Adoption and Foster Care Resources for LGBTQ+ Parents

Produced by the HRC Foundation

Whether you are looking to adopt or become a foster parent, LGBTQ+ individuals exploring these avenues to parenthood should be educated and prepared for the process ahead.

In this resource we will discuss the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ adoptive and foster parents, the various adoption options, potential costs you should budget for, tips for finding an LGBTQ+ agency, and other possible challenges and rewards you may encounter along your journey.


If you are considering adopting a child, you are in very good company! There are an estimated 2 million LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. who want to parent children, many via adoption. The adoption process can be overwhelming. We have broken down the common areas you should consider to help you navigate.

8 Questions to Ask When Considering Adoption

Finding an LGBTQ+ Friendly Adoption Agency

More and more birth parents are choosing same-sex couples over different-sex couples and many private agencies report an increase in placements with our community. Again, choosing an agency that you know will positively represent you to birth parents is essential, and even if the “waiting period” feels lengthy you can be confident that the agency is doing their best. It is also important to talk to other LGBTQ+ adoptive parents in your community about their experiences and for agency recommendations. It is important to thoroughly research agencies to ensure you will be welcome, and their protocol is compatible with your adoption needs.

HRC’s All Children – All Families program maintains a map of adoption agencies that have provided staff with training on welcoming the LGBTQ+ community and implemented LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices.

View Map of Participating Organizations

Options for Adoption

  1. State or Public Agency Adoption: Plan to adopt a child who is in foster care from the public child welfare system. These children tend to be older and have been removed from their birthparents due to abuse or neglect. A series of classes on how to successfully parent these children is often required.
  2. Agency Open Adoption: Plan an open adoption through an adoption agency.
  3. Open Independent Adoption: Set out on your own to find birth parents who want or need to place their child in an adoption and complete that adoption through an attorney.
  4. International adoption: Adopt a child from another country through an agency or independently.

It is important to note that at this point, it is very difficult to pursue an international adoption as an openly same-sex couple, or as an openly single LGBTQ+ person. Many of the countries that have children for adoption are extremely prejudiced against LGBTQ+ people, and either have explicit laws or policies or implicit cultural or societal “codes'' that are against LGBTQ+ adoption.

Breakdown of Potential Adoption Costs, Tax Credits and Benefit Programs

  • Foster Care/Public Adoptions: $0 - $5,000

  • Licensed Private Agency Adoptions: $30,000 - $60,000+

  • Independent Adoptions: $25,000 - $45,000+

  • International Adoptions: $20,000 - $50,000+

  • Second-parent adoptions: which many LGBTQ+ parents choose to complete - cost on average from $2,000 to $3,000 depending on home study expenses and legal fees.

Federal Adoption Tax Credit

A federal adoption tax credit of $13,400 per child is available for domestic adoptions. The credit increases for domestic adoptions of children with special needs.

People earning more than $201,010 or more in adjusted gross income receive a reduced tax credit. People earning $241,010 or more receive no tax credit. (These figures are for 2015. Limits are adjusted for inflation and may change from year to year.)

Several states also offer tax credits for couples adopting children from the state's child welfare system. To learn if your state offers a tax credit, contact your state department of taxation, tax attorney or state adoption specialist.

Special Needs Benefits

Federal and state adoption subsidies may be available for the ongoing care of children with special needs. Check with your adoption agency.

Employer Adoption Benefit Programs

Ask if your employer offers:

  • Financial assistance through reimbursement of a portion of adoption expenses.

  • Paid or unpaid leave time.

  • Employee Assistance Program with adoption information and referral services.

Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees that employees who adopt can take up to 12 weeks of leave with no interruption in health benefits if they meet the following conditions:

  • They have worked for at least the last 12 months for the same employer.

  • They worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.

  • They work for an employer who has 50 or more employees.

Military Subsidies

If you are an active-duty member of the military, you may be eligible for reimbursement of up to $2,000 in one-time domestic or international adoption costs, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. If you adopt a child with disabilities, he or she also may be eligible for up to $1,000 a month in assistance under the military's Program for Persons with Disabilities.


More than 391,000 children and youth are currently in foster care in the U.S. LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented among the population of young people in foster care. Every day foster care agencies across the country search for safe and affirming homes for LGBTQ+ youth. Caring adults can make a real difference in the lives of these young people by becoming foster parents.

This page provides some basic information about foster parenting.

How to Prepare

Like any big commitment, there are many things to consider when thinking about becoming a foster parent. One of the most important things a foster parent needs to be prepared for is having a child in your home and then having them leave. Their stay could be as short as one night or as long as several years.

Your house may be the latest stop for a child who has been in the system for some time and may have been to many homes, some good, some not so good. This is especially true for older youth. Young people in foster care often develop defense mechanisms that can make it tough for anyone to get through to them.

Empathy, patience and preparation are necessities for foster parents. Many children and youth come into the foster care system with histories of trauma which can lead to emotional and behavioral health challenges. Foster families should learn about and prepare to help young people cope with their feelings of abandonment, experiencing abuse and a lack of nurturing. Foster parents often need to care and advocate for foster youth around their medical needs, including issues related to physical and developmental disabilities.

Additionally, fostering a child is not a shortcut to adoption. While there are opportunities for adoption, they are not guaranteed. Nearly half of all children in foster care have an end goal to be reunited with their families. In situations where reunification is not the goal, adoption through foster care may be an option.

Basic Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent

Requirements for becoming a foster parent differ from state to state. However, there are some universal requirements such as: being 21 years of age or older; passing a criminal background check; and completing a successful homestudy and training.

Below are the basic steps to becoming a foster parent as outlined by the National Foster Parent Association. These steps are standard no matter where you decide to foster parent.

  • Complete an application for a family home license.

  • Complete a background check, a criminal history check and fingerprinting of each adult member of the household.

  • Have a stable and supportive family.

  • Complete a homestudy and interview.

  • Provide character references.

  • Be 21 years of age or older.

  • Complete training before you may receive your license.

Learn about your state’s LGBTQ+ adoption and foster care laws here.

Finding an Agency

While the names may vary, you need to contact the government agency in your state that is responsible for foster care. It might be called "The Department of Human Resources," "The Division of Children and Family Services," The Department of Social Services" or something similar.

For the easiest way to find the foster care agency in your state, go to the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search maintained by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Review HRC's map of agencies committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Foster Parenting & Finances

The decision to become a foster parent includes several financial considerations. In most cases, foster parents receive a set reimbursement to help with expenses while a child is in their home.

The monthly stipend ranges from $200 to $700, depending on the age of the child and the state and county you are in. Most states also provide small clothing allowances and some daycare or day camp funds. Foster children also are covered under your county, state and federal welfare health benefits for their medical and dental needs.

Deciding If A Placement Is The Right Fit

There are many questions that you will want answered when considering a specific young person, or a sibling group, for a foster care placement at your home.
Watch this video from AdoptUSKids to learn more about young people in foster care.

Here are a few of the basics questions you'll want answered:

  • What is the child's name, age, race, gender and sexuality?

  • Why is the child being placed?

  • What is the child's medical history and current medical needs?

  • What was the last school the child attended?
    • And how was the child performing in school?

  • Are there any known behavioral issues or safety considerations?

  • Has the child been in foster care before?
    • In how many homes?

    • What was the average length of stay? And why?

Two foster dads from Missouri, Derek and Justin, say:

"Becoming foster parents has been, without a doubt, one of the best choices we've ever made."
The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ+ community.

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