Monday, March 19, 2012

How Does Adopting Through the Child Protective Services System Work?

The Process of Adoption through Child Protective Services can be full of unknowns that can lead to fear.  Fear can paralyze someone who has a strong desire for adoption.  When we first felt that a local, state adoption through CPS was the way we were suppose to complete our family, I admit I knew NOTHING about adopting.  I didn't know who to call.  I didn't know who to ask because no one I knew had adopted a child through the State of Texas.  I had no idea how much it cost.  I didn't know what the requirements were for adoptive families.  All the unknowns were frightening.
One of our main ministry goals is to help answer and guide families through the process.  We definitely won't have all the answers, but we are committed to helping tame some of your fears.

(This is written assuming that you have decided to pursue adoption through CPS.  We are both from the State of Texas and each State will differ on procedures.  But the following information will give you an idea of how the process will work.  There is much to consider before deciding to pursue adoption.  We highly recommend that you spend much time reflecting on your desire and motive of adoption, exploring all options of adoption, and educating yourself on adoption and adoption related topics related to the adoptive child.  ) 

Keep in mind, we both have adopted through the foster care system, but we went different routes.  Celena wrote this post and Kara will note the changes in red below each number.  Celena adopted by straight adopt which means her family was submitted for various children who fit their criteria that were available for adoption.  Kara is a foster/adopt home who takes children as foster children and will adopt those who become adoptable.  Kara has had 6 children in 3 years and has adopted 2. 

You can also be a legal risk home which takes children who are considered a legal risk and more than likely will have parental rights terminated.  Still risk involved, but more likely to go to adoption.  The problem with this option is that many caseworkers do not change their status to legal risk for obvious reasons....the risk.

So how do you get started?
1.  Choose a local agency that works with CPS to facilitate state adoptions or contact the local child welfare office.  We highly recommend using a private agency to be the "middle man" between you and CPS if that is an option for your state.  Each state varies.  As believers in Christ, we recommend using a Christian agency. It should not cost you anything to use an agency.TRUE

2.  Once you contact your agency or Child Welfare Office, they will either send you an informational packet or invite you to come to an informational meeting.  Usually, you will receive an initial application   and a criminal background check.

3.  You will need to take training classes.  The length or frequency of these classes will vary from state and even from agency.  In Texas they are called PRIDE classes. (Usually 4-10 sessions)  You will be given a lot of information at once.  It is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed and emotional after receiving so much information.  With foster/adopt or legal risk there is more training involved.  You must have SAMA (Satori Alternatives to Managing Anger), CPR and First Aid,  and Psychotropic Med Class.  You must maintain 20 hours a year for Basic Homes to keep your license.  Kara's home is a Moderate Level home. (she has an adopted daughter who has a cleft palate and is hearing impaired). These can be obtained in a variety of ways.

4. After the classes, you will receive a larger application.  This application will ask you a lot of questions about your life--from your childhood to your present life as an adult.  You will need to be comfortable talking about your life.  Being open and honest is so important during this step.    You will also need to provide letters of reference, proof of age, and income. Many agencies do have an age limit for straight adopt.  This is usually ignored if you are a foster/adopt home.

5.  You will need to be fingerprinted and attend a CPR training.  (There is a small fee for each--usually around $40-$60) Our agency now has CPR for free.  Not all will.  The FBI fingerprinting cost Kara's family $75 each, but was reimbursed by the agency.

6.  You will need to complete your homestudy.  A caseworker or adoption specialist will visit your home 2-3 times to gather information in order to prepare a written document accurately describing your family.
The homestudy will include your family background, education, employment history, daily routines, parenting techniques, information about your home and neighborhood, your desire and motive for wanting to adopt, information about your support systems, etc.  During this time you will work closely with your caseworker or adoption specialist and really get specific about what type of child you could best parent.  The homestudy does have some upfront financial investment (Usually around $1000) but you will be reimbursed for this cost. Foster/Adopt or legal risk families do not pay for the home study at all.

