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How Families Adopt or Foster Children

Every child deserves a safe, loving home. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

In a perfect world, these children would be removed from their homes and adopted by caring adults who would give them the needed stability. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. That is not to say that this never happens.

According to the Adoption Network, one out of every 25 families in the United States has adopted a child. While only about two percent of Americans have adopted, more than a third have considered adopting a child. About 140,000 children are adopted each year. Currently, 3,000 children are waiting to be adopted in the state of Michigan.

Two adults holding each hand of a baby helping baby stand

How to Adopt a Child

There are several ways in which a child can be adopted: immediate adoption, international adoption, step-parent adoption, and foster to adopt. There are also several types of adoption: closed, semi-open, and open.

A closed adoption means the adoptive parents and the birth parents share little to no contact. In many cases, they have no information about one another at all. If this is the case, birth records are often sealed. Birth parents are still able to choose an adoptive family for placement. Closed adoptions are easier to preserve if the birth parents use an adoption agency.

Semi-closed adoptions are similar in many ways to open adoptions. However, instead of openly sharing information, the data is passed between an intermediary - an adoption agency. This can include mailing letters and photos between the adoptive and birth families. Semi-open allows for some confidentiality while also allowing both parties to get to know each other. Semi-open adoptions can become open adoptions in the future if both parties agree.

Open adoption means ongoing and meaningful contact between the adoptive and birth families after placement. Open adoptions account for 60-70 percent of adoptions in the United States. Agencies are quick to state that no two open adoptions are alike. Still, many open adoptions include sharing personal information such as names, phone numbers, and email addresses, as well as visits before and after the adoption. It largely depends on what the adoptive and birth families have agreed to.

There are different types of adoptions and several avenues in which someone can adopt a child. Direct placement adoption or independent or private adoption occurs when the birth mother chooses adoptive parents. Following the child's birth, the adoptive parents receive immediate placement of the child.

International adoption is when parents adopt a child from another country and, through legal means, bring the child to live with them permanently.

Stepparent adoption, also known as second-parent adoption, occurs when a stepparent agrees to be the legal guardian of their spouse’s child.

Foster to adopt is when another family then adopts a child who has been placed in foster care. Of the 248,669 children who exited the foster care system in 2019, 26 percent (approximately 64,654) were adopted, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Five kids with their heads together looking down at the camera

How to Foster a Child in Need

Foster adoption begins when a child is placed in the Foster Care System. There are many reasons why children are removed from their homes, but the three most common reasons are neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. In 2020, there was 424,000 youth in the foster care system nationwide. Of that number, 13,000 were in Michigan.

The primary goal of the foster care system is to reunite children with their parents. However, this can take months or even years. During that time, children in the foster care system need a safe and nurturing home.

Foster parents are needed nationwide to provide a stable home environment for these children while ultimately understanding that the child will leave to go back to live with the birth parents. It is not a job for the faint of heart. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services states: “Foster parents should be committed individuals who are:

  • Willing to work with the child's birth parents.

  • Supportive of efforts to return the child home.

  • Able to work with children who have emotional and behavioral needs.

  • Able to encourage teens toward independent living.

  • Willing to provide a permanent home if necessary.

Throughout the United States, the number of foster children is increasing. While government agencies are working to keep children with their parents as long as possible, the rise in opioid and methamphetamine addiction, among other factors, is forcing the removal of more and more children from their homes. So the need for foster families is also increasing, with more foster children in the system than there are families.

The current median age for a foster child is just six and a half, with some children being placed in foster care at birth. This is a critical age in these young children's cognitive and emotional development. A stable, caring environment during this time is vital to these young children.

Sadly each year, 20,000 youth age out of the foster care system. These youth ranges from 18 to 21. With no family or stable home life, they are left to fend for themselves without emotional or financial support.

Individuals and families interested in becoming foster parents can find more information at Foster Care Navigator. Volunteers are also needed for those who want to help but cannot foster a child.

Anyone with additional questions about adoption or help navigating the adoption process can contact KB Law at 517-797-6021 or email Kimm Burger at

Kimm Burger


I want to hear your side of the story.


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