Adoption from Foster Care: How It Works

Adoption from foster care is not as complex as many may think; however, here are some good tips to know how it works.

Caroline Bailey March 29, 2018
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Adopting a child from the foster care system is an avenue that a lot of prospective adoptive parents consider. Before anyone decides to pursue adoption out of the foster care system, it is important to understand how adoption from foster care works. While there are differences in the process from state to state, here are a few generalities of how adoption from foster care works:

1)     It is important to understand that the number one goal of the foster care system is not adoption. It is reunification with the biological parents or family of origin. In some respects, there really is no such thing as foster-to-adopt.

2)     Families who are approved as foster parents via their home state’s approval process are also eligible to gain approval as an adoptive home.

3)     The timeline for states to provide reasonable efforts towards reunification is set by the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act. It gives 15 out of 22 months. After reunification efforts have been made, the goal may be legally changed to permanency outside of the parental home.

4)     Termination of parental rights must occur before a child can be legally adopted. It is a very serious ruling from the courts and is not taken lightly. There has to be clear and concise evidence and documentation regarding all efforts made towards reunification.

5)     If a family is the child’s foster family or relative home, they can petition the courts for adoption depending on the allotted time that each state requires regarding dwelling within the home. For example, in the state of Missouri, prospective adoptive parents can file for adoption once TPR (termination of parental rights) has occurred and the child has resided in the home for a consecutive six-month period.

6)     If the child does not have a potential adoptive match or if his or her current foster/relative home does not want to adopt and the goal is adoption, caseworkers will do a search for prospective adoptive parents. This is often done by sending out the child’s adoption profile to current families as well as utilizing social media and other outlets in order to garner an interest.

7)     Once a match is found, ideally, there are preplacement visits set up between the family and the child. Once the child moves in, the clock starts on the time frame required by each state before an adoption petition is filed.

8)     Most, if not all, foster children are eligible for the federal subsidy program. It is vital that families have an approved adoption subsidy prior to finalizing the adoption. Once the adoption is complete, the court case is closed, and the child is deemed to be the legal child (as if given birth to) by the adoptive parents.

Again, it is super important for families who are considering adopting from foster care to know what their home state requires. Adopting a child from foster care can be a lengthy and frustrating process. However, when considering all of the factors (some mentioned in this article), it is easy to understand the value and magnitude of emphasizing the details and legalities of cases.

If foster parenting or adoption is something that has been tugging on your heart lately, please take the first steps in learning more. There are many children in the U.S. foster care system who need families just like yours.


Are you ready to pursue a domestic infant adoption? Click here to connect with a compassionate, experienced adoption professional who can help get you started on the journey of a lifetime.

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Caroline Bailey

Caroline is a mother of three children through adoption and a strong advocate for the needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system in the United States. At the age of eleven (1983), she underwent an emergency hysterectomy in order to save her life. Caroline is the youngest person to have a hysterectomy. Her life has been profoundly affected by infertility. In 2006, Caroline and her husband, Bruce, became licensed foster parents. They were blessed to adopt two of their children through foster care in 2008 and 2010. Their youngest child is a relative of Caroline, and they celebrated his adoption in 2013. Caroline works for a Christian child welfare agency in Missouri. She has been a guest speaker at churches and conferences regarding adoption and is currently working on a memoir about the impact of illness, faith, foster care, and adoption in her life. Caroline is also an avid cyclist and enjoys cheering her children on in their various sporting activities. She shares her experience about foster care, adoption, barrenness, parenting, and faith on her blog. She would love to hear from you! Contact her at

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