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 and foster care staff. 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.
Can I adopt an infant from DCS?
The truth is, birth mothers don’t typically surrender their newborns to DCS. If a newborn comes into custody, the baby is placed with kin/relatives in order to reduce trauma to the child or in an already approved foster home. The placement family would have priority in adopting the child, and only if the child becomes available for adoption.
Can I foster children in a specific age range?
Perhaps. We address that during your home study 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. That said, our greatest need is for homes for older children, but we do need homes for children of all ages.
I want to know more about a particular child featured online who is available for adoption.
Great! Tennessee’s children featured on public adoption websites do not have an identified adoptive placement and are currently in a DCS Foster Home or in a residential facility, where they will remain until an adoptive family has been identified for them. You can learn more about the process here.
Can I meet the child I have seen featured online to help me decide if I want to adopt him or her?
No. There isn’t a meeting until you are selected as a potential adoptive parent for that particular child or sibling group.
Can I foster the child I have identified online first, before deciding to adopt him or her?
No, we won’t move a child from his or her Foster Home until you are approved as his or her adoptive parent. Our goal is to minimize moves for children in state custody, for each move can be traumatic for a child who already has likely experienced loss.
Can I foster a child on a trial basis?
There is no trial basis. Remember, our goal for the children in state guardianship is permanency.
Can I only foster children I know will be available for adoption?
No. we can’t do that because when a child enters DCS custody, we don’t know if the child is going back to his or her biological family or not.
Q: Can I foster the particular child or sibling group I have seen online?
No. If you have seen a child’s photo online, that means that child needs a permanent family, not a temporary foster care home.
Why wouldn’t I be selected to parent a child I have identified online?
We really focus on the child – his or her needs, personality, desires, fears, hopes. Not being selected for a particular child isn’t so much about you, but on identifying the right parent for the right child.
If I become a Foster Parent, how long until a foster child in my house becomes available for adoption?
There is no concrete answer to that question. We work very hard to achieve timely permanency for the child, whether with his or her birth family, or with an adoptive family and we cannot guess at a time frame, or even if a child newly in foster care will be available for adoption.
Why does DCS need so much information from me and about me?
We need to know your past, your childhood, your past traumas, if any. We need to know your history of relationships and past commitments and how those relationships ended so we know enough about how you will relate to the child and his or her own special needs and history.
I have identified a child in another state who I want to adopt. Will DCS do my home study?
Pursuant to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will conduct a foster/adoptive study for a Tennessee resident who is seeking the placement of a child who is in the custody or guardianship of the public child welfare agency in another State.
Also in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, the Tennessee resident is responsible for contracting with a private Tennessee licensed child placing agency to secure an adoptive study and post-placement supervision, if appropriate, when the child from another state is being placed directly by a birth parent or court or private licensed child-placing agency.
I am a foster parent in Tennessee, but have identified a child I want to adopt who is from another state. Can you help me?
DCS will send that state a copy of your home study, with your permission.
We have pets, is that a problem?
Not a problem unless the child is allergic or scared.
We have six children in our home, can we be Foster Parents?
DCS has a limit of six children in a Foster home, but if the sibling of a child already in your home comes into custody, you can be approved to foster that child.
Is there an age maximum or minimum to become a Foster Parent?
The minimum age to be a Foster Parent is 21, or 18, to foster kin. There is no maximum age, but just as we do for everyone who applies to be a Foster Parent – we require a medical form confirming you are healthy enough to care for a child.