All of you just read that title and went, “Huh?”. I know trust me. There is a term in foster care called legal risk. Here is the definition as I found it on Adopting.org:
Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when a child is not yet legally free for adoption. Before a child can be legally adopted by another family, parental rights of his or her birth parents must be terminated. In a "legal risk" adoptive placement either this termination of parental rights has not yet occurred, or it is being contested. In some cases, termination of parental rights is delayed until a specific adoptive family has been identified.
You’re still thinking, “Huh?” aren’t you? Well I can’t blame you. Just like everything else in foster care (or any government agency) nothing is really clear cut. Children that the agency or state has deemed legal risk means that the chances that they will become eligible for adoption is higher than normal. But they are NOT legally free to adopt.
All of the risk in legal risk is yours, pretty much. You take a child into your home for foster care with the mindset of hoping to adopt, but the reality is that there is a risk the child will not be able to be adopted. Huge emotional risk for you (and very much so for the child).
Something could happen legally to keep them from being adopted. Maybe their parents had rights terminated, but appealed. Still considered legal risk because the appeal could turn over the original decision to terminate rights.
Also, a child could have parents that are so close to termination of parental rights, but the state isn’t pursuing it yet. Why would the state not pursue it yet? Because the state isn’t out to make orphans. They want to wait until there is a family lined up for that child to go to. So the child is in limbo in the ambiguous state of legal risk classification.
It is definitely more emotionally taxing to foster a legal risk child hoping to adopt, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
- When the child is eligible for adoption, you will be approached first.
- You get to connect with that child while all of the legal stuff gets hashed out in court. You don’t have to wait for the outcome to start being a family. You get to be a family while it happens.
- While they don’t really say this in the foster care system, it is true: you will learn more about a case that is legal risk than a regular foster case. Social workers won’t really say it, but everyone has their eyes already set on termination and they are a little more giving with information to you.
While legal risk DOES NOT mean you will definitely get to adopt the child, it does make the chances better.