Foster-Adopt for Older Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • We adopted our daughter through the foster care system from Sacramento County.  We're receiving adoption assistance payments for her along with Medical from Sacramento County  through 18 years old.  The money is going to her education and the Medical is extremely helpful as she has a number of health issues, including but not limited to mental.  When we received the offer for adoption assistance I didn't realize that it was possible to have it in place through 21; our daughter's only goes to 18.  Since she will likely not graduate from high school until 20, may never live on her own and will continue to need medical treatments into the future, I'd like to try to get that extended.  Has anyone done this and, if so, any advice? 

    I recommend contacting Bay Area Legal Aid for information and support.   Their legal advice line is: 1800-551-5554

    We also have a daughter adopted through the foster care system and I will be curious to follow the answers here. In addition to looking into extending the duration of the Adoption Assistance benefits, I'd suggest talking to a benefits counselor that can direct you towards disability benefits that your daughter may qualify for. Depending on her situation, your local Regional Center, a local Independent Living Center, or a mental health program may be a good resource for finding someone. Best of luck.

    Does she qualify for services from Regional Center? Here is the link to research it: - if she's a Regional Center client, my understanding is that there are many services they offer to help disabled people live independently. There are many Regional Center offices across the state. Hope this helps!

    Adoption Assistance Program benefits go to age 18 whether or not the youth is still in high school unless they were adopted at or after age 16. However, a child adopted at any age may qualify for an extension to age 21 if they require continued parental support due to “mental or physical disability.” Based on your brief description, she will very likely qualify. I suggest you contact her AAP social worker to get information on the process for requesting an extension as every county has different procedures. Good luck!

  • Hi Everyone,

    My husband and I are thinking of fostering-to-adopt a little girl, about 7-year-old range. We have a 4-year-old son and would really like him to have a sibling. What have your experiences been? I went to an orientation at the Bill Wilson Center.



    I can only share our own experience, which may or may not be typical. We foster-adopted a 9-year-old child, two years younger than my bio daughter. I am so, so grateful that my bio daughter was the older child and has been able to mentor and support the younger girl. While the agency told us that she had "no psychological issues" and was even a "brilliant" student, we found this was far from true. She floundered in class and continues to need a lot of support in math and English. She also demonstrates many of the traits typical of older children who have been chronically neglected. She approaches adults with the mentality of what can she get out of them and what can she get away with. She fibs and she manipulates. It has been and is exhausting at times. The one saving grace has been my bio child. The two girls formed an immediate bond and my adopted child has learned from example.

    Had the adoptive child been the older child, I would have been concerned about the influence she would have had over my younger child. I would also have been concerned that the younger child may have difficulties in accepting the authority of an older child.

    Hi Grace, 

    I applaud you. I hope other parents who have foster-adopted respond. I adopted my daughter when she was about 6 months old. I flew to Vietnam by myself to pick her up. Being a single mom at 50 and working as a kindergarten teacher I have had "challenges" like any parent. I highly recommend it. Email me anytime.  cathycurry99 [at]

    This is a huge and open ended question. In brief, my husband and I, who were briefly childless tried fostering two girls, ages 4 and 7. We were inexperienced parents, but well trained and very resourceful. We found that the older of the two was more than we could handle and although we went into it with the intention of adopting them, we couldn't stick it out.

    My advice is

    -really scrutinize your agency and the experience and turnover of their social workers, as well as the specific kind of support that they offer. I think a number of factors led to us to be dissatisfied, our social worker was inexperienced and didn't stay at the agency long. We were mislead about the severity of problems with the kids wewere matched with. the kids were from Sacramento, which we thought would be okay, but visits to their birth parents ended up being traumatic for all of us (of course, most of all them). Hours of time in the car travelling to and from mandated visits with kids that were out of control was not the worst part of our experience, but added to the stress of the situation. We ended up switching agencies and going directly through Alameda County and fostering a baby that has led to an adoption. It was a rocky process, which is it's own story.

    -Parenting a 7 year old foster kid is nothing like parenting a *normal* child. These kids have inevitably been through major trauma which affects the way their brain has developed. It will likely take many years to feel like your house is stable and they will likely have special needs that remain throughout their life. This is not to be taken will change everything about your families dynamic and it is probably going to feel different than having a bio kid with special needs.

    -Understand that your 4 year old *may* benefit from having a sibling, but they may end up feeling obligated to provide their special needs sibling with a lot of support and most likely it will make his life very trying in the short term. We have had foster kids in our home since we adopted my daughter and it has not been a bad experience for her, we were able to shelter her from most of the burden. It was very trying on us, her parents, though. And the ways that it did enrich her life are not the ways I would imagine a typical sibling would.

    -Be very thorough in your reading about the behaviors and problems that you can expect from children that have been abused, neglected, exposed to violence or experienced multiple moves. Really know what you are getting into and be realistic about whether your family can handle it, a 7 year old is tougher than it sounds, that is a lot of years to not have a safe or stable home.

    Research-research-research.  Ask questions about what this little girl's life has been like to this point.  Kids don't end up in the foster care system without having gone through a lot of trauma which has significant impact  on children.  Read all you can about adoption, attachment, foster care, child trauma. Go on line to, or give them a call and meet with one of their staff.  Another good organization is  Be open to the ways in which your family will change by one of your children being adopted, including the dynamics of your birth-child's response to having an older sibling and your potential-adopted-child's response to having a sibling who "belongs" to the family by birth.  Your child will come to you with their own history and you need to be ready to accept and deal with that.  I'm an adoptive parent and I wouldn't trade it for the world; it's also more complex than I could have imagined.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Domestic or overseas adoption of older child?

