Standards for private organizations

2020 Edition

Adoption Services Definition


Adoption programs establish permanent family relationships for children in need of permanency, and increase the well-being, functioning, and stability of children, birth parents, adoptive families, and adopted individuals.


Adoption programs provide services which may include: providing information about adoption, assessments, home studies, training, counseling, support, preparation, matching, placement, and post-placement/post-adoption services to facilitate permanent caring relationships within families for children and youth.


Organizations should be familiar with the relevant legal requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which governs state proceedings involving American Indian and Alaska Native children. To ensure compliance with ICWA, organizations must have established procedures for determining if children are members or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe, include tribal representatives throughout all aspects of service delivery in cases to which ICWA applies, and collaborate with local child welfare agencies to determine their role in the context of tribal-state child welfare agreements, ICWA, and any relevant state laws pertaining specifically to Indian child welfare. 
2020 Edition

Currently viewing: ADOPTION SERVICES (AS)


Note: COA’s standards are written to encompass best practices associated with all types of adoption and include standards for services provided to all members of the adoption triad. COA’s standards are designed to be used by programs that provide some or all of the services in an adoption and programs that provide services to some or all members of the adoption triad. In particular, COA recognizes that some programs focus primarily on providing home studies, training, and/or post-adoption services, and that services in foster care adoptions can be limited based on the service delivery model structured by the public agency. Some standards include an option of “not-applicable” but many standards are written to be inclusive of all types of adoption programs so that at least one or more elements of the standard are applicable.

Note: Home study programs will be reviewed under AS 1, AS 2, 6, AS 12, and AS 13 only.

Post-placement/Post-adoption programs will complete: AS 1, AS 2, AS 11, AS 12, and AS 13 only.

Child-focused recruitment programs will be reviewed under AS 1, AS 2, AS 3, AS 4, AS 5, AS 8, and AS 9 only.

Foster-to-adopt programs will complete all of FKC and AS 5, AS 6, AS 7, AS 8, AS 9, AS 11, and AS 12 only. 

Note: The use of language in adoption is complex, sensitive, and evolving and COA selected language commonly in use at the time the standards were updated. Certain terms are used for broader applicability and ease of use throughout the standards. For example: The term “children” includes infants, toddlers, school-age children, and youth. The term “birth parents” includes expectant parents and parents who are considering or have made a plan for adoption, and generally includes the birth mother and birth father. COA’s standards do not further define birth father. State laws provide more specific definitions and requirements in relation to birth fathers and use terms such as legal or presumed father and alleged or putative father. The term “prospective adoptive parents” generally includes foster parents, kinship caregivers, relatives, single individuals, and couples.