You are here:






Adoptions from Foster Care at New Hanover Department of Social Services


  Did You know? 





There are different types of adoption

  • International Adoptions occur when a family works with a private adoption   agency to adopt a child from another country.
  • Step-parents may adopt their spouses’ children.
  • Family members may adopt a child to whom they are related in Relative adoptions.  For more information contact the department at (910)798-3545. 
  • Adoption from foster care involves a child in custody of a Department of Social Services who is unable to return to birth family and is in need of a permanent, adoptive family.
  • The information below is in regards to Adoption of children in foster care through New Hanover County Department of Social Services.

Who are the children in foster care?

Children can enter DSS custody from birth until 18.  Nationwide, over half the children in foster care are over the age of 10 years. Children in foster care are from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds.  They have been abused, neglected or are without an appropriate adult to care for them. Many children in foster care have special needs, including health issues, behavioral issues, special educational needs, and mental health diagnosis.


How do children become available for adoption through DSS?


Children enter foster care due to a number of issues related to abuse or neglect or dependency. Dependent children are those children without an appropriate adult caretaker.  DSS has the responsibility to work with birth parents and other extended relatives to address safety issues so that the child can return home.  Although each family’s situation is different and a Judge makes the final ruling, the Department is required to make a recommendation about a child’s long term plan within one year of the child entering foster care.  The Department also makes diligent efforts to identify extended relatives who could care for the child.  When that cannot be done, the agency pursues other long term plans for the child, including adoption. 
Some parents come to their own conclusion that it is in the best interest of their child to make a plan of adoption on their own. They can sign relinquishments of their parental rights so that the child can be adopted.  Other times, there is a court process involved which would terminate the parental rights, allowing the child to be adopted.

Who are the adoptive families through DSS?

Most families who adopt through DSS provide foster care first.  We find that by the time a child goes through the process of becoming available for adoption, he/she has bonded with the foster parents and many times it is this foster family who adopts the child.  There are times when it isn’t the right match for the current foster parent to adopt the child and in those cases we look to our other families interested in adoption to make a connection.  Our families come from all different racial backgrounds and live in all communities across the county.  We have many single parents as well as couples who adopt.




Can unmarried couples adopt?


Unmarried couples can foster.  In that situation both adults are fully licensed as foster parents, however, when it comes time for adoption, only one party can actually petition the court to adopt.


Can families adopt a child of a different race?
Yes.  There is actually a federal law which prohibits agencies from leaving a child in foster care holding out for a family of the same race when there are appropriate families of another race available. 

It is important for families who adopt a child of a different race to honor the child’s culture and incorporate his culture into their new family traditions.




The process of becoming an adoptive parent is quite in-depth. The basic requirements are:
  • Adoptive families must go through an in depth home study process. 
  • They must  pass multiple back ground clearances.
  • The home must pass a fire and environmental inspection.
  • Families who license as foster parents must complete a 30 hour pre-service training course.
  • There is no minimum income requirement, but families must be able to meet their own financial obligations and have enough income to support an additional child.
A social worker is assigned to assist families through the process. 

What can I expect from a home study?
The home study is a way for an agency to get to know you, teach you about adoption, and prepare you to adopt a child from foster care. The information that may be included in the home study are: family history, educational history, employment history, physical well being, personality traits, home and community life, criminal record check, description of your family and a description of a child who you would foster or adopt.

How Much does it cost to adopt?
There is no cost to adopt a child who is in foster care in North Carolina. Persons interested in adopting children who are not in agency custody, or adopting a child from another country, need to check with the appropriate private adoption agencies concerning the cost of this service.

The Department does charge fees to complete step-parent, relative and independent adoptions.  Fees range from $200-$1000 depending on the services required (See Non DSS adoptions for more information).
Why adopt through DSS?
Probably the best reason is to make a difference in the life of a child right here in your own community.

Another advantage is that there isn’t a cost involved with adoption from foster care.  Having an adoption home study completed for the purposes of an international adoption, for example, can be very costly.  There is no fee for the completion of a home study when the family works with us to adopt a child from foster care.

Many children who are adopted from foster care qualify for ongoing adoption assistance benefits.

For children who are adopted in their teens there is even help for college available.

What is Adoption Assistance?