June 2014

Hi, We are an ''older'' couple with a lovely bio 10-year-old interested in adopting a single child. Would love to hear positive and negative experiences. I realize international adoption is much less common than it was for various reasons, but also that some adoptive parents say this can be a ''safer'' bet than adopting from the U.S. when it comes to older children. I welcome your feedback, but please note that I'm not so interested in hearing from people who have adopted an infant or young toddler (less likely to face the same level of challenges) or sibling sets (different challenges). Thank you. SF Mama

As the parent of a ''domestically'' adopted older child (adopted at age 8), it stuns me that people think it is ''safer'' to adopt internationally and push that option. You have no more guarantees elsewhere, and probably less, particularly if the child is older.

There are SO many children in this country that are available for adoption, and their chances of finding a ''forever home'' if they are beyond toddler age are minuscule. Add to that the fact that a full 50% of kids who age out of the foster care system in the U.S. will end up homeless at some point, I personally think it is pretty reckless to add to the problem by adopting from another country. Would that kid have a better life in the U.S.? Maybe. But there is such an overwhelming need here, and the kids in this country will end up in very dire circumstances.

Plus, social services in the U.S. are required to give you as much information as possible about the children being placed for adoption. They are required to give you the child's known history, medical data, psychological data, etc. If the child's ''issues'' are more than you think you can handle as a family, you can always decide not to accept that child's placement with you. If the birth parents relinquished (as my daughter's did when it was clear she was not being returned to them) they nevertheless provided significant family health histories so we have some knowledge of what is ''out there.'' In some cases, there can be continuing contact (if you want it) with birth parents. In other situations it can be possible to communicate through social services with the parents if needed (e.g. medical crises and the need to know family medical issues).

It is never a simple decision to adopt an older child; they will have ''issues,'' some more than others. You need to make sure you have read as much as possible before making the decision, and do not enter into the process with rose colored lenses. However, adopting a child who needs a permanent, loving home is one of the biggest joys and blessings. I've had some tough times with my daughter, but I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world to have had such a wonderful child join my family (she's now 16).

I'll get off my high horse now, as I'm pretty militant on this issue, but I urge you to adopt domestically. Adoptive Momma of older US child

What exactly do you mean by ''overseas'' ? If you mean Russia, there are numerous journalistic reports of immense problems with older children whose parents were alcoholic or otherwise abusive. Given the possibilities of an intl adoption of a much older kid going wrong, I'm not so sure that you'd be better off going international versus a domestic adoption. Daphne

I think the idea that there's less likely to be serious problems with internationally adopted kids is really, really wrong. You get less information. You don't get to meet them, before committing. We adopted through foster care. You know lots. We were able to talk to the current foster care parents (including some very experienced people who have taken lots of kids, seen it all). We know people who have adopted internationally. Some have challenges. Some don't. Same with domestic adoptions. We liked the idea that we would be able to maintain contact with bio family (depending on the individual circumstances). In our kid's case, it's becoming apparent that that's good for our kid. I think that for some people one of the attractions of international adoption is that there's no bio family to deal with. It's cleaner, but I really do believe that when that kid's 30, s/he's going to realize that engaging with the bio-family was not easy but you did it because of your love of your kid.

What I have seen consistently is that it's a marketplace. White kids are snatched up -- even with very serious indicators of concern. Minority kids are less attractive (although it's staggered -- Asian and then Latino kids are more sought than Black kids). Girls over boys. So, if you want a kid without major challenges, you should be open to a black boy. Don't underestimate the importance of race in the US (if you're a ''we're a post-racial society because Obama'' then, please, don't adopt a black kid). The fact is that there's some kids with major challenges. Some living with their bio families. Some not. The likelihood of kids with serious challenges is greater in adopted kids. We have one of each -- bio and adopted (though foster care). In our case, the adopted kid has it all over our bio guy in terms of a bunch of competencies! But, that's not the norm. I know a family with 4 domestically adopted kids -- at least 2 have problems that I'm aware of (without ever having disc ussed it with the parents). The other two may have less obvious challenges. Definitely more likely with adoption. Get ready, be prepared, maybe your kid will be lucky. I don't know of one parent (bio or adopted) who would change anything. Good luck!! Nothing's perfect, even in bio families!!

Adopting a 3 - 5 year old child

April 2011

I am just starting to look into the potential for adopting a 3 - 5 year old child (I have a 6 year old son who is biologically mine). I am open to various ethnicities and countries of origin (including the US). However, I understand that many countries are scaling back the number of US adoptions they allow - and, for US adoptions, there are some policies and regulations that make it difficult to adopt older children who were born here. For those of you who have adopted older children, I'd appreciate hearing about your experience - and getting any advice and counsel that you'd like to share. Thanks...

we adopted a 4 (he might have been 4.5) year old boy from Ethiopia last year. He is our 2nd son - our older son was adopted in 2005 from Russia and was 6 at the time we adopted the 2nd one. Too much to write about advice and experience - email me. Stefanie

