By Rita L. Soronen
Right now, there are more than 115,000 children in the United States who have been permanently separated from their family of origin and are waiting for someone to step forward to adopt them — a 15% increase since 2012.
Unfortunately, the myths and misperceptions surrounding foster care and foster care adoption can give many prospective parents pause. Let’s take a minute to correct some of these common myths:
Myth 1: Foster care adoption is expensive.
The cost of foster care adoption typically averages $0 to $1,500, and financial support is available for families, including federal and state tax credits. Many employers also provide adoption benefits. In addition, subsidies follow most children in foster care until they are 18 or 21 years old, and assistance for college expenses of older youth is increasingly accessible as well. You do not have to be wealthy to adopt from foster care.
To learn more, read this Today.com article about the costs associated with various types of adoption.
Myth 2: Children are placed in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents.
The 2022 U.S. Adoption and Foster Care Attitudes Survey revealed that more than half (51%) of Americans incorrectly believe that children are placed in foster care because they have done something wrong. The idea that these children are “bad” or worse “unadoptable” could not be further from the truth. Children are placed in foster care, through no fault of their own, because of abuse or neglect, and frequently experience countless layers of trauma. The unfortunate reality is that many of these children are not returning to their family of origin because it is not safe.
The foster care system is being stretched beyond its capacity, which has far-reaching impacts on children. Every year, more than 20,000 youth turned 18 or 21 and aged out of care without a permanent home. With nowhere to turn for support, many of these young people are at a higher risk of negative outcomes, such as homelessness and unemployment. No child is unadoptable, they just aren’t adopted. Every child needs and deserves the support of a family and caring adults to address the issues they experienced going into care, while they were waiting to be adopted and after the adoption is finalized.
Myth 3: Adoptive parents need to be heterosexual, married couples.
Families who adopt are as unique and diverse as the children in their care, and children in foster care do not need to wait for some specific notion of family. Families come in all shapes and sizes, with 28 percent of adoptive children living in single-parent homes. You do not need to own your own home, be young, wealthy, married or a stay-at-home parent. Children need loving individuals in their lives who are willing to meet the challenges of parenting, who understand the journey the child has experienced while in foster care and who will make a lifetime commitment to caring for and nurturing them.
Myth 4: Adoptive parents need to be under 50 years old.
There is no ideal age to become an adoptive parent. Nearly 2.5 million children are being raised by grandparents or are in kinship care and approximately 26% of children adopted have at least one parent age 55 or older at the time of their adoption. It does not matter if adoptive parents already have children or have never had children. What matters is their willingness to commit to parenthood.
Myth 5: A child’s family of origin can “reclaim” them.
Almost half of the people considering foster care adoption incorrectly believe that a child’s family of origin can regain custody post-adoption. Adoptive parents have the same rights, responsibilities and protections as parents whose children were born to them. This also means children who have been adopted have all the emotional, social, legal and familial benefits of biological children. Adoption is permanent. When you adopt, it is as if the child was born to you. Always approach adoption as a long-term commitment.
With more accurate information, real-time access to resources and a supportive network, providing a safe, loving and permanent home for children in need can be a viable and joyful option for many more families.
Our founder, Dave Thomas, always said, “These children are not someone else’s responsibility. They are our responsibility.” You can help ensure that children still lingering in foster care do not wait any longer for a forever family.
Will you join us in raising awareness about the critical need for foster care adoption by sharing this article with friends and family? A simple conversation that helps spread the truth could be all it takes to change a life.
Rita Soronen is President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Connect with her on Twitter at @rsoronen.