Adoption and Foster Care

When you adopt or foster a child, you can create a special bond that will last a lifetime. But these roles come with major responsibilities. By signing on to take care of a young person, either temporarily or permanently, you become the guardian of not just their physical health but their emotional well-being, too.

Understanding the legal and practical implications of becoming a foster or adoptive parent can help guide you to make smart, sensitive decisions. Learn more about providing kids with happy homes while ensuring you make the right decisions for yourself, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it expensive to adopt a child?

    It depends. When you adopt through the foster care system, federal and state governments cover most expenses. Adopting from a private agency costs anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. There are ways to offset those expenses, including federal and state tax credits, subsidies, loans, and grants. About half of employers offer adoption benefits, which usually range from $500 to more than $25,000.

  • What is the youngest age to adopt a child?

    Only some states have specific age requirements for adoptive parents. You must be age 18 or older in Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington. You need to be 21 in Colorado, Delaware, and Oklahoma and 25 in Georgia and Idaho. In California, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Utah, you need to be at least 10 years older than the child you're adopting and in Idaho, at least 15 years older.

  • What are the requirements to adopt a child?

    In general, any single or married adult is eligible to adopt a child, but some states have additional conditions that you can find on the Child Welfare Information Gateway's search engine. In some states, you need to be a certain age to adopt, and in 17 states, you need to be a resident of the state where the child lives. All states require background checks of all people who want to adopt or foster a child.

  • What disqualifies you from being a foster parent?

    In all states, you can't adopt or foster a child if you've ever been convicted of abuse, neglect, or any crime against a child (including child pornography) or a crime of violence (including rape or sexual assault). In most states, being convicted of physical assault or a drug-related crime in the previous five years is also disqualifying.

  • Can adoptive parents name the baby?

    Yes. Children receive an original birth certificate and an amended birth certificate if they're adopted. Typically, your adopted child's birth parent will choose a name, and then you can choose a new name, if you want, on their amended birth certificate. If the adoption process begins before birth, your child's birth parent may be open to choosing a name with you or letting you name the baby from the start. An adoption specialist can help moderate these tricky discussions.

  • How long can you foster a child?

    It depends on the child's family circumstances, age, and other factors. Ideally, a child would stay with you for as long as it takes for them to find a safe, suitable permanent home, whether it's with their birth parents, extended family members, or an adoptive family. On average, kids stay in foster care for one to two years.

  • What are foster parents not allowed to do?

    Restrictions and guidelines for fostering vary by state, but generally, foster parents are not allowed to inflict corporal punishment (spanking or hitting) on children, deny them food, or remove kids' birth parent visitation privileges.

  • Is fostering a child hard?

    It can be, especially at first, as a child adjusts to a new situation. Along with basic care and feeding, foster care involves partnering with social workers and schools to help meet kids' needs.  But the rewards—creating a lifelong bond, changing a child's life—can be immense. "Being a successful foster parent is hard work and it requires opening yourself and your home," reads the National Foster Parent Association website. "Yet, foster parenting can be the most gratifying work you will ever consider."

Key Terms

Page Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Planning for adoption: Knowing the costs and resources.

  2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Who may adopt, be adopted, or place a child for adoption.

  3. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Background checks for prospective foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers.

  4. Considering Adoption. Naming in adoption (Who names the baby?).

  5. How long can you foster child?.

  6. Children First Foster Family Agency. Discipline for older foster children.

  7. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Respite care for resource families.

  8. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Could open adoption be the best choice for you and your baby.

  9. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Transracial and transcultural adoption.