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Orange County Foster Care Network

Legal Risk Adoption

Legal-risk placements involve children in foster care for whom the agency has set the goal of adoption. This means that the agency intends to file a petition with Family Court to terminate parental rights. Since, in most cases, the child’s foster parents are given first preference for adoption, legal-risk placements involve only those children whose current foster parents do not plan to adopt them (approximately 15% of all children with the goal of adoption). While these placements still involve the risk that the child may not be freed for adoption, risk is substantially reduced once the agency has set the goal of adoption and initiated proceedings to terminate parental rights.

Please understand that while the vast majority of children in these circumstances eventually become freed for adoption, there are still no guarantees. Here are a few other things your family should consider: A legal-risk placement is considered to be a foster care placement until such time that the child is legally freed for adoption. Further, it is not uncommon for it to take over a year from the time the goal of adoption is set until the child is legally freed for adoption. In most instances, children will continue to visit their birth parents during this time.

Potential benefits of Legal-Risk Adoption:

  • Allows prospective adoptive families to consider a limited number of children who are likely to be freed for adoption in the future.
  • Local families who will accept legal-risk placements have an opportunity to be considered as adoptive parents for Orange County children before they are freed for adoption and made available to families throughout the state.
  • Risk associated with these placements is substantially less than with conventional foster care placements.

Important points to consider:

  • Legal-risk placements are limited to a small number of children (approximately 15% of those with the goal of adoption) whose foster parents do not intend to adopt them, and who will eventually be “photo-listed.” Once listed, they will be made available to all families statewide should they become freed for adoption.
  • With some exceptions, the characteristics of this population do not differ substantially from those of children who are freed and “photo-listed.”
  • As with all foster care placements, the family must be willing to work with the agency and the birth family.
  • A legal-risk placement is not a guarantee that the child will be freed for adoption.

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