Foster/Adopt through the County

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    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

    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.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Waited 2 years to adopt through Contra Costa County - support groups?

April 2014

Does anyone know of an active, adoptive parents group in the East Bay for domestic adoptions? I've searched online and have found no active groups. Since we're doing foster to adopt through Contra Costa County, we do not have the support of an agency as we wait for our second child. We've been waiting about two years now and it would be great to talk with others like us. We're not sure whether we should continue to wait with the county, or start over with an agency. We had one failed placement last December (reunification just before the child was due to come to us) and we declined another placement because of concerns about how the new child's trauma would affect our daughter.

The county knows we're tired of waiting. Our worker thinks we should wait a bit longer, and that they will charge about $2400 to release our home study. Is it worth it, or do we ditch that home study and start from square one again? Any insight is appreciated. Thanks. Loni

There are a couple of resources that may be useful to you. PACT is an organization that supports families with adopted children of color. They also act as an adoption agency. They have regular gatherings and classes, which is a good way to meet others. Most of the families that I know through PACT have adopted through private adoption rather than through the foster system. Their website is

Peggy Pearson works with the Center for Vulnerable Child at Children's Hospital she runs a support group and a lecture series, both take place 2x per month. I believe her programs are open to everyone. I don't think there is a website for her program, but I could forward you a flier.

As far as what you should do, only you can answer that. I have a friend that successfully adopted through Contra Costa County about 4 years ago. They did have a really rough time with lots of waiting. No adoption path is generally easy and fost-adopt is generally harder than private adoptions. My friend said he would be willing to talk with you if you'd like to send me an email. My husband and I initially worked with an FFA and were dissatisfied for a number of reasons. We had one placement that we disrupted and became certified with Alameda County. We have been much happier working with Alameda County, but have still been upset by how deeply flawed the whole system is. We did meet one family from Contra Costa that were becoming certified with Alameda County. I don't remember what exactly there story was, though.

We were on the emergency placement list for children under 2 and immediately started getting calls to pick children up. Often there would be several calls per week. We picked my daughter up from the hospital when she was 3 days old, and adopted her when she was 17 months. That is relatively short for an adoption through the foster system, but there were some bumpy spots including several weeks that we thought she was going to be moved to a biological relative. We are considering more children and will likely avoid emergency placement until our daughter is older. In the meantime, we are considering getting on their adoption-only list, which would mean much more waiting. DT

Hi there, Your posting had a lot in it- stay with the county or switch agencies, waiting too long for a ''match'', and not getting the support you feel you need/want from the county. I completed my adoption through the foster-adopt process. I did start with an ''agency'' but left them after I felt that they were not treating me well. I then went to the county and felt so, so much better regarding the process and their ability to ''match'' me with a child. In fact when I disclosed that I had completed the training with an agency and what happened to me, they vowed that I would not be treated or perceived the same way by them and they made me feel comfortable and wanted. The county is the gatekeeper of all children available for either foster or foster-adopt. Many agencies who do foster adoption placement must go through the county and those relationships are sometimes strong, and sometimes not so strong. Their access to children can be limited and takes much longer. I was lucky for I my case worker looking out for me, and a person in licensing took a ''liking'' to me and would call me about a child she heard about. (And that was not her job). So I had two county workers helping me out. I did eventually match and it was within six months of the completion of my home study. And yes, I found support from the others in my class and county social workers.

In response to your ''waiting too long'' I am guessing that you have very clear ideas as to what type of child you would like to join your family.As you've said you did match but turned down the placement. Only you know your family dynamics and I hope were honest when you said no to t he child. I feel that no matter who you work with - county or agency the longer your ''list'' of ''must haves'' the longer it will take to find the ''match.''

In closing I say have a good talk with your case worker and ask them what do you need to do to have your home study ''stand out'' more. I had a friend who had her home study rewritten and once that happened, she did match with a girl who had 5-6 families competing for her. Also re-think your ''list'' (and most foster- adoptive families have one). I have a co-worker who had very specific ''must haves and must not haves'' and their home study was never chosen by the child's case work and they never did match. And yes, they went through one of the area agencies. When I suggested to them that maybe they should go through the county, they didn't want to go that path (since they heard negative things about working directly with a county). Good luck which ever way you go. It will work out. County adoption mom

Hi Loni, There are two really great groups which you might want to check out. FAIR (Families Adopting In Response) is on the peninsula, but they have families from around the Bay Area, mostly public domestic adoptions, and could probably put you in touch with another family. Pact is an East Bay agency which facilitates adoptions (i.e. private) but again, lots of their families have done adoptions from the public system also.

I'm sorry about the failed adoption, especially after waiting for so long. It's such a roller coaster of emotion for families, and unconscionable when there are so many children stuck in the system. We adopted our second child over 10 years ago through fost-adopt (SF County) and had similar concerns re: the uncertainty of the process and how it would affect our first (adopted internationally), who was just under two at the time. Definitely a very important issue. We were only willing to accept a situation with very low risk of reunification.

I wonder if an agency like ASK which works with other county systems (Alameda, that I know of) would allow an outside family to attend any of their groups. We used Future Families in SF, and were part of a support group of waiting parents. been there

Foster/Adoption from Alameda or San Francisco County

Jan 2012

My husband and I are considering long-term foster/adoption from Alameda County or San Francisco County. We attended an orientation for a placement agency and the theme throughout their presentation was ''its incredibly hard - kids from foster care need extraordinary amounts of patience and support- but with faith in God and love you'll do fine'', which is a bit too vague for me. (We also learned that placement agencies are paid by the state for each child they place with a family, so they have an inherent incentive to get kids placed.) Before we go forward, I'd like a little more detailed parent perspective on what we might experience/need if we adopt/foster a child who is in the social service system.

I read through the archives but most of the discussion there involved folks who had recently foster/adopted. I'd love to hear from folks who are five to ten years out after bringing a child into their family - looking back, what do you think about your decision to go this route? Do you think the agency you worked with helped ensure a good match and provided real support when you needed it? If you adopted a child with ''special needs,'' as most in the system are, were these needs fairly manageable or did they take extraordinary effort/place significant stress on your family?