7. Items you may be ask to prepare during the homestudy process: a physical exam from your medical doctor, financial statements and W2s, legal documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, divorce decrees, etc. Also, depending on the county and state you live in a health inspection and/or fire inspection may be required.  

8.  After your homestudy, your agency or caseworker will finalize your homestudy and submit it for approval.   You will then be certified as an adoptive family. Once you complete requirements for Foster/adopt or legal risk, you are a licensed foster home.  You may choose the age range or gender and you also may refuse a placement based on information CPS gives you and your agency. Some states do not allow you to refuse a placement nor do they let you choose age range, etc.  Texas believes it's your choice. 

9.  Once your homestudy is submitted and approved,  the search begins for a child or children that your family best matches.  CPS looks for families for children.  They have the child in mind when making these matches.  This part of the process can take from weeks to years.   Your caseworker screens children and looks for a good fit for your family.  Some agencies or workers will send you the information about each child or sibling group and let you decide whether you want to submit your homestudy and others simply decide based on the information you have already given whether it is a good fit and submits your homestudy on your behalf.  Once a child is in your home as a foster child, you are first in line to adopt them if they become available and family has been ruled out.

10.  When you or  your caseworker makes your interest known the child's caseworker will receive the inquiry and usually a shortened version of your homestudy of your family.  If the caseworker decides your family is a good fit for the child or children, they will request a full copy of your homestudy. This does not happen with foster/adopt families until you are submitting for adoption.  It is only a formality at that point.  You are already chosen.

11.  The child's caseworker works with a team of people to select a family that best meets the child's needs.  This team includes the child's attorney, CASA worker,  past caseworkers, etc.    You will be notified when you have been a family selected. Each office proceeds differently but often 3 families will be selected at this point.   You will be provided more information about the child.  And often the caseworker will meet with each of the 3 families and then select a #1 family for the child.

12.  Once you have been selected as the best family for the child based on the child's needs, you will be invited to read the child's file.  You will need to carve out 4+ hours to read the file.  It can be a very emotional event but you will be able to see  into the life of this child and make an informed decision on whether you would like to move forward with adoption procedures.  Before this the child does NOT know you exist (unless you are already fostering the child which works differently)...  You are usually ask to wait 48 hours after reading the file before you give your answer about moving forward with the intent of adoption.  As a foster/adopt family you will also be able to read the file once it has move into adoption, but if they have been your foster child you have created most of that file.  You will be able to read anything about them that happened before they came into care.  Kara has hospital records of both her girls including their foot prints.  :)

13.  If you decide to move forward, you will be invited to a "staffing presentation" meeting.  You will get to meet with the entire team that has worked with the child during his or her time in the foster care system.  This team might include all caseworkers, attorneys, CASA workers, foster parents, etc.    The team will present the child to you.  This is the time to ask EVERY question that you have about the child.  You will need to wait 48 hours after this meeting and then you will need to call your agency and tell them if you indeed want to go through with the adoption.   This is the point where there is no turning back in my opinion.  The child will be notified that a forever family has been selected.  As a foster/adopt family you may also refuse them for adoption if this child is not a fit for your family.

14.  Arrangements will be made for you to meet the child.  This is usually in a public location or in the foster home.  And then a slow transition from foster placement to your home will occur over the next days to weeks depending on the need of the child.  Each situation is a little different.

15.  Once the child is officially placed in your home as an adoptive placement, the child remains in the custody of the state for a minimal of 6 months.  During this period of time, a caseworker from your agency will visit you once a month.  Also, CASA and/or your attorney and possibly a caseworker from CPS may visit your home monthly.  If the child has been in your home for at least 6 months, then you do not have to wait.  An adoption date will be set and when the gavel goes down THEY ARE FOREVER!