Children who have been the victims of abuse or neglect may have ongoing special medical, emotional or psychological needs.  Adoption Assistance is designed to help families address those needs.
Each child is assessed to determine which benefits he /she qualifies for.  These benefits can include:

      * Medicaid
      * monthly financial assistance (varies with age of child),

Adoption Assistance can also cover $2000 of legal fees associated with finalizing an adoption.

Each child is assessed for benefits prior to being adopted.  The adoptive parent is notified of the child’s known special needs and whether the child qualifies for adoption assistance prior to the adoption becoming final.
What happens to children if an adoptive family isn’t identified?
Unfortunately, that’s all too real for some children.  Studies show that each year there are 26,000 children who turn 18 in foster care without an adoptive family.  These children are vulnerable to a host of adverse situations. 

Only 54% have earned a high school diploma or GED
Only 2% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher
30% are without health insurance
25% have been homeless
84% have become parents at an early age

What information will be shared with adoptive families about the child they adopt?

Families who foster prior to the adoption will likely know a great deal about the child they adopt, but at a minimum the following information is provided, if available.


Age of biological parents
Their race, nationality and ethnic background

General physical appearance of biological parents

Detailed medical histories of the child, biological parents, and their relatives
As much as the agency is aware, the extent of abuse or neglect the child has suffered


What challenges do families face when considering adoption from foster care?

Probably the greatest challenge of adoption from foster care is that it is unknown at the time a child is placed in a home whether the child will later need an adoptive family.  The Department’s first responsibility is to work with birth family for the child to return home. We don’t know at the time of placement what the outcome will be, so our families have to be prepared to let go of a child they’ve grown to love.

We find that families who are most successful at fostering to adopt come to us with a philosophy that there are many children in the community who need them –some for a few days, others a few weeks or months and still others forever.  These families are prepared to take care of a child for however long the child needs.
It sounds very difficult for a family to love a child and then let that child go.  Is there support available for these families?  

Yes.  Support comes in many ways.  First, it takes the right kind of family to do this families have to come to this program with a certain philosophy.  They also need a strong support system of family or friends.  In addition, we have many other foster and adoptive families with similar experiences who are available for support.  These are families, who although they may have experienced some hurt, have found the rewards to be great and have continued with the program.   Also there is a social worker assigned to work with the family throughout the process.  The social worker is another member of the support team.
How can the community take action?   
  • Become a foster/adoptive parent
  • Tell your friends about our program
  • Invite us to speak at a group meeting
Contact Alice Moore at (910) 798-3566 or for information. 

 Did You Know?


  • May is National Foster Care Month.
  • Nationwide there are over 425,000 children in foster care? 
  • Nationwide, approximately 70% of children in foster care are able to return to parents or other relatives.
  • Nationwide, approximately half of the children in foster care are over 10 years old
  • There are nearly 9,500 in foster care in North Carolina.
  • Approximately 46% of children in the custody of a Department of Social Services in North Carolina are placed in licensed foster homes.
  • There were over 1700 children adopted from the foster care system in North Carolina in 2009.


  • There are over 350 children in custody of New Hanover County Department of Social Services (statistic from September 2009).
  • During Fiscal Year 2009-2010, the Department served as custodian for 593 children.
  • Approximately half of the children in the custody of New Hanover County Department of Social Services are placed in licensed foster homes.


  • In FY 2007/2008, the New Hanover County Department of Social Services received 3,234 child abuse/neglect reports. Of those reports received   2,288 were accepted for investigation. 
  • In FY 2009/2010, 41 children were adopted from foster care in New Hanover County.  In FY 2008/2009, 49 children were adopted from foster care in New Hanover County.


     Contact Alice Moore at (910) 798-3566 or for more information



    New Hanover County Teens in Foster Care     

    Teens in foster care are a special group of young people who face unique challenges in regards to placement and gaining the life skills needed to become self-sufficient, successful adults.  Many families find that parenting their teen-aged children is trying at times and are hesitant to foster a teen for fear of behaviors they may encounter. This hesitancy leaves many teens with few safe living options, often resulting in placement in a group home and/or out of their home community.  Sadly, a change in schools and friends for a teenager can have significant educational and emotional impacts.  For teens, leaving their team sports, extra- curricular activities, friends and educational track at school can feel devastating.   We need every citizen’s commitment to keeping teens involved in healthy activities in their home community!

