Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Should You Foster or Adopt?

By Rachael Moshman

We hear all the time about the countless children in the United States waiting for homes. So adopting or fostering a child should be quick and easy, right? Wrong. My husband and I were surprised to find it is actually a very long and complicated process. It took a year to bring a child into our home. Here’s how to get started.

1. Consider your family’s strengths and weaknesses. Most foster children waiting for adoptive homes are over the age of eight, have special needs, are of a minority group, or are part of a sibling group. Are you only willing to accept an infant or toddler? Are you comfortable parenting a child of another ethnic background? Are you open to adopting more than one child? There are no right or wrong answers, but it is important that you are honest with yourself.

2. Determine if special needs adoption is right for your family. Most states, including California, refer to foster-care adoption as special-needs adoption. This is because the trauma most of the children in foster care have endured causes emotional and behavioral challenges. Research common mental health conditions in foster children: bipolar disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), oppositional defiant disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

3. Look into the rules and regulations in your area. These vary by state and even county. According to Family Connections Christian Adoptions, California has no marital requirements for adoption. However, there are specific requirements regarding bedroom sharing for foster children. Research qualifications regarding the amount of square feet in your home, minimum household income, or legal history. It’s better to know if you meet the qualifications before investing too much time in the process. For more information, go to Law for Families:

4. Understand your county’s position on foster children. If you want to adopt a child, it is important that you are clear with the licensing agents and social workers that you are looking for a child that is legally free for adoption. The goal of foster care is typically to reunite the child with the biological family up until the time when parental rights are severed and the child becomes legally free for adoption.

You are now ready to officially start the process! You will most likely need to take training classes and complete a home study. The process could take a year or more. 

For more information about fostering children in Sonoma County, go to For more on fostering and adoption in Mendocino and Lake Counties, visit the site of Redwood Community Services, For general information about adopting in California, go to

Rachael Moshman is a freelance writer and emotional wellness support coach. Find her at