I work for Family Builders a non-profit adoption agency that places children from the US with families in the US. It sounds like you are thinking of a variety of different types of adoption options. Each one has its own process and time-line. I might suggest that in addition to asking folks about their experience you come to a panel presentation that we're having on May 26th between 6-8pm in Oakland. There will be a variety of representatives to speak about different adoption options, along with an adoption attorney. If you're interested in attending, you'll need to RSVP by May 15th to 510-272-0204 ext. 370. Our services are free and this event is also free. If you want to ask any questions about the type of adoptions we do, please feel free to call me at the same number, I'm happy to help if I can. rahel

Have you considered adopting from foster care? You can become a licensed foster-adopt parent in your county and specify the age range you are most interested in adopting. The county will do your home study and will match you with a child. I think this is the most common route to take for people who are not interested in adopting infants. A child placed in your home would be a ''legal risk'' placement. That means that he/she would probably still have visits with birth family and there would be a possibility that the child would be reunified with the family. But you can specify at the outset the level of legal risk you are comfortable with and many people adopt children successfully through foster care. That is how we adopted our son. On the plus side for families, foster adoption is essentially free, whereas international adoption can easily cost 20-30K or more. You also usually have more information about your child's background and history. If you go the international route, make sure you do your homework and find a reputable agency. There are significant ethical issues that can come up in international adoption, so it is important that the people you work with are really looking out for the interests of the children and families and are completely above board. But international adoption is certainly possible if you choose to go that route. Yes, some countries have started limiting adoptions and others have closed, but international adoptions are still happening.

Either way, do a lot of reading and research about older child adoption before you adopt. When adopting an older child, you are usually parenting a child with a history of trauma (at the very least, separation from their past caregivers) and possibly abuse and/or neglect. This is true with both foster and international adoption. (Children cared for in orphanages often suffer from neglect, and of course, children in foster care almost always are removed for neglect or abuse.) It is very different from parenting birth children or children adopted as an infant. Some children adjust and do very well, and some have significant needs and issues. All will need to be parented differently from your birth children, at least at the outset. I wish you the best! A Parent Through Foster Adoption

Hi there, I am part of an organization who deals with Ukrainian orphans (we don't deal with adoption), so I do know quite a few people who have adopted internationally so I can put you in touch with pointers and agency recommendations if you do decide to go international. I have heard through a social worker that China is the best country to adopt from if you are going international but the wait can be significant. It depends on what you are looking for. China can be a couple of years, Ukraine is about a year, Kazakhstan is less time for paperwork in and in country stay. California is supposed to be one of the hardest states to adopt from. In the end, it's all worth the goal. Another consideration for international adoption is hosting. pardon the crudity but you can ''try before you buy''. It can be the best investment you make and there kids who are part of a hosting program are usually older too.

Feel free to e-mail me if you need any further help. I'll do my best to get the answers for you. Regards, Rachael

I wish you the best in your efforts to build a loving family. Our family was built through foster-adoption through the county; one of our children was older when she joined us. We've heard good things about Family Builders as well as PACT, an adoption alliance (through whom we continue to get significant support). They are worth checking out. Going to information sessions like the one at Family Builders mentioned earlier or through the county.

I want to echo the person who stated that '' [t]here are significant ethical issues that can come up in international adoption, so it is important that the people you work with are really looking out for the interests of the children [...]'' Honestly, I think very similar ethical issues come up in domestic adoption and that thoughtful people who are willing to read and listen to the stories of adult adoptees as well as birthparents can navigate those ethical quagmires. See and for some possibly helpful readings. Another Parent Through Foster Adoption

My wife and I have 2 adopted son's. One moved in when he was 2 1/2 and the other at 3 1/2. Both were from California and came to us through the foster care system. I'm not sure what you've heard about any hoops to jump through or what people have told you is hard about it...however, i wouldn't call the process of them moving in hard. Parenting them is hard But finding them and having them move in was not. There is a process to go through for sure and it can take a few months or longer depending on circumstances but i would say that's to be expected for what you are getting out of it. We worked with a great agency, Adopt a Special Kid ( Check it out if only for some more resources on adoption. If you have any specific questions about adopting through foster care feel free to email me. I am more than happy to share what i know. Felicia

Adopting older children. I am sure the results vary from case to case, but my experience was hellish. There is almost no way to prepare someone for the problems that accompany trying to parent a wounded child. Please read as much as you can about Reactive Attachment Disorder. The head of San Francisco Social Services tried in a gentle way to warn me by saying, ''There is very little satisfaction or gratification from adopting an older child such as this.'' As a lay person, watching an adorable green-eyed five year old tumbling around, I had no way to conceive of what she meant. It was horrible. These children have survived by manipulation and it doesn't stop when they have a home. If you are going to do this, I highly suggest getting some counseling both before and after. When I was at the end of my rope (and I can sympathize with the lady who sent her adoted child back to Russia,) I had the good fortune to meet a therapist that helped us immensely. She walked me through, step by step, ways to make life bearable. I am so grateful to her. Today, 10 years later, things are better, much better. I never thought that I would see the day when I could honestly say I loved this child, but I can today. If I had to do it all over again, I would not. But I am grateful that things have gotten substantially better. Good luck! Holly

