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How to Adopt in Tennessee

Whether you are hoping to add to your family or are considering adoption for your baby, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about adoption in Tennessee. Below, find Tennessee adoption and foster care information, local agencies and information about how to adopt in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and beyond.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Tennessee

State laws regulate processes and qualifications for adoptive parents. If you are looking to adopt a child in Tennessee, the following information will help you better understand the laws and regulations for adoption in the Volunteer State.

What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Tennessee?

To be eligible to adopt in Tennessee, a person must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a resident of Tennessee for at least six consecutive months

The residency requirement is waived if the adoptive parent is stationed with the military outside of Tennessee but lived within the state for six consecutive months prior to joining the military. If the prospective adoptive parent is related to the child, he or she only needs to be a resident of the state at the time the adoption petition is filed.
Spouses must adopt jointly unless the court finds one spouse incompetent. In foster care adoptions, the foster parent is given first preference on adopting their foster child.

What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Tennessee?   

Adoptive families may pay reasonable fees for the following:

  • Hospital or medical services for the birth of the baby
  • Medical care and birth-related expenses for the child and birth mother
  • Counseling fees for adoptive and birth parents
  • Legal fees
  • Living expenses including housing, food, maternity clothing, child’s clothing, utilities and transportation

All of the above expenses must be incurred in connection with the maternity, birth and adoption of the baby and legal services directly related to the adoption. Counseling expenses may be paid for up to one year for the child’s birth parent. Living expenses may be paid for a period not exceeding 90 days prior to the birth of the child or 45 days after the child is placed for adoption.
The department maintains an informational database of licensed adoption agencies’ home study fees, placement fees, counseling and legal expenses, and prospective adoptive parents may access this information upon written request.
Adoptive parents must disclose any payments made or agreed to be made in connection with the adoption with the petition to adopt.

What are the laws to become a foster parent in Tennessee?

Prospective foster parents in Tennessee must be at least 21 years old and a resident of the state. Tennessee foster parents are required to complete a 23-hour course called Parents as Tender Healers (PATH) and complete a home study.

What are the requirements to finalize an international adoption in Tennessee?

According to Tennessee statutes, readoption is an option rather than a requirement in international adoptions. If the adoption was conducted under the laws of the foreign country where the child was adopted, readoption will not require further termination of parental rights, home studies, court reports, putative father registry checks or other affidavits.
Adoptive parents who are Tennessee residents and who legally adopt a child from a foreign country may file a copy of the foreign adoption decree, a certified translation of the decree and proof of full and final adoption from the U.S. government with the clerk of court in any county in Tennessee. The court will enter the required documents with an order recognizing the adoption. No hearing will be required.
The clerk will report the final order of adoption to the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health, and the state registrar will prepare a report of foreign birth with the child’s full adoptive name, his or her birth date, place and sex, his or her adoptive parents’ full names and legal residence.

Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, only state-licensed child-placing agencies, licensed clinical social workers, prospective adoptive parents and lawyers subject to the Tennessee supreme court rules regarding lawyer advertising may advertise for adoption. Out-of-state licensed agencies, clinical workers and lawyers must be authorized to do business in Tennessee according to licensing laws and must maintain a physical office within the state.
Only the department, licensed child-placing agencies and licensed clinical social workers can place children for adoption. Aside from customary legal and medical fees, facilitators may not be paid to advise prospective adoptive or birth parents in making necessary arrangements for adoption.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Tennessee

What are the laws for placing a baby for adoption in Tennessee? Who needs to consent to the adoption? When can I give my consent? These are all common questions about the rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Tennessee. The following will help answer some of your question about Tennessee adoption laws.

When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?

Birth parents in Tennessee must wait until 3 days after the date of the child’s birth to consent to the adoption. The court may waive this waiting period for good cause.
Consent must be executed in court before a judge. The court must witness the actual act of consent and must confirm the parental consent by verifying with the parent his or her understanding and willingness to terminate parental rights.

Who must consent to the adoption?

The child’s parent, legal parent, guardian and/or putative father must consent to the adoption. Children age 14 or older must also provide written consent to be adopted.

When is consent not needed?

In Tennessee, a parent will not be made a party to the adoption proceeding if the parent has surrendered his or her parental rights to the child, has executed a parental consent that has been confirmed by the court, has waived his or her rights or had his or her rights terminated by court order.

When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?

Birth parents may revoke their consent within 10 days of executing consent. To revoke consent, the parent must appear before the judge who accepted the consent and execute revocation under oath.

What rights does the father of the baby have in Tennessee adoptions?

