About adoption

There are many pathways to becoming a parent to a child who is currently living in foster care. One of the most common and well-known routes is through adoption.

Every youth living in foster care has a plan of how they will exit foster care, often called a permanency plan. Foster care is intended to be a temporary placement, most often with the goal of reunification with a youth’s biological family. If reunification is not possible, staying close to biological family through kinship care, guardianship, or open adoption is often the next goal. For many youth, the type of permanency is ordered by the court. At Northwest Adoption Exchange, we support all types of permanency that help a youth exit foster care and thrive in the stability of family long after their 18th birthday.

What is adoption?

Adoption is the process by which youth who will not be raised by their birth parents become legal members of another family. For youth living in foster care, adoption may become a youth’s permanency goal after the court has terminated their biological parents’ parental rights. One way to think about adoption versus other types of permanency is that only in adoption is a youth’s birth certificate legally changed to indicate the adoptive parents as the youth’s parents. Adoption is legally forever; there is no expiration date.

Why is adoption important?

All youth deserve the stability of family. For many youth currently living in foster care, other permanency options like reunification, kinship care, and guardianship are not an option. Adoption provides a pathway for youth to exit foster care and experience stability. It gives those who want to become parents an opportunity to experience the joy of parenthood while making a huge impact in the life of a young person.

An important part of adoption for many adoptive families is to create space for maintaining connections with a youth’s biological family. Maintaining contact with birth families is important to a child’s sense of belonging and well-being. An open adoption is a form of adoption that allows birth parents to know and have contact with the adoptive parents and the adopted child. Youth who have some form of contact with their birth family experience lower anxiety and have a better understanding of their history.

When is adoption the permanency option?

Adoption is often the preferred permanency option for youth when a court has determined that the youth cannot safely return to living with their biological parents, now or in the future, and there are no identified relatives who can make a long-term commitment to caring for the youth. Many child welfare policies, including at the federal level, provide guidance and timelines for when adoption should be considered based on how long a youth has been living in foster care.

Are you interested in becoming an adoptive parent to a youth living in foster care? Learn more about the process of adopting from foster care.

Claire’s adoption experience

Claire was placed in foster care and a court determined that she would be unable to be reunified with her parents. Claire had elderly grandparents who she wanted to stay connected with, but who could not provide the care that she needed due to their own medical needs. Claire and her caseworker looked for an adoptive family that would be open to supporting her important biological family connections. Claire was on board with the idea of adoption and wanted to help tell her story by creating an In-Depth Profile with Northwest Adoption Exchange. The Mayer family saw Claire’s In-Depth Profile and submitted an inquiry to learn more about her. After they connected with her caseworker and went through the matching process, both Claire and the Mayers felt excited to become a family. Claire was comforted that her adoptive family lived in the neighboring town to her grandparents, and she’ll be able to stay connected with them as she grows up. Claire and the Mayers went through the adoption finalization process, and the Mayers became her permanent adoptive family.