16.  After your 6 months, you will be ready to finalize the adoption in court.  You will need to select an attorney to represent you in court.  We highly recommend using a lawyer that has experience with CPS adoptions.  Also, some attorneys "Direct Bill the State" saving their clients the burden of having to pay any money upfront.  If you use an attorney that does not direct bill, expect to pay up to $1500 in legal fees, etc.  This money will be returned to you when you file your taxes.  You will also likely be eligible for additional reimbursement through the tax credit.  Most attorneys direst bill the state, but if not. it will return to you.  With the adoption credit situation right now, if you have adopted a child with special needs or they are over 2 and a minority or over 6 and caucasian  (In other words if they are available for subsidy) you will get the entire amount whether or not you have spent a dime to adopt them. 

This information is a general guide and not complete by any means.  Again, each agency, state, and situation tends to be different so you will experience variation from the list of steps we have provided.  But we wanted to give you a general idea of how adopting through the CPS system works.  The information in black provided fits a "straight adoption" situation.  Fostering to adopt is also a wonderful option when adopting through CPS. The process to get started is the same.  However, how and when the child is placed with you will differ.  The information in red is provided for those in a foster/adopt situation or legal risk home.  Keep in mind, with CPS, nothing is set in stone. Nothing.  Prayer is your best guide!  Jesus has walked this road with us through good and bad.  Our hearts have been broken more times than I can tell you, but we wouldn't change a single day or a single break in our hearts.

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Sherry said...

Thank you for this post. It is the most info we have received yet. Our circumstances are a bit different so I was wondering if you could clarify some things. We have taken in a foster child as "kinship foster." If this all works out we will persue adoption of him. However, we really were seeking a adoption of a girl when he "fell into our laps". We still want to persue a girl. We do not intend to be a rotating foster home. We just want to adopt a girl. Do we at this point need to contact a local agency to help us facilitate this process? How do I go about finding a local christian agency?

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

Congrats on your new addition :) I think boys are kinda sweet too! :) And yes, a kinship placement does work a little differently as you have probably learned.. But I just want to tell you how incredible I think it is that you have started this journey and have agreed to give this child a forever home! I pray for Blessings over this placement. Also, I agree girls are precious. I have 4 girls myself! As far as how to begin the process.. it really depends on the State in which you live... We are in Texas. And in TX there are a hand full of private agencies that work with the State -- as kinda of the middle man btw CPS and the Adoptive family. I highly recommend that route if you are in at state that has this offer. Kara and I both used Buckner Christian Services--- and had a great experience! Other states-- you would need to go directly through Child Protective Services.. but the process is the same.. If you would like to discuss any of this more--- please feel free to email Kara or myself at -- We would be thrilled to walk through this journey with you. Also, you can find us on facebook. Just search for BreakingHeartsBuildingFamilies :)

Sherry said...

Thank you. I have found you on facebook. I have a feeling we are going to need all the guidance we can get. We are also from Texas, the Dallas area, in fact, so your help will be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post ! I have a question though , I do take Zoloft for depression(which runs in my family) , does that mean I can not adopt or can I still adopt a child ? My husband and I wanted to adopt a boy (ages 1-4 hispanic or white). Buckner told me that is really hard to get a child like that . My husband doe snot want to do any fostering so we talked about infant adoption . Its so expensive and now I am trying to figure out how we raise enough money to pay for that .

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

Please feel free to email us at breakingheartsbuildingfamilies for an easier way to communicate. We would love to answer any questions you might have. ...

Depression/and meds should not be a problem as long as you are stable and being treated by a physician. I do know that some agencies require a note from the doctor.

Ballentine Studios said...

This is a wonderful post! We met with someone from Buckners last night. We are in Lubbock Texas. While our case worker at Buckners explained this all to us last night it is wonderful to be able to actually read this information and let it soak in! I will be emailing you for advice! Thank you for sharing, what a blessing ministry!

Anonymous said...

What is the average cost overall for a straight adoption of one child?

