Hi ... We are planning on adopting from foster care in the future, children around the ages of 2 and 7 or near those ages (sibling pair or group) like our current children who are 2 and 7. First, do you know if it is fine to go with the state-run welfare office or should we go with an agency? I have read that the state-run office is really slow andplacements go to other agencies first? I don't know? We would go to a private agency but we don't want to spend alot of money on fees. Some private agencies ask for $5,000.
I'm so excited to hear that you're planning to adopt from foster care! Before I delve in, let me remind you that every state and even every county can be vastly different in its organizational structure when it comes to foster care and adoption. I'll answer this question to the best of my knowledge, based mostly on my own geographic location.
I've actually heard the opposite of what you stated - that the state offices place children first, and then the ones they can't find homes for get handed out to agencies. So some people feel that they're better off with the state office because they'll have access to all the kids instead of the ones that have been "picked over" (for lack of abetter term). On the other hand, I had a friend who was all lined up to accept a child to foster directly through the state-run office that she was licensed through. The placement fell through when the state-run office decided to hand the child off to an agency. My friend felt that the state office worker felt over-worked, and when she found a way to have one less child on her caseload she jumped at the opportunity.
Where I live things are supposedly done on a rotation basis. The state offices and the agencies are all on a rotating list and as new kids come into care, the next office or agency on the rotating list has one hour to find those children a home from among the list of homes that are licensed through that office or agency. If they can't find an available home, then the next agency in rotation gets an hour to finda home from within their database of licensed homes. And so on andso forth.
So what's the reality of state-run office vs. private agency from thefoster-parent perspective? I haven't worked directly with a state-run office, so I can't really speak to that experience. But I'm told that the private agencies have larger budgets and more resources. In general I feel like I hear more complaints from foster parents who are with state-run offices - rude workers, last-minute schedule changes, unable to get a return phone call. There was a stretch of time where I was waiting for a new placement, and I felt like local friends who were with the state-run offices were receiving lots of calls for potential placements and I wasn't getting any calls at all. So maybe there is something to that, even though it's all supposed to be on a fair-and-square rotation basis? I don't know. But I do feel like my patience paid off as I've continually received fosterplacements who've worked perfectly for our family. I think no matter which route you go, there are times when you get frustrated with the waiting and it's easy to start thinking that if only you were licensed with someone else, then you'd be getting more calls. Kind of like when you're stuck in traffic on a three-lane highway. You're convinced the lane next to you is moving faster, but by the time you move over there, the lane you just left is finally the one moving fastest.
Finally, I want to address the private agency fee issue. There are sort of two paths to adoption through foster care:
1) You can become a foster parent to foster children, and if/when you get a child who eventually becomes available for adoption (when their birth parents' rights are legally terminated), you as thefoster parent would usually have the first "dibs" on adopting that child. With this option you'll get children in your home much faster, but there's a high likelihood that many of the children will return to their birth families, and you may go through several children before finally having the opportunity to adopt.
2) You can choose to only take on children whose birth parents' rights have already been terminated. With this option you'll usually wait much longer to have a child move into your home, but it will be much more of a "sure thing" once it happens. Because children are living in foster homes until their birth parents' rights have been terminated, the healthiest (physically and emotionally) children are usually adopted by their foster family, leaving fewer children available for those individuals who want to adopt without fostering.
I explain all of this to say that I believe there are private agencies specializing in adoption only who sometimes charge a fee for completing the adoption home study. If you're at all interested in fostering (path 1 to adoption), I would highly recommend that you pursue a private agency who does a foster care home study at no cost to you. However, if you're only open to adopting a child whose birth parents' rights have been terminated, then a paid private agency might be the way to go. My guess is that the paid agency will probably work harder to find you an adoptive placement because, well, you're paying them.