Thank you, in advance, for sharing your honest perspectives! Interested in foster/adopt

We have been working with Family Builders in Oakland. They are contracted with SF to place all of their foster kids in permanent homes as well as working with other counties around the state. Yes, they are paid to help these kids get homes. This is why, you, the parent, don't have to pay. It is in everyone's best interest to place children, especially the children. The process is hard, in our case super hard. Not because of the child but the system. Our child is wonderful, smart, funny and resiliant. Family Builders did a great job of helping us with the matching process. Our needs were very clear and many as we already had a child. They continue to be available and supportive regularly. Yes, it is hard and I am sure some kids are really difficult but you can set limits regarding what you can and cannot handle and make those clear to your agency. Stick to those limits and your agency should be able to support you. Good Luck! another fost/adopt parent

I would recommend that you avoid working directly with the county, as the support is often minimal!! Have you looked into other agencies? Kinship Center is nationally known for excellent foster care/adoption work and they have recently merged with another excellent local agency called Seneca Center. or I can put you in touch with the program directors if you are interested, just contact me directly. Jen

In 2010, we suddenly became foster parents of a 12-year-old boy we knew who was removed from his home by CPS. He had experienced years of neglect and abuse and will not be returning to his bio parents' home. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I've done a lot of hard things. I was not prepared for how hard it is. I do not have a thick skin, I had not advocated for someone with special needs before, and my social services agency (San Francisco County) provides only what I badger them for. To be fair, they've coughed up a fair amount, mostly in funding for what our son needs, but they're not there for emotional or technical support at all. Forget it. I'm lucky if I even get good social work assistance to solve our practical problems. I am my own social worker .

With my husband unavailable during the workday, I'm the one responsible for all the appointments with counselor, tutors, social worker, orthodontist, doctor/dentist, teachers. My baseline right now is 4 appointments/week. That doesn't even sound that bad, but the whole reason we have most of these appointments is because I went holy cow, what is happening with this kid? And then started asking questions and got neurological testing and a major psychological assessment and then researched how to get a really good psychologist, and then asked the school what kind of help they could provide and fumbled my way through some terrible 504 meetings, etc etc etc. It's confusing from every direction. Why is my kid exhibiting these behaviors? What is the best way to address them? What resources are available? How willing am I to keep pushing the bureaucracy?

It took me 25+ phone calls to get a new psychologist, and 25+ calls to get a local orthodontist (so we didn't have to make a 3-hr round trip to the one social services wanted). I got a lot of push back and irritated people in the process and questioned if I was doing the right thing in seeking services.

But the hardest part is coping with a kid who has nightmares, who is panicked by a knock on the door, who has a meltdown over even being asked what his homework is, who doesn't speak to you for three weeks because he's always angry. My two biological kids did not prepare me for this. The last person I dealt with who was this hard is now an ex-husband.

Yes, it's rewarding. Yes, I know I'm doing something good. I have seen great progress in our son in 16 months. There are a few times/week that I like him and see the good man he can become. And I've made personal progress too. I have a thicker skin, something I've always needed.

You can ask the moderator for my email address. If you want to chat. doing better, still so hard

Two must-have resources:

''Another Place at the Table,'' by Kathy Harrison.

Don't get started until you check these out. experienced foster parent

Check out Friends of a friend adopted 3 children through them and have had a very positive experience. AASK provides a lot of on-going support. They have orientation meetings--no pressure. We also attended one of their parents and kids gatherings. We were able to meet and socialize casually with people several years into the adoption, while watching the kids play with each other and interact with their parents, which was pretty wonderful. I was very impressed with the staff and with the people we met. We have put our own Foster/adoption plans on hold for now due to other factors, but I'd feel comfortable working with them. --Good Luck

Friends of friends adopted 3 children through Adopt A Special Kid (AASK). We attended an orientation session and a parents/kids gathering. I was very impressed with them and the support they offer. --Good Luck

I fost-adopted two children through Alameda county, both with in-utero (multiple) drug exposure; my older son almost 9 years ago and my younger son 5 years ago. I too was really put off by the initial orientation, but moved ahead anyway, and I am SO HAPPY I did! I had a social worker I liked and trusted. I was open to age and gender, but I was very honest about what would be a good fit for me and what I could and couldn't handle. From my experience, I found the social workers very helpful and responsive. I've made life long friends with some of the families who were in my adoption class.

Both my boys were developmentally on target and are doing very well. Both are very high energy (but not ADHD). My older son has been found to have visual and auditory processing deficits which means he struggles with reading and some school work, but he is fully engaged, loves sports and has lots of friends. My younger son is also doing very well. I brought both boys home as infants.

With that said, I do know of a couple of families who adopted when I did and their children have struggled with some issues related to attachment disorder. Each child is different and having kids is always a risk, no matter how you do it. I am still eligible for intervention services if the boys need it until they turn 18. I encourage you to build your family this way. There are so many wonderful children waiting for a forever home! happy (but tired) mama

Hi! We adopted from Alameda County fost adopt 12 years ago. Our son was fostered for 2 years before the process was finalized. It took us a long time to get a child placed with us. We had a bio boy and wanted a girl, but at that time we were told that almost all of the children available were boys - that girls were seen as easier and were more likely to be taken in by family members. We might have gotten a child sooner if we had pushed for it harder - squeaky wheel gets the grease and all. Same with the process in getting it finalized - probably could have had the adoption finalized earlier if we had thought that was important. He is 14 now, 2 when we got him. There have been some minor issues - minor to me, maybe they would be major to someone else. If you want more, I could give you lots. Ours was a transracial adoption as well. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. Eden

Hi, I am a single parent and I adopted my son through Alameda County 7.5 years ago. I begin the process with a non- governmental agency, but we were not a good ''match.'' I did have some bumps, but almost every person I know who adopted -open, international, domestic, fost/adop, etc. experienced some kind of bureaucratic ''bump.''

Here are my honest answers to your questions: 1.)The non- governmental agency I went to first was very cold and distant. and preferred to work with either bi-racial couples, gay couples, and/or Caucasians only. (I'm none of those). 2)Alameda County did a great job with training and support before and during the process. The ''bumps'' were corrected within a reasonable amount of time. 3.)You can match with a child from another county, and you will need to factor in time traveling to visit them. The younger the child, the shorter the pre-placement visits. Older children, pre-placement is longer to make transitioning easier. 4.)Be clear on what type of child you want to raise but do know that the more narrower your wants are, you might have to wait longer. Age, race, sex, drug/alcohol exposure, behaviors, all should be thought about long and hard. Be realistic. Think hard and long about your current lifestyle, family community, etc and how it has to change to accommodate a chid. 5.)If the child has siblings and the goal is to keep the siblings in contact with each other then you will need to make that happen. If you aren't willing to do this, then tell the case worker this right away. 6.) The Home Study is crucial and be very real when it is done. Don't create personas that are fake; social/case workers can ''smell'' a made up lifestyle in a nano second.7.) Only surround yourself with people who will fully support you while going through the process. Folks will will shake your confidence and make you question your beliefs and committment. Create a strong, caring, and lovig village early on.

