Myths and Facts

Myths and Facts About Foster Care Adoption

by Kathy Searle, MSW - Utah Director of Programs

I’ve heard it costs a lot of money to adopt. Is this true?

Most adoptions do cost but adopting from foster care is nearly free.  The home study and training are paid for by the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) so basically by the tax payers.  The family must pay for all of the things necessary to get their home ready for another child and they also need to pay an attorney to finalize an adoption.  But they will get attorney fees reimbursed.  What most people don’t know is that the child will also have a Medicaid card until they are 18 years old. DCFS will also help the family cover costs associated with the child’s special needs that are not covered by Medicaid.  Part of the difference in cost is children in foster care are waiting for families and in most other types of adoption families are waiting to adopt the few infants that are available here and or abroad. The state covers basic adoption costs so that children do not linger in foster care with out a family.

Most adoptions do cost but adopting from foster care is nearly free.

Do I have to own my home to adopt?

To adopt from foster care you do not need to own your own home. But you do need to have enough room to have an additional child or children come into your home. The state is looking for stability.  The children in foster care have usually experienced a lot of instability in their lives they need stability to be able to thrive and over come the trauma they have experienced.

You do not need to own your own home.

I think I’m too old to adopt.

Utah law requires a person to be 10 years older than the child they adopt.  That being said  the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) may not be willing to place a 2 year old with a couple that are in their late 50’s or 60’s unless they are a relative to the child.  But parents in this age group are great for teens and school age children.

I’m single - can I adopt?

Yes. Many times the Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS) feels that a certain child may do better in a single parent home.  DCFS by policy gives preference to a family with two parents, but they really are looking for a home that they feel can meet the child’s needs.

Yes, a certain child may do better in a single parent home.

I’ve heard all of the children in foster care have a lot of problems. Is this true?

Children who are in foster care waiting for an adoptive home have been removed from their homes because of the issues of their biological parents.  Almost always they have suffered from some form of abuse and or neglect.  These children are resilient and sometimes have a hard time learning to trust anyone after what they have been through but like all of us they want and need the love that a family can provide.  

What happens to children in foster care who don’t get adopted?

When children are around the age of 16 years of age, DCFS has a program called “Transition to Adult Living.” This program works to help the youth learn the skills they will need to be on their own.  At age 18 or when they graduate from high school the youth are emancipated from the system.  Usually they have already been living in an apartment with a case worker checking in to assist when necessary.  Many youth age out of the system and are not emotionally prepared to be independent.  Youth who age out of foster care have higher rates of unplanned pregnancy, incarceration, homelessness and death.  It is very important for them to have the back up of a real family.

Many youth age out of the system and are not emotionally prepared to be independent.  It is very important for them to have the back up of a real family.

If I adopt a child from foster care, can their biological family still come and take them back?

Children who are adopted from the foster care system have had parental rights terminated or the biological parents have relinquished custody to DCFS.  Initially when coming into care, DCFS takes great care to try to locate kin or close family friends that might take the children in.  Usually by the time a child is being publicly recruited for all of those options have been explored and ruled out.  Once an adoption is finalized in court no one from the biological family can take them from their adoptive family.

If I want to adopt a child under the age of nine from foster care, do I have to be a foster parent first?

It is true that if you are interested in adopting a younger child you must be a foster parent first.  59% of the children that are in foster care return home to their birth families or other relatives.  46% of children that are adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents.  So for potential adoptive parents this means that you may have to foster and return home several children before you are able to adopt.  This can be difficult especially for childless couples, but if you look at if from a different view point, this will help build your parenting skills while you wait for a child that can be adopted it can make it a little easier.   If children can go back to their families that is what ultimately is best for all involved.  

46% of children that are adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents. 

If I foster a child, I’ve heard that it takes years before I can adopt them. Is this true?

Currently the average time a child spent in foster care before they were adopted is 18.4 months.  The courts try to move as quickly as possible but they also need to allow time for the biological family to make the necessary changes to be reunified with their children.  It is a hard balance between the rights of the biological parents and the need for permanency for the children.  Unless a case goes on appeal finalization of an adoption can occur as soon as parental rights are terminated as long as the child has been in the adoptive home for at least six months.  

The only children available for adoption are older teens.

It is true that many of the longest waiting children are older teens, but the average age of a child in Utah that is adopted from foster care is 5.2 years of age; once a child reaches the age of nine their chance to be adopted diminishes dramatically.  To adopt a child under the age of nine, families must first be foster parents and if the child does not return home then the foster family can adopt.  It’s called legal risk adoption or foster to adopt.

The average age of a child in Utah that is adopted from foster care is 5.2 years of age.