What's the difference between foster care and adoption?

Foster care is meant to be temporary; adoptive placement is meant to be permanent.

The foster parents’ primary role is to help in efforts to reunite the child and their birth family. This may include visits between the child and birth parents, (when appropriate), taking a child to counseling (if needed), and working closely with the foster care worker. Children may stay in the foster home for several days, weeks or months – perhaps even a year or longer – while birth parents are working to resolve the issues that brought the children into care in the first place. Sometimes, children are unable to return home; it is then that the court terminates parental rights, and the child becomes available for adoption. Adoptive parents become the child’s legal parent. Their lifelong commitment and responsibility are no less important than if the child was born to them.

Where are the children available for adoption living now?

All of the children available in this program are residing in either; foster homes, relative homes, hospitals or residential facilities.

Why are there no younger, healthier children available for adoption in the foster care system? Why are so many of the children older?

In Michigan, half of all adoptions from the foster care system are of children under the age of five. Many of those children are part of a sibling group that includes older children, and are not available by themselves. Also, almost all of those younger children are adopted by a relative or a foster parent.

Should I become a foster parent so I can adopt a younger child?

Not necessarily. Because foster care is considered to be a temporary placement, it is not a good idea to become a foster parent with the expectation that you’ll be able to adopt any child placed in your care. A foster parent is expected to work with the agency and birth parents, in the hopes that the family will be reunited. A foster parent must be objective, and must be able to let go of a child if and when it comes time for that child to leave the foster home.

Sometimes, however, children are unable to return home. Once parental rights are terminated, relatives and foster parents are given consideration for adoption. This is why there are very few young children available for adoption.

Why can't I adopt just one child in a sibling group? 

Children in the foster care system have already experienced a great deal of loss. They have lost their parents, their friends and families, even their homes. Often, they have also lost their school, their neighborhood, their toys and their clothes. In many cases, the only loss they haven’t experienced has been their brothers or sisters. Michigan’s policy is to act in the best interests of the children. Siblings are placed together unless there’s an important reason to separate them.

I've seen children on the internet that I'm interested in adopting. Does LAS assist families with interstate adoptions?

The process starts just as it does for any other adoption – you must first complete an adoption Family Assessment. Whether the child is in Michigan or another state, the child’s worker must first consider families with completed Family Assessments. It is important to remember that the process usually takes at least three months; if you have your heart set on a child you’ve seen on the internet or somewhere else, it’s possible that child will already be placed with a family by the time your Family Assessment is complete. Having your Family Assessment completed before you begin searching for children is important; you and your worker will decide what kind of child best fits into your family during the process.

However, the State of Michigan will not reimburse a private agency for services provided to a family in order to complete an interstate adoption. As a result, there are substantial fees associated with adopting a child from another state. Contact us for more information by calling (248) 663-0697.

Is a foster care license the same thing as an adoption assessment?

No. There are similarities but these are two separate processes in Michigan. Families who have been licensed for foster care will still need to obtain a Family Assessment in order to adopt.

What is the first step in becoming an adoptive parent?

The first step is to find an agency to complete your Family Assessment. There are many private agencies available to assist you with adoption planning, so we encourage you to contact several agencies and request to attend an orientation. During orientation, you will have the opportunity to meet some of the agency staff and to hear about their program and ask questions.

Questions you may wish to ask are:

  • How long will the Family Assessment process take?
  • Will I have to pay any fees?
  • How long will I wait until I am identified as an adoptive family for a child?

Be sure to choose an agency you feel comfortable with. The Family Assessment process can feel intrusive, so it is important that you trust the people you work with. Your agency will become your strongest ally and advocate in this process.

Will I have to interact with the birth family?

Adoptive parents always have the right and responsibility to determine the individuals their children see and interact with. Children awaiting adoption from the foster care system have usually been made available because of court ordered termination of parental rights. Once their rights are terminated, birth parents have no right to maintain contact with their biological child. However, contact with appropriate family members after adoption is strongly encouraged when it is in the child(s) best interest. Many of our children have siblings who have been adopted by other families or grandparents, aunts or uncles with whom they have a strong relationship. It may be important to the child’s well-being that those relationships continue.

Do I have to be married to adopt?

You don’t have to be married to adopt child. Many children will thrive in a single parent home. However, if you are legally married, you must adopt along with your spouse. Individuals who are separated cannot legally adopt as single parents in Michigan.

I've decided I want to adopt. Now what do I do?

The first step in any adoption is a Family Assessment, also known as a homestudy. Families must be approved through the Family Assessment process before a child can be placed in their home for adoption. The Family Assessment involves a series of meetings between the family and an adoption worker. Training regarding adoption process and common issues in adoption will also be required before or during the assessment process. During the assessment, your social worker will talk with you about your motivations and expectations for adoption. It also gives the adoption worker a chance to get to know your family.

The Family Assessment process usually takes three to six months to complete, depending on factors such as worker caseload and family cooperation. Assessments are typically prioritized based on the types of children waiting and the characteristics of families who have applied. The process typically consists of a number of meetings at the home as well as personal interviews. The study generally includes the following:

  • Social History - A complete history and evaluation of your current family life and past experiences -- and how they will affect your capacity to parent an adoptive child -- is written.
  • Health Statements – All household members will need to provide a medical history and a recent physical (within one year).
  • Criminal Background Check/Fingerprinting – Applicants will need to complete a state police check, Protective Service clearance, fingerprinting (effective 1/1/08) and a local police clearance. A state police check and Protective Service clearance will also be required for all other adults in the home.
  • Income Statement – Applicants will be required to provide proof of your income, such as a copy of an income tax form, a paycheck stub, or a W-2 form.
  • Personal References - You will be asked to provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of three unrelated individuals who can share their knowledge about your experience with children, the stability of your marriage and/or household, and your motivation to adopt.

What happens once my Family Assessment is completed? How long will it take for a child to be placed in my home?

Once your Family Assessment is complete, the matching process is initiated. Your adoption specialist will regularly review your family assessment with the recruitment team to see if there is a possible match. The recruitment supervisor will also be informed of the characteristics of your family so that she can communicate that with other LAS offices. Once a possible match has been identified, you will be contacted by your worker. Information about the child(ren) will be presented to your family for consideration.

Because matching children with the right family is a complicated process, the length of time it will take for a child to be placed cannot be accurately predicted. Some families receive placement quickly and others may wait years for the right match. Once you have a completed and approved Family Assessment, you may also begin to inquire about children photolisted in the MARE (Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange) book and/or website at www.mare.org.