My son has special needs and learning differences. You work a little harder to get them services and the stress might be a little more, but it is no different if you gave birth to the child. Some needs are not readily seen or identified until the child is older. Not every child exposed to alcohol and/or drugs have special needs. The childrent are not ''damaged'' and had nothing to do with what happened to them before they were born.

Keep asking questions. These are my views and experiences. Kim

We fostered two older children through an agency that many people recommend on BPN. We planned to adopt, but we just couldn't handle the older of the two girls.

We are currently Alameda County foster parents and we could not be happier about it. We have an almost-1-year-old baby that we picked up at 3 days old from the hospital. We love her more than anything. We have access to as much support as we need, but we aren't overwhelmed by the demands that the agency put on us. The process hasn't been completely smooth...we believe the system has a lot of problems, but in the end it seems to be working out. We expect our adoption to be final in May or June.

Although we were wowed by the agency at the orientation, we would not recommend them today. We found their certification process and communication style to be patronizing, yet we have always felt completely respected by our county workers. The agency required 2 additional visits per month. Like a previous poster stated, all the appointments were really overwhelming. On our worst week, we had 10 appointments. On our best week, we had 4. Our average was probably around 6.

Find out if the agency that you are considering has full-time social workers. If they are part-time, they will likely take longer to get you ''support'' than a county social worker. We often felt our needs were time-sensitive. By the time our social worker was back at work, we had already tracked our own resources down. The social workers often can't tell you much more than google can.

Beware of considering children that aren't local (which is what many agencies handle). We were required to visit several times a week before they moved in with us. They also did one visit to our home. That was about 8 trips to AND from (about 30 hours in the car within 1 month) Plus we were required to drive back for monthly visits. It made an already stressful situation even worse.

Also understand that many agencies only work with children that were not be placed into county-certified homes. They are harder to place children because they are more difficult for whatever reason.

If you do end up in matching with a child, become very familiar with attachment problems and what they look like for parents. Then, learn about the factors that lead to attachment problems. I learned the hard way that it is no fun to parent a child that behaves as though they hate you all the time. AND it is terrible feeling to know that you have contributed to that child's lack of permanency. Decide what you can handle. Do not believe what a social worker tells you about a child's ability to attach. They may not know, they may lie or they may blame previous parents for the child's behavior.

Best of luck! anon

Foster adopt through Alameda County - longer term outcomes

Jan 2011

Hello, I'm interested in talking with other people who have gone through the foster adopt process in Alameda, and hearing your good, bad, or mixed experiences. I've already read all the past postings on BPN on the subject, and am looking for more information. I'm particularly interested in talking with folks who are at least 3-5 years (or more) out from their adoption, and/or those who have adopted substance-exposed infants, as I'm learning as much as I can about the long-term (e.g. past the age of 3) outcomes/challenges. I would love to either hear about your experiences. Thank you so much! S

Both of my boys were adopted through Alameda county as infants and both were exposed in-utero to drugs (meth, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana). I'd say their long-term outcomes have been wonderful. They have both been developmentally on target since they were babies. They are 8 and 4 years old. They both are bright, loving, high energy. They both excell at physical activities. The older one is struggling with reading but has made great advances. I don't attribute his reading skills with his drug exposure (I think it is a boy thing and that the schools have pushed the curriculum for reading down to the first grade and lots of kids aren't ready for it). One is a drama queen and the other is rough and tumble (and has advanced language and fine motor skills). So what is just temperment and character and who they are and what might be due to their exposures? I may never know. I do know a 12 year old boy who is doing great and had a very rough start with being born drug dependent. I know of other kids who weren't drug exposed but are struggling with the after- effects of attachment disorder. In the end, they are your kids and you love them and you deal with whatever they are going through. All of us have something - it's the human condition; shyness, ADHD, autism, etc. Don't let your worries stop you from pursuing adoption. The world is a better place when we care for all the children. anon

Hi, I'd be more than happy to help you sift through the pros and cons (joys and stresses) of the foster-adopt process and the experience of ultimately raising a child from ''The System.'' I have a unique, multi-layered perspective on this topic as I am a family therapist with many, many years of clinical experience working with kids and adolescents who were adopted out of the foster care system (and their parents!), and I am also a foster-adoptive mother myself.

I adopted my son 12 years ago. Our story, along with many of the stories of my client's, is long, complicated and mixed with trials and tribulations. I'm so glad to wrote in to ask for more info as this type of info really is important to make a decision from the most informed position as possible. Very smart to do this now.

There is so much content to share, that it would be best to interact more directly via email or perhaps meet in person. Despite the fact that my business is to be an advocate for and support to families considering, in, or post the process of adopting, I'd be happy to meet with you without charge to share with you the info I know about this important but complicated process.

Feel free to contact me so we can have a more in depth conversation about this. Maria

We are also considering foster/adoption (and have read all of the BPN archived posts.) I have also noticed that there seems to be many stories here and elsewhere from parents who recently adopted (within a year of adoption), but not many stories from the perspective of several years post adoption. (In particular I am interested in hearing about early adolescence.) So, thank you for asking this question and I hope lots of folks post responses! -- Also Exploring Adoption

I wish someone had explained to me 9 years ago the impact of attachment disorder that many adopted children suffer from. It makes it very difficult for them especially as they get requires an incredible commitment and understanding from the adoptive parents. You may want to check out a book called ''Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control'' by H. Forbes. It will help you to understand what you are getting into. ANON

Adoption through Alameda County

May 2010

I have 2 children ages 9 and 7 and am considering adopting a child. Is there anyone out there who's had experience with adoptions through Alameda County? I'm not sure how to begin this process and would love to hear from any families who adopted through the county or became foster parents, particularly those who have adopted or fostered after having their own children. Pitfalls? Did you opt for an infant or an older child? Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thanks. Amber

I adopted through SF County but Family Builders By Adoption would be a good organization for you to contact-- they are in Oakland and place kids from all of the California counties with families in in the Bay Area. Social workers who were knowledgeable about kids and the foster system along with knowing many adoptive families with kids of all ages helped me a lot through the process, and Family Builders should get you good information and connections with all of this. My kid is lovely and I wish you the best. Happy adoptive mama

My wife and I went through the Alameda country fost-adopt program. We found the training program very useful. We took on a 3 year old girl whose mother was unable to care for her due to drug addiction, and whose father was in jail. After about a year, when all the paperwork was done, we adopted her. There are a lot of emotional transitions for a child being adopted, and there are also some for the new parents. With a birth child you will be often amazed by the personality quirks that you or your spouse share with the child. With an adopted child this is less likely. If a birth child has a learning difficulty, you may deal with it more emotionally cleanly. With am adopted child you may want to blame their early upbringing or drug exposure. As the child grows they will wonder about their birth parents, and when they are 18, they are likely to want to look for them, which might cause you some stress. So with an adoption, some emotional complexity is almost guaranteed. With a birth child, you may have it or may not. We certainly know plenty of families that are having more difficulty parenting their birth child than we are having with our adopted child. Recommend adopting through Alameda County

We're fostering to adopt through Alameda County. Call the adoptions number 510.268.2444, attend orientation, then training, and you're on your way.

