If you are looking to grow your family through adoption, you likely have many questions to start (such as, “Where do we start?”). One of the first and most important choices prospective parents must make in the adoption process is how they will adopt – Will you work with a private adoption agency, or adopt through the child welfare system (i.e. foster care)? If you are just starting this journey, you may be wondering the differences between foster care vs. private adoption, and what each can mean for your family.
Your path towards adoption – whether private or foster care adoption – will largely depend on your family’s needs and your wishes as a parent. Below, Adoptions With Love discusses the differences between foster care vs private adoption today, to help you decide which path is best for your family.
Private Adoption: Newborn/Infant
Foster Care: Under 1 Year – 17 Years Old
One of the biggest differences between foster care and private adoption is the age of the children available to adopt. Before taking the next steps in your adoption journey, ask yourself whether you have a preference for a certain age. Perhaps you are longing to have those sweet snuggles with a newborn. Or, maybe you would rather adopt a school age, teen or older child, who needs extra love and support at such a critical time in his or her life. These decisions are worth talking over with your partner before moving forward.
When you work with a private, domestic adoption agency, you can usually expect to adopt a newborn baby, or a baby that is within a few weeks old. This is because, through a private adoption agency like Adoptions With Love, expectant mothers often will select an adoptive family and make an adoption plan prior to giving birth. Private adoptions often take place right at the hospital, after the baby is born.
Children of all ages are in foster care, and currently, there are many older children in need of safe and loving homes. As of May 2018, there were more than 11,000 children in foster care across Massachusetts and more than 50,000 children in total served by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The average age of children awaiting adoption in foster care is six years old, though nearly 12,500 children in the U.S. foster care system are between ages 15 and 17.
Birth Parents’ Involvement
Private Adoption: Varies, at the birth parents’ discretion
Foster Care: Varies
Most adoption agencies today offer open or semi-open adoptions. At Adoptions With Love, all adoptive families agree to at least a semi-open adoption plan. This means that there will be some level of ongoing communication between the birth mother and adoptive family. It could be as simple as annual letters and photo updates, email contact, or phone calls. Some adoptive families and birth parents like to arrange occasional, in-person visits. Typically with private adoption, the birth mother determines the level of communication she wants with the adoptive family, and the adoptive parents agree to the terms with the guidance of the adoption agency. However, it is important to remember that once an adoption is finalized, you assume all parental rights and those cannot be taken away.
Families adopting a child through the foster care system usually do not have any direct contact with the birth parents, however, this can vary depending on the circumstances. Especially if the child is older, he or she may already know and have a relationship with the biological family, and wish to continue that even after the adoption takes place. Also a child coming from the foster care system may be returned to their biological parents or placed with biological relatives, instead of non-related adoptive families.
Private Adoption: 6-18 Months, on average at Adoptions With Love
Foster Care: 1 Month – 5 Years
The wait time on your road to adoption is a factor worth taking into consideration. Many families choose the private adoption path at a local adoption agency, simply because the wait times are often shorter than through the government’s foster care system.
On average, at Adoptions With Love, adoptive families have their babies within 6-18 months from the day they contact their social worker. This timeframe takes a several month-long home study into account, which is required by the state. Once the home study process is complete, it is only a matter of being matched with an expectant/birth mother, who is likely already several months along in their pregnancy.
Foster care adoption can take much longer because families are often given several chances to right their own situation and correct whatever caused the separation from their children. The state’s ultimate goal is to rehabilitate birth parents and reunite them with their biological children. This is also the reason you hear of so many children being in the foster care system for so long, sometimes for years.
Private Adoption: A Fee, covering Home Study, Legal Services, Adoptive Parent Services, and Birth Parent Health and Living Expenses
Foster Care: Time & Cost of Home Study and Legal Services (an Attorney) are separate costs
While private adoption can be a significant investment financially, foster care can cost plenty of time and work. This is another personal decision that a family must make for themselves, and determine which they value more.
Private adoption through a domestic, non-profit, fully-licensed agency such as Adoptions With Love, for example, covers an array of services that factor into the cost of adoption. Adoptions With Love is unique because they have a flat fee. There are legal services (including finalizing the adoption), matching and profile services, counseling services, and administrative work to make the process happen. At a full-service adoption agency like Adoptions With Love, the expectant/birth mother of the child is cared for, to ensure the best prenatal care and healthy children.
Foster care adoption works much differently. The process costs very little, aside from the home study. In fact, in Massachusetts, foster care families are reimbursed for taking care of their foster children before adoption. In some cases, foster care adoptions are also funded by the state, with allowances for clothing, mileage, and any special medical treatments that the child needs.
When choosing between foster care adoption vs. private adoption, there are some other, differentiating factors to consider. For example, children in foster care often have siblings in foster care, as well. For their well-being, it is generally ensured that these children, as brothers and sisters, are adopted together. If you are open to adopting siblings, then the foster care path is a good option for you.
Relating to the well-being of the child, it is also important to consider the outcomes of a foster care adoption vs. a private adoption plan. Research shows that adoption is very beneficial for children, as they are given more opportunities, a safer place to live and thrive, access to quality health care, and supportive families to help them grow and learn. Adopted children are more likely to have dinner with their families each night of the week, and less likely to get involved with drug abuse. However, outcomes can differ depending on the path of adoption.
For example, children adopted from foster care are more likely than children adopted privately, to have a moderate or severe health problem. They are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, behavior and conduct related problems, and attachment disorder – all to be expected, having been separated from their parents and placed in the foster care system. If you are equipped to handle the potential and special needs of children in foster care, this path may be for you.
Just as there is no right or wrong way to grow your family, there is no right or wrong answer in the decision between private adoption vs. foster care. This is a deeply personal decision. If you are interested in taking the private adoption path and are located in Massachusetts, please do not hesitate to reach out to the caring staff at Adoptions With Love. We are here for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us online or call 617-964-4357.