In Tennessee, a man is presumed to be a child’s father, and therefore has parental rights, if:

  • He is or was married to the child’s mother and the child is/was born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage
  • He and the child’s mother attempted to legally marry each other before the child’s birth, but the marriage is or could be declared invalid
  • He married or attempted to marry the child’s mother after the child’s birth, filed with the putative father registry, provided written consent to be named the child’s father on the birth certificate and is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or court order
  • He received the child into his home and openly claimed the child as his own
  • Genetic test results show a 95 percent or higher probability of parentage

A man may file with the putative father registry to be notified of any adoption proceedings for a child. Upon receiving notice, the man will have 30 days to intervene in the adoption proceedings or termination of parental rights proceedings. If he does not intervene, the court may terminate his parental rights.
Alternatively, the court may enter an order of parentage upon the agreement of the mother and father acknowledging the parentage of the child, or a complaint to establish parentage may be filed by the child (once the child reaches the age of majority), the child’s mother, a man claiming to be the child’s father or the Department of Human Services.

Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Tennessee

Before an adoption or foster care placement can be made in Tennessee, the prospective parents must complete an approved home study. The home study assesses parents’ ability to provide a stable, nurturing home to a child. Below, find more information about what to expect throughout the Tennessee home study process.

What is included in the Tennessee home study process?

The Tennessee home study includes at least one visit to the home and interviews with all members of the family residing in the household. It will consider the following information:

  • The prospective parents’ motivation to adopt
  • The applicants’ ability to provide for the child
  • References including extended family members and nonrelatives
  • The applicants’ character, values, ethical standards and physical and mental health
  • The health and fire safety conditions of the home

Applicants must be in good health and have average life expectancy. A physician’s evaluation of the cause of childlessness will be included in the assessment, except for the placement of special needs children.
The home study will also include study references, health examinations and verification of marital status.

Who is included in the home study process?

The applicants will be thoroughly studied.

Who will conduct the home study?

The home study may be performed by a licensed child-placing agency, licensed clinical social worker or the department, if the parents fall under federal poverty guidelines.

On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Tennessee?

The adoptive home study will include the caseworker’s evaluation of the applicants’ suitability as adoptive parents and recommendations as to approval of the home. The applicants will receive this information in writing.

When should the home study be completed? When must the home study be renewed?

The home study must be completed or updated within six months prior to filing an adoption petition. Upon filing the petition, the applicants will notify the court if they have requested a home study and, if the study has already been completed, file a copy of the report. If the home study has not been completed, the court will direct an agency to submit the report within five days of filing the petition. The report will be filed within 60 days, with a final report submitted immediately prior to finalization.

What are the post-placement study requirements for Tennessee?

A licensed child-placing agency or clinical social worker will visit the home at least quarterly until the adoption is finalized and prepare any necessary reports regarding the welfare of the child.

What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Tennessee?

The six months residency requirement is waived for relative adoptions, as long as the adoptive parent is a resident of the state at the time the adoption petition is filed. The court may also waive the requirement for a home study and post-placement supervision when the child is being adopted by relatives.

What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?

Any interstate adoption placement is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

What are the pre-placement requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?

When a foster child is legally freed for adoption, the foster parents will be given first preference to adopt the child if he or she has lived in the foster home for at least 12 consecutive months. In becoming adoptive parents, the foster parents must meet all requirements for adoptive applicants.
To begin the home study process in Tennessee, contact one of these trusted home study providers in your state:

  • Options 4 Adoption, Inc.
    Options 4 Adoption is licensed in the state of Tennessee as a nonprofit child-placing agency that offers home studies for domestic and international adoptions, post-placement supervision and home study updates.
  • Adoption Promises
    Adoption Promises has served all of Tennessee for over 12 years, offering domestic and international home studies, post-placement supervision and home study updates.
  • Adoption Assistance
    Adoption Assistance is a Kentucky and Tennessee licensed nonprofit adoption agency providing home studies for domestic and international adoptions, adoption training, post-placement services and home investigations for independent adoptions.
  • New Beginnings International Children’s & Family Services
    New Beginnings provides quality, professional domestic and international home study services for adoptive parents in Tennessee.

Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Tennessee home study providers.

Tennessee Adoption Professionals

Whether you are an expectant mother making an adoption plan or hopeful parents considering adoption, your adoption professional can help guide you through the process and offer more information about adoption in Tennessee. These adoption professionals are experienced in completing Tennessee adoptions and can help you reach your adoption goals:

For more information about foster care and foster-to-adopt in Tennessee, visit the Department of Children’s Services.

Things to do in Tennessee

If you find yourself spending some time in the Volunteer State, whether you are waiting for ICPC clearances so you can return to your home state, or you are visiting a prospective birth mother in her home state of Tennessee, here are a few fun things you can enjoy during your stay:

For more information about traveling to Tennessee, visit http://www.tnvacation.com/.

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