"When is a person too old to need a parent?" Never.
Life is full of pivotal events and important decisions, including dealing with peer pressure, graduating from high school, deciding which college to attend, getting married, and experiencing the birth of grandchildren. Many of the children in foster care grow up to be young adults with no family ties. They have no one to reliably turn to for advice or to help celebrate their life accomplishments or support them through life’s disappointments.
At The Barker Adoption Foundation, we believe all children regardless of age deserve a safe, stable, and loving family.
Project Wait No Longer-Older Child Adoption from Foster Care (PWNL) is a program of The Barker Adoption Foundation that seeks to find permanent, adoptive families for older children whose circumstances resulted in their being placed into public foster care. Most of the children are 12–17 years old, but some younger waiting children are part of larger sibling groups (three or more children) who desperately wish to stay together. PWNL has placed over 100 wonderful children with adoptive families in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
The children we place have all experienced significant trauma. Many have been removed from their biological families because of abuse and neglect and are in urgent need of a loving and stable family that is prepared to help them heal from the impact of that trauma. Despite their history, children in the foster care system are very resilient and can thrive with the love and support of a safe, loving, and committed family.
PWNL is seeking couples and individuals who have room in their homes and hearts to adopt a waiting child or sibling group. Our comprehensive program will provide you with the following services:
- Specialized training in preparation for older child adoption
- Support services and consultation throughout the process
- An adoption home study with an adoption specialist
- Matching and referral of a child or children legally free for adoption
- Facilitation of visitation and placement of the child into your family
- Intensive post-placement support services during the months after placement and before adoption finalization
- Lifelong support and access to Barker’s Family and Post-Adoption Services
PWNL is seeking families and individuals who feel prepared to meet the needs of and become permanent families for the children waiting in the foster care system. Here is a video about the most common characteristics seen in PWNL adoptive parents. We know that there are children with a wide variety of needs and preferences and as such we keep our eligibility requirements somewhat flexible.
The following are the general eligibility criteria for PWNL:
- Singles and married couples are welcome to apply. If married, you must be married for a minimum of one year at the time of application. For couples who are more recently married (less than one year), you are welcome to apply if you have lived together for at least one year. Please note that unmarried couples are not eligible to adopt through this program and that any couple living together must apply for adoption together.
- No fixed age limit
- Must be open to adopting a child or children a minimum of ages 12 and up
- Must complete the PRIDE older child adoption training prior to starting the home study
- Must meet state and agency guidelines for criminal history, medical, and other eligibility standards
- Please click here to view Barker's non-discrimination agreement.
- There are currently more than 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
- Slightly more than 100,000 children in care are awaiting adoptive families.
- By age ten, a child’s likelihood of being adopted goes down by 50 percent.
- An estimated 22,000 children “age out” of foster care every year with no family ties.
PWNL partners with public child welfare agencies across the country to find loving, safe, and permanent families for these resilient children who are in need of a family like yours.
There are currently more than 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
By age ten, a child’s likelihood of being adopted goes down by 50 percent.
Process & Timeline
Working with PWNL involves comprehensive programming that takes families from where they are just “thinking” about older-child adoption to helping them establish supportive services once they are parenting their new child or children.
On average, families working with PWNL are matched with their children within 8–12 months of finalizing their home study. The time it takes to be matched varies from family to family, so it is important to note that this timeframe is just an estimate.
The Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) curriculum is a nationally recognized training model used to train foster/adoptive families for adoption through the public foster care system. This thorough, hands-on training typically takes place in four sessions and 27 hours in total. Participants learn about everything from adopting through the foster care system to managing issues relevant to older-child adoption. In addition to covering specific details about the PWNL program, the training offers the opportunity to meet families who have adopted through PWNL and other families considering doing the same.
The PWNL adoption program is financed primarily through adoption fees, state contracts, grants, and donations.
Fees are assessed on a sliding scale based on household income. It is important to note that PWNL can often contract with the placing state agency to pay a significant part of your adoption fees, but this is not a guarantee. So we ask that all families be prepared to pay the adoption fees. If you have questions about how the state contracts work, please contact our Community Outreach and Recruitment Specialist at email@example.com or call 301-664-9664.
For details on adoptive parent eligibility, the adoption process, considerations, fees, and more, please view the international adoption information packet on our Choosing A Program page.
