Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans

Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption

Adoption provides a child with a life-long legal and emotional family relationship. It includes the legal transfer of all parental rights from the child’s mother and father to another person or couple. Adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities to their child as parents whose children were born to them.

A public agency adoption is one facilitated by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare or other state or county social service department and is limited to the adoption of children within the foster care system.  The focus of a public agency adoption is to locate families for the children in their care.  Thus, these programs do not help you find a child to adopt.

A private agency is state-licensed and may be for-profit or non-profit and may or may not have a religious affiliation.  Private agencies may specialize in domestic infant adoption, special needs and/or international adoption.  These agencies will help you find a child to adopt.

An independent adoption is one in which the birth parent places the child directly with an adoptive parent for the purpose of adoption.

They are children who were removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.  Children needing adoptive homes from foster care look like other children and have a wide range of abilities and personalities.  Children of minority backgrounds are overrepresented in foster care.  Many of the children have special needs.  Most are school-aged.  Brothers and sisters need families where they can live together.

In most cases, when children are placed in foster care, the plan of first preference is to return the child to his birth family.  When it remains unsafe for the child to return home, the plan may change to adoption.  The majority of children adopted from foster care are adopted by their current foster parents.  For that reason, families whose exclusive goal is adoption are encouraged to contact one of Idaho’s licensed adoption agencies or certified adoption professionals.

You can learn more about the specific children available for adoption from Idaho’s foster care program who are not being adopted by their current foster parents on the following websites:  Idaho Wednesday’s ChildNorthwest Adoption Exchange or AdoptUsKids.

Many children in need of adoptive care are described as having “special needs”.  “Special needs” can refer to:  the age of the child; the need to be placed with at least one sibling; and/or emotional, developmental or medical problems.

Some special needs are the result of abuse, neglect or abandonment experienced by the child.  Other special needs have biological causes.  Examples of special needs include Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, Autistic Spectrum Disorders and fetal alcohol and drug syndromes.

Regardless of their special needs, the important thing to keep in mind is that these are children in need.  What they need most is the stability of a strong, loving family to support them.

Every state has laws which define who can become an adoptive parent.  In addition, each adoption agency or program may have their own requirements.  A prospective adoptive parent cannot have been convicted of child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children or homicide.

Adoptive parents are as varied as the children needing homes.  Successful adoptive parents are everyday people who come from all races, religions, incomes and educational backgrounds.  No two families are alike.  For the Idaho child welfare adoption program, these families:

  • Are single, married or divorced;
  • Able to financially support their own family;
  • Own or rent a safe residence which as space for a child;
  • Can work with social workers and/or therapists and other support people;
  • Have no parenting experience, are raising, or have raised other children;
  • Are flexible, energetic and able to care for a child;
  • Work inside or outside their home or are retired;
  • Are open to learning new things;
  • Can talk with social workers about themselves and their families.

Children in foster care have been through a lot of life-changing experiences in their short lives.  The maturity, coping skills, experience and knowledge you’ve accrued over the years will aid in caring for a child as an adoptive parent.

Idaho law requires an adoptive parent be at least twenty-five (25) years of age OR fifteen (15) years older than the child they are adopting. Individual adoption agencies may have additional age requirements. There are no maximum ages for adoption from the Idaho child welfare adoption program. 

Families who are interested in domestic or international adoption become eligible by having an adoption home study completed. The need for an adoption home study for grandparent and step-parents hoping to adopt their grandchild or step-child is determined by the court, however, all families adopting a child from the child welfare system must have an approved adoption home study.

A home study is a written assessment of a prospective adoptive family’s ability to parent an adopted child.  It is a written reflection of the family and their lifestyle.  By reading a family’s home study, a child’s social worker is able to get a general impression of them and begin to determine if a particular child will fit with that family.  In Idaho, adoption home studies may be completed by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, licensed private adoption agencies or Certified Adoption Professionals.  As part of the home study process, a family may be required to attend adoption education classes.  The person conducting your home study will visit you at your home to interview your family.

Home studies may be written for a general type of child, or a specific child.  They include the personal history, health and financial statements and criminal background checks for each adult living in the family home.  An adoption home study with a positive recommendation for placement is needed before a child can be placed in your home for adoption.

Families may contact the Idaho Careline at 2-1-1, check the Yellow Pages or search online for local licensed adoption agencies. A list of Certified Adoption Professionals is available here.