In our experience, the orientation & training try to scare off the faint of heart. You can adopt young children through foster care, have a normal life while you do this, but you have to navigate the process alone. We've had a positive experience, most of the child welfare workers we've worked with were great, adoption homestudy worker was awesome and finished everything very quickly.

PRIDE training is interesting & useful, better than expected, worthwhile even if you don't go through the county. They focus on children's behavior, but we found it more difficult to work with the agency; our foster children have not been esp. challenging.

You can foster, or ask for adoptive placement of a legally free or almost legally free child. Alameda County doesn't have a separate fost-adopt track. If you foster, as you will be strongly encouraged to do, no worker will help you decide which placements to take, or the level of risk of a placement.

Once licensed, you may be offered your 1st placement in a month or less. It's fairly common for newborns to enter care when they are born drug positive. We don't have experience with older kids as all have been under 1 year. (Seems to not be revealed in training)

A placement worker will try HARD to get you take placements, cute & healthy baby! parents are VERY unstable & maybe not able to reunify! better come pick them up right now! another family is being considered, must be placed by 4pm! You have to guess about risk yourself- placement with relatives/siblings & reunification. You can try to get more information from the placement worker, stall for time, and be picky.

Our case may take 2 years or more to be finalized. We are at 15 months many court dates postponed, meanwhile bioparents situation has turned around several times. It is a rollercoaster. Before fostering, we had only heard from people who adopted 1st placements in a fairly short time, maybe we are on the difficult end of the range.

Our 6-year old bio child has been fine, knows the facts and what might happen in the future, been through 2 reunifications,has met the children's bio parents, has handled uncertainty well, hopes we can adopt our current foster child, and is ready to try again if not.

The forums at are good: Anon

We have adopted two children in Alameda County. Our first was through the county. The process, even though the workers were wonderful, was isolating and long. Our second child was adopted with the help of Family Builders in Oakland. The process for our second child's adoption was much easier, less stressful, and quicker. Our home study took months instead of two years for our first daughter. Once our second child was in our home, we did foster/adoption, our social worker visited our family frequently... she returned calls promptly... she also was knowledgeable. Family Builders made a great effort to support new and returning families. I would highly recommend them.


Adopting a third child through the County

Sept 2009

I want to hear some positive OR negative- truthfulness is best. My husband and I are interested in adopting a baby girl through social services of Alameda County. We have 2 biological boy's Ages 5 & 2. And anytime we tell anyone we want to adopt they first say WHY, and then they tell us a horror story of someone they knew/know that adopted and the child is/was a terror. Not sure why that is, but would like some insight into this. Would love to meet with anyone to meet your family if you are open to that to. Would love to hear about the process of adoption and hear how the child is doing, whatever age. thanks so much.

I adopted through San Francisco County and had a fairly easy adoption process with my son, who is thriving. The dailiness of being a parent--as you know as a parent of two already-took over pretty rapidly and for me, knowing my kid over time has made a huge difference. I am struck by how many people are still quick to share every horror story they have ever heard about adoption with me. I have never been pregnant but I think it's pretty much not standard etiquette for strangers to approach pregnant women with miscarriage stories, or to tell parents of teenagers every teen fatality story they have ever heard.

It helped me A LOT to know other adoptive parents adopted kids of all ages as I was going through the process. Again, my son is happy and healthy. Please remember that so many kids in California are at risk of growing up in the foster system, so don't rule out adoption based only on horror stories. I'd be happy to contact you directly too. Happy adoptive mama

I have two boys both adopted through Alameda County's Fost/Adopt Program. They are now 2 years old and 6 years old and I brought them home at 3 weeks old and 5 months old, respectively. I had GREAT experiences with both. The first time it seemed like a long wait, but I trusted my social worker - it's important to have a good relationship with your worker - and I made friends with several of the families in our class, and we are still friends and support for each other.

Have you read the BPN archives? There are many positive posts about adopting throught the county, and I've posted a few times previously myself about my experience. In the end I realize that any way you have a child it is a worrisome and anxious time. I believe that adopting through the county is the way to go. No or very little cost, many wonderful needy children and you have a very thorough history of the child - not so with international adoptions. My good friends adopted a 5 year old who had been in many foster homes and she is a great girl. My boys both were exposed to drugs in-utero and both were born with very minimal problems and both are now thriving.

Trust your heart and go for it! we are family

I'm sorry to hear that people have been giving you that response when you talk about public adoption! You're right to seek out information from experienced families.

I recommend that you look into working with an agency that helps place kids in foster care with adoptive families (Adopt A Special Kid (AASK), Family Builders, A Better Way). I've known some families who worked directly with the county and others, like mine, who worked with an agency. On the whole, I think an agency will give you more support through the process. AASK always has experienced families come into the trainings to talk, and they'll connect you with a 'buddy family' as well.

The best book about adoption I've come across is called The Family of Adoption, by Joyce Maguire Pavao. I highly recommend reading it as early in your process as possible.

As for insight into the special issues for families who have a mix of children born into the family and adopted, you might look into a volunteer-run organization called FAIR (Families Adopting in Response) -- A number of the group's founders have families like that.

My child, who is now 10, came to us through foster care when she was five years old. She's had more than her fair share of challenges, but I wouldn't have created our family in any other way! Proud adoptive mother

My husband and I also adopted childen through foster-adopt. And wouldn't have it any other way. Both our social worker and the county social worker that was assigned to the kids were amazing. We get access to resources that are unbelieveable. The kids do have issues to deal with (who wouldn't after being in multiple homes for years), but I find for the most part we are dealing with the same day to day parental challenges that every other parents faces. During the foster adopt process, you have a lot of 'control,' which most people don't realize. You decide how much legal risk you want to take on, the age of the children you're interested in, the type of emotional and/or physical ailments that you think are realistic for your family to help overcome, etc. Alison

Have you adopted through Alameda County?

