How to Adopt
On this page, you’ll learn more about the requirements and the process of adopting a child who is in the guardianship of the state of Tennessee. The Department strives to finalize the adoption of a child, who is legally free for adoption, within 12 months.
We hope this page will help answer preliminary questions you may have. Then, be sure to read the Adoption Frequently Asked Questions page.
Now, before we proceed, what’s in your heart?
Are you interested only in adopting? If so, please understand up front the Department of Children’s Services does not recruit adopt-only homes and about 80% of the children who are adopted from foster care are adopted by the families who already are, and have been, their foster parents.
Our practice is to work with individuals who sign up to become foster parents, and then, if a child in DCS custody becomes available for adoption, the family caring for that child is the first option for adoption. This helps ensure the child already has a relationship with potential adoptive parents who have helped him or her navigate change, trauma and uncertainty and already long offered comfort, safety and love.
To become an adoptive parent you:
- Can be married, single or divorced.
- May or may not have other children.
- Can own your own home or rent.
- Can work full time.
- Must be at least 21.
- Must be a resident of the State of Tennessee.
- Must be able to meet the financial and emotional needs of your own family.
Essentially, if you are stable and can provide a child with the love, as well as the support he or she needs, you may be a candidate to become an adoptive parent.
Things to think about when considering adoption:
- Am I secure and satisfied with my life and my family as they are now?
- Do I have a good support system - friends and family that can help me out when I need it?
- Can I be flexible in coping with surprises and unexpected situations?
- Can I wait for a child to return my love?
- Can I feel comfortable with the fact that my child may want to talk with me about their biological parents, as well as others who have cared for them in the past?
Moving toward Adoption
To be selected to adopt a child, who is in full guardianship of the Department of Children's Services, you will need to:
- Get a formal “home study” by a licensed child placing agency.
- Submit the home study for a specific child. (You may have identified the child via the Heart Gallery of Tennessee or Adopt US Kids, for example.)
When you have been identified as an adoptive parent for a particular child, and you have agreed to parent that child, you will then receive Tennessee KEY training, which is a required education and self-assessment process. It explores communications styles. It helps families understand the feelings of grief and the loss that children can experience and it helps identify family strengths.
Families who are not current DCS foster parents, and who engage the Department solely to adopt a child they have identified, must have their home study completed by a licensed agency. The home study must be no more than a year old. The exact process for your home study will be outlined by the agency you choose.
In general, the home study process is a combination of education for you about the realities of adoption and information about yourself and your family.
The final written home study will include a description of your family, verifications, medical and financial statements and references. You will also be asked to identify and describe the type of child you feel that you can most successfully parent.
You can submit your home study to the contact named on the child's online photo listing.
How a Child Becomes Your Child
Based on the child's needs, the child's team will make a decision about whether you are the right parent for the child. If you are selected, extensive information about the child will then be shared with you so you and your family can make an informed decision about whether you can parent the child. Please remember, children are placed with the family best able to meet their needs.
If you are interested in becoming an adoptive parent, contact your local Children's Services Office for more information.
- Read Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption.
- Download an informative brochure on the DCS post-adoption assistance program.
- Foster Parent TN-KEY training.
- Adopt US Kids for features on children available for adoption.
- Heart Gallery of Middle Tennessee features children available for adoption in Middle Tennessee.