State of Nevada


Division of Child and Family Services



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Guide to Adoption in Nevada

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“I want to be adopted. I want a family of my own. I want to feel like I belong some place. I want to stop moving around and I want to feel secure.”       
-Twelve year old foster child

Many children reside in foster homes in Nevada awaiting adoption. The primary mission of state and county adoption programs is to find homes for these waiting children, the majority of whom are identified as “special needs” due to histories of abuse, neglect, or exposure to drugs or alcohol during fetal development. As a result, these children may experience physical, emotional, developmental or behavioral challenges. Older children, and those who need to be placed with brothers and sisters, are also classified as special needs due to difficulties in securing adoptive homes for them.

Adoptive parents of special needs children have learned it can be a challenging, yet rewarding life experience. They have discovered these children can learn to be part of a loving family and realize their unique potential.


*Commitment *Willingness to try new parenting skills
*Sense of humor *Acceptance of child’s limitations
*Flexibility *Understanding/empathy
*Advocacy skills *Support network of friends/family
*Patience *Knowledge of community resources
*Tolerance *A grounding in reality
*Optimism *Unconditional love

Families interested in adopting special needs children should contact the adoption recruiter in their area. Contact information can be found later in this guide. Families can also view photo listings and descriptions of children currently available for adoption. Follow the links below. If you find a child in which you are interested, you can email the special needs recruiter directly for further information about the circumstances of the child, and the adoption application process.

First, families interested in adoption must complete parent preparation and training coordinated by the State or county agency. The agency will provide information on resources for ongoing support, training and advocacy group activities for special needs children as part of the training process.

Second, families must participate in a home study conducted by a public or private agency worker; which includes questionnaires, interviews, personal references, a home safety inspection, law enforcement and child abuse/neglect background checks and medical examinations.

Third, families who complete the home study process must be approved by the agency to proceed to adoption. Prospective parents will be matched with a waiting child(ren) whom they would be best suited to parent, based upon factors discussed during their home study process; i.e., age, gender, types of circumstances or conditions the child (or sibling group) may present.

Fourth, if a match is found for a child with a prospective family, the adoptive parents will be given a report to read about the child known as a social summary. The summary is prepared by the child’s case worker, and contains as much non-identifying information as is available to the agency concerning the child and his/her family’s background. Information available to an adoptive family on a child or sibling group will vary; is determined by their age, physical and mental conditions, and the circumstances surrounding their removal (or voluntary release) from their family of origin.

Details in the social summary may include, but are not limited to:

  • Child and family’s social history
  • Reasons for adoptive placement
  • Child’s personality and temperament
  • Child’s self help skills and functioning level in comparison to his/her age
  • Child’s residential placement history
  • Child’s/sibling’s history of abuse/neglect/abandonment, if applicable
  • Information on child’s siblings and strength of their relationship, if applicable
  • Child and family’s health and medical history, including known hereditary conditions or problems
  • Child’s birth records and developmental history
  • Child’s psychological and psychiatric history and reports, if applicable
  • Information on child’s specific special needs
  • Child’s intellectual functioning and educational reports, if applicable

The exchange of the information contained in the social summary is intended to assist the prospective adoptive family in further understanding the child and his/her current and possible future needs. It is also utilized to determine whether the family will require financial and/or medical assistance to meet those needs. Due to its vital importance, a copy of the summary and other pertinent records available will be provided to the adoptive parents by the child’s case worker at the time he/she is placed in their home.

Fifth, families who have reviewed the child’s background and wish to pursue an initial meeting will have one arranged by the agency worker. Other visits will be scheduled, depending upon the results of the first meeting; and if it appears to be in the best interest of both the child and the family. Successful visitation will lead to the arrangement of a date for the child’s placement in the home by the agency. Factors such as age, the child’s adjustment to the family, and his/her special needs will be considered in the commitment to a move-in date.

Finally, the child must reside a minimum of six months in an adoptive home before he/she may be legally adopted by the family, which is known as finalization. A case worker will supervise the placement and make periodic visits up until finalization by the court. The worker will also assist the family with any issues or circumstances that may arise related to the child’s adjustment. The supervision period may be extended, depending upon the child’s needs and those of the family before the court’s issuance of a decree of adoption. The family will need to retain the services of an attorney to finalize, and the agency worker will provide details on the process, as well as information on available assistance with legal costs, well in advance of the final court date.

