18 years old, along with free health care, under a federal program called the Adoption Assistance Act. In some states, these children also receive free in-state college tuition. These children, along with children with disabilities, are called “special needs children” in this context. The “special need” they have is a home (!) because as they get older they’re harder to place in homes. You may have to request the Adoption Assistance Program payments - be persistent. Any adopted child also qualifies the parent for the Adoption Tax Credit – about $13,000 per child. It’s subtracted from what you owe in federal taxes or, if you owe less, simply paid to you.
7. After a child has been in your home for six months the county will initiate adoption proceedings, which can take anywhere from 6 months to years, depending on the veracity of your social workers and how hard you push.
8. Enjoy and hang on! You’ll make mistakes, but not more than I did. And you’ll have fun, but not more than I did…
Requirements for Foster/Adopt Parents. Here’s a great list from New York’s Office of Children and Family Services. The basic rules apply everywhere and it gives a brief recap of the same adoption training classes I describe in This is US, called MAPP, or Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting.
Listening to Parents has great research about the challenges of domestic adoption. The challenges aren't the children - they're fun - but the system, bureaucrats I call "beads of mercury" in This is US. Listening to Parents aims to change that and remember, the joy of adopting overwhelms the challenge.
AdoptUSKids has thousands of children and 317 sibling sets available for adoption.
Northwest Adoption Exchange has hundreds of waiting children.