Whether you plan to adopt your stepchild, a child in the state foster care system or a newborn through a private agency, Tennessee laws govern the adoption process. Knowing what to expect can help you decide what type of adoption is right for you.

These are the answers to the most common questions individuals have when considering adoption in Tennessee.

Who can adopt a child?

Anyone who has lived in Tennessee for at least six months in a row and is older than 18 can adopt a child in the state. Married couples must both sign an adoption petition unless one spouse is the child’s biological parent, as in the case of stepparent adoption. Children older than 14 must consent to the adoption. In addition to these requirements, private agencies in the state can mandate their criteria for adoptive parents.

What are the different types of adoption?

Prospective adoptive parents can consider adopting a child through the foster care system, which is a public adoption. Private adoption takes place through a non-profit organization or adoption agency. Independent adoptions occur between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, often with the help of an attorney, religious leader and/or doctor.

Is adoption assistance available?

Parents who adopt a child from the foster care system qualify for state funding if the child has special needs. In this case, special needs may include:

  • A history of prenatal substance exposure
  • At least three documented past foster or adoption placement attempts
  • A history of at least three years in state custody
  • An emotional, behavioral, developmental or intellectual disability
  • A history of physical or sexual abuse
  • A severe physical or mental health condition
  • Older than age 2 and part of an ethnic minority
  • Older than age 9 of any race

Adoption assistance can include a monthly subsidy for the child’s care. The state may also pay for special educational, therapeutic and medical needs. If you are considering adoption, research can help you determine the best route for your family.