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

To answer several questions that have been posted. If you check out the pictures of both of our family's adopted children it will answer the question, "Will you tell your children they are adopted?". (Hint....they are a different race). Also, Celena's children are old enough to know. I do feel that it is healthy for them to know exactly how they came into your family.
In regards to cost to adopt through the foster care system. It is FREE. If the children are not eligible for subsidy (meaning a monthly amount until they turn 18, medicaid and college paid for) then you will pay up to $1500 up front and it will return in your taxes. If they reach subsidy, the attorney will bill the state and you pay nothing. So 1 or 100 children is essentially FREE.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

With regards to adopting a child under the age of 4 through straight adopt, yes it is hard unless you are fostering. It is NOT, however impossible. You will not get one under 1. It takes that long to terminate a case. We have adopted 2 that we got at 1 month and 3 months, but we were their foster parents. Our new little preemie who came home to the hospital will also more than likely go up for adoption.
Psych meds are NOT a problem!

Tish_Fall06 said...

One other question. How will you know which child will receive the subsidy and which child will not? Does the adoptive parent still receive that once they have adopted the child? I thought only foster parents received anything for the children. I'm wanting to adopt a Burmese/Karen/Chin (all ethnicities of Burma) little girl under age 4. The reason being that I am very integrated into that community and ethinicity, so I feel I could keep that child connected to their roots and the culture.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

A child that is 6 and over (or two and over if a minority) will qualify for subsidy. Any sibling groups also qualifies. I may be wrong but a child from Burma in CPS custody is probably not likely.

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Anonymous said...

We are considering adopting our Grandchildren. Rights for both parents were just terminated. There was a CPS case, and until the adoption is final, they will still be lurking in the background. My question is how much will they be hanging around? I have been lied to so many times from them & I don't trust them at all. I want them out of our lives asap, as all they do is cause more harm than good for the children

HLSep said...

My husband and I are in the process to become licensed to adopt through Texas Child Protective Services. We are working directly with CPS, not using an agency. We complete our PRIDE class over 2 months ago and are now waiting for them to call to schedule our home study. What does this timeline look like? Once our home study is complete, how long does it take to become approved and licensed?? I can't any answers about anything. Also, we are interested in adopting from the ages of birth to 5 years old. We overheard an agency head tell a friend that there were NO children within these ages available for adoption, only to foster. ?!?! Really?! I am so confused, impatient and concerned. Thank you!!

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

I'm sure that things go at a different pace when working directly with cps vs an agency- Kara might know more about that? But we were scheduled within a month of finishing our pride classes and then it took about 2-3 Wks to be completely certified after that... We worked with Buckner as our agency.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

We adopted a sibling group of 3 girls that were all 5 and under. So yes! There are children these ages. We waited a year to be matched. Sometimes it happens sooner - sometimes much longer. There is truly no predicting that but I trust that the RIGHT match will be made in the RIGHT time. Waiting is not easy. But worth it. The more open you are the easier matching will be... Open to any race, any gender, special needs, sibling groups, etc. The less open--- well the harder it will be I be matched. Foster parents typically get a chance to adopt a child they've cared for if he or she comes available for adoption--- so yes it is easier in that sense for a foster parent to adopt a younger child. However, not every foster parent desires to adopt. Our girls' foster mom did not and this our girls needed a straight adopt family. :).

Anonymous said...

