Older youth need families

Thousands of teens in foster care are looking for the love, support, and encouragement that families provide throughout their lives—not just until they turn 18

  • Why do teens need family? We asked them! Young people who are in foster care or were adopted as teenagers share their thoughts.
  • Family means having parents who support and love their kids and inspire them to do their best. Alana Age: 17
  • Having a family means having security and relationships. Blake Age: 16
  • Brianna says that she wants a family who will "stick it out with me." Brianna Age: 17
  • Craig dreams of a family who will celebrate holidays with him. Craig Age: 17
  • Elijah says that his ideal parents will be nice to him, live near good schools, and be good cooks—because he loves to eat! Elijah Age: 16
  • Adoption will give me a new start in life. Gary Age: 18
  • Adoption means having a forever family that will be kind and loving and treat us nicely. Georggina, George, Geovanni, Geovanna Age: 15, 14, 12, 10
  • Hector hopes for a family who will help him prepare for a career in the armed forces. Hector Age: 16
  • Jaquisha is ready to find a forever family who wants to watch movies, spend time outside, and laugh with her! Jaquisha Age: 16
  • I want a family that is in their 40s because they would understand the different styles that I enjoy wearing. Jeffrey Age: 17
  • I want to be in a home, have a steady family, and be able to live like a teenager. JohslinAge: 16
  • Having a family gives me a place to call home and a place I belong. Kylie Age: 15
  • Family is forever. They stay in your heart. Distance and trouble will never keep you apart. Nancy Age: 14
  • I want to be adopted so I can stay in one place—and be happy. Nate Age: 15
  • Patty would love to be part of an active family that sticks together, no matter what. Patricia Age: 17
  • Tanesha is looking for a family who will believe in her dreams of being a singer and going to college. Tanesha Age: 17
  • Thomas dreams of having a forever family, being a father, and owning a Mustang or Camaro! Thomas Age: 16
  • My adoption ceremony was the most important moment of my life. I cried tears of joy that day. Thomas Age: 23
  • Tony is looking for a family who wants to go biking and watch football with him. Tony Age: 15
  • William wants a home where he can feel helpful—and try different kinds of food. William Age: 14
  • My dads have given me an environment where I feel safe and can be myself. Zak Age: 20
  • Adoption means a relationship where you can have trust with someone. Zyon Age: 17
  • We never outgrow the need for family.

Older youth who are adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in or age out of foster care without a permanent family. Yet many people question older youth’s need to have permanent, loving families.

Below we address some commonly asked questions about adopting older youth.

Why should we adopt a teen? They’re almost adults!

You never outgrow needing a family. Everyone needs a sense of belonging. Through adoption, older youth are connected to a family that can provide a sense of stability, lasting connections, and guidance with important life tasks—including enrolling in higher education, finding stable housing, securing employment, and establishing healthy relationships.

If I adopt a teen, will I have to pay their college tuition?

Children and youth who were adopted from foster care at age 13 or older are considered to be an independent student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which means they don’t have to count family income and are more likely to qualify for financial aid.

What about medical and mental health benefits?

Find more information about educational assistance at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. In addition, many states and organizations provide financial assistance to children and youth who are in foster care or who were adopted from the foster care system. Youth who are adopted from the foster care system at age 16 or older may be able to access Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program assistance, which provides up to $5,000 per year for youth who are in college or at an accredited vocational or technical training program.

Federal and state adoption assistance programs help adoptive parents meet children’s varied needs. Qualifying families may receive monthly maintenance payments, medical assistance, and other support, often until the child turns 18 or 21, depending on the state where they live.

Read more about available adoption assistance at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Do teens have a say in their adoption? How do I know if a teen wants to be adopted?


Yes! Almost every state has a requirement that youth of a certain age provide consent to be adopted. The age varies by state. Fourteen is the most common consent age, but many states require youth as young as ten to consent to adoption. Learn about an adopted teen’s experiences and needs by reading the factsheet, Parenting Your Adopted Teenager, on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

This illustration proves a point: we NEVER outgrow the need for family!

Can I adopt an older youth after they turn 18?

Laws vary from state to state, and many have laws allowing adoption after a youth reaches the age of majority. Because we never outgrow the need for family, being adopted after the age of 18 is still beneficial for youth who have spent time in foster care. Search state adoption laws at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Can a teen I am fostering to adopt get a driver’s license?

While laws vary from state to state, many states provide financial assistance to help youth in foster care or an adoptive placement take driver’s education classes and get their license. Contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more.

Things to do next:

Related content