What You Need to Know About Foster Care Adoption in S.C.

Just as we can help you complete other kinds of adoption, the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson can walk you through every legality of adopting from foster care to help you successfully grow your family.

When you decide to adopt a waiting foster child, the first thing you should do is contact the South Carolina Department of Social Services. While we can help you with the legalities of terminating parental rights and finalizing your adoption, you will need to work closely with the Department of Social Services to pass background screenings and be approved to foster or adopt from the foster care system.

There are two ways you can adopt from foster care in South Carolina: by adopting a waiting child who is legally free for adoption or fostering to adopt.

Adopt a Waiting Foster Child

Choosing to adopt a foster child is a great opportunity if you are open to adopting an older child and don’t want to wait a long time to grow your family. There are hundreds of children in South Carolina waiting to be adopted that you can view today in this foster care adoption photolisting.

When you adopt a foster child who’s waiting in the system, their biological parents’ rights have already been terminated. Therefore, there is no potential for reunification with their parents and no need to take legal steps for termination of parental rights (which can be a complicated process and may be necessary in other types of foster care adoption).

Our law firm is available to represent adoptive parents in their adoption of a child from the Department of Social Services — completely free of charge for adoptive parents. We do not require the adopting parents to advance any sum for costs, fees and expenses but, instead, are pleased to wait on the DSS subsidy for payment for our costs and expenses. The state of South Carolina offers a $1,500 subsidy for all adoptive parents to cover nonrecurring adoption fees, like the legal expenses of finalizing adoption.

Thanks to this subsidy, our law firm is available to handle these DSS adoptions throughout the state at no additional charge to the adopting parents.

Adoption Subsidies in South Carolina

For a child to be eligible to receive this subsidy (or “supplemental benefits”), they must have been placed for adoption by the Department of Social Services and meet one of the following provisions:

  • Be defined as a “special needs” child
  • At high risk of developing a physical, mental or emotional disability
  • Other factors interfere with the child’s ability to be placed for adoption
  • Has significant emotional ties with their foster parents, and it’s considered in their best interest to be adopted by those parents

Because many of the children in foster care meet these qualifications, it’s highly likely that any child adopted through foster care will be eligible for this subsidy. In many cases, how much it costs to adopt a foster child may be minimal or nothing at all because of the financial assistance provided by the state.

Foster to Adopt in S.C.

The other way you can complete a foster care adoption in South Carolina is through the “foster to adopt” program. In this process, you become a foster parent of a child, and if termination of parental rights occurs, you may be able to adopt your foster child.

However, when you decide to foster to adopt, you need to remember that the priority of the Department of Social Services is to reunite children with their biological parents if it is safe to do so.

However, you may be able to take action if you believe a foster child’s best interest is to be with you rather than with their biological parents — and we can help you take those legal steps whenever you’re ready.

Our law firm is privileged to represent many foster parents in their desire to advocate for a child’s best interest. In most circumstances, foster parents have the statutory right to bring an action for termination of parental rights (TPR) against the birth parents. Typically, foster parents may also bring a motion for intervention in the underlying DSS abuse and neglect case or may also seek to consolidate their own TPR case with that of the Department of Social Services’ case for TPR. Each of these decisions requires a fact-specific and legally nuanced understanding of the particular case.

When our law firm is retained to represent adopting parents in a contested TPR/adoption case, among our first steps is to seek a discovery order, whereby we are entitled to review the Department of Social Services’ file, issue subpoenas and take depositions of the parties to the case. It is through this discovery process that we can best be prepared for a contested trial regarding termination of parental rights or to better inform the foster parents of their case. With law offices in Spartanburg and Charleston, our firm is available to handle foster care adoptions in every county in South Carolina.

While we can help you bring a TPR case to court if you’re interested in adopting a foster child in South Carolina, you should seriously consider the pros and cons of a foster to adopt program before deciding what’s right for you.

Requirements to be a Foster Parent or Adopt a Foster Child

In South Carolina, anyone who is at least 21 years old can apply to be a foster parent or adopt a foster child. However, there are some additional steps you’ll need to take before you can complete a foster care adoption.

You’ll need to contact your local Department of Social Services office to receive your initial application. After that application is completed, you will need to:

  • Complete background checks, including fingerprint scans and child abuse central register clearance
  • Complete 14 hours of preparatory training to determine what kinds of foster children would fit in well with your family
  • Complete a home study process, which will include: references to your character; medical, social and financial history; a collection of documents like birth certificates and marriage licenses; and other documentation
  • And more

After you complete these steps, the Department of Social Services will assess your application and make sure you are ready to adopt. Remember, the DSS will likely pay for most (if not all) of your foster care adoption costs.

After placement, you may have social workers visiting your home to see how you are adjusting — and only after all this can your adoption be finalized in family court.

South Carolina Foster Care Adoption Resources

In addition to the adoption subsidies available for adopting from foster care, the Department of Social Services offers orientation, training and resources for your foster care adoption. Click here if you’re a prospective foster parent and click here if you’re a current foster parent.

Other websites to use for research include:

The professionals of the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson are here to help you with any legal steps required to complete a foster adoption. To learn more about what kind of services we provide, whether you’re looking to adopt a waiting child or move forward with adopting a foster child, please contact us today at 864-573-5533.