Adopting an Infant From Foster Care

The average age of a child adopted through foster care is 8 years old. Adopting a baby from foster care, while sometimes possible, comes with unique risks and challenges.

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It’s not uncommon for prospective adoptive families to first pursue the fos-adopt program in California with the goal of adopting an infant from foster care. After all, children of all ages are waiting to be adopted from the California foster care system.

However, if you specifically want to foster-to-adopt infants in California, you should be aware of the realities of the process. Very few babies in foster care are waiting for adoption, and these are known as “high-risk placements” — placements that have no guarantee of becoming an adoption situation, for several reasons detailed below.

If you are set on adopting an infant from foster care in California, we encourage you to speak to a foster care professional like FCCA to understand what’s involved before pursuing this process. Adopting an infant from foster care is not impossible, but you may have to endure additional challenges before you can find success in this kind of adoption.

Can You Adopt a Baby from Foster Care in California?

When talking about infant foster care adoption in California, prospective adoptive parents should remember the ultimate goal of the foster care system: to reunite the child with their biological parents. The plans created to help parents reunify with their children in foster care take time, which is why infants and babies in the foster care system are usually not available for adoption until their parent has failed to complete the reunification plan — which can take years.

Because of this goal, when foster care professionals talk about foster “infants” for adoption, we are commonly referring to children who are older than a year. This age group is typically the youngest who are actually available for adoption, rather than high-risk fostering.

On rare occasions, a prospective adoptive parent can adopt an infant from foster care if the child is placed for adoption through the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, which allows a parent (usually the mother) to anonymously surrender all legal rights to their baby within 72 hours of birth. These infants are then usually placed directly into adoptive parents’ custody. However, because very few infants are relinquished pursuant to this program, adopting an infant from foster care through this method is rare.

The Challenges of Adopting a Baby From Foster Care

While it is possible that you can receive a placement of a younger child through the foster care system, the risks involved with this process make it much less likely that you will achieve a permanent adoption placement. Most infants are either reunified with birth parents or placed with other birth relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Sometimes these relatives are not located until after the child has been in a foster home for many months, but because the law gives preference to relative placements, the child can be moved out of your home on very short notice if a relative home becomes available. This is why infant and baby placements in foster care are referred to as “high-risk,” and it is the number one reason that few infants are available to adopt from foster care.

Many prospective adoptive parents wish to adopt a foster baby or infant, and this demand always outweighs the number of infants actually available for placement or adoption. Combine this with the lengthy process required for failed reunification and termination of parental rights, and prospective adoptive parents will wait much longer to adopt an infant from foster care than to adopt an older child from foster care.

While many adoptive families receive a placement of an older child within six months of starting the process, those who want an infant or baby placement will typically wait much longer.

The actual figure is unknown, but approximately 50 percent of infants in foster care available for adoption have been exposed to drug or alcohol abuse while in utero. It’s also important to note that approximately 60 percent of infants in foster care are children of color. Because of this, families who are not open to transracial placements will have even less of a chance of adopting an infant from foster care.

All of these factors make placements of foster infants unlikely to result in a permanent adoption for adoptive parents. If you choose to pursue adopting an infant from foster care, be prepared for these challenges and risks.

Why FCCA Focuses on “Low-Risk” Placements

At FCCA, we are committed to providing stable, healthy homes for children waiting for adoption. In order to provide homes and families to the most children possible, we focus on providing “low-risk” placements, which typically do not include infants in foster care available for adoption.

The possibility of adopting an infant from foster care through our program arises when prospective adoptive parents are interested in sibling groups. The wait time for this kind of foster care adoption is usually shorter than for those interested in a single child placement, and it’s one of the ways prospective adoptive parents can increase the chance of bringing an infant into their family. However, some of the same risks that apply with any infant foster care adoption may apply in these situations as well, such as a relative coming forward to take placement of the child.

If you decide that adopting a baby from foster care in California is the specific process you wish to pursue, we encourage you to contact another foster care professional — one that specializes in high-risk infant adoption from foster care — to complete your adoption. We suggest reviewing the licensed agency list on the State Department of Social Services website to locate and connect with a local foster care adoption agency.

If you ever have questions about adopting an infant from foster care versus adopting an older child, or simply want more information about our agency’s low-risk fos-adopt program, please contact our offices.