Welcome, Hawkeyes! This Iowa guide was written to provide you with a single place to find information about adoption within Iowa. We designed this guide to simplify the adoption process. It will walk you through everything from Iowa laws that will impact your adoption to reviews of adoption service providers in Iowa.

We’ve divided this guide into five parts: general information about adopting in Iowa, then sections dedicated to domestic infant adoption, foster adoption, international adoption, and stepparent adoption.

Are you interested in growing your family through domestic infant adoption? 

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the information provided in this guide, you should not rely on it to make decisions. Instead, you should rely on licensed professionals in making decisions relative to adoption. The information in this guide is subject to change without notice. Adoption.com is not responsible for the consequences of relying on this information. In no event shall Adoption.com be liable for any direct, indirect, special, or incidental damage resulting from, arising out of, or in connection with the use of this information.

Did You Know?

Iowa is the only state with east and west borders formed by water—the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The famous actor John Wayne was born in Winterset on May 26, 1907.

The 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch; he’s the first President born west of the Mississippi River.

Adoption in Iowa at a Glance

Kids in foster care available for adoption in 2014: 6,000 (Iowa KidsNet)

Foster adoptions completed in 2014: 850 (DHS)

International adoptions completed in 2012: 97

Other adoptions completed in 2012: 713

Can I Adopt in Iowa?

Adoption requirements in the state of Iowa are as follows:

Age: Varies per agency, however, to be a licensed foster parent/adoptive parent through the state, a person must be at least 21 years old. DHS can approve a waiver for someone as young as 18 only if that individual is an adult sibling of the child needing foster/adoption.

Marital Status: Single or married

Note: If you are a couple and not legally married and you BOTH plan to adopt, both must complete separate adoption applications.

Finances: Requirements vary per agency, however, foster/adoptive parents licensed through the state have to show they can provide financial stability and meet daily needs. DHS officials say there have been foster parents that receive most of their income through SSI, disability, and there have been some foster parents that qualify for food stamps. In certain situations, state officials believe even though their income is low enough to qualify for government assistance, they are using the resources available to them to provide for the needs of the children.

Housing: Rent or own residence (does not have to be a house)

Work: Employment requirements vary per agency.

Personality: Foster and adoptive parents can come from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and sexual orientations. You may already have children already or you may not. According to Iowa KidsNet, the most important thing is that your home is safe and secure and that you can provide a stable and nurturing environment for a child.

Experience: No parenting experience required although trainings are available through the state.

Other Requirements in State: According to state law, an individual may not adopt if s/he has been convicted of any of the following crimes:

(a) Within the five-year period preceding the petition date, a drug-related offense.

(b) Child endangerment or neglect or abandonment of a dependent person.

(c) Domestic abuse.

(d) A crime against a child, including but not limited to sexual exploitation of a minor.

(e) A forcible felony. 

Developing a Support System

It’s essential to have a good network of family, friends, and neighbors to support you through the adoption process.

It’s also important to connect with other adoptive parents. You can begin making these connections in Iowa -specific adoption forums, found on //forums.adoption.com/iowa/.

Other resources include Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA) or the Iowa Transracial Adoption Group on Facebook.

You may also want to consider joining a support group for adoptive parents.

Domestic Infant Adoption in Iowa

Before you get started, learn more about the overall process of adopting an infant in the United States. Then, because laws and processes vary from state to state, come back to get the details about adoption in Iowa.

Get Professional Help

In Iowa, families can adopt children with the help of an agency, attorney or adoption consultant.

Some people pursuing a private adoption find it beneficial to work with a professional adoption consultant, an individual, or organization that connects expectant parents with adoptive parents.

There are many attorneys who specialize in Iowa adoption. Be sure that the attorney you choose understands the laws in order to protect both parties. Adoption attorneys can be found through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, or through your local social services office.

For more information about picking an adoption agency, learn about the Top 15 Things to Look for In An Adoption Agency.

Complete a Home Study

Regardless of whether you complete your adoption through an agency, attorney, you will need to complete an adoption home study.

Your home study social worker will help educate you about adoption and ensure that you (and your partner if applicable) meet the requirements outlined above.

Learn more about the home study process.

Spread the Word

People in Iowa can advertise their intent to adopt.

Attorney Timothy Luce says he has seen people advertise in local college newspapers and community newspapers. Hopeful adoptive parents can also post on the internet that they are interested in adopting.

