The frequently asked questions (FAQ) section is organized into four categories:
- Pre-placement concerns
- Financial issues
I saw a child on the Internet I’d like to adopt. What should I do next?
Before you can adopt any child, you must go through the orientation, training, and home study process. If you do not have a current, completed home study, it may not do you any good to contact the person or agency listed with the child’s profile. Many agencies will not answer inquiries about a particular child from individuals who are not already prepared and approved to adopt. Please review the steps of adoption if you need more information to get started.
If you have an approved home study, contact your social worker and ask them to send your information to the waiting child’s worker (or the contact listed with the child’s profile). There is no guarantee that you will be able to adopt the child you saw online. Some children who are still legally free for adoption may be in the early stages of the matching process or living in a pre-adoptive home or there may be good reasons that your family isn’t the right fit for this child.
We identified a child we would like to adopt, but the agency is now looking at a different family for her. What can we do?
Many factors are involved in placing children for adoption. Agencies consider contact with siblings, access to medical services, need for parents with specific experience, etc. To serve each child’s best interest, no single person or family has a right to adopt a particular child. In many cases, the right choice is to ask your agency if there is a particular reason that you are not being considered and to continue to help them look for a child for whom your family is the right fit.
Is it legal for an agency to keep me from adopting a particular child because of my race?
The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) makes it illegal for child welfare agencies to delay or deny a placement based on a person’s race, color, or national origin. For more information about MEPA, visit the Children’s Bureau site.
MEPA does not guarantee a parent’s right to a particular child. If a child has been removed from your family because of race, color, or national origin or the agency will not place a child with you because of your race, color, or national origin, it may be a violation of MEPA. If you believe that you are being discriminated against, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights website to learn more. To file a complaint, contact the Office of Civil Rights in your county or state.
I’ve been approved for months. Why am I not getting a referral for a child?
The adoption waiting period can be frustrating. While you are eager to parent, agency social workers are searching for the best family to meet each child’s needs. If you feel that the matching time has gone on too long, it might be time for you to re-think some things:
Are you waiting to adopt a child that is not available? For example, it is common for many parents to desire an infant or toddler to adopt when most children who are available for adoption are 6 to 18 years old. The number of older children waiting for families to adopt them far outnumbers the number of young children. Older child adoptions typically move along quicker.
Think about the other types of children you have initially eliminated from your search. Would you reconsider a sibling group who needs to stay together? How about a child with disabilities or of a different racial and ethnic background than your own? When you expand the types of children you will consider for adoption, more possible matches become available.
Explore the needs of your community. Your personal desires may not match the current needs. For example, the county you live in may have very few children waiting to be adopted, but have a pressing need for foster families. Think about the type of child you are able to parent or look beyond your community.
It can also be helpful to demonstrate your interest in adoption. Show your adoption worker that you are very committed to adoption by:
- Joining a parent support group to establish a network of support
- Learning about adoptive parents’ personal experience
- Reading more about adoption and the needs of children
- Participating in training beyond what is required
Finally, think about gaining hands-on experience by becoming a foster parent or respite care provider. But don’t become a foster parent as a shortcut to adoption—most children in foster care return to their birth families and foster families typically work with the agency and the birth family during the reunification process.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your family. Take time to explore more about adoption to determine what direction your family should pursue.
What kind of information do I need about my child? When is it provided?
Learn as much as you can about your prospective child’s social and medical history from your state, province, county, or agency. Specific rules on what must be shared vary by state and province. Until you are seriously considering a child for placement, you probably won’t receive very detailed information.
The more you know, the better prepared you can be to advocate for your child and handle situations as they may arise. Accurate information will also help you know more clearly why and when you may need to seek support from various professionals, get advice from experienced foster and adoptive parents, or tap into other community resources for help.
When you are informed you are being considered as a possible family for a child, begin a notebook with your questions, answers, and notes. If you don’t understand something, ask the worker to explain and direct you to resources to learn more.
For a full list of things you should consider, review the list of things to learn about a child before placement.
I’m having problems with the child welfare system. What can I do to help change it?
If you want to help change the system, join others who are already working in that area. Contact the parent groups in your area to find out what they are doing or if they know of other advocacy groups you can get involved with.
To report a specific problem, contact the adoption manager in your state.
My spouse/partner was convicted of a felony years ago. Is that a problem if we want to adopt?
Not necessarily, but it depends on the felony and your state. If the felony was related to child abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violence you are not likely to be approved to adopt. But for other felonies, most states allow adoption after a certain period of time has passed (usually 5 or 10 years but it varies).
Contact your state or provincial adoption manager to ask about the rules where you live. Or, read about background checks for prospective adoptive caregivers at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Can I adopt if I’ve had financial problems in the past?
Past financial troubles do not automatically prevent you from adopting. The home study will look at your past difficulties, but should focus on whether you can currently provide for the child or children you hope to adopt.
I want to adopt a relative’s unborn child. How do I go about doing this? (Is it the same procedure for older kids?)
