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Foster-to-Adoption: What You Need to Know

Foster-adopt is a unique path in which Resource Parents indicate they are willing to foster and adopt a child. While known by some as foster-to-adopt, it is important to clarify that the hyphen between foster and adopt should not be read or interpreted as representing a continuum in a linear process. 

In other words, families must not confuse the idea of “foster-adopt” with the popular notion of “rent-to-own” or “lease-to-own,” which assumes a linear process that starts in point A (the foster placement) and culminates in point B (the adoption).

Importantly, most children in foster care, approximately 4 out of 5 children, will be reunified with their biological parents or relatives. This means that when a child is placed in a foster-adopt home, the county nor the foster family agency may know whether the child will become eligible for adoption. So, foster-adopt does NOT mean that a child is placed in a home as a “foster placement” and then automatically evolves into an adoptions placement.


Instead, the concept of foster-adopt involves providing a safe and nurturing environment for a child in foster care and being willing to adopt the child if it is determined to be in the child’s best interest. It may also mean that although the child placed in the home as a foster placement may be reunified with biological parents or relatives, another child may be placed in the home as an adoptive placement.  

In other words, foster-adopt means a) that the Resource Parent may eventually adopt a child that was originally placed in the home as a foster placement; or b) the Resource Parent may adopt a different child than the one originally placed in the home as a foster placement. While foster-adopt can be a rewarding journey, it is not without its challenges. In this article, we will explore some of the difficulties that prospective foster-adopt parents may face along the way.

Uncertainty and Emotional Rollercoaster

One of the primary challenges of foster-adopt is the inherent uncertainty involved. Unlike traditional adoption, where prospective parents are matched with a child who is legally available for adoption, foster-adopt families will likely begin their journey with children who may still have reunification as their goal. 

The possibility of the child returning to their birth family can create emotional upheaval for the prospective parents, who may become deeply attached to the child. The uncertainty can be mentally and emotionally draining, requiring a strong support system and correct expectations. However, it is important to remember that the foster care system must consider biological parents and relatives; the goal is generally reunification.

Complex Trauma and Behavioral Issues

Many children in foster care have experienced trauma and instability in their lives. This can manifest in various ways, such as behavioral issues, attachment difficulties, developmental delays, and emotional struggles. When children in foster care move into a home, they may exhibit challenging behaviors because of their past experiences. Prospective parents must be prepared to provide the necessary support, understanding, and therapeutic interventions to help the child heal and thrive. Patience, empathy, and a willingness to learn are vital qualities for foster-adopt parents.

Navigating the Legal System

Foster-adopt involves working within the complex legal system, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Prospective parents must be prepared to do everything expected of foster parents, including but not limited to attending court hearings, working with social workers, and complying with the requirements and regulations set forth by child welfare agencies. The process may involve multiple home visits, background checks, and extensive paperwork. Understanding and adhering to the legal procedures and requirements are essential for a successful foster-adopt journey.

Building a Support Network

Raising any child requires a strong support network, which is even more crucial for foster-adopt families. These families may encounter unique challenges that can be best understood and supported by others who have walked a similar path. Seeking out support groups, connecting with experienced foster-adopt parents, and accessing resources can provide a sense of community, guidance, and encouragement. Building a robust support network can help parents cope with challenges, gain valuable insights, and celebrate triumphs.

Loss and Grief

Foster-adopt families often navigate the complex emotions of loss and grief. Birth families may still play a role in the child’s life, and maintaining healthy relationships with them can be emotionally challenging. Additionally, foster-adopt parents must be prepared for potential disruptions, such as a child being placed with another family or the child’s reunification with their birth family. Dealing with these losses and managing grief can be an ongoing process for the entire family.


Foster-adopt is a path that requires resilience, patience, and a deep commitment to the well-being of children in foster care. At Knotts Family Agency, we avoid using the term “Foster to Adopt” because it may convey the erroneous idea that a child is placed in foster care and then automatically evolves into an adoption placement. Instead, we apply the term foster-adopt to the Resource Parents who express willingness to foster and/or adopt, and we do not use the term to describe the process of a child being placed in a foster home and then evolving into an adoption placement.

While foster-adopt presents unique challenges, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, providing a loving home for a child in foster care and being willing to adopt a child if the opportunity presents itself. Prospective foster-adopt parents should educate themselves about the process, seek support, and understand the complexities involved knowing that most children in the foster care system are reunified with their biological parents or relatives. With the right resources, correct expectations, and a support system in place, foster-adopt families can provide a nurturing home where children can flourish and thrive. 

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