New foster son, 13, and anxiety issues

Nov 2010

Two months ago we became foster parents for a 13-year-old we already knew--we are not licensed foster parents, but because he can no longer live with his abusive and neglectful bio parents, we are going to be his new permanent family. We just moved from SF to Davis, and our new son came with us to also be near his older brother, who lives here. Our new son has lots of issues, some of which we've worked through quite quickly, but as I try to tease out some of his behaviors, I think a lot are due to anxiety. It's anxiety about everything, from plugging in a rice cooker to strange men to germs and on and on. And on! As someone with a personal and family history of anxiety, this is looking familiar to me. He is finally seeing a counselor (took a while for the referral process to click in up here), but since he absolutely hates the idea of therapy, it's going to be a while before she can give us any concrete advice. SF County is paying the bill and offers nothing else. Does anyone have suggestions for books on foster parenting, working with children with anxiety, or working with children with histories of neglect and abuse? Or any other form of support that seems relevant? I am investigating local resources, but at the end of the day, this is my job, and I want to do it well...and I want to not go crazy doing it! even bigger job than I expected

It is wonderful you have opened your heart to this is not an easy task for either of you, but there is healing at the end of the road. I have worked with foster/adoptive kids for years, and anxiety is understandably a primary issues kids have to deal with. Attachment issues will be another. Be sure your therapist is specifically experienced in attachment and foster/adoptive issues. There are a ton of resources out there, including books - 'Parenting the Hurt Child', comes to mind, but there are many. Contact your local FFA (fost adopt agency), even if you are not working through one, they have social workers that can give resources (Lilliput comes to mind in the Davis area, but there are others). Parenting a foster child takes a village, do not feel you have to do this alone, there is a world of resources out there. It will get better! anonymous

Blessings to you for taking on this very difficult and very important job. I commend you for reaching out for support. You are going need (and you deserve) a lot. As we all know parenting is never and easy job. Taking over mid-way for a child who has been abused, neglected and/or abandoned means you are inheriting a multitude of problems you did not create but now want to remedy.

I am surprised by your statement that your son's therapist cannot offer any concrete advice at this time. If the therapist has background and experience working with adoptive families and/or foster youth she ought to have some guidance she can offer you right away as you find your bearings as a family. If the therapist does not have this background and experience find one who does! This is critical. Professionals who know a lot about children but not about the specific issues faced by foster and adoptive youth often end up giving advice that is counterproductive, ineffective, or even harmful.

As a community service I offer one or two free consultation sessions for families who have adopted older children or adopted through the fost/adopt system. If your intention is to be your son's permanent family you qualify for the free sessions even if you are not going through he formal adoption process. Please give me a call*. I can help you understand what types of services you, your son and the rest of your family might need. I may be able to help identify funding sources for additional mental health treatment. If distance is an issue we can consult via phone. This is not a marketing ploy. There is no expectation that you will ever see me for paid services. I just want to offer my support and help point in your in the right direction for getting the long term support you need. Good luck, Katrinca Ford, MFT katrinca [at]

Even though he doesn't like going for counseling, he's still at an age where you can make him go, so make sure he goes. He doesn't have to be cooperative for the therapist( if good) to give you good, pertinent advice.

Some recent studies have shown that a child who deals well with life stress( which we all have in greater or lesser degrees at different times in life) will tend to be less prone to addictions and various other problems as they grow, so it would be great if between now and when he's 18 you could help him develop a variety of tools for stressful situations This could be anything from sports, hobbies, music, art, religion, meditation, friendships( that is the kind of things many adults use for stress) but probably should also include some teen-appropriate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) for stress. This last thing is quite different than old-fashioned ''therapy'' as it's more like a class on building practical coping skills that lasts 6-15 sessions ( and often includes ''homework'' in the form of trying out certain tools when stress comes up and seeing if they work. This has been seen to be quite helpful for anxiety of many kinds and has a lasting effect.

Lastly be sure to specifically ask the therapist if he has PTSD. Children are more prone to it when under stressful conditions ( abusive situations etc). If he's diagnosed with this, CBT can still help, but you'd also want to add some other mental health care. If he's afraid of strange men, you should also specifically let the therapist know that. JM

It sounds like you're doing a very good job supporting your new son. Based on my experience fostering and then adopting an older child, I recommend that you seek out other foster and adoptive parents for support and resources (including book recommendations). You might try Yolo County's foster care program to see if there's a parent group you could join. I found this website that might be a good place to start: FAIR also has a good list of resources, including reading material, on their website: Even if you're going to be guardians rather than adopting, the insights will still apply. Wishing you all the best.

Hi, I am a family therapist who has specialized for almost 15 years in working with foster youth and their parents. I also was a foster parent myself and between these two experiences I feel pretty certain that I could help you in some way during this transition. I understand that you live up in Davis now, but feel free to write me and I can consult with you for no charge. As an adjunct to the therapy your foster son is just beginning to receive, my specialty is to work with parents (bio, foster, adoptive, step, etc) on understanding emotional and behavioral issues in their children and planning how best to meet their needs, while maintaining a functional and sane home. I am happy to volunteer some time to you to give you some concrete advice as you adjust to this transition. In addition, there is a book that I have recommended to other foster/adoptive parents called ''Attachment-Focused Parenting'' by Daniel Hughes. There is no perfect book, but I like this one for its practical advice and non-judgmental presentation. Another book is ''Can This Child Be Saved? Solutions for Adoptive and Foster Families'' by Foster Cline and Cathy Helding. Look these up and see if they fit what you are looking for. Please feel free to contact me if you want to talk through some of the issues, or learn about other resources. Maria

Hi Try this website for Heather Forbes, LCSW:
I think Heather Forbes is a wonderful resource for families with children who have a history of trauma or neglect. She has written three great books detailing her thinking about how children handle trauma and the kind of parenting that helps them feel safe and loved so they can begin to heal. If you are feeling overwhelmed yourself (and that would be pretty human) these books - and her other resources - will really help you get centered again and help you know what to do to lovingly and effectively parent your new son. You have my very best wishes. another adoptive mom

