How Do I Adopt from Foster Care?

Adoption from Foster Care is free in Illinois – learn more about the process below

What is private adoption?

When birth parents, or often a birth mother, choose to voluntarily place their child for adoption, they typically work directly with an adoption agency. Through that agency, they choose the adoptive parents of their not yet born child. This process is typically very costly and the vast majority of these adoptions include an ongoing relationship with the birth family which is called open adoption.

What about adoption from foster care?

Many children who are adopted from foster care are adopted by the families who have been fostering the children. So being open to fostering a child (or children!) and supporting reunification with their biological families can also be a path to adoption. In Illinois, all parents must start the process as foster parents, there is no program with the goal to adopt directly from foster care. The key is to care for and support the child through the ups and downs. 

The Illinois Department of Child(ren) and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for the safety and care of children and their families. When removing children from their biological parents (it) is necessary for their safety, DCFS’ first goal (the first goal of DCFS) is to support the reunification of the parents with their children. The role of the foster parent is considered a temporary parent while the birth parents work towards their children being returned to their care. Keeping the family together is the primary goal of foster care. 

Sadly, in many instances, reunification with their biological parents is not a safe, permanent option for many children, so in those cases, the children can be permanently adopted. Once adoption becomes the goal, the process of adoption is completed through the child protection court.  

Even if a child is placed with you after reunification has failed and their biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated, DCFS requires that you foster the child for at least six months before the adoption process can begin. Additionally, the adoption process cannot start until a child is at least one year old regardless of the age he (or she) was placed.

Fees and Costs

Adoption from foster care is free, including legal fees.  In addition, there are services and supports available to children after adoption and the child also receives a monthly stipend until his (or her) 18th birthday.


Adoption from foster care does not discriminate against age, marital status, income, gender, or sexual orientation.  You need to want to be a parent and champion for a child for his or her whole life.  These children have been through some tough times so patience and a willingness to walk alongside them with your guidance may be a wonderful parenting opportunity for you.

Often, the family who has been fostering the child is the first option for adoption, so beginning your journey towards adoption through foster care starts with becoming a licensed foster parent.  If you are not yet licensed, you can find out more about the process and join one of our free informational webinars.

Your next steps

To learn more about the children who are waiting for a home, check out our Waiting Children page and sign up for our Wednesday’s Waiting Children weekly newsletter.

Some children, typically 10 years or older, are waiting to be adopted right now.  Those children are listed on the Heart Gallery of Illinois, Heart Gallery of America, and AdoptUSKids websites.  These children have spent more time in foster care and many have specialized needs. They may need more developmental support, mental health treatment, or physical or psychological care.  To be matched with these children for adoption, there is a special process, but you must be a licensed foster parent to be considered.

Want to become a foster parent?