Adopting from Foster Care
Updated November 2022
Across the United States, there are nearly 114,000 children and teens waiting for permanency with a loving, nurturing family. Get the facts and resources you need to decide if adopting a waiting child from foster care may be right for you.
The majority of children and youth in the foster care system have suffered physical or emotional neglect or abuse and needed to be brought into care through no fault of their own. The foster care system exists to provide a temporary, stable, and home-like environment for these children who must be separated from their parents for their own safety and well-being. Foster care is intended to be a short-term solution; the goal for children in care is permanency – a permanent placement through reunification, kinship care, or adoption. If parental reunification is not possible, most children become available for adoption
NCFA advocates for permanency for every child in foster care, whether that permanency is achieved through reunification or adoption. We give special attention to finding families for the over 122,000 children currently eligible and waiting to be adopted.
NCFA’s recommendations for foster care reform focus on studying and reassessing existing child welfare policies and practices in order to establish clear priorities and allocate resources to allow more children and youth in care to find permanency in a timely manner. NCFA prioritizes the crucial but often neglected strategy of parent recruitment and training, as well as the important post-adoption services that allow families to succeed and thrive. We believe that placing a child in an adoptive family is not the end of the process; support and services must be available for as long as needed for the sake of the child and his or her parents. At the heart of all our policy recommendations for foster care is the belief that every child deserves a safe, nurturing, permanent home – whether that is through reunification, kinship care, or adoption.
A full archive of Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Reports is available through the Children’s Bureau.
Highlights from the FY 2021 AFCARS Report (covers the period between October 1, 2020 - September 30, 2021)
- Number of children in U.S. foster care as of September 30, 2021: 391, 098
- Average length of stay for a child in foster care: 21.9 months
- Number of youth who emancipated from foster care (a.k.a. “aged out”) without a permanent family in this reporting period: 19,130
- Number of children still waiting to be adopted as of September 30, 2021: 113,589
- Number of children adopted from foster care in this reporting period: 54,240
- 54% percent of children adopted from foster care were adopted by their foster parent(s)
- Average age of a child adopted from foster care: 6 years, 5 months old
- Average length of wait for adoption after parental rights were terminated: 12.1 months
- Updated state data coming soon.
How does it work?
Those interested in adopting a child from foster care have several different options: some adopt an unrelated child who is already legally available for adoption; some while others adopt a relative through foster care. Some become foster parents with the intent to adopt from foster care and work accordingly with their private or public agency to do so.
In order to adopt from foster care, parents must complete a home study and background check; in many cases they must also fulfill all state requirements for foster parents. A child will then be placed in their home with the intent that she or he will be adopted.
How long does it take?
The time it takes to legally finalize an adoption varies based on each child’s unique needs and experiences, as well as state law. It ranges from a matter of months to a few years.
The finalization of an adoption is only one step on the path to permanency. It is essential that the adoptive family receive any and all necessary, ongoing support so the child can thrive in the new family. Support services might include individual and family counseling, respite care, support groups, or other services based on the unique needs of each family.
How much does it cost?
Adoption from foster care is not an expensive process. The majority of families that adopt through foster care (93%) will receive some kind of adoption subsidy to help provide for the child. Families adopting from foster care are also eligible for the one-time adoption tax credit.* Finally, because state agencies generally facilitate adoptions through foster care, the legal process can be completed at no or little cost.
Find an Agency: If you're interested in adopting from foster care with a private agency, NCFA's online member referral directory can help you find a licensed provider in your state.
AdoptUSKids: State-by-State information from the U.S. Children’s Bureau
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adopting from Foster Care
FREE! Right Time Training Modules from National Training and Development Curriculum available in our online learning system. Just type "National Training" in the search bar to see the full list.
NCFA’s publication, the Adoption Advocate, covers a wide range of topics in adoption including adoption from foster care.
Creating A Family has a number of resources on Adoption from Foster Care.
How to Know if You Qualify for Adoption Assistance (Subsidy)
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Can I Adopt a Baby from Foster Care?
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The Heartfelt Plea of a Former Foster Youth
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