Thank you for being a caring foster parent. Anxiety is an issue I know a lot about because I have experienced it personally growing up. I was not abused, but my parents had issues: there was a divorce, a new step dad and so on. Another area to look at, surprisingly, is school. When I was a kid I experienced a huge amount of teasing and bullying at school. Some kids and people tend to have more anxiety than others. I had a lot. Any little thing could be anxiety producing. Followed by a barrage of negative thoughts. First the good news. I did not have therapy or meds. I basically outgrew the major anxiety issues. How did I get through? Books, TV, radio, pets, a couple of good friends, baseball cards, and one or two understanding adults along the way. There are two excellent books for parents and foster parents on the subject that I would like to recommend. First, Trauma Through a Child's Eyes by Peter A. Levine; and second, Santa's Take on Parenting. The latter book is a teaching tool for professionals to give to parents and foster parents of kids with issues. It is written in the form of a narrative story. It can be read free in its entirety online at Dr. T.

Hi, i'm a parent of 2 foster children both younger than yours but i do have some information that might be helpful. Our adoption agency is called Adopt A Special Kid ( and has a ton of great resources for foster parents. They often have online parent training courses on a number of different topics so even though they are located in Oakland you could definitly take advantage.

On a more personal level something I learned in one of AASK's trainings was to learn to survive the behavior. Our kids have gone through unimaginable hardships and their behavior is based on survival for them. Sometimes there is something specific you can do to help them out of that behavior and sometimes there isn't. They need to work it out over time. In those cases it's best to find a way personally to survive the behavior so you can just be with them through it and not go crazy. Just being there is going to be what changes things for him over time and the most important thing. Not the prettiest answere but it has actually helped me a lot.

Email me if you want to discuss further. I have an anxious one too and I'm sure we could swap some drive you mad moments :) Hang in there, you're doing great! Felicia

Thinking about adopting an older child

May 2010

We have started thinking about adopting an older child. We already have a biological 7 year old son. We just started the conversation so we know nothing about the issue. Does anyone have any experience with a case like ours? Right now we have tons of questions, so we prefer to hear other people's experience and go from there. Thanks. anon

You're smart to ask for people's experiences to inform your decision. We adopted our daughter when she was five and a half. We don't have any other children, so our family life is different than yours would be.

It's hard to summarize our experience over the past six years. It's been both harder and more meaningful than anything I've done in my life. You should know that children who are available for adoption have experienced more trauma than anyone should in a lifetime, and your family will have to live with and 'hold' that trauma along with your child. It is very, very hard. With support, though, it can be wonderful.

The best book of the many I've read about adoption is The Family of Adoption by Joyce Maguire Pavao. I also recommend that you contact FAIR (Families Adopting in Response),, which has quite a few families that combine kids born and adopted into their families.

If you decide to pursue this, there are quite a few good agencies that work with people adopting children from foster care. We worked with AASK (Adopt A Special Kid) and love them, and have friends who had very good experiences with Family Builders. Both are in Oakland.

You have the chance to make an immeasurable difference in the life of a child. proud adoptive mother

We adopted a 4 year old girl through the Alameda County fost-adopt program. She came to us as a foster child at 3 years old, and we adopted her when she was 4 yrs old and all the paperwork was finished. At that time of the adoption, our birth daughter was 7. This worked very well as the newer child took her cue's from our birth daughter and was able to fit into our family life with less stress. It was a great way to complete our family!

Adoption can be pretty emotional for everyone, and you could be really adding another challenge if the adopted child is older than your birth child. Having said that, it depends a lot on the specifics of the situation. Just be aware that the younger child will likely look up to the older child in some ways, and that your adopted child will bring some behaviors in from their previous situation. Happy to have adopted a 4 yr old

Family Builders is an adoption agency with an office in Oakland (near Lake Merritt: 401 Grand Ave. #400) and an office in SF. Their website is They have programs specifically with older youth and have a lot of experience in this area. You can call them at (510) 272-0204 and speak to a social worker who can answer your questions. Even if you decide to go with another agency, this would be a good starting point. anon

Discouraged about fost-adopting an under 6-yr-old

May 2006

We would love to hear from people who have advice or experience adopting non-infants either through the County or internationally. We are currently receiving referrals for fost- adopt through a non-profit agency. The social worker has started dropping comments about how difficult it is to find children under 6: ''that's what everyone is looking for'' and ''we don't see many except in sibling groups or with very serious issues.'' It's a little frustrating as we were pretty clear about what we were willing to consider from the beginning and if it wasn't viable it seems the agency should have told us before wasting resources on us. Our parameters are not narrow, by the way. We also heard that the County has changed its training because they want to focus on getting long-term foster families, not adoptive families. All seems to suggest that the need is not there for who we are able to adopt.

We are starting to consider beginning the process for international adoption, just so that if the County process doesn't work, we don't have to start from scratch. Mainly we want to get this resolved within a year as there's an aspect of our lives being on hold because we don't know when a child might join our family.

