Adoption from Foster Care
Adoption from Foster Care
Across the United States, there are currently over 117,000 children and youth waiting for permanency with a loving, nurturing family. Perhaps you are the mom or dad they have been waiting for!
Adoption from foster care may be the right option for you. Click below to learn more.
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 2020 FY AFCARS Report (covers the period between October 1, 2019 - September 30, 2020)
- Number of children in U.S. foster care as of September 30, 2020: 407, 493
- Average length of stay for a child in foster care: 21 months
- Number of youth who emancipated from foster care (a.k.a. “aged out”) without a permanent family in this reporting period: 20,010
- Number of children still waiting to be adopted as of September 30, 2020: 117, 470
- Number of children adopted from foster care in this reporting period: 57, 881
- 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
- Nine states had an increase in the number of adoptions from the previous fiscal year whereas in FY2019 35 states had reported an increase in the number of adoptions from the previous year. For FY2020, Oregon, Alabama, Virginia, Iowa, and Wisconsin led the way in increasing the number of adoptions compared to the prior FY.
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
NCFA’s monthly policy publication, the Adoption Advocate, covers a wide range of topics in adoption including adoption from foster care.
- No. 95: Adoption Agencies Serving Children in Foster Care
- No. 83: The Human, Social, and Economic Cost of Aging Out of Foster Care
- No. 77: The Joys and Challenges of Parenting Older Adopted Children
- No. 71: The Importance of Maintaining Sibling Connections in Foster Care
- No. 59: Paths to Permanence: Kin Guardianship and Adoption
- No. 51: The Unique Educational Challenges Facing Youth in Foster Care
- No. 48: Supporting Maltreated Children: Countering the Effects of Neglect and Abuse
- No. 47: Advocating for America's Youth in Foster Care: Perspectives and Recommendations from Former Foster Youth
- No. 39: Engaging the Private Sector to Increase Positive Permanency Outcomes for Children in Foster Care
- No. 35: Better Prospects, Lower Cost: The Case for Increasing Foster Care Adoption
- No. 24: What's Working in Foster Parent Recruitment: Stories from the Field
- No. 17: Finding Permanence for Kids: NCFA Recommendations for Immediate Improvement to the Foster Care System
Our Friends at Creating A Family have a number of resources on Adoption from Foster Care.
In honor of National Foster Care Month in May, NCFA curates valuable content for adoptive parents and professionals. Highlights from 2020 include:
Positive Practices in Transracial Adoption Parenting
Based on her lived experience, adult adoptee Ramya Gruneisen explains how adoptive parents can help their transracially adopted child to overcome challenges by being willing to ask for help, not waiti...
How Expat Adoptive Parents Can Secure U.S. Citizenship for their Adopted Child
Ensuring U.S. citizenship for their adopted child can be a daunting task for expat parents. Essentially, there are three ways that a foreign-born child can obtain U.S. citizenship following adoption b...
Kinship adoption is different from kinship caregiving and distinct in its benefits and challenges. In this article we cover the basics of kinship adoption and provide related resources for adoptive fa...
Adoption Tax Credit Questions
General information and answers to FAQs to help you get started with the adoption tax credit.