About Adoption Through Foster Care

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.

Types of adoptions

There are different types of adoptions. An adoption done through the department is a public agency adoption. A public agency adoption is one facilitated by the department or other state or county social service department. It is limited to the adoption of children within an agency's custody. The focus of a public agency adoption program is to locate families for the children in their care. These programs do not help you find a child to adopt. 

The department has custody of the children in foster care and typically works with a birth family toward reunification for 12 months. If reunification is unable to occur, the court may terminate parental rights and the child is then available for adoption. If you are selected to adopt a child, the law requires a six-month supervision period. 

Children available for adoption through a public agency

Children who were removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment and their parents' rights have been terminated are available for adoption through a public agency. Children needing adoptive homes from foster care have a wide range of needs, 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 their 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. Families whose exclusive goal is adoption and not fostering 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 or relatives on the following websites: Idaho Wednesday’s ChildAdoptUsKids, A Family for Every Child, Northwest Adoption Exchange or Adoption.com.

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. 

A group of laughing smiling children
Children waiting to be adopted
If you are interested in adopting a child from foster care but don't want to become a foster parent at this time, check out Idaho's Wednesday's Child webpage
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Start the adoption application process
If you are interested in caring for a child in foster care and open to adoption if reunification is not successful, start the application process

What you need to know

Who can adopt?

Every state has laws that 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 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 that has 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


Are there any age restrictions to adopt?

Idaho law requires an adoptive parent be at least 25 years of age or 15 years older than the child they are adopting. It does not set maximum ages for adoption. Child and Family Services (CFS) does not have a maximum age for the adoption of a child from Idaho foster care. Private adoption agency programs may have additional minimum and/or maximum ages.

How long does the adoption process take?

The length of time it takes to complete an adoption home study depends on how quickly your application, personal and medical references, and background checks are received by your home study provider, when you are able to complete training, and your adoption provider's home study timeline. 

Once you have been approved for adoptive care, the time it takes to receive a placement depends on many variables, which may include: the type of child (age, gender, race, health, etc.) you are willing to accept, and the number and type of children in need of placement. There will be a minimum six-month period of supervision of the child's placement in your home before the adoption can be finalized. 

What is an 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.

The Private Adoption page includes a list of local licensed adoption agencies. A list of certified adoption professionals is available here.

Is there an application, home study, or criminal history background check fee?

There are no fees for the application or home study process for prospective parents who are becoming licensed and approved to provide foster or foster-to-adoption care for children placed by the department.

There is a fee for processing background checks through the Background Check Unit. However, these fees are waived for prospective foster or foster-to-adopt care for children placed by Child and Family Services (CFS).

Fees for adoption through a private adoption agency or certified adoption professional are set by the individual adoption provider. Regardless of the type of adoption, your family will also need to retain the services of an attorney to finalize the adoption.

What are "special needs"?

Many children in need of adoptive care are described as having “special needs.” This 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.

How do families become eligible to adopt?

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 grandparents 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.

How are adoptive parents selected for placement of a child?

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. The department uses local selection committees to identify the family best able to provide for the child’s current and future needs. 

When can a child be adopted?

The parental rights of the child’s birth mother and 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 before finalizing the adoption.

What is a legal risk placement?

A legal risk adoptive placement is one in which the child is placed in the home of the adoptive parents before becoming legally free for adoption. These situations can be very positive for the child and the family as they allow 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 actively pursue 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.

What is Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children or ICPC?

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 after placement. 

The ICPC process is started by the state the child lives in and can take several months before the child is placed or the adoption is approved by both the sending and receiving states. If this situation applies to you, please contact your local worker for more information and status updates.