We would like to hear from anyone with experience with fost/adopt or international adoption of non-infants. What did you wish you knew when you started? What would you do differently and what worked well? We would appreciate email addresses as well. We can't attach ours as our agency doesn't know we are considering a dual path. thanks, anon

I would be happy to talk with you privately about my foster- adoption experience, which has drama in it but a very happy ending with my now 7 year old son. My agency was Alternative Family Services--from the time I decided to receive certification to the time my son was placed with me was only 9 months. The adoption process took longer than anticipated because of failures in the county social service system, but at least I had my son with me the whole time. Many things to consider with foster-adoption, but if you have a big heart and a clear head, it's an extraordinary experience. Please feel free to write me directly.

By asking these big questions, you have (as my adoption counselor told me 8 years ago) started the journey toward the child of your heart. It will be quite a journey, the most incredible you've ever taken. Lots of luck whatever you decide! sabrina

My sister- and brother-in-law have recently been through the foster/adopt process. They have 2 natural children and were looking to adopt a girl about 5- or 6-years-old. In the end they decided to become a foster family instead of adopting. I think she would have a lot to say to you about the local foster/adopt system. If you'd like to contact her (she is not a member of the BPN), please email me. liz

Wow! I don't know which foster family agency you are working with, but the information they are giving you is very much opposite our experience and information. My partner and I are fost/adopting our son. He came to our home at 11 months old and is now 17 months. We are working with A Better Way in Berkeley. We have been repeatedly told that there are MANY children under age 2 needing fost/adopt homes, and they are constantly looking for qualified homes. Our social worker had 3 newborns still at Alta Bates needing placement the same time we were given our son. And we were only in ''the system'' for 3 months prior to his placement with us. Some of these kids may have drug exposure (luckily our son was not), but not all.

These kids are all races, (at last assessment it was nearly one third caucasian, one third African American and one third Latino. I highly recommend giving A Better Way a call and come to some of their free support groups to get more of your questions answered. I would also be more than happy to talk with you some more.

Also, the current mandate in the state of California child welfare system is permanent placement, NOT long term foster or reunification services. Whether that is a good thing or not is another question, but that is their current mandate. There are 10,000 children in California right now available (and eager)for adoption.

A Better Way has already started the process with us of placing another child with us, so our son can have a sibling. The willingness to accept a child under 2 has put us in the ''high desirable'' list in their system.

Please don't let the runaround scare you off. It is a beurocratic system to navigate, but so very worth it. Shoshana

Four years ago, my wife and I adopted a wonderful 6year old through a fost-adopt arrangement. After spending a lot of money on fertility issues and open adoption with a very questionable experience, we decided on a foster adoption agency in Oakland, which was wonderful. AASK, Adopt A Special Kid is a wonderful agency. We are a bi-racial couple and were told at first that there were very few asian and caucasian -asian mixed kids in foster care, however once we completed our home study and classes, fingerprints etc, several kids showed up. We have had a wonderful experience and I now have the son of my dreams. Don't worry about the availability of children, there are thousands in foster care available for adoption. We looked through literally three large binders of info sheets of children available, (that was tough!)

We also know of a couple that had a bad experience with a local agency, who did not prepare them properly. Go through AASK! Links

I recently attended a fundraiser for this wonderful adoption agency: Adopt a Special Kid (AASK) . Their web address is I brought a dear friend with me to find out more about the agency since she has been through a 3-year beaurocratic nightmare with international adoption (still no child). She said, If only I'd heard about them 3 years ago! They seem to be doing good work, have low beaurocracy, and personal attention. Good luck. Lynn

I am a non-profit adoption agency employee. There is a need for fost-adopt families for children under 6. It often takes 6 months to a year to find a good match b/c the process takes a long time not b/c no kids need families. If you are feeling concerned about the comments you are getting, I urge you to speak to your sw and ask what you can do to increase your chances of matching or what to expect and if your sw's comments are discouraging you, tell him/her and talk it through. If you discuss things and cannot come to an understanding or feel you will not achieve your adoption goals with this agency, please tell them you are going elsewhere. It is not honest or fair to you if your agency is misleading you and it is not fair or honest (and is costly to the agency) if you pursue int'l adoption behind their back while they continue to do free work for you. If you are working with the county directly they are a gov't agency and are not negatively financially impacted like a private non profit is but a non-profit struggles to offer free services to families and can't stay in business if families double time them.

Fost-adopt is a cooperative process so please talk through your concerns and give them a chance to work with you. Also, will international adoption meet your family's goals? Int'l adoption can take a long time too, the kids can have just as many challenges as domestic kids, the cost is high and the supports are often much less. You have to do what's right for your family, but please don't be dishonest in the process.

thanks and good luck in your family building! anon also

It sounds like you are getting bad and false information about fost/adopt. This type of misinformation harms the children in foster care waiting for permanent families. Our family had great success with AASK (Adopt a Special Kid) a not-for profit agency that only does fost/adopt placements.

AASK is an excellent adoption agency that takes care of everything at no cost to adoptive families. That's right it costs nothing to adopt children who are in foster care. After adoption these children often qualify for adoption assistance, state funds that make monthly payments to help adoptive families to help with expenses for child rearing. We adopted 2 siblings who were 3 and 4 when they moved into our home and 4 and 5 when we adopted them. We know families who adopted infants through fost/adopt as well. Please contact AASK at 510-553-1748. AASK will help you become parents of a child or children who need forever families. I know AASK will give you correct information regarding all of the possibilities of fost/adoption Parents of 2 adopted from CA foster care (with help of AASK)

For International adoption, you could contact Betty Tisdale at HALO (Helping and Loving Orphans) at 2416 2nd Ave No, Seatlle, WA 98109. She has been involved in this field for many, many years and was featured on Dateline (NBC T.V.). She has an immense heart for orphans. I hope this helps your search. God bless you. Cathy

We have almost completed the adoption process of our now 18-month-old daughter, so this may not fall within your age range. We were originally looking for an under-two-year-old because of housing constraints, and after some research ended up doing the fost-adopt approach through A Better Way , an agency based in Berkeley which works with several counties. I would unequivocally recommend them! We've heard horror stories about lost home studies and long delays from people who have gone directly through our county--ABW has smoothed out much of the process and is incredibly supportive of their parents, and also has pre- and post-adoptive services.

