Foster adoption going through an agency vs. the county


My husband and I are considering growing our family through foster adoption. There seems to be quite a few agencies out there. I've taken a look at previous advice threads here and I haven't seen one that answered this question yet (or maybe I missed it). 

Is it better to go through an agency or go through the county directly? Any thoughts on pros and cons regarding either path to foster adoption would be appreciated.

Would also appreciate any thoughts on the foster adopt agencies in Alameda county.

Thanks so much.

M & M

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Congrats on your decision to grow your family! I'm a single gay man and I adopted my son using the foster adoption system and went through Family Builders in Oakland. I had an amazing experience. They have a free info session to answer basic questions and they have an amazing team of social workers to support you at every step in your journey. My son came into my care 11 years ago and they still offer support and resources long after the adoption was completed. Family Builders is funded through donations and grants so there is no cost to perspective parents and they match perspective parents of every background and configuration with foster kids from a variety of backgrounds, ages and circumstances. I'm happy to chat with you about my experience if it would be helpful. Either way, I would start with their free info session. I hope that helps and good luck on your journey!

Congratulations, it is wonderful decision and I wish you the best of luck. I would definitely go through the county if you want to have more options (for example, if you are interested in 0-2 year old range, it’s much harder to get a placement through an agency like Family Builders). I switched over to Alameda county after getting discouraged with a long wait with an agency.  As soon as I switched over and was licensed, I started getting phone calls for placements immediately. Hope that helps!

This may have changed in the past five years (I certainly hope so) but the agencies all had different rates that they paid the foster families. All the agencies paid families higher rates than the county. I get that you're not in it for the money, but this is the Bay Area and a higher monthly check may help. It was explained to me that it depended on when the agency signed the contract with the county. There can be unanticipated costs - lots of trips to doctors, therapists, or family visits that cut into your work time (or make it hard to cook dinner and you would like to be able to pick up take out). 

An agency means that you have two sets of social workers, the agency worker and the county worker. They're supposed to be additional support and I always felt that anyone who wanted to check on a kid was a good thing. But, it's a lot of visits and sometimes different (not contradictory) rules and expectations. There was an agency that always checked that we had ice (a cocktail emergency? I never understood but knew that too many questions can be interpreted as non-compliant). 

I was told that the county had first access as kids enter the system and more complex cases were given to the agencies but every person I asked once we were involved in foster care didn't agree. The one thing that is absolutely true is that foster care is one of the most clearly racially-driven systems you will see. Little blonde boy who is demonstrating massive challenges? Was placed while we were still figuring out how to decline gracefully. Black boys, especially, with no apparent challenges are much harder to place. 

We chose an agency because the training times were more convenient. I would probably go with an agency again but I'd have to think about it. I think the workers had smaller case loads and a little more time (more frequent visits, for sure) but I never really had any workers that were particularly helpful with resources or anything. I found Headstart on my own. Every other parenting resource myself. There were foster parent groups through the agency but we couldn't do another meeting. Maybe that would have been a good resource.

The county is your best bet. All foster agencies have to contract through the County.  The County of Alameda is the best way to foster adopt. Good luck, I have been a SW and  Foster Parent.

A friend of mine was a foster mom for many years in the 1990s and early 2000s. She told me that fostering children helps out families in crisis. Some people don't consider this and think that they can adopt a child through fostering. It is possible however it is not the goal. The goal is family reunification.

With this in mind, there is an interesting and eye-opening conversation on a Facebook group called Being Neighborly: North Oakland. Two or three people who were adopted shared their experiences and perspectives along with suggestions on ethical adoption agencies.  Search the words "adoption agency."

Also, you may want to look agencies that have Open Adoptions. This option allows birth parent(s) to be part of the child's life in as much or as little as the adoptive and birth parent(s) agree to. No mysteries on medical history. The child can ask questions when older. It's something worth considering IMHO.