Frequently Asked Questions About Foster Care and Adoption
Adopting from foster care is a joy and a challenge. You certainly will have many questions to ask as you consider the option and move through the process. We are available to stand with you to help you best navigate through the steps involved.
We have gathered some frequently asked questions about adopting from foster care. The answers here will help as a starting place in your conversations, but are not meant to replace the personal guidance and consultation you will need.
Please contact us when you are ready to begin the conversation on how you can help a child find the stable and loving home he or she needs, wants, and deserves.
NO! Foster care adoption is free (or minimal fee), health care is covered until the age of 18 and in some states so is college!
In most cases, NO! Empty nesters and retirees are highly encouraged to apply.
Must be at least 21 years of age.
Must be a resident for at least 6 months in the state you reside. For out of state families, an ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) must be completed between the State of Tennessee and your residential state.
May be employed or not employed but you must be able to meet your own financial needs and your family without the payment provided by the state.
Generally you can be approved to adopt in approximately 6 – 8 months. Licensing or approval takes 2 months. The approval process varies if you go through Department of Children’s Services (DCS) or a private agency. Once the approval process is completed then the matching process begins!
All resource parents must foster for 6 months before they can adopt.
Even though the biological/birthparents have either surrendered their rights and/or the state has terminated their rights (TPR) a family must still foster a child/children for 6 months. It is a state law. FOCUS (Finding Our Children Unconditional Support) supports the family during this 6 month period and after – as long as we are needed.
In order for a family to be certified as a foster parent for the state of Tennessee (with an option to adopt) families are required to take an eight week training class called PATH and have a home study completed by a licensed agency.
Many children in foster care come from dark and traumatic places because they have experienced, been exposed to or gone through the following:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Abuse and neglect
- Grief/loss issues with family, friends, neighbors, schools, etc.
Most children who are available for adoption are the older children (9 years or older) sibling groups and medically fragile children.
Most states allow couples, single parents, and gay/lesbian parents to adopt from foster care. May or may not have children.
First – Contact Us – Let Us Help You!
When you contact us – let us know where you live. We will help you locate your local foster care and/or private adoption agencies that work with adoptions from Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. Remember when contacting agencies or local DCS offices, ask questions to get all the information you need so that you and your family can make the best decision based on the information you have collected.
Your local agency will invite you to an open house or adoption orientation. Here you will learn about becoming a foster or adoptive parent.
Register for PATH classes. PATH is a 23-hour class. All families wanting to adopt or foster must attend PATH training. PATH is a 23-hour education and self-assessment process. It explores communication styles. It helps families understand the feelings of grief and loss that children can experience. It helps identify family strengths. The process also helps adults identify the child they feel they can most successfully parent. The PATH classes may go by different names in different areas of the state.
Home Study – The home study is actually a ‘story of your life’ designed to make sure you can provide a child with a safe and nurturing environment. This includes:
- Information about your physical and emotional health
- Background clearance is required
- References will be requested from your employer, school officials, if you have children in school
- Character references from individuals who know you
- An adoption counselor will visit your home a minimum of three times for single applicants and four times for couples during the adoption process to complete the home study interview.
Note: One of the visits must be in the home.
Some of the topics that will be discussed with you and your family include:
- Your reasons for adopting
- Your childhood
- The strengths of your marriage or current significant relationships
- Your thoughts on the effects of a new child on your current home
- Your financial situation
- How you handle discipline
- How you and your family handle grief/loss
- Your parenting philosophy
Approval – All of the information is gathered into a home study packet that is reviewed and sent for final approval by the Director of Permanency.
Once you have received you approval from the State – search Forever Family videos, state websites, and attend recruitment activities, especially the matching events where you can meet the children who are available for adoptions. Once you’ve identified a child or sibling group who you are interested in, notify your counselor who can provide more information. Several families may be interested in the same child(ren). The workers will want to take as much time as necessary to ensure the family selected is the right match. Remember the Home Study will only get you in the door.
Match – When the needs of the child or sibling group are matched with your family, your adoption team will discuss with you the pre-placement activities, including supervised and unsupervised visits with the child. Once you, your family, the child, and the child’s team determine that the child is ready, the official placement will occur.
Placement – After a child is placed, the child’s team will continue to be involved in order to assess the child’s adjustment and if new or additional services are needed. The supervision period lasts a minimum of 6 months and will end when the foster to adopt parents sign the “intent to adopt letter.