Tennessee Adoption Guide

Everything you need to know about adopting in Tennessee.

Rachel Skousen October 31, 2017

Welcome, Tennesseeans! This guide was written to provide you with a single place to find information about adoption within your own state. It will walk you through everything from laws that will impact your adoption to reviews of adoption service providers in Tennessee.

We’ve divided this guide into five parts: general information about adopting in Tennessee, then sections dedicated to domestic infant adoption (starting in slide 5), foster adoption (slide 16),  international adoption (slide 24), and stepparent adoption (slide 28). And don’t miss our slide filled with links to helpful adoption resources (slide 30).

Please note: Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the information provided in this slideshow 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?
1. Did You Know?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal place to take the whole family for a vacation, building memories you’ll all cherish for the rest of your lives.

Adoption in Tennessee at a Glance
2. Adoption in Tennessee at a Glance

Kids in foster care currently available for adoption: approximately 400
Foster adoptions completed in 2014: 1161
International adoptions completed in 2016: 187
Private adoptions completed in 2016: Not available

Can I Adopt in Tennessee?
3. Can I Adopt in Tennessee?

Adoption requirements in the state of Tennessee are as follows:

-Age: You will need to be at least 18 years old
-Marital Status: Adoptive parents in Tennessee can be single, married, or divorced. Same-sex couples may petition for joint adoption.
-Finances: You must demonstrate that you are able to financially support your own family.
-Housing: You must own or rent a safe residence that has space for a child.
-Work: You can be a stay-at-home parent, work inside or outside your home, or be retired.
-Personality: Must be able to provide a child with love and support.
-Experience: No parenting experience is required to adopt.

NOTE: A prospective adoptive parent cannot have been convicted of child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children, homicide or other serious crimes.

Developing a Support System
4. Developing a Support System

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

It’s also important to connect with other adoptive parents. You can begin making these connections in our forums. You may also want to consider joining a support group for adoptive parents in your region.

Domestic Infant Adoption in Tennessee
5. Domestic Infant Adoption in Tennessee

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

Domestic Infant Adoption: Get Professional Help
6. Domestic Infant Adoption: Get Professional Help

In Tennessee, you can complete your adoption with the support of an adoption agency or a licensed attorney.

Tennessee law allows for the use of adoption facilitators, but only if the matching services are provided at no cost.

You can browse and read reviews about adoption service providers in Tennessee here. For more information about picking an adoption agency, learn about the Top Fifteen Things to Look for In An Adoption Agency.

Domestic Infant Adoption: Complete a Home Study
7. Domestic Infant Adoption: Complete a Home Study

Regardless of whether you complete your adoption privately, through an attorney, or through an agency, 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 adoptive partner, if applicable) meet the requirements outlined on Slide Three.

Click here to learn more about the Home Study process.

Domestic Infant Adoption: Spread the Word
9. Domestic Infant Adoption: Spread the Word

Tennessee law allows individuals to publicly advertise their desire to adopt.

One of the most important things you can do while waiting for an adoption match is to let everyone know about your hope to adopt. Many adoption connections are made through word-of-mouth referrals.

Creating a listing on Adoption.com Parent Profiles is an excellent way to connect with potential birth parents across the country.

Domestic Infant Adoption: Relinquishment
10. Domestic Infant Adoption: Relinquishment

In Tennessee, birth parents must wait until 3 days after the date of the child’s birth to give consent to the adoption. Relinquishment of a child for and consent to adoption must be done before a judge. At that time, recognized birth parents will swear that they are freely relinquishing their parental rights.

Birth parents may revoke their consent within 10 days of consenting to the adoption.

Domestic Infant Adoption: Birth Father Rights
11. Domestic Infant Adoption: Birth Father Rights

In Tennessee, birth mothers are required to provide the name and identifying information of the child’s birth father.

A birth father’s consent to adoption is required if he is married to the birth mother or has commenced proceedings to establish paternity. If an unmarried biological father of an infant has not initiated efforts to establish paternity by the time placement has occurred, he has no legal parental rights.

Tennessee maintains a putative father registry which allows fathers to make known their efforts to establish paternity.

Domestic Infant Adoption - Laws about Birth Parent Expenses
12. Domestic Infant Adoption - Laws about Birth Parent Expenses

In Tennesse, adoptive parents can provide financial support to birth parents to help with with expenses related to pregnancy, birth, and the placement of the child. These include:
-Medical expenses
-Legal services
-Counseling costs for up to one year after placement
-Actual expenses for housing, food, maternity clothing, child’s clothing, utilities, or transportation for up to 90 days prior to the birth and 45 days after consent to adoption.

Domestic Infant Adoption - Post-Adoption Contact Agreements
13. Domestic Infant Adoption - Post-Adoption Contact Agreements

A post-adoption contact agreement is a voluntary agreement that can be entered into by adoptive and birth families. The contract outlines details about how much contact the birth and adoptive families would have after the adoption is finalized.

Tennessee law grants adoptive parents all control in making decisions about contact and visitation with birth parents, which means that contracts are signed in good faith and are not legally enforceable.

