Adult Adoption: An Overlooked Path to Permanence

Over 23,000 children age out of the foster care system each year. Children who age out of foster care are removed from their foster homes to live independently upon their 18th, 19th, 20th, or 21st birthday (the age at which one ages out depends on the State and foster home). Once they age out, many are left with no support system or resources to help them navigate young adulthood. While services do exist, they are often poorly connected and rarely meet the child where they’re at. As a result, half of the children who age out of foster care become immediately unhoused or incarcerated. LGBTQIA+ youth, older youth, disabled youth, and Black youth are disproportionately impacted. Disabled youth, in particular, are twice as likely to age out compared to their able-bodied counterparts.

In other words, each year, thousands of marginalized youth—a fourth of whom have PTSD diagnoses—are thrust into adulthood with no resources or counsel and are expected to thrive. They are held to the same societal standards for success as young adults who have had a solid foundation and consistent resources. It is no surprise that after years of experiencing structural roadblocks and trauma, children who age out go on to struggle in adulthood. Only half will be employed at age 24, and only 3% will earn a college degree.

To address this issue, Congress enacted the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which permits States to lift the age at which individuals can be adopted or enter legal guardianship to 19, 20, or 21, creating another pathway to permanence for young adults exiting care.

Adult adoption provides young adults with the love and support needed to help them navigate a pivotal, often tumultuous time in their lives. No one should have to do it alone.

The adult adoption process is much more straightforward and streamlined than the process of adopting a child. Adult adoption usually takes six months to one year to complete, whereas adopting a minor takes about 9-18 months. The reason for this being that Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) doesn’t need to happen for an adult adoption; the adoptee doesn’t need to live with the person adopting them for at least 6 months (as is the case when adopting a minor); the person/family adopting the adult also doesn’t need to be licensed (meaning they do not need to go through the lengthy licensing process). To adopt an adult, you must obtain the adoptee’s consent, complete some paperwork, and set a court date.

The Process for Adopting an Adult Out of Foster Care

Step 1: The adult (18-21) in foster care consents to the adoption.

Step 2: The adoptive family hires an attorney familiar with adult adoption, files a petition with the court for the adult adoption, and fills out legal paperwork with their attorney.

Step 3: The adoptive family coordinates with their attorney to set a court date for the adoption hearing.

The notion that once someone is 18, they can’t be adopted anymore is not true. Don’t count young adults in foster care out. They can be adopted. If you know of a young adult seeking a family, that’s still attainable for them.” — Maddie Bobbitt, Extreme Recruiter


Sources: Finally Family HomesPeregrina SailsNational Foster Youth InstituteMissouri Department of Social Services

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