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Applying to Adopt
Applying to adopt from U.S. foster care is often similar to or the same process as applying to become a foster parent.
Some, but not all, states require families to be approved for both fostering and adopting. This is for two primary reasons:
- When children are placed into families for the purpose of adoption, the legal relationship between the child and pre-adoptive family is considered foster care because the child is still in the legal custody of the State and under the jurisdiction of the Court until the until the adoption is legalized some months later
- While some families are certain they have no intention of adopting when they apply to be foster parents, many do end up adopting the children in their care if and when they are freed for adoption
While requirements to adopt vary from State to State, the process usually starts with completing pre-service training and an application. At first, it might feel like a lot of paperwork and process to deal with, but don’t let it discourage you. Just think of it as the first parenting task you need to do for the child or children who will come into your life.
During this step in the adoption process, you will need to be prepared to provide:
- Letters of reference from your employer and those who know you
- Criminal record check at local, state, and federal levels
- Proof of meeting the minimum age requirement in your State
- Verification of income to meet your expenses (please note that you don’t have to be rich to adopt and that most adoptions from foster care are free and any minimal fees associated with it are often reimbursable)
If you want to know your State’s requirements for adopting, you can contact us or look them up using our interactive map of state adoption and foster care information.
What You Need to Do
Ready to take the next step?
Pre-service training programs are almost always required and usually happen right before or at the same time you’re completing your application to adopt. Children in foster care have had many losses in their young lives. These trainings, which usually take between four to 10 sessions to complete, are required so you can have a better understanding of what your new child has been through and how to best integrate them into your family.
During pre-service training, you will:
- Prepare yourself for adopting a child
- Create a basis for teamwork between yourself and your agency
- Form mutually supportive relationships with other parents and child welfare staff who will be able to help you throughout your adoption journey
- Find answers to any lingering questions you might have about if you’re ready to adopt and what type of child you can successfully parent
It’s important to make a commitment to attending pre-service training sessions. If two people will be co-parenting, both will be required to attend. Hear from parents who have been through the process by watching the video on the right. It’s a chapter from our film The Road to Adoption and Foster Care. You can also watch the entire film (Flash – 2:00 hr.).
This is where the official paperwork begins and where you will meet the caseworker who will help you through the rest of the adoption process. In child welfare, generally there are two types of caseworkers — family workers who work with families such as yours and child workers who work with the children in care. It’s important to develop and maintain a good relationship with your caseworker, so take time during the application process to get to know them as they will be your guide throughout your adoption journey.
To make the application process as smooth as possible, you need to:
- Be open and honest both on the application and in the personal interviews with your caseworker
- Supply the necessary information completely, accurately, and timely
- Ask for help if you don’t understand something
- Agree to maintain confidentiality about children in care and their birth families
- Cooperate with the home inspection and required criminal background and protective service checks (for more information on required checks, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s summary of state laws on criminal background checks for prospective foster and adoptive parents)
After you have completed your application and required training, you and your caseworker will need to complete a home study, which is sometimes referred to as a mutual assessment. Find out more about completing an adoption home study.
Ready to take the next step?