New and potential foster parents often ask about fostering babies. Are there many newborns that need homes in Philadelphia? Can I choose to only accept infants? Is it possible to adopt babies from foster care? In this post, we’ll attempt to answer some of these questions for foster parents interested in caring for little ones.
The Need for Fostering Infants and Babies
The need for foster parents who are willing to take in newborns and infants is region-dependent. In large metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, there is an increasing need for infant foster parents over the last 5-10 years, primarily due to the ongoing opioid crisis.
According to new research published in JAMA Pediatrics, the proportion of children entering foster care due to parent opioid use increased from 14% in 2000 to 36% in 2017. They also found that children entering because of opioid use tended to be under age 5. The number of babies under age 1 nearly doubled.
While the whole country has been affected by the opioid crisis, Philadelphia has been particularly affected. According to the Pew Research Center, opioid-related deaths in Philadelphia have doubled between 2014 and 2017.
Due to all of these factors, foster parents are more likely to foster an infant today than they were 10 years ago.
Can I Foster a Baby?
Like all of foster care, there are no guarantees. However, foster parents are able to specify the age of the children they would feel comfortable caring for on their foster child profile.
When we started at foster parents, we knew we would be most comfortable with younger kids. We had two of our own under age 3 and had the diaper and formula routine down. Within 48 hours of our certification, we had received a call for 11 day old baby B. While not all infant placements may happen that fast, there is definitely a need for foster parents to accept newborns in Philadelphia.
While Philadelphia needs foster parents for all ages, those interested primarily in infants should still apply as there are many infants in need of a home.
Adopting Newborns from Foster Care
For families hoping to adopt a baby out of foster care, there are a number of considerations. First, and most important, is that the goal of foster care is always reunification. That means that the first priority for any newborn will always be returning to their birth parents.
When a child enters foster care, the family court will typically start by setting goals for the birth parents. These include stability, housing, and sobriety for those dealing with substance abuse. The court needs to allow sufficient time for the parents to meet these goals before moving on to other options.
If it starts to become unlikely that a child’s parents will meet their goals, then the next step is family finding. Family finding involves a formal search for other family members who would be able and willing to adopt the child. This process can take another several months. Family members always take precedence over foster families when it comes to adoption.
All together, it can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months before a newborn may be eligible for adoption by the foster family. And this is only after the previous options have been ruled out. That being said, some circumstances may speed up the timeline, such as having an older sibling who’s parental rights were already terminated.
For more information on family court or adoption, see the Legal System Guide or the Permanency and Adoption Guide.
Caution for Those Trying to Start a Family
When we started out in foster care, we were in a good place to accept an infant. With two of our own already, we knew we wanted to expand our family by adoption eventually, but we didn’t feel an urgency to adopt immediately. We had the freedom to care for baby B when she came while still being able to root for her mom to be able to bring her back home. While it would be very hard to see her go, we know that the goal is always for her to return home.
If we were trying to adopt to start a family from scratch, I think things may have been a little more difficult. Adoption would have felt more time-sensitive. It would have been more difficult to root for mom to get to a place where she could bring baby B home. Any progress was made towards getting baby B home would have felt like a setback. We always want to be able to root for reunification.
For those who are eager to have a family, remember that much of foster care is not in your control. If you are the type to need to know how things will work out, you may want to consider private adoption. However, if you are flexible on your timing, foster care may still be a wonderful opportunity to adopt a child who needs a home.
Fostering Drug Addicted Babies
Because of the opioid crisis, a greater proportion of newborns entering foster care have been exposed to drugs during pregancy. These infants may require some special care initially after birth. We will cover caring for these children in a later post.
Wrapping it Up
There are many infants in need of a safe home in Philadelphia. The need has increased, particularly due to the opioid crisis. If you are interested in getting started in foster care, check out our Certification Guide now!