Understanding Adoption and Foster to Adopt

What is 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.

What is the difference between fostering to adopt and private adoption?

Fostering to adopt is facilitated by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare and is limited to the adoption of children within the foster care system. This program does not help you find a child to adopt. Each state has a process for the selection of adoptive families for children involved in their foster care system, so we encourage you to contact that State directly for more information.

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. Individual adoption agencies may have additional age requirements.  In Idaho, private adoption home studies may be completed by a licensed private adoption agencies or Certified Adoption Professionals.

Who are the children available for adoption through foster care?

Children needing adoptive homes from foster care have a wide range of abilities and personalities.  Many of the children have special needs.  Most are school-aged children or need a home where brothers and sisters can live together.  You can learn more about the specific children available for adoption from Idaho’s foster care program on the following websites:  Idaho Wednesday’s Child or AdoptUsKids.

Pre-service training programs are encouraged for families looking to adopt. Training is usually around 20 hours. Benefits of training are a better understanding of how experiences affects your child, learn how to provide better support and gain knowledge about how to best integrate a new child into your family. Consult your local adoption agencies for more information.

How can I find out more information about a child I saw on an adoption website?

The Department uses websites such as Idaho Wednesday’s Child and 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.  If you are already a licensed foster parent in Idaho, please contact your local licensing worker to adopt.

Who can adopt?

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 with 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

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. There are no maximum ages for adoption from the Idaho child welfare adoption program. 

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.

How are adoptive parents selected for placement of a child?

Idaho Department of Health & Welfare Children and Family Services makes the placement decision.   If no relatives are interested or able to adopt the child, the Department may consider adoption by the child’s current foster parent.  In situations where the child will not be adopted by a relative or foster parent, the Department will work to identify a new family with an approved adoption home study. In each situation, the family chosen for the child will be the one the agency feels can best meet the child’s needs.  Idaho uses local selection committees to identify the family best able to provide for the child’s current and future needs.

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 such as Idaho Youth Ranch or A New Beginning Adoption Agency Inc., 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 Idaho Department of Health & Welfare conducts home studies suitable only for foster care adoptions. 

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 prior to finalizing the adoption.

How much does it cost to adopt?

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

             $4,000 - $40,000+ for private agency adoptions

             $8,000 - $40,000+ for independent adoptions

             $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 family chooses to use their completed home study to be considered for placement of a child not in the custody of CFS, the family will be required to pay an application fee of $50 ($25 for a single applicant) and a home study fee of $450. The Department does not provide supervision of adoptive placements for children placed outside of a public child welfare agency.  No fees are charged for the supervision of adoptive placements from public child welfare agencies; however families do need the services of an attorney to finalize adoptions in Idaho.

Is financial assistance available to adopt?

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.” Some children adopted through private adoption agencies or independent placement may also qualify as “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.  Completion of the adoption assistance application and agreement process must occur before the finalization of an adoption, or the child loses eligibility for the program.

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.


How long does the adoption process take?

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 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.