It's estimated that as of July 2010 there are about 425,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, and about 25 percent of those children are waiting for adoption.
Although the children in foster care are of ages ranging from under a year to 20 years old, the average child is nearly 10 years old and will stay in the foster care system for just over two years. If you're looking to adopt an older child, then you'll probably need to adopt a child who is in foster care or you may need to foster a child for anywhere from six months to a year before being adopting him or her.
This may be required of a child who has a history of multiple foster placements or has been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder, which is a condition that affects a child's ability to fully adjust to an adoptive family.
Choosing to be an adoptive parent and a foster parent are not the same thing. About 49 percent of children in foster care in 2009 were placed in homes with the final goal for the child's placement be reunion with his or her birth parents. Being foster parent exclusively requires the mindset that you can part with a child if the time comes.
In the event that a child becomes available for adoption, a foster family will be the most likely placement option as the child has already established a working relationship in foster care.