Michigan foster care and adoption guidelines

Thank you for considering adoption and foster care.

On this page:

State contact information

For adoption:
MARE (Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange)
800-589-MARE (800-589-6273)

For foster care:
Foster Care Navigator Program
1-855-MICHKIDS (642-4543)

Foster and adoption licensing requirements

Here is a brief explanation of the different ways families and individuals help bring love and stability to the lives of children.

  • Foster care is meant to be temporary; adoption is meant to be permanent.
  • Because foster care is considered to be a temporary placement, it is not a good idea to become a foster parent with the expectation that you will always be able to adopt a child placed in your care. A foster parent is expected to work with the agency and birth parents in the hopes that the family will be reunited.
  • If parental rights are terminated, though, relatives and/or foster parents will be considered first as adoptive homes for the child.
  • There are children whose parental rights have already been terminated, and these children need adoptive families.
  • Once your licensing process is complete, you may start inquiring about children in whom your family is interested. Your adoption worker will share information about your family – including your family assessment – with the child’s worker. Usually, workers gather information on multiple families at the same time to find a family that best meets the needs of the child. Once the family has been chosen, the child’s worker will share more in-depth, detailed information with the family’s adoption worker. Usually called a child assessment, this report contains information such as how the child came into foster care, how long the child has been in care, how many placements the child has lived in, and any diagnoses the child may have. It is then up to the family to decide if they want to proceed with an adoptive placement.

Who can foster or adopt?

  • You do not have to be married to foster or adopt a child or children. Many children will thrive in a single parent home.
  • You do not need to own your own home. A rented home or apartment is fine, as long as there is adequate bedroom space per child. The home must be free from health and fire hazards and must have a safe play area for children.
  • You do not need to be rich to adopt or be a foster parent. Even if you receive some type of financial assistance, you are still eligible to provide foster care or adopt as long as you have resources to provide for your family.

Anyone applying to foster or adopt must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Complete a licensing application  
  • Successfully complete background clearances for all adult household members  
  • Provide medical statements for all household members
  • Have an environmental inspection (when applicable)
  • Provide three acceptable references
  • Pass on-site visits to the home by the licensing worker
  • Attend training pertinent to foster care issues

If you have a spouse or live-in-partner, they will also be required to participate in the home study process as well as attend the Grow training series (Grow culturally responsive relationships, Recognize children’s developmental needs and the impact of trauma, Obtain information and resources, Work in partnership with families to support healthy relationships with you.

For more information, the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) website provides answers to frequently asked questions.

Costs to foster and adopt


Most private agencies in Michigan will complete your home assessment free of cost. There are some private agencies that will require a home assessment fee. Ask the agencies you contact if they have any upfront fees you should know of.

Once a family adopts a child from the foster care system in Michigan, the family must be reimbursed that fee by the agency for a Michigan child. If the family adopts a child from another state’s foster care system, that family may be reimbursed through that state’s nonrecurring adoption expenses. Also, if a child in foster care is eligible for a subsidy, then the adoptive family may be eligible for reimbursement of limited nonrecurring adoption-related costs. Most families are only responsible for court filing fees and the new birth certificates, which is approximately $200-250 per child.

Foster care

There is financial assistance available for those who provide foster care. Foster care payments are not meant to cover all expenses incurred in raising a child; rather, these payments are meant to help offset some of the cost. Foster parents are given a modest initial and semiannual clothing allowance as well as a holiday allowance for youth placed in the home. The amount paid is dependent on the needs of the child, not the family. The amount is set by the State agency responsible for the child’s care. Children in foster care are also eligible for dental, medical and vision coverage through Medicaid, daycare subsidies, free school meals, WIC, high school graduation and prom expenses and tuition assistance for older youth. Eligibility for these and many other supportive services for families caring for youth in foster care are not based on the foster parents’ income.

Agency contact and orientation information

Michigan has adoption navigators and foster care navigators to help prospective adoptive or foster families complete the approval process. Navigators are experienced adoptive or foster parents who have completed the home study process, gone through many hours of parent and professional staff training, and welcomed children to their families.  Working with an adoption or foster navigator is a free, voluntary service provided by MARE and the Foster Care Navigator program, and families are not required to work with the adoption or foster care navigator program.

For questions about adoption navigators, contact MARE at 800-589-MARE (6273) or email mare@judsoncenter.org.

For questions about foster care navigators, contact the Foster Care Navigator Program at 1-855-MICHKIDS (642-4543) or contact the navigator team for your region.


Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offices do not provide adoption services. Therefore, you will need to identify a private agency that can provide the adoption services you require.

Contact the agency nearest to you for orientation and training information. Find a licensed agency near you on the MARE website

Foster care

Every county has a local Department of Health & Human Services agency, and many counties have private agencies contracted with the State of Michigan to provide foster care services to families.

To obtain orientation information, please contact the agency nearest to you or go to the Foster Care Navigators Program for help finding an agency in your area.

Post-adoption support services

See a comprehensive list of post-adoption and guardianship support services and support groups available to families who live in Michigan.

Information on children

There are approximately 14,000 children in foster care in Michigan, and each year approximately 3,000 of these children will become legally free for adoption.  On average, 300 children are waiting with no identified families. Will you be able to step up for Michigan’s children?

Additional resources

Please consult the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) for a comprehensive calendar of support group meetings, conferences, and training opportunities.

For more information, please contact the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) at 800-589-MARE (6273) or email mare@judsoncenter.org.