Many families who adopt older children from the U.S. foster care system are eligible to receive a monthly subsidy to help offset the expenses they incur for seeking specialized therapeutic and academic post-placement support services. This monthly subsidy varies by state and by the needs of the child, but once established, is often provided until the child turns 18.
PWNL Family Stories
Ta'Shay's Story: A Child Waits No Longer
When Ta’Shay lamented to a friend that she was ready to have a family, but had never married, her friend suggested she think about adopting a child. It was an idea Ta’Shay had never considered, but soon, it became an idea she could not get out of her mind.
James and Tammy's Story
"You could say we did things a little backwards...but she was well worth the wait!" James and Tammy adopted their daughter, Jamie, at age ten.
Scott and Quang's Story
After their first meeting Scott shared that they were "nervous, scared and excited at the same time." And after leaving Quang looked back and said, "I just adore that boy."
Other Ways You Can Help Waiting Children
Older-child adoption may not be a good fit for everyone; however, there are ways that everyone can help the 100,000+ children who are waiting in the foster care system.
You can help by doing any of the following:
- Connecting PWNL staff with your local house of worship (church, temple, mosque [etc.), and] or your community groups (support groups, Rotary Clubs, fraternities, book clubs, PTA groups, etc.) where we can share information about older-child adoption and profiles of currently waiting children.
- Posting flyers, posters, and brochures in your local community (schools, libraries, doctors’ offices, nail shops, etc.) to help get the word out about older-child adoption. Or do this “virtually” by sharing information from The Barker Adoption Foundation’s social media pages, like Facebook and the Barker Blog.
- Hosting a Barker representative at your workplace to share information about older-child adoption.
- Donating to Barker. The cost of running PWNL is largely subsidized by donations and grants. Your donation will go a long way toward helping a waiting child experience a permanent and loving family.
- Volunteering for PWNL is always seeking volunteers to mentor our older youth who are in need of support, connections, and guidance as they adjust to life in a new family. Become a mentor with our CONNECT Mentorship program.
If you are interested in helping PWNL share information about children waiting in the foster care system, please contact our Outreach and Program Support Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-664-9664.
Parent Education & Support
At The Barker Adoption Foundation, parent education and trainings are an essential and valuable part of the adoption process.
While many may think that education and training is just a part of the initial phases of adoption, it truly is a lifelong process, which is why we are committed to providing these critical services before, during, and after your adoption process.
The first step in learning more about adoption, Barker, and Barker’s programs is to attend a free general adoption information meeting, held monthly at Barker’s offices. You will have the opportunity to meet with staff members, ask questions, and hear from a family that has adopted through Barker. You can find an upcoming meeting by visiting the Barker Events Calendar.
Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE)
The PRIDE curriculum is a nationally recognized certification for adoption through the public foster care system and required if considering adopting an older child through Project Wait No Longer -Older Child Adoption from Foster Care (PWNL). During the four-part, 27-hour training session, you will have the opportunity to:
- Learn about adoption from the foster care system
- Understand more about the PWNL program and the needs of the children we place
- Ask questions and address any concerns
- Consider or confirm your commitment to older-child adoption
- Meet other families who are also considering adopting an older child
- Hear from a family who has adopted through PWNL
The topics specifically address the issues relevant to older-child adoption, including:
- Attachment and bonding
- The impact of abuse and neglect on childhood development
- Transitioning of the child from foster care to an adoptive home
- Educational advocacy
- Grief and loss
- Behavioral challenges
- Transracial and transcultural adoption
The cost is $300 per couple or$175 for individuals. Register by visiting the Barker Events Calendar.
PWNL: Waiting Parent Support Group
This discussion group is open to individuals and couples who are currently in the PWNL program. This support group is offered at no cost to families once they have completed intake with the program. To find out when the next group will be held, please visit the Barker Events Calendar. To RSVP for this event, please contact email@example.com.
Please check out the Barker Events Calendar for additional relevant events for prospective adoptive parents.
The Barker Adoption Foundation’s Project Wait No Longer-Older Child Adoption from Foster Care (PWNL) program seeks to find families for children whose circumstances resulted in their being placed into public foster care. Most of these children are 12−17 years old, have some degree of special needs, are of various ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, and may be part of a sibling group.
PWNL is seeking married couples and singles who have an unconditional commitment to providing permanent and loving families for older youth. Barker welcomes adoption applications from couples and individuals of all ages, all religious and ethnic backgrounds, and all sexual orientations and gender expressions. However, families should be aware that each of the 50 states has specific adoption legislation and has its own legal restrictions on adoption. Barker and our clients must abide by the adoption laws in the state where the family resides and the state from which they are adopting. Barker welcomes all inquiries.
