image Visit coronavirus.govVisit disclaimer page for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.
View ACF COVID-19 Responses and Resources

10 Frequently Asked Questions for "Adoption"

  • How many children are adopted in the United States?

    Adoption statistics are very limited. Although data on the number of adoptions from the child welfare system (foster care) and intercountry adoptions are available, data from private agencies is currently not being systematically collected. To read more about the limitations and the history of data sources and current adoption trends, please refer to the Child Welfare Information Gateway factsheet Trends in U.S. Adoptions: 2008–2012.

    State foster care and public adoption statistics are currently collected through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). States are required to submit AFCARS data semiannually to the Administration for Children and Families. AFCARS reports from 2000 to present are available on the Children's Bureau website.

  • What/When is National Adoption Month?

    November is National Adoption month, a month set aside to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care.

    The history of National Adoption Month dates back to 1976 when Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis announced the first Adoption Week. Governor Dukakis' idea grew in popularity and quickly spread nationwide. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week, and in 1995, under President Bill Clinton, the week was expanded to the entire month of November.

    Every November, the Children's Bureau leads this initiative by way of a collaborative partnership between Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids that supports activities that promote the adoption of children and youth from foster care into permanent, loving families.

    For current information and resources about adoption, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, to view the National Adoption Month website.

  • I want to adopt. What are the requirements? How do I find a reputable adoption agency?

    Requirements for prospective adoptive parents vary depending on the type of adoption and agency involved. Child Welfare Information Gateway (Information Gateway), a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, offers in-depth information and resources to assist prospective adoptive parents in its web section on What Are My Choices in Adoption.

    To help prospective adoptive parents locate a reputable adoption agency, Information Gateway’s National Adoption and Foster Care Directory allows users to search state-by-state for a list of public and licensed private agencies, as well as support groups.

    Information Gateway’s publication How to Assess the Reputation of Licensed, Private Adoption Agencies provides criteria for checking on an agency’s standing in regards to complaints, litigation, etc.

    In addition, AdoptUsKids, a project of the Children’s Bureau, illustrates the basic characteristics of good foster or adoptive parents and includes a link to an interactive map of state foster care and adoption eligibility criteria.

  • I need help with my adopted child. What resources are available to me in my state?

    Postadoption services—services provided after a child is placed for adoption or after adoption finalization—are designed to support adoptive families and may help reduce the likelihood of adoption disruption or dissolution. Since adoption is governed by state law and policy, the type of postadoption services available to adoptive families varies from state to state. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, provides state-by-state information about the types of services available to families in its adoption assistance database.

    Child Welfare Information Gateway also provides detailed information about state postadoption assistance programs through its related resource list on Post Adoption and Permanency Support Services.

    Finally, support groups facilitate an understanding of common issues and provide the opportunity to share problem-solving strategies. Information Gateway’s National Adoption and Foster Care Directory allows users to search state-by-state to locate support groups for foster and prospective/adoptive parents.

  • How do I adopt a child living in another state? How do I adopt across state lines?

    Families often adopt children from other states, and children can find permanent families living in other states. The basic adoption process for adoptions involving multiple states is similar to the process for adoptions within the same state. All prospective adoptive parents must obtain a home study (or family profile) and follow their state’s adoption laws.

    In addition, in an interstate adoption, prospective adoptive parents need also to comply with the laws of the sending state (the state where the child lives). For an overview of adoption laws that apply, please refer to summaries of state statutes (laws) provided by Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families.

    Additionally, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) must be involved any time a child is moved from one state to another for the purpose of adoption. The ICPC requires that parties comply with the law of the sending state before the sending state's ICPC office will approve the child's transfer. ICPC is a membership organization that does not work directly with families. Families who are involved in an adoption across state lines generally work with both an adoption worker in their home state to complete a home study and preservice training, and another adoption worker in the child’s home state to walk them through the steps needed to satisfy the ICPC requirements. More information on the ICPC is available in the Adopting Children From Other States or Jurisdictions section on the Information Gateway website

    Professionals working with prospective adoptive families may find an overview of applicable adoption laws in the summaries of state statutes provided by Child Welfare Information Gateway.

  • What is an adoption home study? What type of information is included in it?

    An adoption home study (or family profile) is a written report by a social worker who has met with the applicants on several occasions, both individually and together (if a couple). Completing the home study or family profile involves education, preparation, mutual assessment, and gathering information about the prospective adoptive parents. The assessment process is designed to help families decide if adoption is right for them, as well as to help families understand the type of child whose needs they could meet. This process can take from 2 to 10 months, depending on agency waiting lists and training requirements.

    Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, offers summaries of state statutes addressing home study requirements on its website in the publication Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents. In addition, the Information Gateway publication The Adoption Home Study Process discusses the common elements of the home study process and addresses some questions that prospective adoptive parents may have about the process.

  • How do I adopt a child from a foreign country?

    In intercountry adoption, (i.e., adopting a child from a foreign country), prospective adoptive parents are required to follow the laws in their state, the laws of the child’s country of origin, the policies and regulations of the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and, when appropriate, Hague regulations. In the United States, you must be a U.S. citizen 25 years of age or older to adopt from another country. If you are married, at least one spouse must be a U.S. citizen.

    The U.S. Department of State and the USCIS are the two government agencies responsible for overseeing intercountry adoptions. The U.S. Department of State website provides relevant resources on intercountry adoption and country-specific information.

    Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, offers additional resources on intercountry adoption and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. One resource is the web section Adopting Children From Another Country.

    Information Gateway also offers a list of state-licensed private agencies with intercountry adoption programs through a search of the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory.

  • How can I find my birth parents or birth relatives?

    Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, offers a web section that outlines the steps of the search process. The publication Searching for Birth Relatives contains basic information on obtaining birth and/or adoption records, conducting a search, reuniting with birth relatives, dealing with the lifelong emotional impact of adoption, and links to relevant organizations.

    Many states across the country allow adopted adults and birth relatives to enter their names in a reunion registry, where the two parties may be matched and put in contact with one another. Some states provide a confidential intermediary service to help facilitate adoption reunions. To find out if your state has either of these services, you may conduct a search of Information Gateway‘s National Foster Care and Adoption Directory. A listing of search support groups is also available through the directory.

    Information Gateway’s publication Access to Adoption Records offers more information on accessing adoption records in each state.

  • Is my adopted child eligible for a scholarship for post-secondary education (college, trade school, etc.)?

    Scholarships and tuition waivers may be available to youth who were adopted from foster care. Youth adopted as infants or through intercountry adoption may need to access scholarships through more traditional means, such as foundations, schools, or other organizations. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, offers more information in its web section on Educational Assistance.

    The Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) Program provides financial assistance for postsecondary training and education to youth who have aged out of foster care or who have left foster care after age 16 for kinship guardianship or adoption. Child Welfare Information Gateway provides a listing of ETV Coordinators by state on its website.

  • What are the adoption laws in my State? How do I find out about my State laws governing adoption (e.g., consent to adopt; who can adopt, etc.)?

    Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, provides links to summaries of specific aspects of state adoption laws (domestic/intercountry/postadoption) and other relevant legal information in its web section State Laws on Adoption.

    While every attempt has been made to be as complete as possible, additional information on these topics may exist in other sections of a state's code, as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures.

    For more information, you may wish to contact an attorney familiar with adoption laws in your state; the American Bar Association website provides the Find Legal Help webpage, which includes pro bono attorney referrals and links to court resources.