A step-parent adoption is when a step-parent petitions the court for adoption of his or her current spouse’s child.  In order for the adoption to occur, the parental rights of the other birth parent will need to be terminated, either through agreement or as the result of a court hearing. You may need to have an adoption home study completed. It is advised you consult with an adoption attorney to learn about the requirements for the process. Additional information can also be found in the Stepparent Adoption Factsheet for Families on the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Every agency involved in placing children for adoption has their own defined process. Birth parents placing their newborns for adoption frequently have input on the selection of the adoptive parents. In other circumstances, the agency makes the placement decision. However, in each situation, the family chosen for the child will be the one the agency feels can best meet the child’s needs. 

Each state has a process for the selection of adoptive families for children involved in their foster care system.  Idaho uses local selection committees to identify the family best able to provide for the child’s current and future needs. 

The Department uses websites such as Idaho Wednesday’s ChildNorthwest Adoption Exchange or AdoptUsKids to give a glimpse of a child’s personality and their needs in an adoptive family. The profiles are designed to provide a basic description of the child’s individual strengths and challenges while maintaining the child’s confidentiality. When you identify a child you may be interested in adopting, you will need to follow the instructions contained on that website to inquire about that child. The social worker will likely need to speak with you and/or review your adoption home study to determine if you may be a possible fit for the child prior to providing you with additional information.

The parental rights of the child’s birth mother and birth father must be terminated in order for a child to be legally free for adoption. Idaho requires children placed for adoption through a licensed adoption agency or the Department to live with the adoptive family for at least 6 months prior to finalizing the adoption.

A legal risk adoptive placement is one in which the child is placed in the home of the adoptive parents prior to becoming legally free for adoption. These situations can be very positive for the child and the family as it allows the child to move to his or her permanent placement as quickly as possible. Prior to moving to a legal risk adoptive placement, the agency responsible for the care of the child will be actively pursuing the termination of parental rights necessary to free the child for adoption. The placement is considered a “legal risk” because there is always a possibility the child may not become legally free for the adoption.

Adoption providers set their own fees which vary based on the type of adoption.  Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports adoption costs of:

  • $0 - $2,500 for foster care adoption;
  • $5,000 - $40,000+ for private agency adoptions;
  • $8,000 - $40,000+ for independent adoptions; and
  • $15,000 - $30,000 for international adoptions.

Home study, legal and placement supervision fees contribute to the costs of adoption. 

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare has no fees for the application or home study process for families who are becoming licensed and/or approved for both foster and adoptive care for children placed by Children and Family Services (CFS). If a prospective parent wishes to be considered for adoption only, or chooses to use their completed home study to be considered for placement of a child not in the custody of CFS, the prospective family will be required to pay an application fee of $50 ($25 for a single applicant), a home study fee of $450 and a $55 fee for processing their background check. No fees are charged for the supervision of the adoptive placement, however families do need the services of an attorney to finalize the adoption.

Financial assistance for adoption may be available through one or more of the following sources:

Adoption Assistance:
Individual states, including Idaho, offer adoption assistance programs for eligible children with “special needs”.  Most children in foster care are considered “special needs.” Adoption assistance can include up to $2,000 reimbursement of adoption-related costs, a monthly subsidy for the ongoing care of the child and a Medicaid card to assist with medical expenses until the child is 18 years of age. The program is not available for international or step-parent adoptions.

Adoption Tax Credit:
You may be able to take a tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child, including a child with special needs. The adoption credit is an amount subtracted from your tax liability.  Learn more through the IRS website.

Employer Benefits:
A number of employers offer adoption benefits. Contact your Human Resources department to inquire about the availability of adoption benefits.

Military Benefits:
The military provides active-duty personnel a reimbursement for most one-time adoption costs. The National Military Family Association provides further information.

Loans and Grants:
Loans or grants are available through a variety of organizations such as adoption agencies, foundations and banks.

The length of time it takes to complete the home study assessment depends on how quickly your application, personal and medical references and background checks are received by your home study provider as well as how long it takes to complete any training they may require. Typically, the home study process takes no more than three months.

Many variables determine how long it takes to complete an adoption. The type of adoption (domestic, international, foster care) and type of child (age, sex, race, health) in which you are interested make a difference.  In general, the more flexible and open you are to the type of child you wish to adopt, the more quickly you may be selected as an adoptive parent.

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a binding agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It sets forth the requirements that must be met before a child can be placed from one state into another state. The Compact ensures prospective placements are safe and suitable before approval, and it ensures the individual or entity placing the child remains legally and financially responsible for the child following placement. More information is available on the Interstate Foster/Adoptive Placements page.