Adoption from Foster Care

Adoption from foster care brings its own set of unique challenges. You may not even know which questions to ask as you consider beginning and moving through the process. If you have ever thought about adopting a child from foster care, now is the time. There are over 8,000 children in foster care in Tennessee and approximately 500 youth who are legally free for adoption and do not have an identified home.

Here are some frequently asked questions about adopting from foster care that can be a good starting point for turning thoughts into action. However, personal guidance and consultation are needed for the complexities that vary from case to case. This is where we come in.

*Please note that every situation is different and this information is intended to provide general information about the process of foster care adoption.*

Am I Too Old to Adopt?

In most cases, age will not be a barrier to being an adoptive parent. The general rule of thumb is that the adoptive parents should be young enough to raise the child to adulthood. Empty nesters and retirees are highly encouraged to apply.

How Long Does the Home Study Process Take?

Typically, it takes two to three months to obtain a home study from a licensed private adoption agency. You should consult with the agency about timeframes and whether or not they will complete a private adoption home study for the purpose of being considered for a child in foster care prior to completing paperwork and signing a contract with the agency.

For those interested in becoming a foster parent through the Department of Children’s Services, it can take 4 to 6 months to complete TN Key training and get an approved home study assessment. If you have questions about becoming a licensed foster parent in Tennessee, please call 1-877-DCS-KIDS or submit an inquiry at

If you have any questions about getting approved as an adoptive family, please email

Is It Expensive to Adopt From Foster Care?

No, it is not. In fact, in Tennessee the Department of Children’s Services pays for the cost of finalizing the adoption. Many children qualify for some level of adoption subsidy after the adoption.

Is There a Waiting Period?

A child must be fostered in the potential adoptive home for six months before the adoption can be finalized. A recent law change allows a judge to reduce the waiting period to three months when there are extenuating circumstances such as a youth who will turn 18 years old before the 6 months have passed.

Things to Consider Before Adopting:

If you are considering adopting from foster care, we encourage you to watch the video series below from adoptive parent and professional Allison Douglas, Harmony Family Center Resource Center Program Manager.


Great Expectations: Truths and Myths about Adoption

Grief and Loss in Adoption

Trauma, Attachment, and Parenting

What Are the Financial Requirements?

Adoptive parents may be employed or not employed but must be able to meet their own financial needs without the payment provided by the state.

What Are the Residency Requirements?

Adoptive parents must be a resident in the state where they reside. In Tennessee, the residency requirement for foster parents is 3 months. 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.

What Happens After I Inquire About a Child?


  • Once you make an inquiry via your inquiry will be forwarded to the child’s worker.
  • In order to inquire, you must have an approved and valid home study, whether it is a private study or a foster care study. Your home study should be submitted with your inquiry.
  • The home study will be submitted to the child’s worker who will share it with the child and family team which is responsible for identifying a family for the child.



  • A selection meeting occurs when the home studies that have been submitted by inquiring families are gathered for review. The selection process is a team decision which includes assessing the child’s needs, strengths and wishes as well as assessing the potential family’s ability to meet the child’s needs both in the present and long term.


Full Disclosure:

  • Once a family is selected as a potential pre-adoptive placement, the family will then receive full disclosure. If after full disclosure the family chooses to move forward then a transition plan will be put in place.



  • The transition plan can look many different ways depending on what the team deems is in the child’s best interest. These include but are not limited to phone calls, virtual visits, and in-person visits. Once the child and the family feel comfortable with each other, the child will be moved into the home. The child must be in the home for a minimum of 6 months before an adoption can be finalized.
What Is a Home Study?

There are differences and similarities between foster care and private adoption home study assessments. Both types of home studies tell the foster or adoptive family’s story and are designed to make sure you can provide a child with a safe and nurturing environment. Whether obtaining a foster care or private home study you can expect the following:

  • Interviews with all members of your family conducted by your home study writer
  • A home inspection conducted by your home study writer
  • Criminal background and child abuse clearances for all adult family members in the home
  • Personal references will be requested and gathered from friends and family
  • Autobiographies, parenting questionnaires, financial and medical statements, employment verifications, birth and marriage certificates, and proof of insurance are some of the documents that you can expect to be asked to gather in preparation for a home study

Some of the topics that will be discussed with you and your family include:

  • Your motivation for adopting/ fostering
  • Your childhood
  • Your relationship history including your family of origin, marriage or current significant relationships
  • How a new child or children might impact your family
  • Your financial situation
  • Health
  • How you handle discipline
  • How you and your family handle grief/loss
  • Any traumatic experiences that you may have experienced and how you have dealt with those experiences
  • Your parenting philosophy and practices
What Is the Minimum Age to Qualify to Adopt?

Must be at least 21 years of age.

A group of kids posing for a picture.

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