I have a possibly odd situation. We have an 8 month old girl in our home that we are wanting to adopt (we are in the foster to adopt program). She came to us almost three months ago. For the first five months of her life she was exposed to meth and violence in the home. Her bio mom was in jail at the time of removal (aggravated assault with a deadly weapon) and her 'dad' is not even her bio dad. He and the bio mom met at a homeless shelter, after he got out of prison after doing 15 years, and they met and married a week later. Bio mom was already 6 months pregnant with her. He is however on the birth certificate. While bio mom was in jail, baby girl was removed from his custody because he was seen walking on the side of the road with her in a carrier, drunk and high. Bio mom is out of jail now, but has made no real attempts at working with CPS or her 'plan'. She is refusing to submit UA's. The 'dad' has contacted CPS once, but seemed more interested in trying to find out where bio mom was (obviously there is no contact between the two now). He has never called or made any attempts since. Recently found out that baby girl had an unusually high dosage of Meth in her system for a baby. This was mostly due to what the 'dad' had exposed her to, but even possibly in utero. Bio mom has a history of meth use and has lost four previous children to non-relative adoption because of her substance abuse and neglect of the children. The first status hearing, the Judge was very positive and even noted that it was looking like good odds in our favor for adoption. The plan at the time of the status hearing was Reunification Concurrent with Non-Relative Adoption (us). Just spoke to the CPS caseworker today and she said that she still has not heard from the 'dad' and that they were finally able to reach bio mom and even scheduled an appointment with her, but she once again no-showed to the appointment and said she would not submit any UA's. Asked the CPS caseworker if the plan will change at the next status hearing in two and a half months and she said yes, but that it would most likely change to Relative Adoption and they would be looking through bio mom's family and 'dad's' family. Bio mom has no family. And 'dad', with not being a bio is his family even an option??? So my question is this: is it too early for us to get an attorney? Everyone in this situation is represented by an attorney, but us. We are told we are not a 'party' to the case until we have had her in our home for at least a year (basically we are feeling like we are being told that we are just paid babysitters). What is your advice on getting an attorney? The next status hearing is in May or June. I feel like we need somebody there for us. What do you ladies think?

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

Anonymous...please email Kara at and we can talk more. In the meantime I will answer some of your questions, but there is so much more to talk about. First, you are correct that you do not have legal standing until she has been in your home for 1 year. That being said, you can still hire a firecracker atty and still fight, but the odds can be stacked against you, but are not in surmountable anyway. I will warn you, it is typically $5000 up front and can cost up to or more than $40K winning or not. Now with regard to CPS, they had no business "baiting" you the way they did. The process is pretty straight forward and they are doing it by the book. They are required by law to shake the trees for relatives. If they prove that "baby daddy" is not baby daddy then they will not have standing. In the meantime, he IS on the birth certificate and legally that makes him the "daddy" until proven otherwise so his relatives will be checked out. If you've heard "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" this is true most of the time so it is only slightly likely they will find someone suitable. It is a long, grueling process, but it must be done. It will drain your heart and mind, but this is foster care. That doesn't help at all!!! Your comment about being paid babysitters hit right on the bullseye. That is what we are considered and quite frankly they would also like us to be quiet and invisible. Just stating it like it is. Now I am not saying that is what we must do, but that is what CPS would like. You also have to "dance the dance" in some ways or you will cause yourself some grief. CPS doesn't like being crossed in any way. Please email me and we can talk more and I can give you my phone number. Foster parenting is the hardest life you'll ever love. It is painful and joyful and these kids are worth it. CPS is overworked and being pulled in so many different directions it is so hard for them on a daily basis. This doesn't excuse them of leading you on, but their job is TOUGH and they deserve our prayers and support, even when they frustrate us because we frustrate them as well. Email and we'll talk more.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

HLSep....With our agency it takes about 6 months. With CPS it can take up to a year depending on how bogged down they are.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

HLSep....I didn't finish answering you. With regards to adoption through CPS without fostering, it is true that there are seldom any children available under 3 for adoption unless you foster or get a sibling group of more than 2. We have a foster child in our home who has been in our home since birth. She will not even be available for adoption until over 2. In most cases the foster homes will adopt those. This is our case as well. If you are willing to adopt a larger sibling group, then there maybe one in that younger age. I know this is tough information, but that is the norm. It is NOT impossible, just not very likely.

Breaking Hearts Building Families said...

TISH Fall 06....I agree with Celena, unless you are in an area that has local children of these ethnicities, otherwise that sounds like more of an international adoption situation and subsidy is only for children who have been in the foster care system.

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Breaking Hearts Building Families
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