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Frequently Asked Questions

Adopting a Child through the DSS

What is the average age of a child waiting for adoption?

The average age of a child waiting to be adopted is 9 years of age.

Is there financial assistance available?

Children with special needs are eligible for adoption assistance. The Department will negotiate the amount of assistance with the adoptive parents at the time of placement.

Is a child eligible for medical assistance?

A child with special needs is eligible for Medical Assistance through Medicaid until the age of 18. Once a special needs child reaches age 18, and is still attending high school and living at home the subsidy can be amended until the child graduates from high school.

What is Interstate Compact?

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is a law in all 50 states, the Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. It applies to the placement of minor children made from one state to another by public and private agencies, the courts, independent placers, (i.e., physicians and attorneys) and individuals.

Excluded from the Compact requirement are close relatives, such as parents, step-parents, grandparents, adult brothers and sisters, adult uncles and aunts, and unrelated legal guardians who both send and receive the child. Also excluded are placements into educational and medical facilities.

What happens if we want to move out of state before the adoption is finalized?

The Family Services Specialist will complete Interstate Compact in order for the child to move from one state to another. The new state’s agency will provide supervision until the adoption is finalized. The adoption can either be finalized in the new state or in South Dakota.

Post Finalization of a Child from DSS

Does the Department of Social Services' Division of Child Protection Services pay attorney fees for adoption finalization of children that are placed through the Department?

Non-recurring adoption expenses are covered by CPS for special needs children up to $2,000, which is a one-time-only fee.

If the child I adopted through the Department of Social Services receives financial assistance (i.e., subsidy or Medicaid) when should I notify the Department if there have been changes in the household?

The Department of Social Services requires notification of all changes within the household. Including:

  • change of address
  • phone number
  • child living out of the home
  • if you no longer have custody of the child
  • if the child begins to receive insurance

What happens if we move out of state and have an adoption subsidy or Medicaid with the South Dakota Department of Social Services' Child Protection Services?

You should notify the Department of your new address and phone number. The Department will transfer Medicaid to the new state. You will continue to receive the monthly subsidy payment.

Information for Attorneys and People Adopting Privately

How do we complete a home study?

View a listing of private agencies and licensed social workers who have expressed a willingness to provide home study services to independent adopters.

Respite Care

Respite care is temporary relief care designed for families of children with special needs. Respite care can range from a few hours of care provided on a one-time basis to overnight or extended care sessions. For all adoptive families, the only eligibility criteria is that a child is adopted.

This service is provided through the South Dakota Department of Human Services. For more information, contact the Department of Human Services at 800.265.9684.

What is a step-parent adoption?

A step-parent adoption is when a step-parent petitions the court for adoption of his or her spouse's child (current spouse of step-parent) from a former marriage or relationship. Both the parent retaining custody and the other birth parent must consent to the adoption. Step-parent adoptions do not require an adoptive home study or investigation. The child is not being placed for adoption, rather they are joining the family with a birth parent.

  • For more information, see SDCL 25-6-11

What is the difference between an independent adoption, private agency adoption, and a public agency adoption?

  • Independent adoption: When a birth parent places a child directly with prospective adoptive parent(s) for the purpose of adoption.
  • Private agency adoption: When a birth parent gives and transfers their legal parental rights to a child to a licensed public or private adoption agency.
  • Public agency adoption: When the placement of a child within the Department of Social Services' custody, parental rights have been terminated, and the children are legally clear for adoption. Learn more about the steps involved in adopting a child from the Department of Social Services.

What is the medical and social history form and when does it need to be completed?

Prior to consenting to voluntarily terminate their parental rights, parents can complete a medical and social history form found on the forms & publications page.

When completed, the form is filed with the court of the state where the medical history portion of the adoption proceedings shall take place. A copy of the completed form is made available to the adoptive parent prior to finalization of the adoption and to the adoptee upon reaching age 18 upon written request and proper proof of identification. SDCL 25-5A-7.2

When and how does counseling before termination of parental rights need to be completed?
Any birthparent who plans to petition the court for the voluntary termination of their parental rights should obtain counseling from a licensed child placement agency; the Department of Social Services, a certified social worker eligible to engage in private independent practice, a licensed counselor, or a licensed psychologist, each of whom must have at least two years of experience in adoption practice.

  • For more information, see the following South Dakota laws:
    SDCL 25-5A-22, 25-5A-23, 25-5A-24 and 25-5A-25.

Is it legal for someone to accept money or other things of value in an adoption?

Any person who offers, gives or receives any money or other consideration or thing of value in connection with the placing of any child for adoption, with the consent to adoption, or with the petition for adoption except for charges approved by the court and fees charged by licensed agencies is guilty of a Class 6 felony.SDCL 25-6-4.2

What involvement does the Department of Social Services have with international adoptions?

The Department has no involvement with international adoptions.

For international adoptions, a home study is required. CPS does not complete home studies for international adoptions. You will need to contact a private placement agency or a licensed social worker within the State of South Dakota.

If the adoption of a foreign child is finalized in the country from which the child came, you will not be required to have Interstate Compact completed. If the child you are wishing to adopt comes to you from within the United States, Interstate Compact will need to be completed.

South Dakota does not have a re-adoption law. If the adoption is finalized in the country from which the child came, you do not need to re-adopt the child in the State of South Dakota. Should you choose to re-adopt a child that has already been adopted in the foreign country from which he or she came, you will need to follow the adoption laws of South Dakota. South Dakota will recognize the adoption of another jurisdiction or nation.