Here are the top three:
1) How much does it cost?
Everything always comes down to money, doesn't it? But it takes so much more than money. It costs everything you have and everything you are. You can hold nothing back.
So the short answer to the question is "everything." The long answer is "it depends."
If you pursue foster care, the training is free, the state provides healthcare for the child, and you get a monthly reimbursement check to cover room and board for the child. But while the monetary commitment is minimal, the time commitment is enormous. You will be up at night comforting scared children. You will be spending hours on the road taking them to appointments and visits. You will sacrifice your comfort zone and your need for control and your personal space.
If you pursue adoption (outside of foster care), the monetary cost is often very high. It is not unusual for costs to reach $30-40,000. Most people do not have that kind of money sitting around. We sure didn't when we adopted. But did you know there are no-interest loans available for adoptive families? Grants and matching grants? Employee adoption benefits? Hundreds of fundraisers tailored to adoptive families? I'm told it's not good manners to talk about personal finances, but I'm going to do it anyway: when we adopted our daughter we received $16,000 in grant money and about $10,000 from fundraising efforts. We never could've afforded it otherwise.
So, how much does it cost? It depends. But you can be sure even when the state picks up the tab, there is still a price to pay.
2) How do I know if I'm ready?
People ask me this all the time and I still haven't figured out a better answer than "You don't." You didn't know if you were ready when you first started driving, when you got your first job, when you got married, when you had a baby, when you started a new job, when you bought a house. But you hoped you were. You did everything you could to be ready and then you held your breath, said a prayer, and dove on in.
If you're waiting for someone to come along with a magic wand and sprinkle Readiness dust on your forehead, it's never going to happen.
3) How can I be involved?/How can I help?/What can I do?
This question comes in many variations but the answer is always the same: be available. It's that simple and that complex.
If all your resources are maxed out on personal pursuits, you will have nothing left to give vulnerable children or families and organizations trying to help vulnerable children. And I'm not really talking primarily about money here (although you wouldn't believe the amount of joy a $25 gift card to Dairy Queen can bring an emotionally exhausted foster family). I'm talking about your time. Your love. Your thoughtfulness. Are you available? Or are all the days of your week already filled with all the many wonderful things you and your family want to be part of?
There's nothing wrong with those things. But if there's no breathing room in your life, no extra, what do you have to give? How will you be ready if an opportunity to help comes along? What happens if you become aware of a need you would love to help with, if only you had...more...time?
I'm not saying to give up gymnastics or art lessons or family bowling night or whatever. But for every yes, there has to be a corresponding no. So if you really want to help vulnerable kids, build some margin into your life. Choose your "yeses" and "nos" carefully. Be available.
So, what other questions do you have? What is the one thing you wish you knew about foster care or adoption but have always been too afraid to ask? Drop your question in the comments and click on this link to go to my website and download the Road to Adoption Guide, which answers the fourth most common question: Where do I start?