Find out if becoming an adoptive parent is right for you and how to get started
The holiday season is approaching and many in Bexar County will be packing up and heading toward the loving arms and food-filled homes of their family members. But for more than 1300 kids in the county, the holidays are just another reminder that they do not yet have a forever home.
These children are part of the state’s foster care system, and have waited days, months and sometimes years to be part of a family. If you’ve ever wondered if adoption is right for you, John Lennan, Region 11 Media Specialist from the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services said it is never too late to get started.
“One of the first steps in becoming a foster-to-adopt parent is to attend one of our public information meetings,” Lennan said. “The meetings are free, and there’s no obligation. If you’re interested, great, but if not, then you can at least take away some information that you could pass onto someone else.”
These meetings give an overview of what you can expect when taking a foster child into your home, and the requirements for becoming a foster-to-adopt parent. Every prospective parent must:
- Be at least 21 years of age, financially stable, and a responsible, mature adult
- Complete an application
- Share information regarding their background and lifestyle
- Provide references
- Show proof of marriage or divorce
- Agree to a home study
- Complete a criminal history background check and abuse/neglect check
- Attend free training to learn about issues of abused and neglected children
“The training provides an opportunity for the family and DFPS to assess whether foster care or adoption is best for the family,” Lennan said. “The family may withdraw from the meetings at any time, and foster and adoptive parents generally train together.”
Although the prospective parent or parents must show proof of marriage or divorce, Lennan said prospective foster or foster-to-adopt parents do not have to be married. He said that is one of the big myths related to foster care. One of the other big misconceptions is that adopting from the foster care system is costly.
“When you adopt from the state of Texas, there are very few costs or fees that you encounter,” he said.
The majority of the expenses associated with adopting through the foster care system have to do with creating a safe home for the children you adopt.
In addition to the basic requirements, foster parents must also:
- Have adequate sleeping space
- Complete fire, health and safety inspections of the home
- Vaccinate all pets
- Obtain and maintain CPR/First Aid Certification
- Obtain TB testing as required by the local Health Department
But even if you have to pay for all of these requirements, you will make it all back tenfold if the child you adopt gets accepted to college.
“The state of Texas does what’s called the Tuition Waiver Program,” Lennan said. “If you adopt a child from the state of Texas and that child qualifies to get into college—they have the grades, SAT scores, etc.—they will have their tuition waived at any state school. This also goes for junior colleges and trade schools. That is huge for a lot of families to be able to provide that type of opportunity.”
Many of the more than 1,300 children waiting to be adopted are pictured as part of the San Antonio Heart Gallery. Prospective parents can peruse the list and see which child might be a great addition to their family.
“The Heart Gallery was founded by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department in 2001 as a way to help foster children in protective custody who are waiting for adoptive families step from the shadows into the light,” Lennan said. “Stirring portraits revealing the children’s amazing spirits and individuality have helped many of them find loving homes.”
The San Antonio Heart Gallery can be found on the Texas DFPS website at www.dfps.state.tx.us.
Although there are many older children available for adoption through the foster care system, there are also many infants who need a loving forever home available through private adoption agencies.
Going through an agency can come with a higher price tag, but Mariah Fink, communications director for the Adoption Alliance, said that client services representatives can help prospective adoptive parents navigate the sometimes daunting adoption process.
“Agencies help relieve some of the stress for adoptive parents,” she said. “There are so many forms to fill out and so many steps in the process that it can become really overwhelming for someone who’s just doing it on their own. We’re there to make sure that they’re filling out correct paperwork and sticking to timelines and following sequential steps in the process.”
Whether you decide to adopt through the foster care system or a private agency, bringing a parentless child into your home will not only change your life, but the child’s as well.
“Every child deserves a home,” Lennan said. “And one thing that we’ve seen over and over again is that you never outgrow the need for a family.”
Jessa McClure is a freelance writer, blogger, wife and mother of two.