When reunification is deemed not possible, adoption is the preferred way to achieve a permanent home for a child or youth. Adoption refers to the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from the original parents or caretakers to new ones.

Note that in most cases (Tribes are an exception), termination of parental rights (TPR) is required before adoption can occur. When the adoptive family adopts a child, adoption assistance may be available. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (as amended) provides Federal subsidies to encourage the adoption of children from foster care. These subsidies, known as adoption assistance, help to minimize the financial obstacles to adoption and serve to remove barriers. Adoption assistance also contributes to an increase in adoption of children with special needs. Besides the financial assistance provided, adoption assistance may provide other types of assistance to help with medical care or other services.