There are many ways to build a family in North Carolina, and there are so many children in this State in need of a safe and loving home. If your ultimate goal is to become a permanent home for a child in the North Carolina foster care system, there are two main ways that fostering a child can ultimately lead to adoption: adopting from foster care and fostering to adopt.
Here, we will discuss the differences between the two options and will point out a few things you should know before embarking on your fostering and adoption journey.
Option 1: Adopting from Foster Care
Some parents with children in the foster care system have already had their parental rights terminated by a judge. These children are either living with foster parents or awaiting placement with foster parents while they wait to be adopted by a family. This is the more straightforward way of adopting through foster care – the child is adopted directly from foster care and you never are the foster parent to begin with.
Option 2: Fostering to Adopt
The second, and arguably more complex, process is fostering to adopt. In this case, a family fosters a child whose parents have not yet had their parental rights terminated by a judge. Fostering to adopt is never guaranteed, as it is the ultimate goal of the State and the foster care system to reunite a child with his biological parents wherever possible.
As such, foster parents should enter the foster care process with this in mind in order to keep their expectations at bay and to protect their emotions. While it is possible that if the biological parents’ parental rights are terminated, you may be able to adopt the child, this is not always the case.
How Does Fostering to Adopt Work in North Carolina?
Fostering to adopt involves two approval processes in North Carolina – one for foster care and one for adoption. Foster parents must be licensed by the North Carolina Division of Social Services and families must work through their local division of social services or a licensed private agency. Adoptive parents, on the other hand, are approved either through their local division of social services or a different licensed private agency.
While some of these agencies work together when possible, it is a case by case basis just how streamlined the process will be. If you are interested in fostering with the intent to adopt, you should contact your local agencies and an attorney specialized in adoption to discuss potential adoption when you begin your foster parent journey.
Below is a brief overview of what to expect throughout both of these steps.
Become a Foster Parent
The first step for those desiring to become licensed foster parents is to choose a local department of social services or private foster care placement agency. This agency will guide you through the process of seeking approval to become a foster parent for a child in North Carolina.
The key steps of becoming a foster parent include:
- Complete the TIPS-MAPP (Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence: Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) Course: This is a mandatory thirty-hour course that prepares potential foster parents for their role of welcoming a foster child into their home.
- Complete a Mutual Home Assessment (MHA) for foster home licensing: This is an in-home assessment where the state determines if a family meets the licensing standards and is prepared to welcome a foster child into their home.
- Complete Foster Home Application: Your agency will assist you in completing the official application to submit to the North Carolina Division of Social Services, who will review it and determine if you will receive a license.
- Accept a Foster Child Placement: Once licensed, you can choose to accept a foster care placement based on the child’s needs and your ability to parent the child.
Apply to Adopt
When a biological parent’s rights are terminated by the court, a child’s foster parents are often given the first opportunity to legally adopt that child (although this is never guaranteed as other family members and other families are also sometimes considered).
If you are a foster parent interested in adoption, the best course of action is to reach out to an attorney experienced in adoption through foster care. An attorney can advise you of your rights, attend meetings with the State with you, represent you in court if necessary, and finalize the legal paperwork with the court.
In addition to legal assistance, anyone who would like to adopt, whether it is through foster care or not, must also complete a Pre-Placement Assessment (PPA). This is a home study, separate from the MHA home study for foster parents, and you must pass this before being eligible to adopt a child from foster care.
Fostering to Adopt In North Carolina Is Not Guaranteed, But It Is Possible.
While you must approach the foster care process understanding that it may not lead to adoption, many children in North Carolina’s foster care system never return to their biological parents or family. As a foster parent, when a biological parents’ rights have been terminated by a court, you will often be given the first opportunity to adopt that child.
How An Adoption Attorney Can Help You
The fostering and adoption process can be highly emotional and fraught with challenges. When embarking on the journey of growing your family through infant adoption, whether you are starting by fostering or trying to adopt without fostering, it is vital to engage an attorney as a partner to help you navigate the legal process involved.
Offering more than 30 years of experience handling the legal side of infant adoptions in North Carolina, attorney Bobby Mills can help you manage the fostering and adoption process as you prepare to grow your family. Contact our firm today to learn how we can guide you through this exciting process of building your family through adoption.