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Did you know there are hundreds of children waiting to be adopted from foster care in Iowa? These kids are waiting for the love and security that a permanent home provides.  Adopting from foster care is similar to regular adoptions, but typically the state pays for the court costs, legal fees and hospital bills. On average, it takes from six to twelve months to complete the steps necessary to be licensed to adopt or foster—including submitting an application, undergoing a home study and attending training. While some of the steps may seem overly involved or invasive, it is important to keep in mind that everyone is working toward the same goal—ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

Keep in mind, foster care is different in a few important ways: 

  • Though it is possible to adopt a baby from foster care, the children who are available for adoption generally range from toddler to 21. The median age is eight years old.

  • Because all children in foster care have experienced some form of trauma, parents who adopt from foster care undergo specific training to understand the effects of trauma and help children heal.

  • Parents who adopt from foster care usually work with a public agency or a private agency that has contracted with the state to provide services.

  • Adopting from foster care costs little to no money.

Educating Yourself:

Educate yourself and your family members about adoption. Child Welfare Information Gateway has a great list of resources of things to consider before adoption, including how to preparing yourself emotionally and considering openness in adoption. Many families say the best sources of information about adopting or being a foster parent is other families. 

Contacting a Local Agency:

Public agency services are usually free or very low cost—and often reimbursable. Public agencies may suggest or require becoming licensed to foster before adopting and will explain to you the reasoning behind this. In short, even if you only intend to adopt, which is permanent, and are not interested in providing temporary foster care, being approved to both foster and adopt can expedite the placement of a child with you for the purposes of adoption. 


Private adoption agencies guide you through the adoption process in much the same way that public agencies do. Their services may include helping you complete a home study, providing training, helping you find and secure a placement, and identifying or providing support services after adoption. They usually charge for these services up front. Some or all of the fees may be reimbursable.

Click here to find an agency licensed in Iowa to perform adoptions. 

Four Oaks Foster and Adoptive Family Connections—covers the northern, eastern, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines Service areas:


Lutheran Services in Iowa—covers the western service area:; 844-574-7787


Information sessions are conducted regularly in each of the five Iowa service areas. These information sessions give attendees a basic overview of the foster care and adoption process and an understanding of the characteristics of children in the child welfare system. There is no obligation to continue in the process by attending. To inquire online and see future session dates, visit the Four Oaks Foster & Adoptive Family Connnections/Lutheran Services in Iowa website. Registrants will receive an information packet to fill out before attending the session.

Complete an Adoption Application:

Complete an application with the agency you have chosen to work with. This may take place concurrent with the next step, pre-service training. This is where you will meet the caseworker who will help you through the application process. In child welfare, generally there are two types of caseworkers—family workers who work with families and child workers who work with the children in care. To make the application process as smooth as possible:

  • Be open and honest both on the application and in the personal interviews with your caseworker.

  • Supply the necessary information completely, accurately, and timely.

  • Ask for help if you don’t understand something.

  • Agree to maintain confidentiality about children in care and their birth families.

  • Cooperate with the home inspection and required criminal background and protective service checks (for more information on required checks, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s summary of state laws on criminal background checks for prospective foster and adoptive parents).

If you have concerns about something specific that might disqualify you from fostering or adopting, talk with your caseworker about it. Some agencies may be able to work with your family, depending on the specifics of the incident and its resolution. If your caseworker finds you to be deceptive or dishonest, or if documents collected during the home study process expose inconsistencies, the agency may not approve your application. As part of completing an application, you will need to be prepared to provide or consent to:

  • Letters of reference from your employer and those who know you.

  • A criminal record check at local, state, and federal levels.

  • Proof of meeting the minimum age requirement in your state.

  • Verification of income to meet your expenses. 

Participate in Training:

The process of training to become a foster parent or adopt from foster care is generally referred to as “pre-service training” or “pre-adoption training.” While requirements vary from state to state—and in some cases, from county to county—pre-service training programs are almost always required and usually happen right before or at the same time you’re completing your application to adopt. These trainings help you understand what your new foster or adoptive child has been through and how to best integrate them into your family. After you have completed your application and required training, you and your caseworker will need to complete a home study if you are adopting.

Begin a Home Study: 

A home study is required of all persons who wish to adopt a child. A person licensed to conduct home studies must complete the home study. This licensed practitioner meets with prospective adoptive parents and their children to determine whether or not the home and family are suitable for the child’s best interests. The final home study evaluation includes a written assessment of the personal background(s) of prospective adoptive parents and their children, including emotional maturity, financial stability, health status, the quality of relationships with each other and background checks. If you need to have a home study conducted, click here to find a list of current, licensed practitioners. 

Being Matched, Placement and Finalizing an Adoption:

Once approved, you will be matched with a child, prepare for placement and finalize the adoption. After a child is placed with your family, the court with jurisdiction over the child retains that jurisdiction until the adoption is legalized. A caseworker will visit you and your child at least once each 30 days between placement and legalization. The purpose of these visits is to assess with you how things are going and observe that you have and are using the resources required to provide for your child’s needs for safety, permanency, and well-being after the adoption is legalized and post-placement supervision ends.

For more in-depth information on adopting from foster care or being a foster parent, please visit

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