Domestic Infant Adoption - Finalization
14. Domestic Infant Adoption - Finalization

In Tennessee, there is generally a six-month waiting period between placement and finalization. However, courts generally want assurance that the child has bonded with and is attached to the parents.

After placement, you will complete a post-placement study, which is a continuation of your home study. You will receive at least one visit every three months from a licensed social worker until finalization occurs. The social worker will be checking in to ensure that everyone is adjusting well to the placement.

Your adoption will need to be finalized in court. You will file a petition to adopt and then appear before a judge in a hearing that generally lasts 30-60 minutes. An attorney can assist you with this process.

Domestic Infant Adoption - A word about the ICPC
15. Domestic Infant Adoption - A word about the ICPC

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.

Read more about the ICPC here.

Foster Adoption in Tennessee
16. Foster Adoption in Tennessee

Before you get started, click here to 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 Tennessee.

Foster Adoption - Get Professional Help
17. Foster Adoption - Get Professional Help

In the state of Tennessee, you can complete a foster adoption either through a private agency that is licensed to provide foster care services or directly through the state’s Department of Children’s Services.

To find an adoption agency in Tennessee and to read reviews of the agency’s service, check out our Tennessee Directory page.

You will still need to complete a home study as part of this process. If you are adopting through the Department of Children’s Services, the state will cover the costs of the home study.

Becoming Part of the Foster Care System
18. Becoming Part of the Foster Care System

In Tennessee, a child can be placed with you for adoption by the Department of Children’s Services before his/her biological parent’s rights have been terminated. This is called a “legal risk” placement, meaning that it is possible that the child may return to live with his/her birth family. However, these placements are not made unless the agency responsible for the child is actively pursuing the termination of his/her birth parents’ rights.

During a placement like this, you will be considered a foster parent and will need to meet all the requirements for foster parents in the state of Tennessee.

Finalization
19. Finalization

In Tennessee, there is six-month required time period between placement and finalization. However, biological parental rights must be terminated and courts generally want assurance that the child has bonded with and is attached to the adoptive parents. In order to finalize, you will need to file a petition to adopt and make suitable filings with the court. An attorney can assist you with this process.

Post Adoption Contact Agreements
20. Post Adoption Contact Agreements

A post-adoption contact agreement is a voluntary agreement that can be entered into by adoptive and birth families. The agreement outlines details about how much contact the birth and adoptive families will have after the adoption is finalized.

Tennessee law grants adoptive parents all control in making decisions about contact and visitation with birth parents, which means that contracts are signed in good faith and are not legally enforceable.

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 should be consulted in making decisions about contact after adoption.

Adoption Assistance
21. Adoption Assistance

Tennessee offers financial assistance programs for children adopted from the foster care program who are defined as having “special needs.” Special Needs can range from being part of a minority ethnic group to having serious medical conditions.  According to the Department of Health and Welfare website, this assistance can include:

-Reimbursement (up to $2,000) for adoption-related costs.
-A monthly subsidy for the ongoing care of the child.


-A Medicaid card to assist with medical expenses until the child is 18 years of age.

Learn more here.


 

Foster Adoption - A Word about the ICPC
22. Foster Adoption - A Word about the ICPC

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.

Read more about the ICPC here.

International Adoption in Tennessee
23. International Adoption in Tennessee

Before you get started, click here to 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 Tennessee.

International Adoption - Photolisting
24. International Adoption - Photolisting

There are millions of beautiful children across the world who are hoping to find a forever family.

Click here to meet some of them through our Photolisting.

International Adoption - Get Professional Help
25. International Adoption - 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. Make 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 Four Essential Criteria you should probably consider. Click here to browse through reviews of adoption agencies in Tennessee.

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

 International Adoption - Post-Adoption Requirements
26. International Adoption - Post-Adoption Requirements

You will not need to attend a court hearing to finalize your child’s adoption in Tennessee.

After you have brought your child home, you will need to submit the adoption decree issued by your child’s country of origin, along with a certified English translation, if necessary, to your county clerk.

The documents will be reviewed, and an order recognizing the foreign adoption will be filed and entered. You can request a copy of this order for your personal records.

You will also need to request a U.S. birth certificate for your child.

Stepparent Adoption in Tennessee
27. Stepparent Adoption in Tennessee

Before you get started, click here to familiarize 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 Tennessee.

Stepparent Adoption - Terminating Parental Rights
28. Stepparent Adoption - 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.

Stepparent Adoption - Petitioning to Adopt
29. Stepparent Adoption - 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.

Best of Luck on Your Adoption Journey
30. Best of Luck on Your Adoption Journey

The adoption journey is one that will last a lifetime. You will experience highs and lows along the way unlike anything that you expect. We wish you all the best along your unique path and hope that our site can be a source of support for you through every step.

author image

Rachel Skousen

Rachel has a long-held passion for adoption that was sealed through her work as the content manager at Adoption.com. She currently works as a content specialist at Adopting.org, finding and sharing amazing adoption content from across the web. She is a mom of three and loves reading and napping in her spare time.


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