One of the most important things you can do while waiting for an adoption match is to let others know about your intent to adopt.

Many adoption connections are made through word-of-mouth referrals. 

Parent Profiles

People interested in adopting can create a parent profile online.

Rich communication options like video chat and instant messaging make connecting easy. A mobile-responsive design means you’ll never be out of reach.

What’s more, Adoption.com receives over 650,000 monthly visits, which means your profile will receive unparalleled exposure. You can even view and monitor your progress through a detailed statistics page.

Ready to get started? Visit adoption.com/profiles.


In Iowa, a birth parent cannot sign relinquishment papers to terminate his/her rights until three days after the child is born. Termination of Parental Rights can be filed at any point in time after those three days.

Upon signing, a birth parent in Iowa has four days to change his/her mind.

If, after those four days the birth parents do not change their mind, a motion to Terminate Parent Rights is filed in court.

Birth Father Rights

Iowa has a Putative Father Registry.

”Putative father” means a man who is alleged to be or who claims to be the biological father of a child born to a woman to whom the man is not married to at the time the child is born.

In Iowa, a birth father must register on the Iowa Putative Father Registry prior to a child’s birth or before filing for the Termination of Parental Rights. The adoption agency or attorney involved in the adoption will check the registry to see if he has filed.

If the birth father is unable to be located, then a publication has to take place to notify him of his rights to have a release of custody.

Laws about Birth Parent Expenses

Hopeful adoptive parents and/or an adoption agency may provide legal and living expenses for an expectant mother. There are, however, requirements governing such support.

Expenses approved by court may include fees associated with the birth of the child, legal expenses related to the termination of parental rights, pregnancy-related medical care received by the birth mother or child during pregnancy or delivery, living expenses of the birth mother, costs of counseling provided to birth parents before and after placement.

In Iowa, any allowable expenses should be paid to the provider, if applicable, and not directly to birth parents.

Post Adoption Contact Agreements

Adoption Attorney Timothy Luce says pot-adoption contracts are not legally enforceable.

However, Luce encourages adoptive parents he works with to follow the terms of any conditions that have been set. 


To finalize an adoption in Iowa, a child must be in your home for a minimum of six months. During those six months, you’ll work closely with an attorney who will walk you through the finalization process as well as a social worker who will document required “post-placement visits.”

After the required post-placement visits are complete (the amount of post-placement visits may vary depending on what state the child was born in), your attorney will file for an adoption finalization hearing.

Some families may have the option to finalize in the state their child was born in, over the phone with a notary present, or in the courthouse in front of a judge.

Adopting in Iowa from Out of State

With private (usually domestic infant) adoptions, it is always possible to adopt a child within Iowa, even if you live in a different state.

The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) was adopted in the 1960s to provide for oversight and protection of children placed for foster care or adoption between states.

If you are adopting a child from another state, you will need to receive permission from the ICPC office in the state where the child is from. Your agency or attorney will send the office copies of your home study and some other paperwork. They will need to approve your packet before you can bring your child home. 

Traveling to Iowa from Out of State

People adopting a child born in Iowa from out-of-state can expect to stay in Iowa for approximately two weeks.

Although paperwork processing may vary for ICPC, Adoption Attorney Timothy Luce says it can normally be accomplished within about two weeks.

During the wait, adoptive parents can check out Iowa photographers who offer discounted rates for adoptive families through Red Thread Sessions.

Families may also be interested in making memories at a local museum or historic site; for a list of statewide attractions visit TravelIowa.com.

Foster Adoption in Iowa

Before you get started, familiarize yourself with the overall process of adopting children through foster care. Then, because laws and processes vary from state to state, come back here to get the details about foster adoption in Iowa.

Children in Foster Care in Iowa

According to Iowa KidsNet, more than 6,000 children are in foster care in Iowa.

Families may complete the adoption of a child in foster care with assistance from the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS).

Get Professional Help

To adopt a child from foster care in Iowa, you must be a licensed foster or approved adoptive family.

To do this, submit an application with Iowa KidsNet.

There, you can choose between becoming licensed for foster care, licensed for foster care and approved for adoption, or approved for adoption only through Iowa KidsNet.

Becoming Part of the Foster Care System

To become a licensed foster parent, an individual or couple must submit background checks, fingerprints and complete a home study and application with Iowa KidsNet.

Iowa KidsNet works with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to approve the home study.

