State Adoption


State adoption is the process of adopting a child who is in the custody of their State or county's Department of Child and Family Services.

The children who are in state custody temporarily live with families who provide for their physical, emotional and social needs until they can be permanently adopted by another family.

Since their biological parents have had their parental rights terminated, these children are already able to be legally adopted.

In 2013, there were 101,840 children who were waiting to be adopted (parental rights for their birth parents were terminated.) Of these waiting children, over 45,000 were 5 years old or less.

Depending on the state, it usually takes 12 to 24 months from the time you first contact an adoption agency to the time when a child is placed with you.

Most adults can get approved for a state adoption. Each state has its own eligibility laws for those who wish to become an adoptive parent.

Steps to complete a state adoption

1. Contact the local state or county public child welfare agency.
They will provide you with information about how to adopt in your state, including how to contact an adoption agency who will help you through the process.

2. Attend an orientation meeting conducting by your adoption agency.
During this meeting you will learn about what it means to adopt, your responsibilities, and the next steps to take on your journey to adopt.

3. Apply to adopt.
Some states require families to be approved for both fostering and adopting, which requires completing training and an application process.

4. Complete an adoption home study.
The home study is a written document your caseworker writes about your family and includes basic information drawn from interviews with your family and information provided by third parties. This can include your family background, parenting experiences, education and employment, and more. Also, a caseworker will conduct a home visit to ensure your home will provide a safe environment for the child.

5. Getting approved to adopt.
There is a period of waiting while a caseworker is in the process of completing the home study. During this time, a caseworker will finish a written home study report, which will reflect the information provided to them. The report will determine whether you’re eligible to adopt, and will often include the age range of children recommended for your family along with the conditions and characteristics of the children that you want. The approval decision may take some time as it’s done on a case-by-case basis unless there is a criminal record or overriding safety concern.

6. Being matched with a child.
Depending on state law and policy, the process and timelines regarding being matched with a child and receiving an adoptive placement may be quite different. In general, a match occurs when your family is selected as the adoptive family for a child. You will be given all of the information about the child so you can agree to the match. Your caseworker (along with a team of people, which may include the child you are interested in adopting) will also determine if your family is the most suitable match for the child.

7. Receiving a placement of the child into your home.
You and the child will have time to prepare physically and emotionally for the placement into your home. This may take some time, depending on the circumstances.

8. Legalizing the adoption.
After the child is placed with your family, the caseworker will visit with you and your child at least once each 30 days between placement and legalization. The visits will ensure the child’s needs for safety and well-being are being met. In many states, you will need an attorney to help make the adoption legal, as many require you to appear in court in order for an official decree of adoption to take place. Your adoption agency can provide you with details about how to legally finalize the adoption. has tips and resources as well as a database of children in the U.S. foster care system who are available to adopt.

Common Myths

There are plenty of myths about adoption that change the perception of many people. Some of the most common myths are:

Myth: There are no orphans in the United States.
REALITY: There are over 100,000 children we are legally waiting for an adoptive family.

Myth: It is easier and faster to adopt internationally than completing a state adoption.
REALITY: On average, over 50,000 children are adopted through state adoptions every year, while less than 10,000 children from other countries are adopted into U.S. families. In most cases, it takes about the same time (12-24 months) for state adoptions and international adoptions.

Myth: You can only adopt a child who has your ethnicity and race.
REALITY: Federal law prohibits the denial of an adoptive placement based on the child’s ethnicity or race and the family who would like to adopt them.

Myth: You have to be of child bearing age to adopt.
REALITY: In most cases, families are eligible to adopt regardless of age, marital status, income, etc. You don’t need to be young, wealthy, or even own your home to qualify as an adoptive parent.

There are many more myths that get spread about adoption, so it is important to discover the realities.

Additional information about state adoption can be found at: