The Road to Adoption: How to Become a Foster Parent in Tennessee

Adopting a child can be an amazing way to create or expand a family. If you are thinking about adoption, you likely know that there are several common pathways you can take to fulfill your dream of adopting a child. Many prospective parents choose to become foster parents first in the hope that a foster child will eventually become an adopted child. With that in mind, a Murfreesboro family attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses how to become a foster parent in Tennessee.child-castody-banner

What Is a Foster Parent?

In many ways, a foster parent is just like any other parent. They are responsible for nurturing, loving, and guiding the children they foster. The primary difference is that a foster child may only live with a foster parent for a limited period of time. That time period could be days, months, or even years; however, the law requires everyone involved in the foster care system to work toward reunification with the biological parent(s) when possible. As such, a foster child may be returned to his/her biological parent. When reunification is not possible, however, a foster child becomes a ward of the State of Tennessee. At that point, the child becomes eligible for adoption. 

What Are the Basic Requirements for Becoming a Foster Parent in Tennessee?

A foster parent must be at least 21 years old, can be single or married, and may have children of their own or be without children. You must be in goo health (meaning without serious health concerns that could limit your ability to parent) and be financially capable of meeting your own needs. In addition, you must

  • Be fingerprinted and pass a background check.
  • Complete a training program called TN-KEY (Knowledge Empowers You).
  • Participate in a Home Study.
  • Provide five references.

To begin the process of becoming a foster parent, you need to fill out an application form found on the Tennessee Fosters Hope website.

DCS carefully assesses all applicants and the department also provides the opportunity for prospective Foster Parents to work with a case manager to assess themselves before they accept the role of Foster Parent. A case worker should contact within five days to answer questions, go over basic requirements, and explain the next steps in the foster parent approval process.

Can I adopt My Foster Child?

The law requires the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to provide services to biological parents to address the issues that led to the child’s removal with the goal of reuniting the child with the biological parent(s). If efforts at reunification are not successful, DCS may petition the court to terminate the parental rights of the parent(s). It is crucial for a foster parent to understand that a child is not eligible for adoption until the parental rights of the biological parent(s) have been terminated. Once a foster child is eligible for adoption, relatives may be given first priority. If a relative is not interested in adopting the child or does not meet the adoption requirements, a foster parent typically is next in line in terms of priority. 

If you are interested in adopting a foster child, you should speak to an experienced family attorney early on and let your caseworker know as soon as possible. Your caseworker may ask you to sign an “Intent to Adopt” form that serves as a formal expression of your intention to make the child a permanent part of your family. DCS must conduct an investigation into you, your family, and your home before you officially begin the legal adoption process. Foster children who become eligible for adoption often live with physical disabilities and emotional trauma that require ongoing treatment. To help you deal with the financial aspect of adopting a child with costly medical needs, children who were once in the care of the State are often eligible to receive an ongoing monthly adoption subsidy. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Family Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about adopting a foster child in the State of Tennessee, contact a Murfreesboro family attorney to discuss your options. Contact the team at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Dinah Michael