North Carolina foster care and adoption guidelines

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services improves outcomes for the children of North Carolina by acting as an advocate for children and families.

You may qualify to become a foster or adoptive parent if:

  • You are interested in providing a safe and loving home to a child
  • You have patience and wisdom to share
  • You are willing to learn about fostering or adoption

COVID-19 information: Find the latest resources for foster and adoptive parents at the Fostering North Carolina website.

On this page:

State contact information

Contact us Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time, with questions about fostering or adopting in North Carolina.

For general inquiries and county-specific information:
NC Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network
Toll-free hotline: 877-625-4371
General email:
Fax: 877-625-4374
Address: 820 South Boylan Avenue, MSC #2445, Raleigh, NC 27699

Para información en español, contacte:

Foster care and adoption licensing requirements

Foster or adoptive parents must be ready to give a child or children opportunities to develop to their full potential – physically, academically, socially, and emotionally – with realistic expectations and unconditional support and love. That is the most important requirement.

Adoption requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 to become an adoptive parent.
  • You can adopt if you are single, married, divorced or widowed; own or rent; have parenting experience or none at all; already have children in your home or not.
  • Adoptive applicants will be finger printed and have a criminal record check completed
  • While State law does not specify the number of training hours to become an adoptive parent, most adoption agencies provide training to those who want to be foster or adoptive parents.

Please visit the NC Kids website for more information about adoption.

Foster care requirements:

  • The minimum age to become a foster parent is 21.
  • You can foster if you are single, married, divorced or widowed; own or rent; have parenting experience or none at all; already have children in your home or not.
  • Like adoptive applicants, foster applicants will also be finger printed and have a criminal record check completed.
  • You will need to complete all required training and be licensed as a foster parent. To do this, you will attend 30 hours of preparatory training called "Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting" (TIPS-MAPP). Many other families, like yourself, will also participate in the classes, and you will be able to learn from each others’ experiences.

To find out more on how to become a licensed foster parent call 877-625-4371 or view more foster care information.

Foster care and adoption costs

You can work with your county department of social services or a licensed private agency to foster or adopt for free.

Some private agencies not under contract with the State of North Carolina may charge a fee for their services.

To learn which private agencies are under contract with the State of North Carolina, please call 877-625-4371 or email

Agency contact and orientation information

Once the County location of your family is determined, NC Kids will provide you with a list of private agencies that contract with the State of North Carolina, as well as the contact person at your local county department of social services.

Each County department of social services and private agency has their own orientation schedule. You can contact your local Department of Social Services to inquire about their orientation session.

The following private agencies have extensive experience completing adoptions for children in the foster care system. They provide services at little or no cost to families. These agencies have locations throughout North Carolina to assist families in adopting children from the foster care system. 

View a list of licensed private child-placing agencies that provide adoption services (94 KB PDF) in North Carolina.

View a list of licensed private child-placing agencies that provide foster care (194 KB PDF) in North Carolina.

Parent support groups

Family Resource Centers (FRC): Family Resource Centers are a community-based, centralized source for family support services provided through information and referral, on-site programming, or home-based strategies. Services established at the centers target families and children from birth through elementary school-aged and are provided for all family members. Examples of service models may include parent education, after-school programs, and information and referrals services. Contact your local Department of Social Services to locate an FRC in your area.

Family Support Network (FSN-NC): The FSN-NC locations across the state provide support and information to families caring for children with special needs and for those individuals serving families. Call FSN-NC toll-free at 800-852-0042.

Please check with your local county department of social services for a listing of local and area support groups.

Post-adoption support services

Learn about the support available to families who adopt in your state:

Information on children

The children in foster care are from all walks of life and range from young children to young adults. Of the thousands of children in foster care, approximately half are placed in foster homes. The rest of the children live with relatives or are placed in group homes. Most will return to their birth families, but about one-third of them will not, and, once their birth parents’ rights are terminated, they will need adoptive families.

The majority of children who already need an adoptive family are school-aged children or sibling groups who need to be placed together in a family.

The North Carolina Heart Gallery is a photography exhibition of children in the North Carolina foster care system who are available for adoption and in need of adoptive homes. For more information about the NC Heart Gallery or to participate in an upcoming event, please contact the NC Kids staff by email or by phone at 877-625-4374.

Upcoming events

Please call for more information about events: 877-625-4371.