If you’re considering fostering or adopting, you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re just beginning to investigate foster care and adoption or already know the direction you’re heading, this page provides a wealth of information and some practical FAQs about opening your home. While Embrace is not an adoption or child placing agency, we’re here for you every step of the way. We encourage you to access our resources such as support groups for parents and kids, accessible family outings, parent retreats, respite care events, ongoing training, and more!

If you would you like to participate in a casual, small group conversation where you can get answers to your questions, join us at “First Steps”. This bi-monthly information gathering at the Embrace Office in Historic Downtown McKinney covers the following topics:

  • The differences between private infant adoption, international adoption, fostering to adopt, and straight adoption from foster care
  • Requirements to become a licensed foster or adoptive parent in Texas
  • How to start the licensing process
  • Things to consider when selecting a child placing agency
  • Honest answers to your questions and concerns about opening your home
  • Click here to learn more about our First Steps meeting

Becoming a foster parent

Foster parents open their homes to care for abused and neglected children who need a safe, temporary place to stay. Single adults and married couples (with or without children in the home) over the age of 21 can apply to become foster parents. This FAQ provides a detailed list of foster parent requirements. Prospective foster parents go through extensive training provided by a child placing agency (CPA) before becoming licensed. Foster parents, with the help of their agency, create specific parameters for the children each family feels equipped to parent. This allows families opening their homes to prepare for the age range, gender, and number of children who might come to stay with them. The child’s day to day care is in the hands of the foster parents. Foster parents meet the physical, emotional, medical, educational, spiritual, and recreational health of children in their care. Foster children become part of the family for the time they are in the home.

Foster parents receive placement calls to alert them of a child within their parameters in need of a foster home. The parents are given a few details about the child before agreeing to take the child in. While these calls typically come during the day, children may arrive at any hour. For the first several days the parents will focus on preliminary well-checks at a pediatrician, supplementing clothing and hygiene needs, registering for school (if applicable), and helping the child acclimate to their new home and family. Foster children attend public school and can attend church with their foster family. With caseworker approval, foster children  can go on family vacations. Children in foster care may stay in one home anywhere from a few weeks up to a year. Children often have weekly visits with their parents at a visitation space or children’s advocacy center. This helps maintain the relationship between child and parent until they can be reunited. Parents whose children are in foster care work to address the issues that put their children at risk. Caseworkers, CASA volunteers, judges, and attorneys work together to make decisions about what is best for the children and their family. Foster parents are typically not a part of decision making, but are asking to keep records about a child’s wellbeing.

When the child’s parents have successfully created a safe, stable home for their family, the children may be reunited with them. The timeline for reunification varies, and may include longer (or even overnight) visits with their parents. Foster parents can encourage their foster child’s family and prepare their foster child for this transition back home. All of a child’s belongings (whether brought with them or provided by the foster family) are packed and sent home with the child. While there may be an opportunity to maintain a relationship with the child once they return home, this is fairly unusual. Some foster parents choose to take a small break between placements, while others immediately make themselves available for another child or children to join the family 

Foster parenting with the goal of adoption

Much like typical foster parents, families who hope to adopt can open their homes to children in need of a safe place to stay. In addition to the foster parent licensing classes, there are usually another class or two required for families who would like to be licensed to adopt as well. The goal of foster care is to keep children safe while their parents address the issues in the household that put their children at risk. Sometimes this reunification cannot take place, and children in foster care need a permanent adoptive family. Caseworkers will reach out to the child’s extended family members in hope of finding a “kinship” placement for the child. If no relatives are willing or qualified to adopt the child, the child’s foster parents may have the option to adopt the child or children. Currently in Texas, only 1 in 3 children who enter foster care will be reunified with their parents or caregivers. This means there are many foster parents who have the opportunity to adopt children they’ve been caring for.

Once Child Protective Services (CPS) changes the goal for the child’s case from “reunification” to “adoption”, the child’s parents will either relinquish their rights, or their parental rights will be terminated through the judicial system. If the child has healthy relationships with extended family members, they may request some “openness” in the adoption (this is a broad term for contact that can mean everything from sharing of pictures and emails to in-person visits). The child remains in the foster home throughout the adoption process. If the child has siblings placed in other foster homes or already adopted, there will be conversations and decisions to be made about if the children can be reunited in one adoptive home. After parental rights end, a 90 waiting period begins. This waiting period gives family members one last opportunity to step in, if they wish to parent the child. When the 90 days ends, plans can be made for the child’s adoption by their foster parents. Foster parents will select a family attorney who is well versed in adoption to take care of the adoption proceedings. The total cost for the adoption is typically less than $3,500. At this point, many foster parents choose to change their adopted child’s last name, and sometimes first or middle names as well. This is a very personal decision, and one that might not be the right fit for every situation or child.