As for adopting young children, I have heard that it is not easy. It can takes months to years after placement before a child is freed for adoption (i.e., parental rights are terminated, etc.), and fost/adoption meants that you make a committment to the child knowing that he/she may ultimately be returned to their birth family. Many children who have been removed from their parents will have significant issues--it goes with the territory, and would be equally true with an international adoption, although the exact nature of the issues may be different. That doesn't mean the problems will be dreadful or untreatable, and dealing with them while the child is young makes a huge difference. And everything I've heard about international adoption indicates a similarly lengthy process without the chance to get to know the child before you take them in. Seems at least as risky in its own way.

All that said, sometimes things work out. We were hoping for a newborn and expected a child over 6-months-old because supposedly newborns are never available. But we ended up accepting an emergency placement (which we had had no intention of getting into) of a 4-day-old and have had remarkably smooth sailing through the court process--finalization whould be in a feww weeks!

Best of luck to you--there are a lot of kids who need homes, but the process is sometimes slow, difficult and emotionally risky. Libby

As someone who knows many people who have adopted foster kids (all them way under the age of 6, BTW), and who is also about halfway through the fost-adopt process with Alameda County myself, I have waaayyy too much to say on this topic, and not nearly enough time (or space in 2300 characters), but I do want to cover a couple of points not covered in other responses.

You said you had heard that the county has shifted its emphasis to recruiting ''long term foster care'' families. I don't think this is correct, but I think I know where this perception comes from. About a year ago the county officially made recruitment of ''concurrent planning'' families its highest priority. This is when the county simultaneously works on a reunification plan while also planning for an eventual adoption as the backup plan. They hope to recruit families who are willing to go either way, i.e. who will take in foster kids who may be reunified, but who will be willing to adopt the child if they are not.

However, the county is still quite willing to work with families who only want to adopt -- or who only want to foster, for that matter. In my experience, there's no hard sell for concurrent planning -- they encourage you to consider it, but they'll take ''no thanks'' for an answer. I was clear with the Social Workers throughout that I only want to adopt, and they were fine with this.

The other point I wanted to bring up, since you mentioned international adoption, is the expense. International adoption is very expensive -- less so for an older child, but it will still likely cost you far more than the $10,000 tax credit available for covering adoption expenses. On the other hand, not only is adopting a foster child completely free to you, you will be eligible for a monthly stipend (even after the adoption is finalized -- it's called the ''adoption assistance program).If you want more info, feel free to email me. Diane

Helping an 18 year old who is leaving the foster care system

Sept. 2005

Hello, does anyone have knowledge about what happens to young people who have lived in a foster care home their whole lives and then turn 18 years old and are kicked out.

I know a lovely senior at Oakland High who will graduate June 2006. Her birthday is Jan 2006 so she is being tossed out of her ''home'' early January. I want to help her, looking for housing as well as what services are available. She is a A and B student who works a part time job and she definately wants to finish high school.

Are there any funds available to help with her expenses? Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Kaeleen

I was a foster child from the ages of 15 to 17. At the age of 17, I was forced back to live with my mother who 6 months later kicked me out. I was 17 years of age, and did not get any assistance. I did however discuss with my foster parents prior to moving home what would happen if I were to stay in their home til age of 18. She said that it is up to the foster parents to decide whether a foster child can live their past the age of 18. If in fact this girl will be kicked out on her 18th birthday, it would probably be more effective for her to discuss her concerns with her social worker and/or case worker. Her social/case worker would know better what assistance she would be eligible for and also be able to give her reference for any of these if need be. If she has not graduated from High School on her 18th birthday, she may also be allowed to stay in foster care until doing so. I believe these situations vary between locations. I would not want to give inaccurate advice, but at this point, if she is concerned, she should speak to her social/case worker. That is what they are there for.

Also, with being a foster child for so long, I was eligible for many scholarships to colleges (including technical colleges). This may be something she should also look into if she wants to further her education upon graduation.

If you have any other questions or comments you feel I could help with, please feel free to send me an email! Hope this helps a bit and the best of luck to her! Jean