June 2009

I want to meet some families who have adopted through the foster to adopt process through Alameda County. I am starting the process and would like to hear your stories possibly meet you and your family if you are open to that. Good or bad stories I want to hear them, give me any advice to go through this process. Also if anyone can recommend any good books to read about the process for that would be much appreciated. Thanks so much anon

We adopted our daughter as an infant 12 years ago through Alameda County Foster/Adopt program. We had a great experience. ann

Congratulations! And do try to remember that while much about the fost/adopt system can be scary, intimidating, slow, frustrating, etc., NOTHING is more fun than laughing with your kid! I adopted through San Francisco County so my specific details, references, etc. are less useful maybe--but do remember that you are preparing to provide a loving and permanent home to kid who, frankly, does not have one now. My experience has been wonderful--not uncomplicated, but wonderful. Pact has excellent reading lists, many about transracial adoption and attachment in kids of different ages--attachment stuff looks different depending upon the age of the child you're planning to adopt. I loved Barbara Katz Rothman's book Weaving a Family-- a great book about white parents adopting African American children, and honest about race in a way that I find rare. Also A Child's Journey through Placement--a good book about how children see the system. I wish you the best! Grateful adoptive mama

We've been in fost adopt process through Alameda County since November, and would be happy to talk to you. We haven't adopted yet, though and you are looking to talk to families who have. The one thing I wish I'd known is that there isn't really a separate fostadopt program in our county. You become a foster family just like foster only families. Every child in foster care has some possibility of becoming free for adoption, and it is up to you as the foster family to decide whether you want to take any placement offered to you. Stacie

We adopted through Alameda county social services. The experience was mixed. Email me directly for more info. E

I recently adopted my son through the Alameda County foster to adopt system. I would be happy to discuss my experience (a very good, very fast and very successful experience all around!). Please feel free to email me. Jennifer

If your goal is to adopt, not foster, I advise you check out one of the local foster family non-profits who focus on helping families adopt. Alameda County is mostly focused on finding placements for kids, then maybe you can adopt if that is the path the kid in your care takes, but agencies like Adopt A Special Kid (AASK) or A Better Way are more there to advocate for families and help you if adoption is your goal and then your adoptive kid could come from Alameda county or any other county in the state. Also-the adoption assistance payment subsidy you get will be higher (to meet your kids needs til they are 18). just my 2 cents


Planning to adopt through the Foster Care system

Jan 2008

My husband and I are planning to adopt an infant or up to 3, 4 years-old child through the Foster Care system. Some of our friends are so negative and judgmental about the children in the Foster Care system being a ''crack baby'' with severe mental/physical problems with their parent/parents being incarcerated!!! I am sure there are many cases like that but we keep telling the friends not all children are like that and it's really case by case. I would very much appreciate if anyone who is raising a child adopted through Foster Care system could share her/his experiences with me. Thank you so much in advance! MST

I am sorry some of your friends are so misinformed about adoption and are trying to scare you. My two bright, caring, fun, strong, developmentally on target children, ages almost 5 years old and 10 months old, were both adopted through Alameda County's fost/adopt program. My experience was very positive, even when it seemed to be taking a long time. Both of my children were exposed to drugs in-utero. Both have overcome their rocky starts and are thriving. No baby is a ''crack/drug baby''. Babies do not take drugs. Some are exposed to drugs in- utero. Cocaine, meth, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine...

There are many wonderful children waiting for adoption. Some have had a tough start. Most are amazingly resilient. If you adopt through the County you will know the child's background, health, and life experiences up to that point. The social workers work hard to make the right match. I know several families who have gone through the foster/adopt program. My children are eligible for a full array of support services offered through the County if they have a need up to age 18. It's free, it's local and it's a wonderful way to build your family. I encourage you to do it! anon

I'd love to talk with you about this. I adopted my daughter from the foster care system 7 years ago, and have many friends who've also adopted through the system. Please feel free to e-mail me and we can set up a time to talk. Robin

I have taught several students in foster care and loved them. They were loving and bright and their parents were the ones with issues. I would suggest talking to your case worker about what you can handle. m

My husband and I are currently foster parents for a 4 1/2 mo old boy we hope to adopt. We were matched with him when he was 2 weeks old through Children and Family Services in CoCo Cty. We were expecting a toddler and were shocked to hear they had a newborn for us. He was exposed to opiates prenatally and spent 5 weeks in the hospital detoxing. And at this point you'd never know it. He's on target developmentally and a real gem! We had checked out about 5 different agencies in the Bay Area and were told a 3 year old was the youngest we could expect to be matched with. We have definitely had a very positive experience with County services which has exceeded our expectations. They have been thorough in their training, home visits, meetings, support... and we feel so lucky to have our little guy. And as a social worker, I feel the ''crack baby'' myth is just that. I've seen a lot of kids born to my patients/clients who have been exposed to drugs of varying degrees, alcohol being the worst, but kids can catch up developmentally. A lot of other environmental factors can lend to positive development, such as a stable, loving home free of stress and anxiety. Not to sugarcoat drug exposure, but kids can be resilient. k

Before you adopt, become the child's defacto parent. Adoption agencies have no reason to disclose the real history of the child to you because you may change your mind. As a defacto parent, you can go and see and read the county reports on how the child ended up in the foster care system. Even if you are not challenged by the county reports, spend some time looking up what ''attachments disorders'' are and if possible talk with a family that has such a child that is not connected with your agency. Many of these families will be single parent households. anon

Hi. My husband and I adopted a little girl through the foster care system. (Alameda county) She was 3 mos. when she came to us and was formally adopted at 14 months. We also got the comments about ''drug babies, crack babies'' etc. I didn't care what anyone said. I wanted to adopt and that's just the way it was. Our daughter was exposed to cocaine and probably alcohol. (usually the drugs and alcohol go hand in hand) She had tremors for about 4 months or so and stiffness in her legs but nothing too dramatic. She was ''feisty'' from babyhood and is now more difficult. She has ADHD type behaviors and gives us (mainly me, now) many trying moments but I wouldn't trade her for the world. I would like to speak to you in person if that's possible, or through email if you'd like. Kathy

I am a child psychologist experienced in working with foster children of various ages. Some things to keep in mind when thinking about adopting a foster child: a child's experiences from birth to three--particularly experiences of (or lack of) relationsips with others--essentially form the building blocks of personality development. All of the children in foster care have suffered an indescribable loss and varying degrees of trauma. Some have had more support than others. Some may naturally be more resilient. Helping these children work through their losses and grow into happy, healthy adults takes extraordinary parenting--not impossible but difficult at times. A.