All families who adopt from foster care have access to post-adopt support. Children who have spent any amount of time in foster care have access to free tuition at any state school in Texas (up through a doctorate degree!). Some special needs children adopted from foster care qualify for additional support that extends into adoption. This support can include Medicaid insurance coverage and a monthly stipend until the child reaches age 18. These resources help the child’s new family provide for them and prepare for the child’s future

Matched adoption from foster care

When a child in foster care needs a family, and is not adopted by their relatives or foster parents, they can be placed for adoption with a licensed adoptive family. These families complete the same basic training as foster families, but do not open their homes to “emergency placements”. The prospective adoptive parents set parameters for the child or children they feel equipped to parent and adopt. They can be specific about the age range, race and ethnicity, gender, special needs, and behavioral challenges of children. The family’s caseworker prepares a lengthy document called a “homestudy” that tells the story of the family. This virtual introduction to the structure, history, culture, beliefs, and hobbies of the family allows caseworkers to decide if the family might be a good fit for a specific child. The family’s homestudy may be submitted for many children before they are selected as an option for a child. The child’s adoption worker will narrow the pool of interested families into a few “finalists” who will receive additional information about the child and may have the opportunity to meet the child. At this point, the family has the option to keep moving forward, or to remove themselves from consideration.

Once a family is selected to adopt a child, they receive the child’s entire case file. They may have a few overnight or weekend visits to affirm the decision before the child is placed in their home. While the adoption cannot be finalized in the court until the child has been living with the family for 6 months, the child really becomes a part of the family on the day they are placed in the home. A disruption of the placement after this time is very traumatic. The child and family’s caseworkers will check in regularly and provide support as everyone acclimates. The family will hire an adoption competent family attorney to complete the adoption. The cost for the adoption is rarely over $3,500. At this point, many adoptive parents choose to change their adopted child’s last name to their own, and sometimes first or middle names as well. This is a very personal decision, and one that might not be the right fit for every situation or child.

All families who adopt from foster care have access to post-adopt support. Children who have spent any amount of time in foster care have access to free tuition at any state school in Texas (up through a doctorate degree!). Some special needs children adopted from foster care qualify for additional support that extends into adoption. This support can include Medicaid insurance coverage and a monthly stipend until the child reaches age 18. These resources help the child’s new family provide for them and prepare for the child’s future.

International adoption

Thousands of children in foreign countries become orphaned, are abandoned by their parents, or do not have parents who can safely care for them. While some of these children may be placed for adoption in their home countries, some may be placed for adoption internationally with American families. Each country has their own unique system for arranging international adoptions. The laws governing international adoption are complex and subject to change depending on that countries politics. International adoption hit a peak in the mid-90’s, and has seen a sharp decline in recent years. Stricter enforcement of anti-adoption-corruption policies and growing trends for in-country adoption have reduced the numbers of children available for international adoption. Today, many countries only allow international placement of older children, children with significant special needs, or larger sibling groups. Requirements for adoptive families vary by agency and country, but often include being between the age of 25 and 45, financially stable, married, and fewer than 3 children already in the family.

When investigating international adoption, it is helpful to acquire a list of open countries who are currently allowing children to be adopted by American families. It is important to know the ages of children available, average waiting time to finalization, cost and whether that country is a part of the Hague Convention. Adoptive families should choose only reputable overseas adoption agencies that work with the governing bodies of other countries. An added expense to overseas adoptions is the cost of travel required to complete the process in a foreign country. Hotel rooms, food, translators, international legal advisers, and airfare can quickly add to the cost. While the cost of an international adoption is generally higher than domestic adoption, infants and younger children are generally more available, and the wait time can be more predictable. International adoption costs range from $20,000-$45,000.

Once a family has selected an agency they may go through some training, background checks, fingerprinting, and homestudy preparation. One approved for adoption through a specific program or country, a family may wait several months or even a year or two before being matched with a child for adoption. Sometimes families have the opportunity to travel and visit the child prior to adoption. Sometimes the first meeting and adoption take place in one trip. It’s not unusual for a family to be asked to stay in the child’s home country anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks. The child’s adoption will also be domestically once the family returns home. Children adopted internationally are sometimes living in foster homes, but more commonly they live in orphanages or group homes. Quality of care in these facilities varies greatly.

When a family arrives home with their child, it is suggested the family enter a time of “cocooning”. This intentional period of isolation and bonding as a family helps a child, despite language or cultural differences, begin to understand who their new caregivers are, and what it means to be a family. In time, the family can begin to re-enter their typical lives, visit others, and entertain guests. This process should be taken very slowly and stay focused on the needs of the family’s new addition.

Private infant adoption

Private infant adoption represents the smallest percentage of adoptions that take place in America. Over the last 50 years, two main factors have effected the numbers of infants placed for adoption. First, reduced stigma around single parenting and increased social services have encouraged far more women and couples with unplanned pregnancies to parent their children. Sadly, the lives of many babies who might have otherwise been raised by their parents or placed for adoption end in abortion. Many women give birth to infants each year, who are then lovingly placed for adoption. These mothers may be very young, single, have too many children to care for, or just feel unready to parent. These women may ask someone they know and trust, such as a family member, or a couple at their church, to parent their child. Others may turn to agencies to help them choose from qualified parents who have been approved by the agency. Birthmothers or Birthparents may be able to peruse a binder of prospective families and choose one they feel would be the best match for their child.

Parents wishing to adopt a newborn, may choose to pursue a private domestic infant adoption. These adoptions may be arranged by traditional adoption agencies and through private attorneys. The children adopted in these cases are almost always infants, although they are sometimes adopted along with older siblings. Fewer infants are available for adoption than any other age group, and agencies may set tighter regulations for adopting them. The wait time for this type of adoption can be as long as 2 years, and the average cost is $15,000, but can range from $5000 to $40,000.
It is of the utmost importance that private infant adoptions take place through the proper legal channels, and not be consummated through casual agreements. These non-legally bound adoptions are often the few and far between “adoption revocation horror stories” you may hear of.