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Can You Adopt a Child from Foster Care?

In the past, many foster care agencies would not consider foster parents as applicants for adoption, but this is no longer true. In fact, foster parents who are meeting a child's needs and willing to take on the added responsibilities of becoming a permanent parent are likely to be the first family considered. Here's why:

  • There are a growing number of children in need of care outside the home and a dwindling number of adults able to do it. For example, an estimated 115,000 foster children were awaiting adoption in the United States, according to the most recent data available from the Child Welfare League of America. But only 20,000 qualified adoptive parents were available to care for them.
  • The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which was designed to promote adoption and permanent homes for children, now requires that states shorten the time children spend in foster care. In particular, it mandates that states petition to terminate parental rights of children who have been in foster care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months and begin to identify and approve an adoptive family; and
  • Adoption from foster care affords the child the opportunity to gain a permanent home without suffering another separation.

"Where foster care used to be the back door to adoption, it's become the front door because they don't want to move the children again and they're looking at expedient permanent placement," says Karen Jorgenson, administrator of the National Foster Parent Association, a national organization with chapters in all 50 states dedicated to improving foster care and supporting foster parents.

Adoption by LGBT Parents

But while LGBT adults may be considered suitable temporary parents for children in foster care, they may be evaluated differently when it comes to permanently adopting that child. In fact, you may find that the ways in which LGBT people are considered as prospective adoptive parents may appear maddeningly (and considering the children in need, tragically) fickle.

On the one hand, most mainstream national child welfare and foster care groups have adopted guidelines, mission statements or standards that assert that a prospective parent's sexual orientation or is irrelevant to his or her ability to parent a child. For example, the Child Welfare League of America, the nation's largest and oldest nonprofit devoted to the protection of children and strengthening of families, has declared:

"The family foster care agency should not reject foster parent applicants solely due to their age, income, marital status, race, religious preference, sexual orientation, physical or disabling condition, or location of the foster home" (CWLA, 1995).

But, on the other hand, state LGBT adoption laws vary widely.