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How to adopt a child in the Texas foster care system

The adoption process can feel tedious, but it's important to stay patient and go through every step.

AUSTIN, Texas — Adopting a child is a very big, important decision that requires careful planning and thought. The process can take six months or more to assure it's a perfect match for both the child and their prospective parents.

Every week for our Forever Families segment, KVUE Daybreak's Hannah Rucker spotlights a child in the Central Texas foster care system who is looking for a forever home. But this time, we are breaking down the adoption steps.

Here's a glance at a flow chart provided by Partnerships for Children that shows how extensive and delicate the adoption process is and why it requires so much patience:

Credit: Partnerships for Children

Lacy Vavra is the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) adoption prep supervisor for the Austin area. 

She said first, you need to create a profile on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange, or TARE, website. Then you need to get licensed with a child placing agency (CPA).

From there, Vavra said it's a series of background checks and training specifically aimed at working with children who have trauma. 

"We have State of Texas background checks, FBI checks. And if you have criminal history, that's not an automatic bar from adopting a child. It depends on what it is, how long ago it was. We'll do evaluations and determine if, you know, that's a safety risk to any child that we placed in your home," Vavra said.

She said the most important part is the home study, when someone comes to your home to take a look at what life would be like for the child.

"Your home study is a walk-through of your home. They'll talk about, you know, all the bedrooms you have, what it's set up for for a kid. If you have bunk beds in one room or you have a full-size bed, you know, what's going on, who you could fit in your home," Vavra said. 

"They'll talk to you, too, about what age range you're looking for, what behaviors you're OK with, what kind of traumatic history you're OK with," Vavra added. "Some people don't want any kids that have been sexually abused, and that's fine. We just want to make sure parents are equipped to deal with any trauma responses that might arise."

The adoption process can take three months, six months or more. It depends on several factors. As for the price, if you're adopting through the state, the cost can range from $300 to $400. Adopting through a private agency has a wide price range.

More than anything, Vavra said to have patience with the child you're adopting and with yourself.

"Give that child a chance to process. There's going to be a honeymoon period sometimes, and that may be a day, it may be three months. But just know that they are trying to figure it out, too," Vavra said. "Our kids have had so much rejection in their lives, and that is their go-to to try and push people away before they can push them away. They need love. That's something we try to tell our families early on."

She said it's important to remember that even though the information about a child might be scary on paper, they're just a kid. 

"You know, they're scared about college and their senior year or, you know, they're worried that their little sister who already has been adopted is struggling. You know, they have a lot of fears," Vavra said. "They're just, they're humans and they're kids, and that's really hard for us to remember sometimes. But just be patient, give it a shot and remember that they're all human."

See all of the kids currently up for adoption in the Austin area. If you'd like to contact Vavra, you can email her at lacy.vavra@dfps.texas.gov.

KVUE launched the Forever Families segment with Partnerships for Children (PFC) in June 2020 to highlight children in the Heart Gallery of Central Texas who need secure and permanent families. Every day, there are nearly 1,000 children waiting to get adopted in Central Texas, according to PFC.

Hannah Rucker on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

KVUE on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Editor's note: The children who are in the Heart Gallery program and featured in KVUE's Forever Families segments are children who have had every effort made on their behalf to connect them with family or others in their community to provide options for permanent, adoptive homes. Through no fault of their own, that hasn’t happened yet, and so in partnership with the Department of Family and Protective Services, we collaborate to bring awareness to KVUE viewers about these children in the hopes of finding them permanency before they age out.


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