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How to adopt

Steps to adopting a child from the foster care system in North Carolina

  1. Learn about foster children and adoption
  2. Choose an adoption agency
  3. Submit an application
  4. Complete a Pre-Placement Assessment (Home Study)
  5. Work with your social worker to identify children whose needs your family may be able to meet
  6. Submit your PPA to child’s agency for consideration
  7. Visit with your child
  8. Bring your child home
  9. Complete a supervisory period
  10. Legalize the adoption in court
  1. Learn about foster children and adoption
    Adoption can bring great joys and rewards, but it is also a long-term commitment that must not be entered into lightly. Each child deserves a "forever" family, one that is willing to be there for them every day throughout their childhood and beyond. It may take months or years to gain their trust. Many of the children require regular medical attention or counseling. Parenting any child can be hard work, but for the right family with a lot of love and dedication, the rewards can be tremendous.
  2. Choose an Adoption Agency
    Each county in North Carolina has a Department of Social Services that provides or arranges for adoption services. In addition to the public agencies, there are private agencies that are licensed by the N.C. Division of Social Services to provide adoption services.

    You may choose to work with a public or private adoption agency (licensed agencies in N.C.). Public agencies provide adoption services at no cost to the applicant if he or she is interested in children in the foster care system.

    Private agencies are either nonprofit or for-profit and operate on a fee for service basis. The fee is paid by the adoptive parents except in cases where the agencies are contracting with the Division of Social Services to provide services at no cost to families interested in children in the foster care system. Private agencies are required to provide a written statement of their services and you may request this information from the agency.

    It is important to ask questions about the adoption process and to get as much detailed information as possible from your agency. Your agency social worker is an invaluable resource for you and will be available to answer your questions during the process.

    The following private agencies have extensive experience completing adoptions of children in the foster care system and provide services at little or no cost to families:


    These agencies have locations throughout the state to assist families in adopting children from the foster care system.

  3. Submit an application
    The agency you select will ask about your family background and composition. You will also be asked for a description of the child you seek to adopt. You must complete an application for adoption to begin the process.
  4. Complete the Pre-Placement Assessment
    You will participate in a series of meetings with a social worker to help you understand both the adoption process and your responsibilities as an adoptive parent. Most agencies require special classes known as Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting-Group Preparation and Selection to prepare you to become an adoptive parent of a child from foster care. These classes are important and will provide you with information about the skills needed to parent a child who has experienced loss and trauma. They will also help you assess your ability to provide a home for such a child. Families adopting internationally or through a domestic infant adoption program may require a different form of training.

    In the State of North Carolina, there is a difference between a foster home study, a therapeutic foster home study, and a Pre-Placement Assessment for adoption. Although the process and the information gathered are somewhat similar, they are not interchangeable. Please check with your agency if you are uncertain which type of study you have.

    More details on the Pre-Placement Assessment process.
  5. Work with your social worker to identify children whose needs your family may be able to meet
    Once your Pre-Placement Assessment is completed, your social worker will work with you to locate a child or sibling group whose needs can be met in your family. Please keep in mind that the process is child-driven and the agencies are seeking the family that best meets each child’s individual needs. There may be multiple families who are interested in being considered for an available child or sibling group. For these reasons, the process of finding the right match can take time. It is important to be patient during this process.
  6. Submit your PPA to the child’s agency for consideration
    If you are interested in being considered for one of the children you see listed on our website, please submit an inquiry to the NC Kids Consultant listed as the contact person for that child or sibling group, or you may have your agency social worker contact NC Kids. The child’s NC Kids Consultant will contact you (or your social worker) to determine if your family could be a good fit for the child. If your family is a potential match, you can request that your Pre-Placement Assessment be sent to the child’s agency for consideration. NC Kids will then forward your PPA to the child’s social worker. Your social worker may also request contact information for the child’s agency and submit your PPA directly.
  7. Visit with your child
    Once a child has been identified, a visitation plan is established between your agency and the child’s agency so the child and your family can get to know each other before a placement is made.
  8. Bring your child home
    All children, even infants, will have a period of adjustment following placement. A child requires much patience, tolerance and love during this time. Your social worker should be there to support you and your child with the transition.
  9. Supervisory period
    Generally speaking, North Carolina law requires the child to be in your home for six months before the adoption process can be completed. In some instances, the time needed for adjustment will be longer and your social worker will visit in your home to provide support and assistance. In certain circumstances, the waiting period may be shorter than six months.
  10. Legalize the adoption in court
    While some adoptive parents choose to file their own legal documents, it is recommended that an attorney be retained for filing the legal proceedings. The legal fees are arranged between the adoptive parents and the attorney. If the child is a special needs child who is in the custody of an agency, the legal fees can be reimbursed.

    The laws relating to adoption are found in Chapter 48 of the North Carolina General Statutes.

    Legal steps for completing adoptions are:

    1. Petition for Adoption
      The petition must be signed by the adoptive parent(s), and may be filed in the county where the adoptee has lived for at least six consecutive months or from birth, where the child placing agency is located or where the petitioner has lived or been domiciled for at least the six consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the petition. The following documents must be filed with the petition:
      • Affidavit of parentage
      • Legal clearance documents
      • Pre-Placement Assessment (home study)
      • Non-identifying background information and health history form
      • Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children documents, if applicable
      • Legal risk statement, if applicable
      • Child support obligation, if applicable
      Once a petition is filed with all of the proper documents, the Clerk of Court will order the agency to make a report on the proposed adoption, if required for that type of adoption.
    2. Report on Proposed Adoption
      This report is filed with the court of adoptions by the child placing agency ordered to investigate/supervise the adoptive placement. This report includes a history and family background of the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parent(s), assessment of the adjustment of the child and family, and a recommendation as to whether the adoption should be finalized.

      Before the adoption is finalized, an itemized list of any out-of-pocket costs, such as filing fees or court costs, must be filed with the court.
    3. Decree of Adoption
      The Decree of Adoption makes the child legally one of the family.
    4. Birth certificate
      The child is issued a new birth certificate after the adoption documents are sent to the N.C. Division of Social Services where they are indexed for permanent retention. The division notifies the vital records department in the state in which the child was born to issue a new birth certificate. The certificate shows the adoptive parent(s) as the child's parents and reflects the child's new name, if changed.

      The adoption agency that had custody of the child prior to the placement for adoption will permanently retain the adoption record. If the agency is not known, contact may be made with the N.C. Division of Social Services for that information. These agencies may release any non-identifying information, but the law does not permit any identifying information to be released.

      Parents who have completed an adoption proceeding through the Final Decree of Adoption but have not yet been notified about the child's birth certificate can fill out the Adoption Status Request.