Prior to becoming licensed, foster parents must attend a 10-week course where they learn about the foster care system and parenting strategies. 

Post Adoption Contact Agreements

A post-adoption contact agreement is a voluntary agreement that can be entered into by adoptive and birth families. Although it’s not legally enforceable, the agreement outlines details about how much contact the birth and adoptive families agree to after the adoption is finalized.

In instances in which the child’s biological parents’ rights have been involuntarily terminated, the well-being of the child needs to be first and foremost in everyone’s minds if a post-adoption contact agreement is created.

Caseworkers and therapists may be consulted in making post-adoption contact agreements.


To finalize an adoption from foster care, a child must be available for adoption (i.e. parental rights of biological parents have been terminated and a search for biological relatives has been completed).

The child must also be placed with the pre-adoptive parents for at least six months. An adoption worker with the state will visit the child and family monthly. The state worker will prepare a report to the court recommending adoption of the child by the family.

A judge will review facts from the case and determine whether the adoption is able to be finalized.

Adoption Assistance

Adoption subsidies are available for a special needs child in Iowa.

A “special needs” child is defined by one of the following: 8 years or older if white, 2 years or older if of minority race, ethnic group, or multiracial parentage, member of a sibling group of 3 or more, medical needs that require special treatment, professional diagnosis or at risk of an impairing psychiatric, behavioral, or emotional condition.

In order for a family to be eligible to receive a subsidy, the child must be in the custody of the state of Iowa or an Iowa-licensed child-placing agency.

Foster Adoption in Iowa from Out of State

Adoptions of Iowa foster children take place when parents are licensed by the State of Iowa as foster/adoptive parents. To become licensed, a family must reside in Iowa.

If you are an out-of-state relative of a child involved in the Iowa Foster Care System, it may be possible to adopt the child through a specific ICPC process. If this is the case, an agency in the family’s home state will complete a home study. During this process, it will be determined whether it is an appropriate adoption situation for the child.


Traveling to Iowa from Out of State

Families may be interested in making memories at a local museum or historic site while they’re in town; for a list of statewide attractions visit TravelIowa.com.

International Adoption in Iowa

Before you get started, familiarize yourself with the overall process of international adoption. Then, because laws and processes vary from state to state, come back here to get the details about international adoption in Iowa.


There are millions of beautiful children across the world hoping to find a forever family. Check out Iowa’s Photolisting to learn more.

Get Professional Help

With international adoptions, your only choice is to complete your adoption through an agency. Because of the Universal Accreditation Act, all adoption agencies completing international adoptions are required to be credentialed according to federal standards.

Be sure to check with any agency before working with them to ensure they have this accreditation in place. In selecting an international adoption agency, there are 4 Essential Criteria you should probably consider.

In order to be approved to adopt internationally, you will need to complete an international adoption-specific home study. 

Post-Adoption Requirements

Each country has various regulations about who is allowed to adopt, how long you must stay in the country with the child after taking custody, and what age children they allow to be adopted.

It’s important to research each country and familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations.

According to Iowa Certified Adoption Investigator at About A Child Carla Tripp, post-adoption requirements for international adoption are set by the sending country and/or placing agency.

Tripp says Iowa recognizes the full adoption overseas, and families can generally use their already required post-adoption reports for the re-finalization of the adoption in Iowa should they choose to do so.

Tripp adds families who do not choose to re-finalize in Iowa can still get a US birth certificate on file with the state by filling out some paperwork.

Stepparent Adoption in Iowa

Before you get started, yourself with the overall process of stepparent adoption. Then, because laws and processes vary from state to state, come back here to get the details about stepparent adoption in Iowa.


Terminating Parental Rights

In order for you to adopt the child of your spouse, the corresponding biological parent’s rights will first need to be terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

You will need to consult with an adoption attorney about your desire to adopt. He/she can help you decide if it’s likely that the biological parent would be willing to relinquish rights OR if it would be feasible to pursue involuntary termination of his/her parental rights.

Petitioning to Adopt

Once parental rights have been terminated, you can file a petition to adopt with the courts. You and your spouse will both testify in court regarding the stability of your marital relationship, the bond you’ve developed with your stepchild, and your desire to become the legal parent of your stepchild.

You will generally not be required to complete a background check or home study as part of the stepparent adoption process.

Iowa Adoption Resources

Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA)

Iowa KidsNet

Iowa Parent Profiles

Adoption Stories