Are you ready to adopt?

Deciding if foster care or adoption is right for you

It may seem that adopting from the foster care system would be an easy process. After all, we hear that there are millions of children in the United States waiting for homes all of the time. With all of these children waiting for homes, many people assume adopting from foster care is quick and easy. My husband and I were surprised to find it is actually a very long and complicated process. It took a year to have a child in our home. Here's how to get started:

1. Consider your family's strengths and weaknesses. Most foster children waiting for adoptive homes are over the age of eight, have special needs, are of a minority or are part of a sibling group. Are you only willing to accept an infant or toddler? Are you comfortable parenting a child of another ethnic background? Are you open to adopting more than one child? There are no right or wrong answers, but it is important that you are honest with yourself.

Read more: Preparing your home for an adopted child

2. Determine if special needs adoption is right for your family. Most states also refer to foster care adoption as special needs adoption. This is because the trauma most of the children in foster care have endured causes emotional and behavioral challenges. Research common mental health conditions in foster children, such as bipolar disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Read more: What my adopted kids taught me

3. Look into the rules and regulations in your area. These vary by state and even county. For example, couple's may need to be married at least two years or single parents may need to have been divorced for a minimum of one year. You may need to prove you have enough bedrooms to separate boys and girls. There may be qualifications regarding the amount of square feet in a home, minimum household income or legal history. It's better to know if you meet the qualifications before investing too much time in the process.

4. Also make sure you understand your county's position on foster children. Some states separate families who wish to be foster parents from parents who are hoping to adopt. The licensing is the same in other states. If you want to adopt a child, it is important that you are clear with the licensing agents and social workers that you are looking for a child that is legally free for adoption. The goal of foster care is typically to reunite the child with the biological family up until the time when parental rights are severed and the child becomes legally free for adoption.

You are now ready to officially start the process! You will most likely need to take training classes and complete a home study. The process could take a year or more. Stay tuned for more information and tips on adopting from foster care.

Rachael Moshman is a mom, freelance writer and blogger.  Find her at