I have been doing research on adopting through the Washington foster care system and thought I would share what I have learned here.
DSHS- Childrens' Administration has an organization within it called the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). They have 44 offices throughout the state.
They have an informative and resourceful website about adoption.
They start by offering a list of questions to ask yourself in order to better understand what kind of adoption through the foster system is right for you.
Then they outline the legal differences between a foster parent and an adoptive parent.
- Provide daily care and nurturing of children in foster care.
- Advocate for children in their schools and communities.
- Inform the children's caseworkers about adjustments to the home, school, and community, as well as any problems that may arise, including any serious illnesses, accidents, or serious occurrences involving the foster children or their own families.
- Make efforts as team members with children's caseworkers towards reunifying children with their birth families.
- Provide a positive role model to birth families, and
- Help children learn life skills.
- Provide permanent homes and a lifelong commitment to children into adulthood and beyond.
- Provide for the short-term and long-term needs of children.
- Provide for children's emotional, mental, physical, social, educational, and cultural needs, according to each child's developmental age and growth.
- May become certified as a foster family and accept children who are not legally free for adoption, but whose permanency plan is adoption.
Next, they have a section dedicated to helping you answer some of the questions that you adopted children my have, especially if they came to your family as older children.
A particularly delightful aspect of this site are the pdf downloads available to create a "lifestory book" for or with your child. It helps them to celebrate and comemorate their entire lives, including the time before they came into your family.
Next on the list is a site dedicated to the adoption laws in our state. They have a "cliff notes" verstion of WA state adoption laws.
An imortant item to notice is that you do not have to be a foster parent to adopt through the foster system, (however, it is my understanding that you may have better post-adoption resources available to the child if you choose to become a foster parent.)
The next resource talks about cost. It is well known that the cost of adopting through the foster system is significantly less than private or agency adoption. The only expenses that you are responsible for (and which may even be reimbursed under some circumstances) are attorney fees and home study fees (if someone other than DSHS does your home study.)
They also talk about the Adoption Subsidy available for special needs children. What I found particularly interesting here, is what the definition of a special needs child is.
To be considered a child with "special needs" each of the following statements must be true:
- One or more of the following factors or conditions must exist:
- The child is of an minority ethnic background.
- The child is six years of age or older at the time of application for adoption support.
- The child is a member of a sibling group of three or more or of a sibling group in which one or more siblings meet the definition of special needs.
- The child is diagnosed with a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive or emotional disability.
- The child is at risk for a diagnosis of a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, or emotional disability due to prenatal exposure to toxins, a history of serious abuse or neglect, or genetic history.
If the cost of adoption or the continuing cost of caring for a child are concerns for you, then adoption through the foster system is something you should carefully consider.
Next they go through the steps that you will need to go through in order to adopt through the foster care system.
1. Contact your local DSHS office. You can find the listings here. They will answer questions for you and send you an information packet. You will also need to complete 30 hours of adoption/foster training before you are assigned a social worker.
2. Get a Home Study done. (this is a topic in an of itself, but you can read what they have to say about it here.)
3. "Select a Child" - you may all ready have a child in mind, or a social worker may contact you about a child they think would be a good fit in your home.
4. Visitation and Placement Process- The visitation process can take as little as two weeks or several months. Visits begin with a few hours at a place the child feels safe and progressively get longer leading eventually to staying over night and finally moving into their new home.
5. Post Placement- you will continue to work with your social worker to help arrange for any help that your child may need and the social worker will visit your home periodically until finalization.
6. Finalization- Again, this is a whole topic unto itself. You may read how DSHS outlines the process here.
The last page on the Children's Administration website is a list of resources. I would encourage everyone to take a look at it. It includes information on everything from a scholarship available to adopted children, to answering post adoption questions, to tips on taking advantage of adoption tax credits.
As you pray about your adoption and consider your resources and finding techniques, be sure to include foster care in your options. Perhaps that is where your child is waiting for you.