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Myths

and Facts About Foster Care Adoption


by Kathy Searle, MSW
Utah Director of Programs, The Adoption Exchange
Ive heard it costs a lot of money to adopt?
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
dont 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 childs 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.
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.
I think Im 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 50s or 60s unless they are a relative to the child. But parents in this age group are great for teens
and school age children.
Im single can I adopt?
Yes many times the Division of Child and 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 childs needs.
Ive heard all of the children in foster care have a lot of problems?
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 that dont 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.
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.
If I foster a child Ive heard that it takes years before I can adopt them?
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. Its called legal risk
adoption or foster to adopt.
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