From – Progressive Woman

May, 2000

By: Leigh Joy Carson

The news is full of stories about local couples adopting children from China and Russia and Bulgaria. It is heartwarming how many of our neighbors and friends have opened their homes and their hearts to these children whose parents are unable to care for them. Sadly there are not as many stories about the hundreds of local children who are available for adoption or the many more who are waiting for foster homes.

The children who are waiting for adoption here are the same as those who are available for adoption in foreign countries – they are all ages and all races, they are boys and girls, they are only children and siblings. An important difference between a foreign adoption and the adoption of a local child who is in the custody of the Division of Family Services or with a foster family is the cost: adoption subsidies are available for the adoption of local children, and financial assistance is also available to assist the new parent with meeting any special needs of the adopted child.

The cost of an international adoption will vary, but in most cases it is thousands of dollars. In any adoption, a home study by an approved agency is required before the adoption may be completed.  In addition, to adopt a local child, a prospective parent must complete special training and undergo a background check. Most of the local children available for adoption have special needs: they are alone, they are scared and they need love and attention. They need to be part of a family.

Some of the local children available for adoption have more specialized needs for medical or psychological care and the Division of Family Services has each prospective adoptive parent complete a detailed questionnaire regarding the children he or she would be willing to adopt, with the parent indicating that he or she can accept, cannot accept or is willing to discuss the adoption of a child with each such characteristic. These characteristics range from a child who is diabetic or bed wets to a child who was born to a drug affected mother or has a learning disability.

There is no criticism of anyone who indicates that a certain physical or behavioral characteristic is not acceptable and so indicating does not disqualify a prospective adoptive parent from adoption. Pictures and brief descriptions of the local children available for adoption may be found on the Internet at WWW.DSS.STATE.MO.US.

In the City of St. Louis alone, the Division of Family Services estimates that 750 foster homes are needed.  Many foster homes are also needed in surrounding counties. Children need foster care because their parents are not presently able to care for them, but efforts are underway to remedy the problems that caused placement of the child in foster care.

Some of the children who are placed in foster care may become available for adoption, but not all do and the foster parents are under no obligation to adopt. To be a foster parent, you must be 21 years old, complete the required training and pass a background check that insures the safety of your home, that there is an appropriate place for the child to sleep (there does not have to be a separate bedroom), and that your family is financially stable in the sense that the subsidy paid for a foster child will not be used to support your family’s basic needs. You may be married or single, you may or may not have other children in your home. You cannot be a foster parent if you have been accused of child abuse or if you have been convicted of certain serious crimes.

Foster parents receive a monthly stipend for each child that is based on the age of the child, as well as a yearly clothing allowance. The children in foster care remain in the legal custody of the Division of Family Services, and a foster parent is not legally responsible for the actions of the child. If reunification between the child and the birth parents cannot be accomplished, the child will become available for adoption. The foster parents may seek to adopt the child, but are under no obligation to do so.

For more information about adoption of local children or foster care, contact the Division of Family Services in 5t. Louis County (314- 426-8400) or in 5t. Louis City (314-340-7536) or the Foster Care Coalition (314-340-7722).