Due to the challenges adoption of children with special needs may present, the agency worker will review options for post adoptive counseling and possible financial assistance which may be available to assist the family in meeting their child’s ongoing needs.



Adoption assistance programs were developed to encourage and support the adoption of special needs children from foster care, by enabling families to adopt without placing an undue burden on the family. Subsidies are provided in four basic categories: medical coverage, limited reimbursement of adoption related costs, social services and financial assistance. Families adopting special needs children through private agencies may also be eligible, and are encouraged to apply.

Types of Subsidies Available in Nevada

  1. Federal Adoption Assistance
    Public Law 96-272, the Child Welfare and Adoption Assistance Act of 1980, required States to establish an adoption subsidy program for children with special needs who are eligible for Title IV-E funding under the Social Security Act. Eligible children may receive financial and/or medical assistance. The subsidy payment must be based on the child’s special needs rather than the family’s income; and may not exceed the foster care payment rate. Federal law mandates that the resources of the adoptive parents cannot be considered when determining a child's eligibility for Title IV-E adoption assistance, however, the circumstances of the family and the needs of the child must both be taken into consideration when determining the nature and amount of assistance.
  2. State Adoption Assistance
    Nevada also offers a state funded adoption subsidy program for children not eligible under the Federal program. Eligible children may also receive financial and/or medical assistance to meet their ongoing special needs. Subsidy assistance for the state program is also based on the child’s needs rather than the family’s income.
    Financial assistance provided cannot exceed the established foster care rate
  3. Special Needs Criteria
    A child for whom placement with an adoptive family is made more difficult because of the child’s age, race, number of siblings, or because the child suffers from a severe or chronic medical, physical, mental or emotional condition is considered to be “special needs.” Generally, a child over the age of five years, a member of a sibling group who need to be placed together, a member of a minority ethnic group, and/or children of any age who experience behavioral, developmental, physical or medical challenges are considered special needs. Children not defined, as special needs are not eligible for subsidy assistance.

What kind of assistance is available?

  1. Medical Coverage
    Eligible children would receive medical care through the State’s medical assistance program (Medicaid). This service may assist the family in meeting a child’s medical needs, including pre-existing medical conditions.
  2. Financial Payments
    A monthly grant to reimburse expenses related to the child’s care may be approved; however, it cannot exceed the established payment rate for the child if they were in foster care.
  3. Nonrecurring Adoption Finalization Costs

    Families adopting special needs children may be reimbursed for fees related to finalization of the adoption up to a fixed amount. These fees may include:
    • Legal costs-court filing fees and attorney fees not to exceed $250.00 per eligible child;
    • Agency fees paid for completion of home study; and/or
    • Travel costs related to visiting the child prior to placement with the family

How do I apply for assistance?

You and your adoption worker complete a subsidy application packet together that is submitted to your local DCFS office or county agency which provides child welfare services for a determination of eligibility. It must include professional documentation of the child’s special needs. The amount and type of subsidy is determined by considering the child’s needs along with the adoptive parents’ circumstances, resources and ability to cover the child’s cost of care.

When should I apply for assistance?

Adoption subsidy applications and agreements must be approved prior to finalization of the adoption in order for the agreement to be valid. The application should be submitted well in advance of the time you plan to go to court.

Once you and your worker have settled on the type and amount of assistance, an agreement will be sent to you for your signature following submission and approval of your application by the State or county agency staff. You will sign and return it to your State or county office for administrative approval. An agreement is not approved until all parties to the agreement have signed and dated it.

If you are adopting an eligible special needs child and require ongoing assistance through the subsidy program, you must not finalize the adoption until your subsidy application and agreements are approved by State or county agency officials.

What if my application for assistance is denied?

If you make application for subsidy assistance and you do not agree with the agency’s decision regarding your application, you may request a conference with the State or county agency administrative staff to review the decision. If after the conference you still disagree with the agency’s decision, you may request a fair hearing to further review your application.

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Carson City, NV 89706 
Phone: (775) 684-4400            Fax:  (775) 684-4455

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