How to Adopt From Foster Care

By Lois J. Rodriguez

“Mommy, when did you buy me?” Those innocent words spoken by my son adopted from foster
care gave me pause. He was 6 years old.

Having been adopted two years earlier, his curiosity was piqued as we navigated the adoption
of three more boys.

As resource parents, we are continually reminded that foster care is not to set our family up for
adoption. Rather, reunification is the buzzword we know very well. Yet when the verdict comes
down that parental rights have been terminated, what might you encounter through the adoption

Not all families foster with hopes of adopting, but that was our desire. We have had the honor of
fostering or offering respite care for kids ages 7 days old and up. Through the years, four boys
were grafted into our family through adoption from foster care.

While much training goes into becoming a resource parent, once our file headed to adoption, we
fell into a black hole of waiting and wondering.

From our experiences, here are some key questions that we didn’t know to ask about adoption
through foster care.

What is the Process to Adopt?

In short, once parental rights have been terminated, a child’s case can head to adoption. Any
relatives of the child, regardless of past involvement, will be encouraged to submit a home study
for consideration. They will be given priority, as reunification to any safe kin is the preference of
the court.
If such an individual does not step forward, the resource parent will then have the option to
adopt. The child’s caseworker will hand over the file to the adoption division with whom you will
then directly communicate.

For one of our sibling groups, a long-lost aunt had stepped forward and we held our breath for
weeks, waiting for the results of her home study. We were elated when the green light came
through for us in the end.

Can I Change my Child’s Name?

During the adoption process, you will be asked what name(s) you wish for your child. There are
two very vocal camps declaring the pros and cons for changing a child’s given name.
Many argue the case of the child’s name being part of their identity, while others dispute that a
name change makes the child feel fully part of their new family.

Of utmost consideration is the child’s age and how invested they may be in the identity of their

We changed the names of three of our young children, while the fourth was of an age that
keeping his name was important.

It has been five years since his adoption and he now wants nothing to do with his first given
name. Fortunately we had moved it to a middle name!

Will I Need an Adoption Lawyer?

Absolutely, but not to worry if you’ve never worked with an attorney. Your agency should be able
to direct you to one offering low-cost or free legal services. Many adoption attorneys offer their
service at the subsidy rate paid by the state, meaning nothing comes out of your pocket.

Negotiating your Adoption Stipend

Not all children are eligible for a stipend post-adoption and we were shocked this was an option.
Kids with moderate to severe medical needs and, in some states, children of color or sibling
groups could be eligible.

Be sure to ask during the adoption process. Post-adoption, a Medical Handicap Letter from a
doctor could allow for a stipend to be added should a serious medical condition be diagnosed.

Do I Have Contact with the Biological Family After Adoption?

Depending on your child’s unique case, you may want to establish a mediation agreement to
maintain and continue contact with your child’s biological family.

Legally outlining how and when this contact will be made helps establish a healthy boundary.
Contact will be at your sole discretion and it is not required.

You Become the Birth Parent of Record

Once parental rights have been terminated, the biological parents no longer have claim to the
child, and their names are scrubbed from the birth certificate.

Following adoption, you will receive a new birth certificate for your child, with you listed as the
parent. It is a surreal moment to receive this from the court.

You are now fully validated as the forever parent of this child. I remember when we received the
updated birth certificate for our first adopted son.

He may have been borne by another woman, but he was now my son and I had the papers to
prove it.

Be prepared that the receipt of the birth certificate can take from a few weeks to many months.
This is a key document that all other government documents will hinge upon.

We planned an international trip for three months after adoption and were sweating it out as we
waited for the birth certificate to arrive so we could apply for a passport.

Social Security Records

In most cases, children will retain the Social Security number they were assigned at birth, even
though the name will change on the record.

Only with great exception will a new number be given and the court must be shown good cause.
That cause most often ties to imminent danger an adopted child would be subject to if the Social
Security number remains the same.

Is Support Available Post Adoption?

Most adoptions mark the end of consistent support from agencies and state. During the time
your child’s case is with the adoption worker, and sometimes not until adoption day, you will
receive information on post-adoption support available in your county or state.

At this juncture, the child is yours, as if born to you. Expect to receive minimal assistance with
the exception of local support groups.

Awareness is beginning to spread about the importance of post-adoption support, as failed
adoption statistics are currently staggering.

My advocacy is in educating others in ways to support the resource parent and adoptive families
both pre and post-adoption.

The landmines of trauma run deep for our kiddos, and an adoptive parent needs the support to
navigate the triggers that set off the explosion of trauma-related behaviors. Often those triggers
do not erupt until long after adoption day.

Teachers, School Administration and your Adopted Child

When I polled a large group of foster and adoptive families, I asked them the following question:
What is something you have been surprised by post-adoption? A resounding answer was the
lack of understanding and support at the school level.

Many schools are instituting trauma-informed care classes, but there is little monitoring as to
whether the practices taught are actually implemented.

Class projects like the family tree or requests for baby pictures remain a constant source of
frustration for adoptive families.

Be proactive by preparing information that can help your teacher support your child. Meet with
them regularly and explain the challenges adopted children experience.

Advocate for your child to ensure the administration is aware that you as a parent will not
tolerate any level of adoption bullying, and request alternative assignments for those that hold to
bio-normative stereotypes.

Academic resources are available on my website at the address noted in the writer bio below.

IRS Adoption Tax Credit

An adoptive family receives a tax credit, which in 2024 amounts to $16,180. Form 8839 must be
completed on your tax return and you are required to meet the modified adjusted gross income
(MAGI) limits.

Any credit that exceeds your tax liability will roll over for up to five years. A tax professional is
recommended when preparing returns. Did I mention that the credit amount is per child? What a
huge tax reduction opportunity.

Private Health Insurance and Medicaid

Medicaid continues to be free to kids adopted from foster care, but specialists that accept the
plan can be difficult to find. If you pay for private health insurance, some states now offer the
Health Insurance Premium Payment program. Based on factors such as past medical claims and current
diagnoses, Medicaid may deem it more cost-effective to pay your out-of-pocket private
insurance rate, allowing you free access to costly health insurance.

By doing this, Medicaid falls into the secondary insurance provider category, while private
insurance picks up the bulk of the expense. In our case, Medicaid was reimbursing us by direct
deposit in excess of $400 per month, which paid our company health plan and our entire family
had excellent coverage.

Love: Is it Really All You Need?

Love is the starting line. But trauma can run deeper than even the most loving parent’s reach.

Adoption is no magic drop of the gavel where suddenly your child feels secure, bonded and

Many therapies, counselors and psychiatric services are available, but remember this: Trauma
and attachment healing is a life-long journey that we will walk with our children.

Every child from foster care will have attachment issues, regardless of a formal diagnosis.

Do the therapy. Find the support classes. Sign up with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to
receive behavioral health support for both you and your child.

Trauma and post-traumatic stress will affect you as well as your child. Take action toward
healthy mental practices now. Today, my oldest is 13, and the memory of his sweet question still
tugs at my heart.

When did we buy him? It was an easy answer. “Honey, we didn’t buy you. You were chosen for
our family and have always been in our hearts.”

A forever family is what every child deserves. Yet the true gift is to the adoptive family, who are
blessed with a child to love forever. •

Lois J. Rodriguez shares her fostering and adoption journey at She is
currently writing a book of her family's adventures through foster care, aimed at encouraging
others to step into the role of foster parent or support resource. She is a post-adoption support
advocate and lifelong trauma, attachment and behavior student. Socialize with her on Facebook
or Instagram @LoisJRodriguezAuthor.