The adoption process includes the following chronological steps:
- 27 hours of specialized older child adoption training
- Individualized consultation
- Adoption home study
- Matching and referral
- Pre-placement meeting and visitation with child
- Placement of child
- A minimum of six months of post-placement support and supervision services
- Lifelong access to Barker’s comprehensive Family and Post-Adoption Services
Since 1945, Barker has been serving children and families in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., making it the fourth-oldest private adoption agency in the nation. Barker upholds a philosophy of excellence in ethical adoption and continual care throughout the adoption process. We have a strong history of pre-adoption education and preparation for prospective parents and lifetime post-placement support services. Dedicated adoption professionals are here for you and always respond in a timely fashion to your questions and requests. The hallmark of our program is our partnership with public child welfare departments with the shared goal of meeting the needs of older children.
The Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) Training is a thorough, four-part training program designed to prepare parents for adopting older children through the foster care system. Click for more information about the goals and details of training or call our offices to speak with an adoption specialist today.
Deciding to adopt an older child is a process that requires patience. The training is specifically designed to educate prospective adoptive parents and address the joys and challenges specific to older child adoption. While many who attend the training make the decision to proceed, there is no pressure to move forward with the program. We generally recommend doing the training before applying to the program to make sure PWNL is a good fit for your family.
Families who have taken PRIDE within the past three years should contact PWNL to discuss a reduction in the training requirement. If PRIDE was taken more than three years ago, families are required to complete the training in its entirety again.
A home study is required of all prospective adoptive parents. It consists of a series of interviews with a knowledgeable and caring social worker, who will assist you in making well-informed decisions related to parenting older children. During your home study, your social worker will evaluate your readiness for older child adoption. The home study generally takes four to six weeks after the paperwork is submitted. Click to read more information about the home study process.
At this time, PWNL does not accept home studies from other agencies. The social worker who completes your home study is the same social worker who will provide your post-placement support. In our experience, it is extremely valuable to have a relationship with your social worker before navigating the often challenging waters of post-placement. For this reason, every family adopting from PWNL is required to have a home study completed by Barker.
The fees associated with PWNL are offered on a sliding scale ranging from $3,500 to $8,000, depending on your household income. Because PWNL contracts with public agencies, much of your cost for the program can often be reimbursed by the state. However, families must be prepared to pay the fees associated with the program. Many of the children we place are eligible for a monthly adoption subsidy, which will be paid to their parents until the child turns 18. Health insurance is often available until the child is 18. The current fee structure may be found here.
Prospective applicants often research their options extensively before the home study. Generally, applicants do not apply to multiple programs simultaneously; however, once an adoption is completed, parents sometimes desire to use another Barker program as they build their family. The various adoption programs have different processes, challenges, and rewards and are best addressed one at a time. Because children adopted at an older age often have specialized needs, concurrent adoption is generally discouraged when working with PWNL.
PWNL focuses on placing the most vulnerable children from the foster care system. Younger children are often adopted by their foster family unless they have a higher level of special needs. Although PWNL places children younger than age 10, most of these children are a part of larger sibling groups (three or more) or have a higher level of special needs. We require that any family choosing to work with PWNL be open to children with a minimum age of 12, even if they are open to considering younger children as well.
Children placed through PWNL generally have faced one or more of the following types of issues:
- Behavioral challenges
- Emotional challenges
- Educational challenges
- Medical challenges
Taking the required older child PRIDE adoption training can help families better understand these special needs and identify which challenges they are prepared to parent.
Barker strongly supports the spirit of openness for all families. However, considering the circumstances that resulted in most children being placed into foster care, many children adopted from the foster care system do not have a direct relationship with their birth parents. The children may ask for continued contact with siblings or extended family members, previous foster families, and friends. It is rare, however, that children are able to maintain an ongoing relationship with the birth parents.
- A monthly support group meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM at our Bethesda location. To find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Specialized post-placement support groups
- 24/7 on-call advice hotline 1-888-955-3339
- PWNL parent mentoring
- Kids’ support groups
- Eight-week intensive crisis intervention program
- Ongoing trainings and annual Adoption & Foster Care Conference
- Lifetime access to post-adoption services
We've created a number of videos to answer questions about Project Wait No Longer-Older Child Adoption from Foster Care. Watch them all by clicking here.