I recently did a post on surviving an international adoption so I figured I should write this post as well for all of you who are thinking about or in the middle of fost-adopt. I hope it helps.
1. Save everything! This goes for any type of adoption. Save all of your paperwork, all of your emails, everything, until you are finalized and have your adoption tax credit. You never know what you might need.
2. Be open-minded. Be open to being matched with a child in another county. Maybe up the age requirements you were originally thinking of. Leave ethnicity open. Of course, you don't have to do any of these things, but the more specific you are, the longer it will take you to be matched. Our social worker advised us to be open to drug exposure on a case-by-case basis. Maybe you don't think you can handle a baby whose birthmother did crack, but "drug exposure" could also mean the birthmom did drugs until she found out she was pregnant and the baby is not addicted at all. Be open-minded.
3. I recommend using a private agency. Our social worker and agency were absolutely wonderful and our process was relatively smooth. I've heard more dissatisfaction from people who just went through the county. Foster care adoption is free anyway, so you may find it worth it to pay a few hundred dollars to get a private agency who will be more attentive to you and your case.
4. Again, your child's story is not for everyone to know. It is your child's story and it belongs to him. Let him decide, when he is older, with whom he wants to share certain things. Be general when people ask you about birthparents, previous foster homes, etc.
5. Keep MediCal. All children in the foster care system have MediCal. When you adopt, you can choose to keep it or get rid of it. You might as well keep it. If you or your spouse receives insurance through your company, you can use that as your child's primary insurance and keep MediCal as secondary. Yes, your choice of doctors is limited, but everything is free with MediCal. It's a good backup to have at all times. And you may find yourselves in a situation where you are trying to get into a special clinic that has months and months of waiting lists, but they keep a certain amount of spots available for MediCal patients. It can come in handy!
6. Allow yourself to love any child who comes into your care as your own. This is hard to do with fost-adopt. We had 1 1/2 months of visits back and forth with J-Man before he was placed with us. It was scary to allow ourselves to love him as our son, knowing the judge could very well decide not to place him with us. But that child deserves to be loved that way even if he is never placed with you. So try to put yourself and your fears aside and love as he deserves to be loved.
7. Have you heard of WIC? All children under age 5 in foster care are eligible for WIC and this continues even after your adoption is finalized. The state provides checks for healthy food. You might as well take advantage of this, right? Who couldn't use some help with grocery money?
8. You will go into this with fears and misconceptions, many based on the horror stories you've heard. Do your research before you believe any of these things. Talk to agencies, social workers, parents who have adopted through foster care. I've heard a lot of fears from people looking into fost-adopt including: all kids in foster care have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), they can take your kid away from you even after you've adopted, birthparents can come find you, etc. These things are not true. Do your research.
9. Finalization day is a big deal with fost-adopt. It's the day that you go to court and fully become your child's forever parents. Invite you family to come to court with you. Ask to take a picture with the judge afterward. It's a big deal!
Please feel free to add your tips to this list!