Thank you for taking an interest in this young woman's well- being. As you may know from a recent series of articles in the SF Chron, w/in 1-4 years of ''aging-out'' of the foster care system, an alarming number of teenagers are unemployed (51%), on public assistance (40%), homeless (30%), etc. As a CASA (court- appointed special advocate) volunteer in Alameda County, I have recently learned there are resources available, but it takes some work to utilize them. Your teen friend should enroll in ILSP (Independent Living Skills Program) immediately. ILSP can help her prepare for life after foster care & learn about the resources available to her. Check Also check the First Place Fund for Youth at, which provides housing and other resources for youth aging out. There is money for foster youth to go to college or vocational school. One source is the Chafee grant; check She can learn about her rights as a foster youth at; the Office of the Ombudsman for Foster Care publishes ''Resource Directory: A Guide for Current & Emancipated Foster Youth'' and other useful publications. The National Center for Youth Law publishes ''Fight for Your Rights; A Guidebook for California Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth & Those Who Care About Them'' at Your friend should work with her lawyer & social worker (who both probably carry massive caseloads) to see that she stays in foster care at least until she graduates from high school. The law can be complicated (I'm at attorney and I've found it difficult to sort out), but if she's on track to graduate high school by age 19, she should be able to stay in care until she graduates. In fact, the dependency court has the discretion to let her stay in care longer, theoretically until age 21, although that's not common. Her attorney should fight for whatever is in her best interests. And, if she's interested in working to make the system better, she can check out Cal. Youth Connection, an organization developed by foster youth, at Please contact me directly if you have questions, as I could go on and on... Good luck! Lisa

I work with teens, some of whom are emancipating foster kids, and there ARE services; they just don't have enough funding to serve everyone. I hope she can get into one or both of these programs. First, if she hasn't yet been referred to ILSP by her county social worker, she should be. ILSP is independent living skills classes (getting your driver's license, budgeting, finding work, going to college, finding housing); I believe this is a county-run program. One of my clients says she got Section 8 through them, and has a nice apartment. The other is First Place Fund, which offers the same kind of classes as well as a program that provides an apartment and a gradually decreasing rent subsidy over 2 years. I don't have these numbers handy but you can find them online or in the phone book. They are both great programs. Email me if you'd like more info. Julie

I believe that there is a county-run program that helps transition foster youth, and may even pay rent etc. for the first months after a foster youth turns 18. I wonder, also, if there are more resources for teens who are still not out of high school. The program is called (I think) the Independent living skills program: (county-run program for foster youth in transition out of foster placement). Here is the link:

There are also some new ''by and for foster youth'' organizations springing up. One is California Youth Connection --run by current and former foster youth as a kind of public policy organization to improve services to foster youth. Their link is: is a website that lists services, provides discussion boards and resources for foster and emancipated youth in Northern California.

If the girl you mention is interested, A Home Within is a non-profit organization that provides free ongoing psychotherapy for current and former foster youth as long as they need it. It is run by psychotherapists in private practice who contribute their services pro-bono, and is quite reputable. Their link is: http:// Good luck!

The Chronicle just did a story about this either last sunday or two weeks ago. I think it was in the insight section. It mentions agencies for young adults aging out of the system. Also forum (kqed) has done shows on this recently, so they may have a resource list. There is help. This young adult is lucky to have you in her life. The stories in the Chronicle emphasized that having one stable mentoring adult made a huge difference in these survivors' lives. Jessica

There are services for youth in Alameda County in which foster care graduates can live in subsidized housing for a period of time as they make the transition to adulthood. I would suggest helping this young person contact the county agency that placed him or her for a referral to such a program. There are not enough of these programs out there, but Alameda County is one of the better ones.

Best of luck!

Also, some colleges will offer scholarhships to foster care kids. I would suggest exploring private as well as public colleges and universities. Sometimes private schools can offer financial aid to such students to make it possible and sometimes smaller schools can offer more of the intensive, personalized experience that might help such a young person to thrive.

Having an adult out there who is interested in helping the young person navigate this sometimes bewildering world is a huge help. Bravo to you for stepping up! Sabrina

I have no experience with the aforementioned topic, but I did see a show on PBS called AGING OUT. I bet if you went to the PBS website, you could find out how to get a copy of it. It was pretty frightening, and leads me to believe that if you can stay in this teen's life, things will be much much better for the teen. Leslie

Several people in my office are involved with an agency called First Place Fund for Youth that does exactly what you are asking about. Here is the link to their website: barbara

I would first of all like to thank you for taking an interest in this young adult's life. Every child in foster care needs a concerned adult who can support and advocate for them.I am a child welfare worker at Alameda County Social Services. It is very important that she talk with her Child Welfare Worker and find out what her options are. The foster care system is very complex but generally if a foster child is attending High School and will graduate by the time they are 19 they are allowed to continue to receive foster care payment and remain in their current placement. There is also another very important service available for foster youth. It is called the Independent Living Skills Program, this program provides teens with the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for independent living. Helping them with computer training and provides them with a computer, helps them with information about grants and scholarships for college (there are special scholarships designated for foster youth) budgeting, finding an apartment etc. They can be reached at 434-3333. They also have a website at you need any further information please contact me.Please keep in touch with this young adult and continue to advocate for her, you really are making a difference in her life. Sheila

Children are not dropped from responsibility of social services the minute they turn 18. This girl's social worker should be working with her on a transition plan. Children can remain in the ''system'' after they're 18 to insure that there is a plan for their early adulthood so they have shelter and a means of support. ASP

You and your friend should contact First Place Fund for Youth. It's a wonderful organization based in Oakland that helps young people 16-23 transition from foster care to living independently. They offer all kinds of programs, including assistance with housing & employment. Their website is very informative and a good place to start for information

Have her contact First Place Fund for Youth ( a non-profit in Oakland that serves kids aging out of foster care. She may qualify for their program, or they may at least be able to advise her about her options. Her social worker and attorney (she should have both, if she's still in foster care) should also be working with her to set up plans for what to do after her 18th birthday, but the options are often pretty limited. -Someone who has worked in the system

The First Place Fund for Youth is a local non-profit organization whose sole mission is to address this issue. Find them at: anon