We have a foster kid who is still a ''[low] risk of reunification.'' (What a term, given that foster care is supposed to encourage reunification!) You can say you only want legally free kids. Ours was drug-exposed at birth (that's how most newborns enter the system). We changed in the process about what we would consider. We have also met attitudes that we were going to get a kid with problems. Maybe most annoying are the people who say we're wonderful and what a amazing job we've done (the kid's developed! Age-appropriately! Great parenting!)

When you fost/adopt you get a lot of information before you even meet a kid. We even talked with the current foster parents of several kids.

It's nice to know (although you wouldn't do it casually) that if a foster kid's a bad fit for your family you don't have to move forward with adoption.

Don't freak out too much about having birth parents locally - be open to keeping contact. It can be easier to talk about birth parents as actual people that they know (when that's possible).

You should spend time with people who support your decision. We have a friend whose birth son has issues (always good to remember it happens with bio kids, too) and who adores our kid. We spend more time with her and less with the folks who looked like they thought our kid was contagious.

Fost/adopt is the cheapest way to have a kid. You get a monthly stipend until the adoption is finalized (it doesn't cover all the kid-costs, but still). MediCal continues until they're 18. It's what universal health care is like -- hand over the card and no co-pays, bills, nothing. It has made it easier to spend money on other kid-resources without stretching ourselves.

We are happy to tell you everything we've figured out about FSA agencies, the county, and what we wished we knew when we started. It's not without its bureaucracy -- but less than a private or international adoption.

If you'd like to meet a foster kid (who was held up for a while due to possible Native American background, although no tribe was ever identified,) just to get a different picture in your head, email us. aj

You have a great heart and kudos to you for wanting to adopt an (older) child in foster care. I used to work with children (in the foster care system as an advocate and behaviorist) and there are some things for you to consider so that you will be prepared for this change in your life and so that you can help prepare the child to accept love (from a parent and love for themselves.) Sometimes the kids with the behavior/anger problems are the kids who need you most and will love you the most once they establish that trust with you. Everyday at my job, I worked at developing trust and reassurance in the fact that I could keep them safe (from other adults, from themselves, etc.) Keep in mind that you will provide the best life for these kids by being mentally, emotionally and physically prepared to handle these kids and their issues. Abandonement issues are hard at any age so be prepared to answer their tough questions. Be prepared to be their biggest cheerleader because feelings of abandonement really feeds the self loathing, poor self esteem cycle in these will have to provide the ''self'' esteem until they trust you enough to know that you won't be giving them back, once they can do that, they will be able to work on themselves. Know what resources you have from the state and county for counseling, behavior modification, etc and use these services. If you have a child with behavior issues coupled with anger, there are physical techniques you can learn so that you can protect them from themselves. When I worked with these kids, I had to become certified in these techniques and they were effective tools. I hope you find a child who will help you create this family that you want, I just ask that you are wide eyed about the experience, have an open heart and a strong back to carry the child's burden until she or he is ready to let it go and just be prepared to experience such a joyful love. always a foster kid's advocate

I haven't adopted thru foster care but have 2 friends who have. They both have bright, well-adjusted, great kids-you would never ''know'' they had come from foster care, and they do not have any physical or emotional problems. I also worked with an agency that included clients whose children were in the system and who were working to regain custody. It's true that a child is only relinquished if there are MAJOR problems with the parenting/home situation-which is as it should be. This does not mean that you need to be ''scared'' of the children-don't let folks who don't have first-hand knowledge scare you off. They may in fact have more needs, or more difficulty attaching, but they may not. My guess is that the younger they are, the less likelihood of problems (I know that teens who have been in the system their whole life tend to have BIG problems, but you're not considering adopting a teen), but no guarantees, just as we have no guarantees that our birth children will reach adulthood without problems! You can find out information about health history, etc., and you do not have to accept a child that you don't think will ''work.'' Please don't let folks dissuade you with stereotypes, get complete, accurate information, and make your decision that way. I think you're doing a wonderful thing and I commend you! anon

As someone who works with kids in the foster care system, I can't tell you how much it frustrates me that people say the things you are hearing. Such terrible and incorrect misconceptions. Do the people saying this to you have any experience with kids in foster care? where are they getting these ideas? I can't even start to address all that is wrong with those generalizations. I just really recommend you do your own research about who these kids are and what ''disabilities'' if any they may have. For example, this idea of ''crack babies.'' Actually, research suggests that EVEN IF you adopt a baby that had cocaine in its system at birth, the effects are not long term. That is, these children grow up to have no longterm disabilities as a result. In fact, most children in the U.S. foster care system are way more healthy than kids you adopt overseas. I never understand why people say this about kids in the US foster care system, but then feel totally comfortable adopting kids from overseas. Do they really think that kids from an Eastern European orphanage or a poor Latin country don't have similar backgrounds? Do they really think these children actually got better health care while in state custody than the kids in the US do? In fact, there was an article in Time magazine two years ago about how many European families come to the US to adopt kids because the kids in state care here are so much healthier overall and the parents can get better information about their backgrounds and their parents' backgrounds than they ever could adopting in their own backyard.

So trust your gut. Adopting from the US foster care system is a wonderful thing to do and the odds that your child will be 'tainted' are no more than the odds any adopted baby will be. Fan of foster care adoption

My friends adopted the most delightful little girl from the foster system. Two years later, they adopted an adorable little boy. It is riskier to have your own biological child than to adopt a foster child. When you're a foster parent, you have the chance to meet and help many children while you look for that ''special little someone''. Practical

Our son was placed with us 9 months ago when he was 15 months old. When we read his profile, it included a number of things your friends identified as being common among fost-adopt children (including some stuff we swore were deal breakers), but the light in his eyes belied what was on paper. He is developmentally on target so far - a good indicator of the future - and an absolute joy. Perhaps this is a rarity, but based on the other fost-adopt families we've come to know, I suspect perhaps not so rare afterall.

There is a real range of children in foster care, and the process of being approved to adopt helps you begin to think about what you can handle and what you cannot. What's most important is what your family feels is right for you - it's not your friends who will raise this child. And the well-meaning family and friends who expressed their concerns about the route we took have fallen head over heels for our son right along with us - none of us ever talks about those long-ago conversations now.