    Our greatest gap in available foster parents is families willing to foster teens.


    As of September 2009, there were 95 children aged 13 or older in New Hanover County DSS custody. 
    Of the teenagers currently in custody of NHC DSS, 16% are placed with relatives. 


    Of those not placed with relatives, 65% reside out of New Hanover County and 35% reside in county.  64% of those teens are placed in family foster homes while 39% are placed in group care.


    From 2007-2008, over 72 youth have turned 18 (or "aged out") while in New Hanover County  DSS custody. Out of these 72 plus youth, 25% have been homeless in the past year, 47% have a high school diploma, 5% have their GED, and 22% are still in high school.


    NC LINKS is a program which helps prepare youth in foster care for successful adulthood by providing supports, resources and guidance both before and after the young person turns 18.  The name LINKS is not an acronym, and therefore does not "stand" for anything. Instead, it is a word that captures the need to build a network of relevant services with youth so that they will have ongoing connections with family, friends, mentors, the community, employment, education, financial assistance, skills training, and other resources to facilitate the transition to adulthood.


    By becoming a foster parent for a teen, you can help a youth:

    • Earn sufficient income to meet their daily needs
    • Live in a safe and stable place
    • Attain academic or vocational/educational goals
    • Connect to a positive personal support network
    • Avoid illegal / high risk behaviors
    • Postpone parenthood until financially established and emotionally mature
    • Have access to routine mental health, health and dental health care


    NHCDSS LINKS provides a variety of supports to youth in and out of foster care…


    From 10/01/09 to 9/30/10 New Hanover County DSS helped 23 young adults who “aged out” of Foster Care go on to secondary schooling through LINKS funding. 


    Transitional Funds:  Funding for youth eligible to be used in achieving positive outcomes.  Examples of this include:  tutoring, work uniforms, furnishing apartments, bicycles for transportation to/from work, etc.
    SAYSO: (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) a statewide association of youth ages 14 to 24, who are or have been in the foster care system. Their mission is to improve the foster care system by educating the community, speaking out about needed changes, and providing support to these youth. More information is available at
    LifeGuide Program: provides mentors to youth ages 16 to 21 to develop independent living skills.
    Housing Funds:  Funding available for rent deposits, rent or down payments.  Must be currently between 18 and their 21st birthday and turned 18 in custody.
    Education and Training Vouchers - ETV:  The NC ETV Program offers funds to foster youth and former foster youth (must have been in custody after age 17) to enable them to attend secondary education institutions.   Students may receive up to $5000 a year between their 17th and 23rd birthday as they pursue higher education.  The funds may be used for tuition, books or qualified living expenses.
    NC REACH:  Financial assistance for any youth who aged out of foster care at age 18 or who was adopted after age 12 if they are attending one of the NC state colleges or universities including community colleges.  Funding for tuition, books, fees, housing, etc.


    Medicaid:  Any youth who aged out of foster care at age 18 is eligible until their 21st birthday (must apply to all programs).  Apply at your local DSS.
    Resources and Referrals:  The LINKS coordinator and /or your social worker is available to assist with or make referrals for counseling, job applications, resume building, educational services, etc.

    For more information on fostering teens, contact Alice Moore at New Hanover County Department of Social Services, or (910) 798-3566.   
    Our LINKS Coordinator, Kimberly Culbreth can be reached at or (910) 798-3503 

