There are two basic ways to adopt from foster care. You can adopt a child who is currently available for adoption because his parents' rights have already been terminated. There are about 115,000 children in this boat, about evenly divided between black and white, and boys and girls. Their average age is 8.6 years, but about 31 percent are under five. Many of the younger kids are part of a sibling group.
The second way to adopt from the foster care system is through what is often called the foster-adopt program. Different states call is different things, but it is usually a variation on that label. In this program, you first go through the training to become a foster parent (usually a 10-12 week course is required). The child that is placed in your home is not legally free for adoption (meaning that the parental rights have not yet been terminated) and may not become legally free for adoption since the goal is to reunite birth familieswhere possible, or place children with extended family. The child will be available for you to adopt only when these options are not available. Usually, case workers have a feel for which children will become available for adoption and they try to place these kids in foster-adopt home, but there are no guarantees. Most of the younger children that are adopted from foster care are placed through the foster-adopt system.
Keep in mind that most states not only place foster children for adoption from the county department of social services, many also have contracts with adoption agencies to find homes for these children. To increase your odds of finding a child, it helps to check with both public and private agencies. Also, you do not have to adopt a child from your state or region. Most agencies try to keep children in the foster-adopt program nearby because parental rights are not yet terminated, but children who are currently free for adoption are often placed across state line. A wonderful resource for seeing what children are currently free for adoption throughout the country is AdoptUsKids.