If the child you hope to adopt is not involved in the child welfare or child protection system, and both birth parents are willing to voluntarily give up their parental rights, hire a lawyer to guide you through the private adoption process. Contact the American Association for Adoption Attorneys for a directory of adoption attorneys in your area.
If the child is already in foster care, contact the child’s worker to express your interest in caring for the child as soon as possible. It may be that you can get licensed as a foster parent or assume guardianship of the child. While there is no guarantee that you will immediately have the child in your home, if you take in a relative’s child without being licensed or pursuing a subsidized guardianship, you may receive very little, if any, state support to help you meet the child’s needs.
It may seem more important now to gain custody of the child instead of securing the right to receive foster care or subsidized guardianship payments and taking a chance that the child will not be placed in your home. Every family must honestly evaluate their resources for long-term care and weigh the options carefully. To learn more about kinship care, visit the website or call:
- Children’s Defense Fund or 800-233-1200
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Generations United or 202-289-3979
I don’t think my sister/niece/brother, etc. is a good parent. What can I do?
If the child is in danger, contact child protection or the police in your area and report any abuse or neglect. You can also offer your relative your support and help, and try to get other family members involved to ensure the child’s safety. You could refer the parent to community organizations designed to help families in need. There is no way to simply take a child from a legal parent without that parent’s consent—only child protection workers or police can do that.
How do we voluntarily terminate parental rights on our child or place our child for adoption?
Unless your child is an infant, it is difficult to end your parental rights. If your child is an infant or is young, you should contact a local licensed adoption agency. You can also contact the American Association for Adoption Attorneys for a directory of adoption attorneys in your area.
If you want to relinquish an older child due to his or her behaviors or other issues, we encourage you to get support before you make any decisions. Contact your local or state department of social services, family support organizations, children’s mental health programs, special needs organizations, or adoptive parent support group (if your child is adopted). If these options have failed, typically parental rights cannot be terminated without a legal order charging the parents with abandonment.
I am a foster parent. How can I adopt a child in my care who is not legally free?
Most children in foster care return to their birth families and do not ever become available for adoption. If you have reason to believe that the child will not be returning to his or her birth parents or other birth relatives, let your worker and the child’s worker know that you are willing to adopt if the child ever does become available for adoption.
Foster parents often have a right to be heard in child welfare cases, but do not typically have legal standing to request that the government terminate parents’ right. Make certain that the child’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), guardian ad litem, or attorney knows that you are interested providing a permanent family for this child. Because some courts are reluctant to terminate parental rights until an adoptive resource is identified for the child, this information can help move the case along.
I already have my home study. What should I do now?
You can register as a waiting parent with AdoptUSKids or on your state’s or province’s adoption exchange. We also recommend that you join a support group or seek training. We also have a number of resources to help you learn more while you wait.
Make sure your worker knows that you are actively pursuing further education and information and are serious. You can also actively look for children that might be right for your family. If you find a child you are interested in, contact your worker and ask him or her to gather more information to find out if the match would be right.
The agency says my family is too large to adopt more children. What can I do?
Placement decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. No family has a right to particular child, and some agencies or workers will not place with larger families because they worry that the families resources are stretched too thin. If you are currently a foster parent, many jurisdictions have limits on the size of your family.
What does open adoption mean? Why is it important for my child?
Openness in adoption includes a range of options from no contact (confidential) to mediated (sharing non-identifying information through an agency intermediary) to ongoing fully disclosed adoptions (direct, identified contact) between birth and adoptive families. Examples of openness in this range include:
- Shared social, health, and cultural information
- Shared pictures, ongoing information, or gifts through an intermediary
- Contact through electronic means such as e-mails or web sites
- Birth and adoptive parents meet, but plan no ongoing visits
- Adopted child visits with siblings or extended family relatives
- Adopted child maintains some contact with foster families and other significant people
- Adoptive family maintains phone or mail contact with birth family
- Adopted child visits with birth parents in neutral locations or in one another’s homes
The degree of openness will depend on the child’s and families’ situation, but most child experts now agree that openness is the best option for adopted children. Openness acknowledges that the child belongs to two families, allows the child to know how the birth family is doing (instead of worrying and wondering), enables the child to reconcile different parts of his or her identity, and provides the child with more relatives who care.
Although children in foster care may have experienced neglect or abuse, most also have positive memories of their birth families and other early life relationships. Not everything about their life was bad. They may remember a loving touch, a kind gesture, or a special birthday, and they may wonder about siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Children, as they get older, may wish their parents were healthier or had made better choices. They may even understand they can’t safely live with their birth parents, but that doesn’t erase the bond they feel with their birth families.
Children you foster or adopt need you to listen when they talk about memories of their birth families. They may ask for your help contacting family members through letters, cards, phone calls, or—if it’s safe—visits.
The Donaldson Adoption Institute has created Openness in Adoption for parents who are exploring openness in adoption or who are experiencing openness in adoption. This online curriculum should take approximately seven hours with each individual part taking two hours.
