Steps to Adopting from Foster Care

NOTE:  The ACRF publication Adoption: First Steps through Finalization gives you more details for the many steps and supports of adopting through OCS.


Step 1: Go to Orientation In Your Area.   The Office of Children's Services (OCS) is not a traditional adoption agency. OCS does not look for particular children for your family— it tries to find a family for the children in their care who can’t be reunited with family members.  Adoptive families must go through screening and preparation before a child can be placed with them. Orientation tells you about this process. Check out the orientation schedule for these orientations sponsored by the State of Alaska OCS. Some communities, such as Fairbanks, have a specific orientation for people interested in adoptive care. Call your local ACRF office for location.

If your community does not offer an onsite orientation, check out one of the following options:

Step 2:

2-A If you are interested in being licensed for foster care, complete the Resource Family Application and begin the licensing process. Get an application for licensing at your local orientation. We encourage families to become a licensed foster family first so OCS will find it easier to place children potentially eligible for adoption into your home. Complete the licensing application, indicate your are interested in adoption and send it in.

An assigned licensing worker will process the paperwork and complete background checks for everyone in your home over age 16 years. If your family is "cleared" for licensing, your licensing worker will make an appointment with you for a home visit.  The OCS worker will visit your home to see that your home has a place for the child to sleep and keep his clothes, and that your home meets basic standards of safety. Your licensing worker will also talk to you about your preferences for ages and sexes of children.

2-B If you are interested in working only with children who are legally free for adoption, then you have two choices: you can be licensed for foster care or you can obtain your own home study that can be used to place children in your home without being licensed as a foster home first. If you choose not to be licensed as a foster family, then a positive home study is required BEFORE a child can be placed in your home. You may be referred to the home study project if you are interested in a specific child who is currently available for adoption, or you may hire a private home study writer to complete your home study. You will need to pay for that private home study yourself. If you adopt a child through OCS, you can have the cost of your home study reimbursed so keep your receipt. ACRF has a list of private home study writers you can request. When the home study is completed, give the final study to the OCS Permanency Planning Specialist in your area.

For more information about children who are legally free for adoption in your area, contact your local OCS Regional Adoption Specialists:

Anchorage Region, 907-269-4000
Northern Region/Fairbanks, 907-451-2650
Southcentral/Wasilla/Palmer, 907-357-9780
Southeast/Juneau, 907-357-9780

Step 3: Attend Training and Learn All You Can.  All potential foster and adoptive families should attend  Core Training for Resource Families . This training covers information about OCS, separation, grief and loss, visitation and birth families, positive parenting, and transitions back to birth parents. Core Training meets the training requirement for the first licensing year.  Contact the Alaska Center for Resource Families for information of class schedules, self study and web based versions.

The Adopting Through OCS  training will give you more specific information about finalizing an adoption, choosing an adoption attorney, adoption subsidies and preparing your child for adoption.

The Building Families through Adoption class addresses issues specific to adoption issues such as separation and loss, transcultural and transracial parenting, the role of birth parents, and talking to children about adoption.   The Building Families through Adoption is also available in an online option for families unable to attend the classroom sessions.

Step 4: Complete Adoption Home Study.   The adoption home study can actually happen at several different points in the process. All adoptions require a home study, which is a comprehensive written document that helps OCS understand your home and what you have to offer a child.  If you are licensed as a foster home, a child can be placed in your home without an adoption home study being completed. When the plan for the child in your home turns to adoption and your family is being considered as the long term adoptive family, then your family will be referred by the Regional Permanency Specialist for a home study through a project that will complete your home study at no cost to you.

If you choose not to be licensed as a foster family, then a positive home study is required BEFORE a child can be placed in your home. (Refer to Step 2-B)    Remember, all families who are adopting need a home study, but when that home study is completed may depend on whether you are licensed as a foster home or interested only in children who are currently legally free for adoption.

Step 5: Placement of a Child in Your Home.  Foster families may already have foster children in their home who become available for adoption. When children need adoptive placements, the social worker and the Regional Permanency Specialist (RPS) will review the families who are available and interested in providing a permanent home. OCS will select families based upon the child’s special situation and the family’s preferences. If your home is the one selected, the social worker or PPS will work with your family to schedule an introductory meeting and outline a transition plan for placement. The adoptive child needs to be in your home for a minimum of six consecutive months of positive placement before the adoption can be finalized. This allows all parties to be sure that the match is positive.

Step 6: Complete the finalization process.  The road to adoption includes learning as much as you can about the child, hiring an adoption lawyer, and negotiating a subsidy if needed (these are regular payments to adoptive homes to help with the costs of raising special needs children.) We suggest reading through the ACRF publication Adoption: First Steps through Finalization for more detailed information about the process.

Step 7: Adoption Day!  A court hearing will be held to finalize your adoption and to create a legally bound life long relationship. This hearing is a celebration of your new family! Again, when you get to this point, the professionals working with your family will guide you through this process.


Any time you have questions along the way to adoption, you can contact the Alaska Center for Resource Families for information or support. After the adoption is finalized, we are still here!   See what we can offer for post-adoption support services. 

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