The most frequently asked questions about foster care adoption
Adoption is the transfer of parental rights from one person or couple to another person or couple. It is a permanent and legal process, which means adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents.
There are four main types of adoption:
1. Adopting a child from the U.S. foster care system
2. Adopting an infant in the United States
3. Adopting a child from another country
4. Adopting a stepchild or stepchildren
Foster care adoption is not expensive and financial assistance is available for parents who choose this path. Adoptive families are as diverse as the children waiting to be adopted.
However, there are requirements for other types of adoption. If you adopt internationally or privately with an attorney or agency, parents are typically under 40, are financially stable, and have been married for at least three years.
The cost of adoption depends on a number of things: the type of adoption, the agency you work with, the state in which you live, attorney fees, and any necessary travel expenses.
Range of adoption costs
Foster care adoptions: $0–$2,500
Licensed private agency adoptions: $5,000–$40,000+
Independent adoptions: $8,000–$40,000+
Intercountry adoptions: $7,000–$30,000
On average, the adoption process takes one to two years. But it depends on a number of variables, including whether pre-adoption classes are required, how long it takes to complete your homestudy, and how long it takes to find the right child for your family.
Start by ordering our signature publication, “Finding Forever Families: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adoption.” It will provide you with all the information you need to begin your journey.
A homestudy is an in-depth application and interview process conducted by a social worker. It involves in-person interviews, reference checks, background checks, and home visits. Homestudies are not standardized; they follow state regulations and may vary from state to state. The average homestudy takes about three to six months to complete.
Loans and grants are available through a variety of organizations, such as adoption agencies, foundations, and banks.
Subsidies and reimbursements may be provided by your state for some adoption costs and for the ongoing care of children with special needs. Each state has its own way of defining children with special needs, but states often agree to include children who are older, have disabilities, belong to a minority group, or must be placed with siblings.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway publishes a fact sheet, “Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted from Foster Care,” with more information on subsidies. The North American Council on Adoptable Children’s Adoption Subsidy Resource Center also provides general information on the subsidy program for each state or province.
View our financial assistance list for additional information.
Adoption tax credits are available for some qualifying expenses in adopting a child, including a child with special needs. The adoption credit is subtracted directly from your tax liability. Learn more at the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html.
Adoption benefits are offered by a number of companies and government agencies as part of the employee benefits package. These range from full or partial reimbursement for qualified adoption expenses, to paid or unpaid time off during and after the adoption. You may wish to contact your human resources department to ask about the availability of adoption benefits. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption provides an Adoption-Friendly Workplace guide with information for adoptive parents to share with their employers. For more information, visit our Adoption-Friendly Workplace web page, or call 877-777-4222.
Many children are placed in foster care because they were abused, neglected, or abandoned by their families. Some children wait alone in foster care, while others wait with siblings. The average age of a child in foster care is 8, but children range from infants to teenagers. Virtually every race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic category is represented.
While in foster care, these children may live temporarily with extended family members, with a foster family, or in a group home. Meanwhile, social workers help their birth families. If a family’s problems can’t be resolved, the agency with custody of the child goes to court and legally terminates parental rights. From that point on, social workers try to find a safe and loving adoptive family for the child.
A public agency is the local branch of your state or county social service department. It focuses on finding adoptive families for children in its custody.
A private agency is a state-licensed firm, either for-profit or nonprofit, that may or may not have a religious affiliation. Private agencies typically specialize in domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, or international adoption.
Age restrictions for adoptive parents vary from state to state; some also depend on the agency. Sometimes restrictions also exist based on the age of the child. Contact your local state agency to find out the guidelines in your state.
Yes. The military reimburses active duty personnel for most one-time adoption costs up to $2,000 per child. You are eligible for the reimbursement after the adoption is finalized. The maximum amount available in a given year is $5,000, even if both parents are in the military. The National Military Family Association has more information and resources. Or contact the Child Welfare Information Gateway at 800-394-3366.
Most states allow single parents to adopt. Contact your local state agency to find out the guidelines that apply to you.
Most states allow gay or lesbian parents to adopt. Several states allow gay or lesbian couples to adopt jointly. Contact your local state agency to find out the guidelines that apply to you.
Unfortunately, we cannot match prospective parents with children in foster care. DTFA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity and not an agency certified to have custody of children or to match families. Our mission is broader: to dramatically increase adoptions of the 137,000 children in North America’s foster care systems who are waiting to be adopted. The Foundation leads signature national service programs, such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and Adoption-Friendly Workplace. We also work to simplify the adoption process and make adoption more affordable for families. We are the only foundation dedicated exclusively to foster care adoption, and it is our vision that every child will have a loving family and a permanent home. We do work with partner agencies that do match prospective parents with children in foster care.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption works with recruiters throughout the United States and Canada. A listing of recruiters is available in our program sites.
Many states also provide photo listings on their websites. You can also visit the following websites, which feature photo listings of waiting children in several states or provinces:
• AdoptUSKids, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: www.AdoptUSKids.org
• Adopt America Network: www.adoptamericanetwork.org
• The Adoption Exchange: www.adoptex.org
• Children Awaiting Parents: www.capbook.org
• Canada: www.canadaswaitingkids.ca
You should consult with an adoption attorney or contact the court in your county that specifically handles adoption. It’s important to learn about the requirements and the process before going forward. You may also want to refer to the Stepparent Adoption Fact Sheet for Families on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.
See a list of kinship adoption resources that include listings for legal help, process information, financial assistance, and advocacy.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption does not provide scholarships for adopted children. However, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (HR 2669), which includes the Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act amendment (Public Law 110-84), allows youth who are or were in foster care after their 13th birthday to apply for FASFA funds as an independent student. For more information, please contact FASFA at 1-800-4-FED-AID (800-433-3243); a TTY line for the hearing-impaired is available at 1-800-730-8913. You also may e-mail FASFA customer service for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is http://studentaid.ed.gov.
Since foster care and adoption are often interrelated, many of the scholarships and waivers focus on time spent in foster care and children that age out. See a list of national scholarship resources.