Good luck to you! Becoming a parent - any way you do it - is one of the hardest most wonderful things you'll ever do. Anon

County adoption - feeling discouraged about our prospects

September 2006

My husband and I are very interested in adoption, and have been pursuing this through the county, and also through ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) agencies, since my husband is part Sioux.

We were very enthusiastic about this, and particularly about the possibility of a child who has some heritage in common with one of us (my husband) and our bio son, who is 2 1/2 years old.

However, now that we have attended several trainings and met with one social worker we are feeling very discouraged. In a nutshell, we have been told that we are guaranteed to get a disturbed child, are likely to have him/her snatched back and our hearts broken, etc. I understand that it is the social workers' job to give us worst case scenario, but there seems to be a universal message of future misery, and emotional and physical danger of several types to our son.

I did read the one positive county-adoption story, and it helped. Can anyone else clear away some of this negativity with a success story? We are open to some tough times, but can only be open to limited amounts because our soon is involved. We're just not sure what the reality is.

Thank you so much! Jenny

I have a success story! I adopted my now 3.5 year old son through Alameda County. My child is healthy and developmentally on target. I was generally very satisfied with the process. For me, it took 1.5 years from the time I started the process until my son came home with me through their foster-adopt program. There were some tough times, but I trusted my social workers. My biggest worry was that the birth parental rights had not yet been terminated. I was informed of all the possible risks and I weighed all the factors and in the end trusted my social workers that it was highly unlikley that this child would be placed with the birth family. Finally, when he turned one year old, the birth parental rights were terminated. There was an appeal, which was very scary, but again, I trusted my social workers that it would be very rare for the termination to be overturned . In my case, the appeal was denied due to lack of evidence (good for me)and the adoption was finalized last year. I waited 20 months for that day! A long time, but most of the waiting was due to bureaucratic paperwork log-jam.

I am so sorry that you have been given a bleak picture of the adoption process. Yes, they have to tell you all the risks, but there are ways to mitigate these risks. One way would be to only consider children who have already had their birth parental rights terminated (and yes this can be the case even with infants). You can also ask for a different social worker. In my case, I told my social worker that I could not take a child with special needs. Don't be afraid to be honest with what will be the best match for your family. There are children of all ages and races and abilities and histories waiting for a loving family. I know of two other families who adopted through the county when I did and they also had a pretty easy time of it and their adoptions all were finalized quickly (many months ahead of me).

I want to encourage you to go for it. There are so many deserving children waiting for forever homes. anonymous

I have heard of wonderful success with such adoptions, but it seems to take a special sort of parenting since the early start for these kids was not great. May I recommend you check out the work of Nancy Thomas, wo has helped heal children from such backgrounds. Both of her books do a great job explaining the type of work that did help and even how to do it. Thankfully too, a summer week-long camp in the SC Mountains can provide training for you and the child so things will have a good chance of working out very well. Finally, a couple of therapists in Oakland off Park Blvd specialize in this kind of issue. Virginia Keeler-Wolf ( 339-9363) has been recommended in previous posts. Nori

It sounds as if you've arrived at a fearful time in the adoption process. Both adoption and pregnancy are roller coaster rides. I'm not sure from your posting exactly what you're fearful of. If you are not getting answers or only negative ones from the county perhaps you should think of working with one of the fantastic not-for-profit agencies in the area. My family adopted 2 bio siblings with the help of Adopt A Special Kid (AASK) located in Oakland. They are straightforward and honest and efficient.

Maybe more information would help your fears. I recommend reading Toddler Adoption by Mary Hopkins-Best, Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray and anything by Nancy Thomas, but particularily, When Love is Not Enough. Probably any child who is available for adoption through fost/adopt will have some attachment issues and it's good to know that these can be healed, though sometimes not without a lot of hard work on everybody's part. There are thousands of resiliant and beautiful children available for adoption today. - - - Hang in there. Thrilled, but tired, Adoptive Mom.

My husband and I heard the same negative stories when we considered a public adoption in the 90's. We sought a child who was less than a year old. Social workers and some family members said we'd get a crack baby, an alcohol exposed baby or worse. Instead we got a healthy, normal, beautiful 10 week old baby boy. We received medical and other relevant info about our son from the birth mother during a meeting we had with her. Now, our son is doing incredibly well socially, academically, in sports, etc. We thank God every day for him and could not be any happier with our choice to adopt through a public agency. He has completely blended in with the our larger family as well as our bio-kids. Frankly, an open adoption that required ongoing contact with a birth parent was unacceptable to us and our public adoption was free. I strongly encourage you to explore public adoption as there are so many children who need homes and many of them are ''healthy''. I can't imagine my life without my ''Angel From Heaven'' as I call him. Good luck in finding yours Grateful and Proud Mama

I adopted my son through Contra Costa County when he was 9 months old. I am a single parent (and a lesbian - I had trouble adopting in Michigan). I couldn't be happier. My son is a marvelous person, and shows no lasting effects of the drugs he was exposed to in utero. (It was made clear to me in training that infants coming through social services are always drug exposed.) When I first adopted him, my son had hypertonia, which means muscle stiffness, but that went away in a few months.

He is above average in intelligence, sweet, beautiful, and mostly healthy. He has asthma, which may have to do with us living in Richmond... He and I bonded so deeply, I can't imagine how it could be deeper.

His birthmother's rights were terminated before I adopted him, so I never had to worry about losing him. (I have always felt sad for her...)

I don't want to put my name on the web with this, but if you'd like to talk, please call me. -happy mama

Hi. I do some work involving kids and parents who are part of the dependency system. I would not say that all the kids who become available for adoption are severely emotionally disturbed or have other lifelong challenges. For example, I know of a young baby--about 9 months--born drug-exposed, but has gotten great early care, appears to have no cognitive or emotional difficulties. She has a bit of stiffness with one leg. She is a beautiful, smiley, happy girl. Don't let the horror stories get you down. I think there are plenty of kids out there who would fit well in your family. And, although you didn't ask, I think it's great that you're considering ''having'' a second child this way. I wish you the very best. mary

We adopted through Alameda county, after going through the MAPP program - I'd recommend it highly!

We were a family less than one year after beginning the MAPP class. Some in our class were matched with young babies. Some children are already legally unrelated to their birth parents. Some are more complicated.

