Adopting a Waiting Child

There are thousands of children of all races and ages available to be adopted by loving families. Most of these "waiting" children are currently living in foster care or in orphanages in foreign countries as they wait for adoptive families who can provide the love, support and stability they need. If you're thinking about providing a loving home for another child, you may want to consider adopting a "waiting child." Waiting children typically include the following:

  • School-age or older children
  • Victims of neglect or abuse (physical or sexual)
  • Physically or mentally challenged children
  • Siblings who want to be placed together
  • Children in foreign countries who are toddlers or older, or have special needs

Agencies, exchanges and government legislation may refer to children in any of these categories as "children with special needs," "special-needs children," "hard-to-place children," or "waiting children." Here, the terms "waiting children" and "children with special needs" are used interchangeably.


In the past many adoption agencies were unwilling to work with military families due to their frequent moves. Now, however, agencies understand how the military lifestyle can benefit an adopted child. You are eligible to adopt a waiting child if you:

  • Have a stable, supportive home
  • Understand the special challenges of parenting a child with special needs
  • Are willing and excited to undertake these challenges and to experience the rewards that will follow

As an adoptive parent it's important that you understand that your child's progress may be slow. You will need patience, a sense of humor, the ability to handle stress, knowledge of community resources and an understanding of your child's emotions.

Requirements for adoptive parents vary by adoption agency, by state and, for intercountry adoptions, by country. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Many agencies consider both couples and single individuals as prospective parents.
  • No experience as a parent is required, though families with other children in the home are welcomed.
  • Usually, adoptive parents must be between the ages of 25 and 50, but age requirements may be flexible based on the child's age and needs.
  • A family doesn't have to be wealthy, own a home or provide a separate bedroom for the child, as long as the child shares a room only with children of the same sex.

Adoption costs

There is generally no initial fee associated with adopting a waiting child domestically. Federal or state sources may provide adoption subsidies to pay for the child into adulthood. According to the Federal Title IV-E adoption assistance program, if a child was eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income prior to adoption, the child continues to be eligible for monthly cash stipends, medical assistance (Medicaid) and social services until age 18. While your income will not affect your eligibility, each state's programs, benefits and eligibility requirements differ.

To adopt a child from a foreign country, you'll need to go through an international adoption agency. Although these agencies generally charge a fee, their fees are often reduced or eliminated for waiting children.

A subsidy of $2,000 per child (up to $5,000 per calendar year for multiple adoptions) is available to military families who choose to adopt. For more information, visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service DoD Adoption Reimbursement web page. In addition, you may qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit. For more information, read Publication 968 "Tax Benefits for Adoption" at the Internal Revenue Service website.

Steps to adopting a waiting child

In general, the steps in the adoption process are as follows:

  • Contact your local child protective services office. You will be asked to fill out an application.
  • For foreign adoptions, find an adoption agency. Foreign adoption agencies help place waiting children from many countries. Choose an agency with experience working with waiting children and with military families.
  • Begin a home study. A home study is a preparation and assessment process that will help you decide whether you are ready to adopt and the kind of child and issues you feel you can handle as a parent. Together with a social worker, you will assess your family's capacity to care for a child. The home study usually takes one to six months to complete.
  • Wait for a match. The agency will match you with your waiting child. Names, profiles and photographs of waiting children are often available from adoption exchanges. Unlike agencies, adoption exchanges do not have children in their custody, but list children who are available at other agencies throughout the region or country.
  • Use tools to find a match. When you are looking for a match, you may want to use tools such as photo-listing books, which feature profiles and photographs of waiting children, or computer networks that link agencies and exchanges.


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