Adopting from Foster Care in Tennessee: What you need to know
Thank you for your interest in adopting a child in foster care. We hope this page will help answer preliminary questions you may have, based on the questions that frequently come to the Department of Children’s Services adoption staff.
Yes, it is possible to adopt a child from DCS without becoming a traditional foster parent. However, please understand that about 80% of the children who are adopted from foster care are adopted by their foster parents. Our practice is to work with individuals who sign up to become foster parents. If a child in DCS custody becomes available for adoption, their foster family is given first preference in adopting.
If you decide that you want to adopt only and not become a traditional foster parent, the first step is to obtain a formal home study completed by a private licensed child-placing agency. Once you have a current home study, you can inquire about Tennessee’s children/youth available for adoption and featured on public websites such as AdoptUSKids, TN Kids Belong, and Parent a Child.
Though it is possible to adopt an infant from foster care, birth mothers don’t typically surrender their newborns to DCS. If a newborn comes into DCS custody, the baby is placed with relatives/kin or in an approved foster home. The foster/kinship family will have priority in adopting the child if the child becomes available for adoption.
Perhaps. During your home study, we address that when trained staff assess your skills, listen to your preferences, listen to your life experience, and then paint a profile of a child we believe will be successful in your family. However, our greatest need is adoptive homes for older youth between the ages of 9 and 17 and sibling groups.
If you have an approved home study, you can inquire about children awaiting adoption by visiting AdoptUSKids, TN Kids Belong, and Parent a Child.
DCS does not allow contact until you are selected as a potential adoptive parent for that child or sibling group. Additionally, if you are selected as the prospective adoptive family and reside outside Tennessee, DCS does not allow contact until the TN ICPC office grants approval.
No, we won’t move a child from their placement until you are approved as their pre-adoptive parent. Our goal is to minimize moves for children in state custody, as each move can be traumatic for a child who already has likely experienced loss.
No. We can’t do that because when a child enters DCS custody, we don’t know if the child will be reunified with their biological family.
No. If you have seen a child’s profile online, that means the child needs a permanent family, not a temporary foster home.
During the selection process, the child’s recruitment team is focused on finding the family that can best meet the child’s specific needs. Many families often inquire about a child, and the team reviews all the families’ home studies to determine which family is the best match for the child based on the family’s willingness and ability to meet the child’s needs and preferences.
Once you have been matched with a child in another state, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will conduct a foster/adoptive study upon receipt of the ICPC request from the other state.
DCS will send that state a copy of your home study with your permission and upon request from the other state.
The minimum age to be an adoptive parent is 21 (or 18 to adopt kin). There is no maximum age.
Yes, if the child is in DCS custody prior to the adoption finalizing, the child is usually eligible to receive a monthly adoption subsidy, TennCare, and non-recurring expenses associated with finalizing the adoption up to $1,500.
Adoption Support and Preservation Services (ASAP) are available through Harmony Family Center at no cost for families who adopt a child from DCS foster care. ASAP Services include Parent Education, In-home counseling, Crisis Intervention, Case Management, and Family Support Groups.