When you go through the process, you fill out a lenghty questionnaire, setting up a profile of characteristics and risks you're willing to accept in a match, from gender and race to drug exposure and bed-wetting. This helps them to make a good match. And when you are matched, you don't have to move forward with it.

Yes, our children had some serious adjustment to do, but they're good and sweet and smart. And parenting any child comes with risks and adjustments for all.

We found everyone with the county that we worked with to be dedicated, intelligent, decent, and caring. It may not be this way for everyone, but don't write it off. anon

We couldn't be happier with our experience in preparation and adoption through Alameda County. We waited almost exactly a year after we completed our paperwork. An amazing 8-month old girl moved in with us a year and a half ago (adoption finalized) and we just decided to welcome her 5-year old sister to come live with us -- most likely to become a permanent member of our household (oh my goodness!).

One of the most useful (and challenging) resources outside of the county has been Pact, an Adoption Alliance (see Although children available for public adoption in California are pretty evenly split between Anglo, Latino, and African-American children in near Bay Area counties it is mostly Black children who are available for placement.

Pact provides support and training for families who have adoptive children of color. They offer reecommendations for reading, short classes and an annual week-long family summer camp with separate programming for parents and children. Pact makes us better parents and isn't afraid to challenge us in ways that make us pay attention to what's best for our kids that we might otherwise have missed.

I didn't see the initial post and am not sure of the racial background of the person who asked for advice but me and my sweettie are white folks and many people who seek formal adoptions are also white folk (as contrasted with 1) foster care providers who in Alameda County seemed predominantly African-American and 2) informal adoptions where folks ask family and friends to take care of their birth children).

Facilitating our African-American daughters ability to connect with their birth culture --and being aware of the power plays involved in who is ''available'' to be adopted and who is ''adopting''-- is something we are (and will continue to) work at. Part of learning to do that is made easier by Pact as well as reading the blogs of adult transracially adopted people of color like and

Much love and best of luck on your journey

I have two boys, now 16 and 9, whom I adopted through the county at 7 weeks and 4 weeks old, respectively. They are the light of my life. Both of them were drug exposed in utero, and neither showed any drug withdrawal symptoms. My older boy was the happiest, sweetest baby, and my younger boy has always been cranky, but these are matters of temperament, not drug exposure. Both of my boys have learning disabilities, and this is the only drug-related problem I've had. I cannot understand why people prefer to spend tens of thousands of dollars, and to go abroad to adopt, when there are literally THOUSANDS of children in the U.S. who desperately need families. Mama of 2

More advice about adopting through the county

August 2002

All of the decisions that a family makes about adopting are important and personal (open/closed, domestic/international, same race/other race, boy/girl, one child/siblings, infant/older, etc.). I adopted through Alameda County and am an advocate for local adoption, while respecting the other choices people make. There are thousands of kids in California waiting for adoption, of every race, age, and degree of 'ordinariness' possible. I am single and adopted my Asian/European-American daughter through Alameda County four years ago at the age of one. From everything I read on this list, it has been no more challenging than I might imagine having and raising a biological child within a marriage might have been-that is, the joy of watching your kid grow and learn, mixed with getting through the difficult stages, making difficult decisions, enduring awkward family visits, and all that. This was not an open adoption, but we stayed in touch with her birth-dad's family. While the experience was not always easy, in the end it has been rich and worthwhile. We were very fortunate to get to know her bio- grandparents before both died last year, and we are also in touch with her biological brother who was adopted by another family. My notion of family has expanded over time and we celebrate that my duaghter has three moms -- birth-mom, previous foster-mom, and ''forever mom'' (me). Like every parent, at various junctures I have had to make tough decisions based on what's best for my kid, sometimes for the short term and sometimes with a longer view.

My daughter was exposed to drugs in utero. She is a challenging child at times and I'm quite sure that most of it is her innate personality, but presumably some of it could be effects of the initial separation from her birth-mom and the toxic exposure. She was very fortunate to live her entire first year with a wonderful foster mom who remains our friend, so there was no attachment disorder. As she transitions into kindergarten, we are getting professional counseling for the two of us to help with some difficult behaviors, but for the most part, it has been quite manageable and ordinary. Overall, she is an average, bright and affectionate child who brings great joy to me and many others.

The finances of adopting from the county are rather astonishing. The cost is zero (that's right, they even pay you back the $40 for CPR training!). That ironically means you don't get much adoption tax credit, because you had no expenses. Not only that, but kids adopted through the county are eligible for a number of subsidized services like Medi-Cal and the 'adoption assistance program,' which means they get monthly payments toward their support until they're 18 (in our case, $425/month). I didn't even know I would get this when I adopted and didn't expect to need it, but with one income and the cost of living here including full-time childcare, it has been a tremendous help.

There are horror stories about every kind of adoption, but I am convinced that they are greatly outweighed by the millions of experiences of people building every variety of family imaginable through opening their hearts to children needing a family. I applaud your openness to considering adoption and wish you the very best. Happy local adoptive mom


In my experience with Alameda County, the workers explained that you can somewhat manage the level of risk that you are willing to take. You may indicate that you are willing only to consider children whose parents no longer have legal rights to them (either through abandonment, relinquishment on the parents' part, or through the state terminating the parents' rights). There are children who are in various points in the process of becoming wards of the state, i.e. they may be available for placement before or after the termination of rights hearing has taken place. Then there are appeal periods, and waiting periods which you will be informed about, during which the child's custodial status is in transition. You can decide what level of risk is acceptable to you. You also need to do research about the rights that birth parents have, which vary by state (i.e. how long they legally have to change their minds.) Also, you need to decide what level of openness you are willing to live with, e.g., would you be willing to have any contact with your child's birth family, at any point, or not. Adopting a local child would be quite different in this regard from adopting from another state or country, for instance. Finally, be prepared to hear stories, perhaps even horror stories from people, or through the grapevine, about foster-adopt or adoptive parents who have had children placed with them who were later returned to their birth families. From my understanding, there are risks to be calculated, but there are points of no return, when your legal rights to the child are secure. Hope this is helpful!

I am adopting my daughter through Alameda County and have had a very positive experience. Would be happy to talk about it via e-mail or phone if you'd like. Also there are past exchanges on the parents' network website. Finding my daughter has been a highlight of my life -- good luck in this adventure! nicole

June 1999

I have two children who were adopted as infants.These children are now 13 and 16 years old. We were successful using Alameda County for one and the services of the Gradsteins in San Francisco for the other. Also keep in mind that you can use a paralegal to prepare your paperwork for the court and file it yourself. This will save lot of money. Be patient and good luck.