Iowa foster care and adoption guidelines

You don’t have to be a superhero to be a hero to a child. It's everyday people who can do extraordinary things in the life of a child. If you know of someone who has some extra room in their home and heart, please encourage them to visit the Iowa website to find out more about foster care and adoption.

On this page:

Contact information

Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections—covers the northern, eastern, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines Service areas:

Lutheran Services in Iowa—covers the western service area:; 844-574-7787

Para información en español:
Contacte: Virginia Goodman
Correo electrónico:
Teléfono: 319-784-2159

The difference between fostering and adopting

Foster care

Fostering is providing temporary care to a child while social workers work with the child’s birth family to see how to improve the situation so that the child can return to their birth family. In many cases, fostering is temporary. However, if a child cannot return to their birth family, they will become legally free for adoption.

Adoption from foster care

The goal for many children in foster care is to safely reunite with their birth families. However, in some family situations, the courts decide that reunification will not be possible, and a judge terminates the parents’ legal rights to their child. If both parents have their parental rights terminated, then the child becomes available for adoption. Adoption is the permanent placement of a child in a loving family’s home.

Foster and adoption licensing requirements

There is no typical foster or adoptive family—foster families can be single, married, homeowners, or renters. They can come from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

Think you don’t qualify? Here are answers to some common concerns: 

  • You don’t have to be married
  • You can rent or own where you live
  • You don’t have to live in a house
  • Be at least 21 years old (There is no maximum age for a parent as long as you are physically and mentally stable. Your age is only a consideration if it affects your ability to care for a specific child and function in a parental role.)
  • You don’t need parenting experience (training is provided)

Visit the Iowa website to learn more about the licensing process.

Costs to foster and adopt

There is no cost to you be a foster parent, or to adopt a child from the Iowa foster care system. Orientation, training, licensing and support services are free to families and funded through the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Agency contact and orientation information

Information sessions are conducted regularly in each of the five Iowa service areas. These information sessions give attendees a basic overview of the foster care and adoption process and an understanding of the characteristics of children in the child welfare system. There is no obligation to continue in the process by attending.

To inquire online and see future session dates, visit the Four Oaks Foster & Adoptive Family Connnections/Lutheran Services in Iowa website. Registrants will receive an information packet to fill out before attending the session.

Adoption support services

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

Information on Iowa's children

There is a large need for more families to foster teens, children with special needs, or behaviors and sibling groups. Iowa also has a need for more African American, Latino, and Native American foster and adoptive parents.