How to Adopt in Iowa

As a hopeful adoptive parent or an expectant mother considering adoption in Iowa, adoption processes, qualifications and rules can sometimes seem overwhelming. If you are looking for information about adoption in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, or anywhere else in the state, this guide will give you the information you need about how to adopt or place a child for adoption in Iowa.

Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Iowa

If you are looking to adopt a child in Iowa, you will need to familiarize yourself with state adoption laws. The following guidelines provide information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting in Iowa.

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

An unmarried adult or a husband and wife jointly may adopt in Iowa. A husband or wife separately may adopt in the case of a stepparent adoption, when the couple is legally separated or when the adoptive parent is unable to obtain consent from his or her spouse due to prolonged absence, an unexplained absence, incapacity or an unreasonable unwillingness to consent.

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

Adoptive parents may make payments in connection with the child’s birth, legal expenses related to the termination of parental rights and adoption processes, pregnancy and delivery-related medical care, postpartum medical care, living expenses for the birth mother, costs of counseling provided to the birth parents prior to and after the child’s birth, and living expenses of the child if he or she is spending time in foster care pending termination of parental rights. All payments should be made to the provider, if applicable, and not directly to the child’s birth parents.

Living expenses for the birth mother include room and board, rent, food, and transportation for medical appointments. Living expenses may not be paid for longer than 30 days after the child’s birth. Counseling expenses may not be paid for longer than 60 days after the child’s birth. Adoptive parents may pay a reasonable fee for home study services based on a sliding scale related to their ability to pay.

The adoptive parent must file a full accounting of all payments made in connection with the adoption prior to the final adoption hearing.

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

To become a foster parent in Iowa, you must be at least 21 years old and complete training and a home study.

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

To finalize an international adoption in Iowa, an investigator will perform a post-placement study consisting of at least three face-to-face visits with the adopted child and adoptive parents during the first year after the placement. The first visit will be conducted within 60 days of placement. The post-placement report will determine whether the unique needs of the child are being appropriately met through the placement.

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

These issues are not addressed in Iowa statutes.

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

Iowa has several laws in place to protect the rights of birth parents throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, the following information can help answer your questions about the rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Iowa.

When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?

A parent may consent to adoption 72 hours after the child’s birth. Consent must be in writing and signed by the person consenting. Consent must be signed in the presence of the court of before a notary public. A child being adopted who is at least 14 years old must consent in the presence of the juvenile court or the court in which the adoption petition is filed.

Who must consent to the adoption?

Any guardian of the child must consent to the adoption. In a stepparent adoption, the spouse of the stepparent must consent to the adoption. If the child being adopted is at least 14 years old, he or she must execute consent.

When is parental consent not needed in Iowa adoptions?

Consent may not be necessary under the following circumstances:

  • The person required to consent refuses to or cannot be located
  • The parent has signed an unrevoked release of custody
  • The parent has petitioned for termination of parental rights
  • The parent has abandoned the child
  • The parent has failed to comply with an order to contribute to the support of the child or financially aid in the child’s birth
  • The parent has been given notice and the opportunity to object to termination of parental rights and has not done so
  • The parent does not object to termination of parental rights after every reasonable effort has been made to identify, locate and give notice to the parent
  • The adoptive parent requests termination of parental rights based upon evidence that the adoption was caused by fraud
  • The parent is a chronic substance abuser and has committed a second or subsequent domestic abuse assault
  • The parent has abducted the child
  • The parent has been imprisoned for a crime against the child, the child’s sibling, or any other child in the household
  • The parent has been imprisoned and it is unlikely that the parent will be released for at least five years
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony criminal offense against a minor, is divorced from or was never married to the child’s other parent, and is serving at least five years for the offense

When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?

Consent may be revoked within 96 hours of signing unless there is clear and convincing evidence that good cause exists for revocation.

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

Under Iowa law, a “father” is considered the male, biological parent of a child, while a “putative father” is a man who is alleged to be or who claims to be the biological father of a child born out of wedlock.

The state registrar of vital statistics has established a declaration of paternity registry for putative fathers who wish to register. A declaration of paternity may be filed with the registry prior to the child’s birth and no later than the date of the petition for termination of parental rights. The declaration may be used as evidence of paternity in an action to establish paternity of the putative father.

Paternity may also be established by court order, by a statement of the person admitting paternity in court upon concurrence with the mother or by establishing paternity according to the laws of a foreign jurisdiction. In the case of a mother who is married at the time of conception, birth, or any time between conception and birth, the individual to whom she is or was married must deny paternity in order to establish another man’s paternity.

Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Iowa

To determine whether you are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child, you will need to undergo a pre-placement and post-placement assessment prior to beginning the adoption or foster process. All prospective adoptive or foster parents will need to meet certain requirements to complete the Iowa home study process.

What is included in the Iowa home study process?

A pre-placement home study must include at least one face-to-face interview with each member of the adoptive household and at least one home visit, as well as records checks for each adult in the home to determine whether they have founded child abuse reports or criminal convictions.

The home study will consider the following elements:

  • Motivation for adoption
  • The family’s attitudes toward adoption and plans for discussing adoption with the child
  • Emotional stability and marital history
  • Ability to cope with stress, crisis and loss
  • Medical conditions that may affect parenting ability
  • Ability to meet the child’s needs
  • Adjustment of other children in the home
  • Statements from at least three references
  • Income information
  • Disciplinary beliefs
  • History of abuse by family members and treatment
  • Commitment to and maintenance of significant relationships
  • Substance use or abuse by family members

Who is included in the home study process?

All members of the prospective adoptive household are included in the Iowa home study process.

Who will conduct the home study?

The home study will be done by the agency, the person making an independent adoption placement, or an investigator. The post-placement study will be conducted by the Department of Human Services, an agency or an investigator.

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

The home study will not be approved if the prospective adoptive parent has been convicted of the following felonies:

  • A drug-related offense within the past five years
  • Child endangerment, neglect or abandonment
  • Domestic abuse
  • A crime against a child, including sexual exploitation
  • A forcible felony

If there is a record of founded child abuse or a criminal conviction for any adult in the adoptive home, the home study will not be approved unless an evaluation determines that the abuse or conviction does not warrant prohibition of approval.

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

The home study must be completed before placement. The home study is current for one year. The post-placement study must be completed and filed with the court prior to the final adoption hearing.

What is a post-placement study in the adoption process? What are the post-placement study requirements for Iowa?

In Iowa, the post-placement study verifies the allegations of the adoption petition, evaluates the progress of the adoptive placement and determines whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. At least three post-placement visits to the adoptive family’s home and personal observation of the child are required: one within 30 days of placement, one within 90 days of placement, and a final visit prior to requesting a consent to adopt.

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

In a stepparent adoption or a relative adoption within the fourth degree, the home study is not necessary but may be ordered by the court. If the prospective adoptive parent discloses a criminal conviction or founded child abuse report, the court must make a specific ruling regarding whether to waive the home study investigation.

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

Any placement of a child outside of the state is subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

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

Foster-to-adopt placements are not addressed in Iowa statutes.

To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Iowa home study providers:

  • Children & Families of Iowa
    515-288-1981
    Children & Families of Iowa provides domestic and international adoption home study services and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation to provide international home studies.

Iowa Adoption Professionals

For more information about adoption in Iowa or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:

For more information about foster care in Iowa, visit:

Things to do in Iowa

Whether you find yourself in the Hawkeye State for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun things for adoptive families to do in Iowa:

For more information about traveling to Iowa, visit http://www.traveliowa.com/.