If you want to bring a child into your loving home, perhaps you might consider an approach called fostering to adopt, which can be a viable option for individuals or couples looking to expand their family. Here is a brief overview of the process.

Foster care provides a caring home for children in temporary custody of the state after being removed from their birth families for reasons including neglect or abuse. Adoption means you will become a child’s or children’s legal parent(s) after termination of their birth family’s rights through the State of Illinois.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) cares for thousands of children, from newborn babies through teenagers who are legally available for fostering. If you are willing to foster more than one child, the preference is to place siblings in the same home. You can state your preferences, such as expressing your interest in fostering African-American, Spanish-speaking, LGBTQ, French-African or Arab-American youth, for example.

How do you foster a child(ren)? Prospective foster parents, who must be at least 21 years old, can be married, in a civil union, single, divorced or separated. Applying for a license in Illinois typically takes one to two months, and the rest of the process can take several months. Among the requirements for becoming a licensed foster parent are room in your home for the child(ren), though you don’t have to own a home, and children don’t have to have their own rooms. Foster parents can be employed or be attending school.

In order to become a foster care parent, one must need to complete a criminal background check, health screening and 27 hours of foster care training. After receiving your foster care license, you will  be matched with a child(ren). Caseworkers (either from DCFS or private agencies that contract with DCFS) will visit their assigned foster homes at least once a month.

Just over half of all foster children are not reunited with their families within a year. If you plan to adopt a legally available child(ren), you will  receive an additional nine hours of training on adoption, plus individualized training on how to best care for your child(ren). Your caseworker will also be involved in the adoption process. Once the adoption is complete and approved by DCFS and the court system, you will  assume all custody and responsibilities for the child(ren).. The adoption process can last several months, depending on the individual circumstances of your case, the biological parents’ circumstances, and the usual tedium in dealing with the State’s administrative process.

A prospective foster family must also be financially stable. To ease the financial burden, DCFS reimburses some costs associated with fostering and adopting, including attorney fees and court costs. To help you meet your child(ren)’s needs, foster parents receive financial benefits, including an annual Medicaid card for medical expenses and monthly payments for basic needs. The amount depends on the age and needs of the child(ren), but the range is usually from just over $400 to just over $500 per month and increases over time. Daycare may also be covered. Most adoptive parent(s) can enter into a subsidy agreement with DCFS to continue to receive financial benefits until each child reaches 18 or graduates high school. You should hire a competent adoption attorney to review this subsidy agreement.

Other support services available to foster and adoptive parents include the Illinois Foster & Adoptive Parent Association and Partners Available to Help (PATH) after adoption.

Do you need an attorney to assist you in your plans to foster and/or adopt? Working with an attorney facilitates adherence to all of the rules, procedures, orders and laws involved with fostering and adopting,  and it will remain indispensable should any complications arise. Jenny R. Jeltes is on the approved “DCFS Panel List, “and is able to represent families who are adopting children currently in DCFS care.

Interested in learning more about fostering to adopt? Let us and we’ll be happy to discuss your situation and goals to develop the most effective plan for you.

Or for more information, visit:  DCFS Foster Care