     Other Services

    New Hanover County Department of Social Services
    Information about Other Adoption Services
    My attorney said I need a “Pre-Placement Assessment”, what is it and how do I get one?
    A Pre-Placement Assessment is an in-depth study of your home and is used for the purposes of adopting a child who is not related to you and who is not currently in custody of a Department of Social Services.
    New Hanover County Department of Social Services will complete a Pre-Placement Assessment for residents of New Hanover County.  The fee for a Pre-Placement Assessment is $1000, which includes a Report on the Adoption.  There is a sliding fee scale available for qualified applicants. 
    To receive an initial packet of information, contact Alice Moore at 798-3566.
    I need a “Report on Adoption” to adopt my step-child, how do I get one?
    After your attorney has filed your petition to adopt, the Clerk of Court notifies the agency and sends an Order for Report on Proposed Adoption.  After we have received this information from the Clerk of Court and verified that all required documents have been submitted, we will send you a packet of information we will need in order to complete the Report.  When you receive the information, you should contact the assigned social worker identified in your packet of information.  The cost for this service is $200.  There is a sliding fee scale available for qualified applicants.
    Does New Hanover County Department of Social Services complete Pre-Placement Assessments or Home Studies for international adoptions? 
    No. You will need to seek the services of an adoption agency specializing in international adoptions for those services.
    I am an adult adoptee and want to find out information about my birth family, what information can be released from an adoption file?
    Adoption files in North Carolina are not open to the public.  Only non-identifying information and any health history that might be available can be shared with an adoptee.  An adult adoptee can write a letter to the Department of Social Services asking for non-identifying information. You will need to include verification of your identity such as a copy of your driver’s license and your phone number so that we can contact you. Your letter should include any information you have about your adoption so that we can research our records.
    There is a “confidential intermediary” program which allows private and public adoption agencies to exchange identifying information about birth parents and adult adoptees with the consent of both parties.  At this time, New Hanover County Department of Social Services does not act as confidential intermediary.  You can visit the NC Division of Social Services website at (click on “programs and services”, then “adoption services” and scroll for a link to “Agencies and counties with CI services”) for a list of agencies in North Carolina who can act as confidential intermediary for adoptions.
    How do I find the child I placed for adoption many years ago?
    There is a “confidential intermediary” program which allows private and public adoption agencies to exchange identifying information about birth parents and adult adoptees with the consent of both parties.  At this time, New Hanover County Department of Social Services does not act as confidential intermediary.  You can visit the NC Division of Social Services website at (click on “programs and services”, then “adoption services” and scroll for a list to “Agencies and counties with CI services) for a list of agencies in North Carolina who can act as confidential intermediary for adoptions.

     Job Description

    WANTED:  Foster and Adoptive Families in New Hanover County
    Foster parents provide a temporary home for children who are placed in custody of Department of Social Services.  Children enter DSS custody for a variety of reasons, including abuse, neglect or the lack of an appropriate adult to provide care.  During the child’s placement in foster care, the Department will actively work with parents in an effort to reunify children with the parents or extended family members.

    Adoptive parents provide a permanent, loving home to children who are unable to return to their biological parents or other family members.  Often, foster parents who have cared for a child during the “reunification period” commit to adopting the child if those reunification efforts are not successful. 

    Hours:  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  This is a full time commitment!  We do offer “respite” services for families who need a few days break along the way.  

    Financial Compensation:  This is a volunteer position, however, New Hanover County DSS does provide a monthly board payment to foster families which helps off set the cost of caring for a child in foster care, including expenses associated with transportation, food, clothing, school supplies and other incidental items. 

    Basic requirements: Candidates for foster and adoptive parenting must complete a 30 hour pre-service training course, obtain multiple background clearances (including sex offender registry, criminal history and finger print checks), pass a fire inspection of the home, pass an environmental inspection of the home,  obtain medical clearance from their doctor,  be able to meet their own financial obligations without dependency on the board payment,  participate in an in-depth home study process, and complete the formal application for licensure of a foster home.

    Special Skills and Characteristics: Candidates for foster and adoptive parenting must be able to provide a safe environment for a child and provide for his or her basic physical and emotional needs, treating the child as a member of the family.  Foster and adoptive parents must commit to the following responsibilities as they relate to a child in foster care:

    • ensure the child regularly attends school while monitoring the child’s progress, special needs and accomplishments.
    • provide appropriate and adequate clothing
    • attend to the child’s medical and dental needs
    • provide transportation to appointments
    • encourage recreational and enrichment activities which promote healthy development
    • provide consistent and realistic discipline in compliance with agency established policy
    • be capable of supporting a child through the grieving and adjustment process that accompanies removal from their own home and placement in foster care – including helping the child maintain a realistic relationship with their family and the maintenance of a record of the time a child spends in the home including photographs, report cards, awards, etc.

    Fringe Benefits:  Licensed foster and adoptive parents are invited to participate in a monthly support group meeting.  The Department provides in service training opportunities each year on topics of interest identified by foster and adoptive parents.  The Department hosts three events throughout the year in an effort to show appreciation for our families.  Families receive a monthly newsletter with useful information regarding changes in policy, upcoming events and informational tips. 

    If interested or for more information, contact the foster home licensing unit of New Hanover County Department of Social Services at (910) 798-3566 at