The adoption process

Adopting a child or teen from foster care changes your life, and theirs, in so many amazing ways. Families who have adopted from foster care tell us there are emotional highs and lows throughout the journey, like being on a roller coaster. All told, it takes between 9 and 18 months and between $0 and $5,000 to adopt from foster care. Just know we are here!

We can help you navigate the steps of the adoption journey from start to finish:

Step 1: Have your questions answered

Step 2: Choose an agency

Step 3: Training

Step 4: Home study and licensing

Step 5: Meet the youth and make inquiries

Step 6: Get to know each other

Step 7: Placement and post-placement supervision

Step 8: Finalization

Step 9: Post-adoption support

Step 1: Have your questions answered

As a nonprofit organization, we offer consultation and support services to families at no cost. We’re here to help you navigate the adoption from foster care journey. We can answer questions, help you figure out where to start, and provide insight into the process.

Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions about getting started in the adoption journey. Still have more questions? We can help.

Who are the youth in foster care?

Youth in foster care are children and teens who need what all children and teens need—love, support, and connection. They are funny, vibrant, growing young people who deserve permanent families. Youth profiles on Northwest Adoption Exchange feature youth ages 2 to 21 in Oregon and Washington State. All youth on our site need permanency. Learn more about youth in foster care and meet the youth today.

Why parent from foster care?

There are many youth in need of permanency—adoption, guardianship, and kinship care, for example—but not enough families to fulfill the need. By parenting from foster care, you have the ability to make a permanent, lasting impact on the life of a young person. Many families and individuals find that parenting from foster care is an exciting and rewarding experience.

Am I eligible?

  • Anyone over the age of 21 is welcome.
  • Renters, homeowners, and apartment dwellers are all welcome.
  • Single, married, and partnered people are all welcome.
  • All genders and those who are gender non-conforming are welcome.
  • All sexual orientations are welcome.
  • Pet owners are welcome.
  • Single-income earners are welcome.


Catch us in real-time by clicking the chat icon in the lower right corner of the page. We’re available to chat Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (PST).

Schedule a meeting with our family engagement specialist

Are you a Washington State family considering adopting from foster care? Schedule up to a 30-minute virtual or phone meeting with our family engagement specialist to get your questions answered.

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Step 2: Choose an agency

An adoption agency is an organization that facilitates adoption. Adoption agencies verify a potential home is safe for youth by conducting the home study, preparing adoption paperwork, following up after the adoption is finalized, and providing case-specific support throughout the process.

Types of agencies

There are two types of agencies that can help you adopt a youth from foster care:

  • Public child welfare agency: Most public child welfare agencies, usually state or county systems, help with foster licensing and completing home studies to adopt from foster care. There is usually no cost to work with a public child welfare agency.
  • Private nonprofit: Organizations that have special permission from the state to provide foster licenses and perform home studies for prospective adoptive families. Private agencies may have associated fees.

We support agencies that work with all families. Check out our list of agencies or contact us for help finding a great fit for your family.

Tips for selecting an agency

  • While we don’t recommend one type over the other, we do think it’s a great idea for all families to interview your public child welfare agency as well as at least one private agency. This helps you get a sense of both and determine the best match. Check out our tips for interviewing an agency.
  • Before you select a private agency, confirm that it uses the same standards for home studies and foster licenses as your local child welfare agency. It is almost always beneficial to complete a home study that also meets local foster care licensing requirements.

Step 3: Training

There are many factors that will determine the required training you need to complete to adopt from foster care, including the type of agency you choose and the state, or sometimes county, where you live. Training will generally happen at the same time that you are getting a home study or license.

Training is intended to:

  • Give you a better understanding of what a child or teen has been through and how to best integrate them into your family.
  • Prepare you for fostering or adopting.
  • Create a basis for teamwork between yourself and your agency.
  • Form mutually supportive relationships with other parents and child welfare staff who will be able to help you throughout your journey.
  • Answer any lingering questions you might have about whether you’re ready to foster or adopt.

Step 4: Home study and licensing

Home study

A home study is the official report that demonstrates that a family has completed an evaluation process, can provide a safe and nurturing home, and is ready to adopt from foster care.

Completing a home study involves meeting multiple times with a caseworker, including a home visit, and sharing detailed information about your family both verbally and in writing. Your home study report will include:

  • Your motivation for adopting from foster care.
  • A list of the training your family has taken.
  • Information about everyone living in your home.
  • Information about your home, neighborhood, profession, health history, and finances.
  • Your family history and your approach to parenting.
  • The age ranges, gender identities, and number of youth you’re open to parenting.
  • If you’re willing to consider adopting a child or teen with high support needs.

Your home study is an important requirement to adopt from foster care, and it’s also a tool that is used in the matching process. Caseworkers regularly review a family’s home study to determine if they may be an appropriate match for a youth. While not all agencies allow families to review their home studies before they’re finalized, if your agency does allow you to review the information that is included in the report, we highly recommend doing so to ensure that it accurately reflects your family.

Foster licensing

Increasingly, states are requiring families who are interested in adopting from foster care to also be licensed foster parents. Sometimes called dual licensing, this process means that parents are approved to both foster and adopt. For example, families who want to adopt from foster care in Washington are required to complete the licensing process. Many states have made this change to ensure families interested in adoption complete the same training as licensed foster parents. Additionally, some may require a dual licensing approach so that the youth who have a plan of adoption can be placed with prospective permanent families before biological family rights are legally established.

Step 5: "Meet” the youth and make inquiries

Meet the youth by viewing youth profiles.

Make inquiries on youth on our website who you would like to learn more about. We’ll work with you, your caseworker, and the youth’s caseworkers to help make connections.

Washington State families can help caseworkers—and youth—find you by:

  • Creating an account.
  • Creating a family profile.
  • Engaging in Adoption Consortium.
  • Signing up for our Reverse Teen Matching program.

Step 6: Get to know each other

After submitting an inquiry, you will have a chance to speak with the youth’s caseworker to learn more about the youth and ultimately decide if it’s a good match to continue pursuing. This is also the time when you would receive more detailed background information on a youth, such as medical history.

When you and the youth’s caseworker determine you’re a good match, you and the youth will have a chance to spend time together and make sure you both feel excited about the match. Often completed through a series of calls, video chats, and in-person meetings, this is an important time for both you and the youth to learn more about each other.

Step 7: Placement and post-placement supervision

Once a child officially moves into your home, the youth's caseworker will drop in for regular, in-home visits with you and the youth to see how things are going. Caseworkers refer to this period as "post-placement supervision.

Step 8: Finalization

Adoption finalization requires the support of an attorney. Your attorney and caseworker will work on your behalf to prepare the required legal paperwork for adoption. Your attorney will file an official petition for adoption and schedule a court date for you. On the scheduled court date, you will go to court as advised by your attorney. You may take as many family and friends as you want. You may also bring cameras and video to record this special event.

Once your adoption has been finalized, the youth will be a permanent, legal member of your family.

Step 9: Post-adoption support

There are many resources available for families who have adopted from foster care. Check with your adoption agency for resources and suggestions in your area or find state-specific information online:


Alaska Center for Resource Families

Alaska Office of Children’s Services


Oregon Post-Adoption Resource Center

Oregon Department of Human Services


Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families

All states