I want to adopt my foster daughter, but the agency wants to place her in another family with her sibling. What can I do?
NACAC believes that children should maintain contact with their siblings and be placed together whenever possible, provided the placement serves the children’s best interests. When children and youth have been separated from other birth family members, the connection between siblings is critically important to their emotional health and well-being. Conversely, the separation of siblings can significantly intensify each child’s feelings of loss and trauma.
No family has a right to a particular child, and placement decisions are made on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances of the child and family. If two siblings have never lived together and have no existing relationship, many child advocates believe that each child’s bond with his or her respective caregiver should outweigh the children’s genetic connection. Contact between the siblings, however, is still highly recommended.
To protest a placement decision, you will need an attorney and a good case to prove that keeping the siblings apart is in their best interests. However, since many states have policies that favor keeping siblings together, legal action may not yield the outcome you hoped for.
I am adopting a child and want to adopt his siblings. Why won’t the worker allow it?
We strongly encouraging placing siblings together unless the siblings pose a danger to one another that cannot be resolved or accommodated. Agencies, however, must decide on placements based on all the information they have about the children and families, and no family has an inalienable right to particular children.
If you cannot adopt the siblings, work with the siblings’ family to establish some ongoing contact between the children and their history. Ask your worker how contact can be arranged.
Am I eligible for the US federal adoption tax credit?
Families who adopt a child with special needs from foster care can claim a federal adoption tax credit even if they had no adoption expenses. Children who receive adoption assistance/subsidy benefits are considered children with special needs. Other adoptive families are also eligible for the credit, but must have qualified adoption expenses. Even if they can claim the credit, many families do not have high enough income to be able to use the adoption tax credit. For more information, visit our webpage on the federal adoption tax credit.
I want to adopt a healthy infant. What grants or other funding is available to cover my adoption expenses?
With the exception of the adoption tax credit and nonrecurring expense reimbursements, most federal adoption support is reserved for the adoption of children who are in foster care. For more information about how to fund an infant adoption, read the Think about How You Will Pay for Adoption section on the Learn About Adoption page.
Does NACAC provide grants for adoption, conferences, or scholarships?
NACAC does not have funds to offset adoption expenses. Each year, we do have a few scholarships for our annual conference, but they are typically reserved for parent group leaders who have not attended a previous conference.
My agency says it will charge me to share my home study. Can the agency do that?
Some agencies do charge to transfer or share the home study with other agencies. If this is a problem, you can choose to have another home study done. Before you do, check with the agency about its policies on this topic. You may be able to negotiate an agreement that gives you the right to share the home study more widely.
I want to adopt a child in another state but have run into barriers. How can I keep the process moving?
Check the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s National Adoption Directory to find your state’s ICPC coordinator. Your Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) coordinator should be able to help you work through some of the challenges. While no person has a right to particular child, the Adoption and Safe Families Act does prohibit agencies from delaying or denying a child’s adoptive placement due to geographic barriers.
My private agency charges a lot for post-placement/pre-finalization supervision. What can I do if the placing state won’t cover the cost?
If your state will not pay the higher amount and you still want to work with the placing state, you will have to cover the difference between what your agency charges and what your state contributes. Agreements about which state will cover which costs are negotiated between the state agencies.
Whom can I contact to learn more about international/intercountry adoption?
Information about the adoption of children from other countries can be found at the National Council for Adoption website or by calling at 703-299-6633.
Rainbow Kids, is the largest central resource linking families, adoption professionals, humanitarian organizations, orphan-care and support missions, and children living outside of family care (commonly called orphans, though this is not always the case).
I’m moving to another state soon. Should I begin the adoption process now?
While it is possible to change states in the middle of the adoption process, it is not easy. Generally speaking, it is much better to be settled into one’s stable residence before taking steps to enlarge the family through adoption.
I live in Canada. How can I adopt children from the US?
Before looking to the children in the United States, please remember that thousands of children in Canada are also waiting for forever families. To learn more about children who are available for adoption in Canada:
To adopt internationally, you must work with your provincial or territorial adoption Central Authority. A list of provincial and territorial central adoption authorities is available at the Government of Canada/Intercountry Adoption Services website.
We are Americans who live overseas (military or other). How do we adopt US kids?
US citizens and non-citizens living outside the United States are eligible to adopt from US foster care. When planning to adopt a child residing in the US, the country where the adoptive parents live may require them to follow local adoption laws and procedures for the child to enter that country legally.
The receiving country may require that an adoption be processed as a Hague Convention intercountry adoption even when the child and the prospective adoptive parents are US citizens. Failure to comply with local adoption laws and procedures could result in the adopted child’s inadmissibility to enter the receiving country.
Prospective adoptive parents should consult the Central Authority of the receiving country prior to initiating an adoption. Contact information for Central Authorities can be found at the US State Department website on intercountry adoptions. Other helpful resources for adoption by US citizens and members of the military living abroad:
Voice for International Development and Adoption (VIDA) or 518-828-4527
National Military Family Association or 800-260-0218