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Adopting a Foster Child in Tennessee [The Complete Guide]

Understanding the Difference Between Foster Care, Foster to Adopt, and Foster Care Adoption

Adopting a foster child in Tennessee is a wonderful way to become a parent. But, becoming an adoptive parent through fostering a child first is very different than becoming a parent through domestic infant adoption.

If you’re wondering how to adopt a child from foster care in Tennessee, this is what you need to know to get the process started:

  • Know the difference between foster care, foster care adoption, and foster to adopt in Tennessee
  • Know the requirements to adopt a foster child in Tennessee
  • Conclude if foster care adoption is how you want to grow your family

All About Tennessee Foster Care and Adoption

The Difference Between Foster Care, Foster to Adopt, and Foster Care Adoption in Tennessee

If you’ve started researching the different ways to become a parent in Tennessee, you’ve likely seen foster care, foster care adoption, and foster to adopt mentioned. While this guide will focus on how to go about adopting a foster child in Tennessee, it’s important to note the differences between these parenting options.

What is Foster Care?

Children in foster care in Tennessee are very diverse. Kids in foster care are of different races, genders, and ages. Foster children also have unique needs:

  • Some children have a sibling and need placement together.
  • Other foster kids may have varying physical, mental, emotional, and medical needs.

When a child is put in foster care in Tennessee, it’s because their primary caretakers no longer could safely do so. Children in foster care have likely experienced some degree of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. These children also have most likely experienced loss and trauma. It’s important to note that all children enter foster care through no fault of their own.

Foster care allows children to stay in temporary homes for varying amounts of time. In general, there are four types of foster care (besides the foster to adopt and foster care adoption options, which we will discuss next):

  1. Respite foster care: Respite foster parents give other foster parents breaks. You’ll step in as a child’s caregiver on a semi-regular basis. Time spent as a respite foster care parent range from a few hours, to a few days, to more. It depends on how much time the child’s regular foster parents need.
  2. Emergency or urgent foster care: A foster parent will remain “on-call” and serve as a short-term placement parent during a time of need, anytime, day or night, weekday, or weekend.
  3. Kinship foster care: Kinship foster care allows aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other family members to foster a child if there’s a need in the family. Kinship foster care is a legal or informal arrangement.
  4. Therapeutic or treatment foster care: Foster parents who provide therapeutic or treatment foster care have special training and can care for kids with more mental, behavioral, or social needs than other foster children.

Foster care parenting is 100% free to the foster family.

What is Foster to Adopt?

Foster to adopt occurs when prospective parents add a foster child to their family, hoping they can adopt their foster child one day. Prospective adoptive families can only adopt their foster child when and if the child’s birth parents’ parental rights are terminated.

Suppose a family determines they want to adopt their foster child, and a court decides that reunification between a foster child and their birth family is not possible. In that case, an adoptive family can take the necessary steps to start the adoption process.

Some foster care and adoption agencies in Tennessee have programs designed for foster parents who have expressed the intent to adopt their foster child if the chance occurs. But, potential parents interested in foster to adopt should take note that the primary goal in foster situations is to reunite foster children with their families.

What is Foster Care Adoption?

The Tennessee foster care adoption process begins once a foster child’s birth parents are unable or refuse to complete a judge’s reunification plan. Once the birth parents’ parental rights are terminated, the foster child will become available for adoption, and a search for the child’s permanent family will start.

Typically, the search starts with the child’s relatives. If no relatives can take the child, the foster family will get a chance to adopt their foster child. While becoming a foster parent is free, you will have to pay some legal fees at the end of the process.

Requirements to Adopt a Foster Child in Tennessee

In Tennessee, foster parents are approved to foster and adopt. This makes it easier for foster parents in the state to adopt the child they are fostering if the child becomes available for adoption.

The requirements to foster and adopt in Tennessee include the following:

  • Foster or adoptive parents can be married, divorced, or single.
  • Foster or adoptive parents may or may not have other children.
  • Foster or adoptive parents can own or rent their place of residence.
  • Foster or adoptive parents can work full-time.
  • Foster or adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old.
  • Foster or adoptive parents must be a resident of Tennessee.
  • Foster or adoptive parents must pass a background check.
  • Foster or adoptive parents must meet the financial needs of their family.

Prospective foster parents can also learn tools and parenting methods that could help them better understand foster children and their unique needs. These tools will also prove helpful if you get the opportunity to adopt your foster child too.  

Choosing Adoption Foster Care in Tennessee to Grow Your Family

Deciding to foster a child in Tennessee and then pursue foster care adoption of that child is a wonderful way to grow your family. Although the experience can enrich everyone’s life involved in the adoption, it also has challenges. But, the key is preparing for those challenges. Thankfully, a skilled foster care specialist will help you prepare.

If you’re considering opening your family to a foster child, you can start the process by reaching out to a foster care specialist near you.