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Eventually, a child’s time in foster care will come to an end, and they’ll have to make a transition. Usually, this means the child will be returning home to their original parents or guardians. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out that way, though. In those instances, the child may be put up for adoption. The transition from foster care to adoption is smoothest when the adoptive parents are also the foster parents. But again, this isn’t always the case. Regardless of what form the transition out of foster care takes, it’s your job as a foster parent to help prepare the child for it. 

Can foster care become adoption?

Every child is entitled to a permanent home. As such, the state will make every effort to reunite a child with their birth parents during the time they are in foster care. However, if reunification isn’t possible after an extended period of time, the focus will shift to finding the child a permanent place to stay. In most cases, when adoption is put on the table, the foster family is the one who adopts the child. 

Preparing for the adoption

As a foster family, there are three possibilities you may have to prepare a child for: reunification with the birth parents, adoption by you, and adoption by someone else. This section will focus on what to do in the case of adoption and is applicable regardless of whether you or someone else is doing the adopting.

Seek out adoption resources

The adoption process can be long, complicated, expensive, and stressful. For your sake and the sake of the child, you need to understand as much about the process as possible. Thankfully, there are many resources available for anyone going through the process of adoption. By familiarizing yourself with them, you’ll be more prepared for any surprises that come up and will be able to answer any questions the child may have.

Set up meetings with the other adults involved

When you are the adoptive parents, you have the biological parents to think of. When another family adopts the child, you’ll want to meet with them. A meeting between the adults of the home the child is leaving and the one they are going to is important. It allows you to share important information about the child and gives the child an opportunity to acclimate to the new family before the transition is complete.

How do you help foster children transition?

Moving from one home to the next can be traumatic for a child. You can take some steps to help the child remain as grounded as possible during the transition and prepare them for what is to come. 

  • Talk with the child – Children are likely to be a bundle of emotions as the adoption process begins. They may need help understanding what adoption is. They will certainly need help dealing with the emotions of losing one family and gaining another. This is easiest for them when they are returning to a biological family they are familiar with. But even then, leaving the foster family is going to be sad for them. A good, honest talk can help them sort out these emotions.
  • Help them retain memories – If the child is being adopted, they are making a permanent transition from the biological family they grew up with. They may even be leaving the foster family they came to love. When this happens at an early age, it’s easy for the child to lose memories of those people. It’s best to help the child retain the memories they have of their former life, so they don’t grow up with an emptiness and uncertainty about who they are and where they came from. 
  • Try to maintain connections – It will be a big aid in helping the child retain that connection to their past if connections with the previous family can be maintained. In some instances, a biological parent may be granted visitation rights in the case of adoption. As long as the parent isn’t a threat to the child, this can help eliminate the possibility of emptiness where there were once strong emotional bonds. 

What are some of the challenges you may face in supporting a positive transition to adoption?

In this section, we’ll mainly be discussing the steps you should take if you’re the adoptive family. Since you’re also the foster family, this will be easier for the child than going to an entirely new home. Still, making your home permanent is a big change for them, especially if they’ve spent the past few months thinking they were going to be reunited with their parents. 

  • Building trust – If yours is the new home a child is moving to, it may take them a while to warm up to you. The emotion of leaving a family they cared for and the confusion of moving from home to home can take a toll on a child’s psyche. It’s important to remain supportive so they know you are there for them while still giving them the space they need to cope with the changes. Children are resilient, and as long as you are patient with them as they work through the transition, you’ll be able to gain their trust. 
  • Feelings of trauma and loss – Children crave stability. Moving from one family to the next is enough to cause the child grief; to give them a sense of loss for the families they are leaving. Beyond that, transition into foster care is often not surrounded by the best circumstances. The child may have had a rough early life that they’ll need help sorting through once you’ve gained their trust. 
  • Differing racial or cultural identities – If you are from a different racial or cultural background than the child, you should take some steps to help the child develop their full identity. This doesn’t mean that you treat their race or culture as the only thing that matters, but you also shouldn’t create a situation where they feel uncomfortable because they have no connection to their identity either. This is another area where you don’t want the child growing up feeling as though something is missing from their life. 

Reach Out to Utah Youth Village

Finding a new permanent home while leaving previous families behind is likely to be both exciting and sad for a child. It’s important that you, as a foster parent, take the time to help the child as much as possible during the transition period. Should yours also be the new permanent home for the child, these efforts must extend after the adoption. If you have any questions about any stage of fostering a child, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


Image Source: fizkes / Shutterstock

Youth Village

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