For those who believe adoption is too expensive, let me just tell you that you’re right. The average adoption costs over $30,000. But I’ll let you in on a little secret- adopting through DHS will not cost you a penny. So if money is your only excuse for not having already adopted, read on.
To get started adopting a child who’s in the custody of their state DHS, you should first determine if you want to adopt a child who is already “adoptable”, meaning they have been declared by a judge to be an orphan (legally have no parents anymore), or if you want to go the foster-to-adopt route.
If you want to adopt a child who is adoptable, then you can search your state’s Heart Gallery, which is a database that lists all (or most) of the adoptable kids in your state. To adopt a child who is already an orphan, you must contact your state’s (or county’s) DHS office and ask them how to begin the process. Normally you cannot adopt a child from a Heart Gallery in a state other than your own, however they can make exceptions on occasion. The process to get approved to adopt is lengthy, however a good caseworker will walk you through the steps and check on your progress periodically until your home is “opened”. Once your home is opened, the child will move into your home and you’ll have a mandatory period of time you must wait until the adoption can be finalized. (This time is 6 months in Arkansas, but varies state to state.) Once the adoption is final, the child is yours forever and always.
Foster-to-adopt, means you get your home “opened” as a foster home, and you inform DHS or your agency that you will only take kids who are likely to become available to adopt. Keep in mind that with foster-to-adopt, it is not a for sure thing that you will be able to adopt the children you are fostering (that’s why it’s also called At-Risk Adoption). Not all kids in foster care become adoptable. In fact, the goal of DHS is to reunite foster children with their birth families, however this sometimes cannot be done and the court terminates their parents’ parental rights and the children become adoptable. In this case, if your foster child becomes adoptable, then you can pursue their adoption. If you want to go the foster-to-adopt route, then you can either contact your local DHS office, or you can search for foster placement agencies who work in your state or county. *Depending on how your DHS office operates, you may have a more pleasant experience with a foster placement agency.* Once you get your paperwork submitted, and your home is “opened”, you are officially able to foster children. And it is totally FREE!!