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What is the Adoption Process in Tennessee?

Woman with child

No matter the reasoning behind wanting to adopt, adoption is a great option for many partners or individuals who are ready to expand their families. In Tennessee, there is a process all prospective parents need to be made aware of before they can officially adopt.

If you are interested in adopting a child, it is important to have proper legal representation. Contact the Tennessee & Kentucky family law attorneys at Peterson White, LLP to get started.


Those wanting to become adoptive parents must meet certain qualifications to do so. Those include:

  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Living in the State of Tennessee
  • Meeting the financial and emotional needs of current family members

While the above requirements must be met, state adoption laws are flexible about the following for those looking to adopt:

  • Can either be married, singled, or divorced;
  • Can either already have other children or no children
  • Can either be renting or owning their home
  • Can be a working adult or not working

Being Selected

Home Study
Once you or you and your partner decide you meet the qualifications and are interested in adopting, you will need to contact the Department of Children’s Services. From there, you will be asked to complete a home study by a licensed social worker.

During the home study, the social worker will ask questions pertaining to your family life. This includes spending habits and financial records, so be prepared to have tax returns available for their review. The social worker will also ask about your past, so it’s better to be honest about any past mistakes rather than the social worker find out on their own.

Additionally, during the site visit, the social worker will most likely look around the home itself to make sure it’s suitable for a child. This doesn’t mean that the social worker will be walking around with white gloves and a family will be deemed unsuitable for a little bit of dirt, but rather, that a home is in acceptable conditions for a child to be there.

Tennessee KEY Training
The next step in being selected as an adoptive family is completing Tennessee KEY (Knowledge Empowers You) Training. This requirement helps prepare families for their role as parents (and is even required if the individual or partners looking to adopt are already parents to other children). During KEY Training, adults will learn tools and parenting methods that will help a child entering the family feel comforted and welcomed. The training also explores ways children might feel and the challenges they could face by being adopted.

Based upon completion of the KEY Training and site visit, you will then be notified if you are eligible to become an adoptive parent or parents. Most families who do qualify do not get a child right away, though. While some families may have a certain child they’ve bonded with that they’re interested in adopting, there are other families who do not know the child or children they may adopt. The most important factor that adoption agencies will look at is if the child is the best match for the home and the child’s needs.

Hiring an Attorney for the Adoption Process

While it may seem like the adoption process is clear-cut, that’s not always the case. Advantages of having an attorney during the adoption process include:

  • Knowing the laws — Tennessee family law attorneys will know the adoption laws for the state. Rather than guessing at what or what may not be acceptable, it’s better to have an attorney to turn to who knows the laws.
  • Peace of mind for both the biological parents and you — having your attorney present during critical moments, such as the birth parents signing over their rights, gives you and the birth parents peace of mind that the process is being done legally and your attorney serves as a witness to the process.
  • Being available in case of complications occur — should a worst-case scenario happen, such as the biological parent wanting their child back, having an attorney you’ve already been working with will be able to offer guidance and tell you what legally can happen.

When you’re ready to adopt and need a family lawyer, contact the team at Peterson White, LLP. Our Tennessee & Kentucky attorneys are ready to be by your side during this life-changing process and will guide you through the steps you need to take when expanding your family.