Deciding to build your family through adoption is a wonderful journey. But understanding who can adopt, the type of children available for adoption, and the policies and procedures related to various types of adoption can be confusing. Whether you choose to adopt domestically, through foster care, or internationally, here is everything you need to know about adoption in Idaho.
For adoption in Idaho, there are three different qualifications depending on the type of adoption a family wishes to pursue. Prospective adoptive parents interested in domestic adoption must have lived in the state a minimum of six consecutive months, be at least 25 years old, and be at least 15 years older than the child who is to be adopted. If a couple is married, then both spouses must consent to the adoption. Adoption from foster care has similar requirements, but it is important to note that individuals may begin fostering at the age of 21. A stable income, adequate space for a foster child, and a stable environment are also required. International adoption requires the same minimum age as domestic adoption (25 years old), but many countries have rules regarding older parent adoption. Other restrictions may include income, health status, educational status, and marital status. After deciding on which country to adopt from, families should check with either their agency or the U.S. Department of State for current country adoption regulations.
What Children Are Available?
When selecting which program is right for you, it is important to consider the type of child you are hoping to adopt. Would a newborn or an older child fit best with your family? Do you prefer to adopt domestically or internationally? Domestically, there are either infants available, mostly through private adoption, or older children, through foster care. In Idaho, there are approximately 1,400 children currently in the state foster care system who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Some children have special needs, many are school aged, and sibling groups are common. Children available from international adoption are typically between 15 months to 8 years at placement, depending on their birth country. Most children have minor to medically correctable special needs, and some have more severe to lifelong special needs. Older child adoption is possible from countries such as Honduras, and sibling groups are possible from countries such as Colombia.
Beginning the Process
Once you decide which kind of adoption—domestic, foster care, or international—is right for you, the next step is to find a professional. Families pursuing adoption in Idaho may work with either a private, state-licensed agency, a public agency (facilitated by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare), or use an independent facilitator. It is important to note, however, that independent international adoptions are illegal, so families pursuing international adoption must use a Hague-accredited adoption agency. When choosing an agency or a facilitator, remember to ask questions before making your decision. What are their average wait times from home study to match? What kind of support do they provide throughout the process? What are the average costs? What happens if the adoption is disrupted? If an agency or facilitator’s answers don’t seem right, keep looking. There are a number of agencies and facilitators available for adoption in Idaho, so take the time to choose which one is right for you.
Regardless of the type of adoption a family is pursuing, the next step will be to complete preadoption parent training and a home study. The purpose of a home study is to assess a family’s ability to care for and raise a child and to assess what type of child will be the best fit for the family. Background checks, fingerprinting, employment letters, physicals, and personal reference letters all go into the home study, which are augmented by one-on-one meetings between the social worker and the family. The home study must be compiled and submitted by a state-licensed professional and completed within 60 days. Preadoption parent training will need to be completed as well during this time. For both adoption from foster care and international adoption, there is a minimum of 20 hours or preadoption training required.
Identifying a Child
Upon the completion of the home study, families are eligible to be matched with a child. For adoption in Idaho, families adopting domestically may not advertise directly to birth mothers, but adoptive Parent Profiles are permitted. If someone is not already identified, a family’s agency or facilitator will work to identify a birth mother. Once identified, the agency or facilitator will broker the terms of the adoption. Families adopting from foster care can identify a child directly from a photolisting or through Idaho Wednesday’s Child. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare does not help families connect with a specific child, so families must work to identify a child through one of the websites, then contact their social worker to begin proceedings. Families adopting internationally have a very different process in that after their home study, they must complete a country-specific dossier and immigration paperwork. A dossier is essentially a compilation of documents, similar to the home study, which must be notarized, apostilled, then authenticated. Families will work to complete an I-600a or I-800A form with USCIS, which will allow the child to enter the United States, then their agency will submit everything to the family’s country of choice. The country will log-in the family’s dossier and, upon acceptance by the foreign governing body, a family will be eligible to receive a match. Some children are preidentified through sites like Rainbow Kids, but often agencies have their own matchmakers in-country who will work to identify a child of the age, gender, and special need(s) a family has specified. Once a child is identified, the family will evaluate the referral and choose whether to accept it or not. If the family chooses to accept the referral, they will work to complete the acceptance paperwork, which includes notifying USCIS.
Surviving the wait is often the most difficult part of the process for prospective adoptive parents. Once a match is made, it can seem like an eternity before the child is born or families are permitted to travel. For domestic adoption in Idaho, once the child is born, consent may be given at any time. According to Idaho Law § 16-1510A, the birth mother may make the decision to give consent if she is unmarried and the birth father has neither come forward and expressed an interest to raise the child nor registered with the Idaho Putative Father Registry via the Vital Statistics Unit of the Department of Health and Welfare. In the event that neither of these take place, the father’s parental rights will be deemed to have been waived, and no notice of the adoption proceedings will be issued to him. Written consent to the adoption must take place before an authorized officer, district judge, or a court magistrate. Once consent has been given, it becomes irrevocable.
Families adopting from foster care will be able to welcome the child into their home upon the completion of their home study. In the event the parental rights of the child have already been terminated, the family may finalize the adoption in court following a six- month waiting period, during which several post-placement visits will occur. Any child over the age of 12 must consent to the adoption in Idaho. If the child is not legally free for adoption, then the child may still remain in his or her home through a legal risk adoptive placement. A legal risk adoptive placement is one in which a child is not yet legally free for adoption, but the agency is working to terminate parental rights. These adoptions may take more time and may end in the child remaining unfree after the proceedings.
The process with international adoption varies depending on which country a family chooses. Some countries, such as South Korea and parts of India, require two trips to complete the adoption, whereas other countries, such as China, require only one two-week trip. For Hague Convention countries, the adoption will be finalized in-country in either local court or through the country’s central adoption authority. For non-Hague Convention countries, such as South Korea, the adoption will need to be finalized in the United States upon returning home. Once the child is in the family’s custody, they will travel to the in-country U.S. Embassy and obtain their child’s visa (either an IH-3 or an IR-3). Upon entry into the United States, your child will become a U.S. citizen.
Welcoming a new child into your home and heart takes some adjustment. Regardless of whether a family adopts domestically, from foster care, or internationally, a state-licensed social worker will follow-up with the family for at least six months. The purpose of these post-placement visits is to assess how the family is adjusting, offer tips to help ease the transition and to measure the child’s development and milestones. For families adopting internationally, these post-placement visits may last over the course of a number of years. Remember, post-placement visits are an important way for foreign countries to ensure their children are in good hands.
Finalizing the Adoption
Once the adoption is complete, families will work to finalize their adoption in a court of law. For families pursuing adoption in Idaho across state lines, they will finalize the adoption in their home state. Families adopting domestically or from foster care must wait a minimum of six months to finalize the adoption. This is to allow for the post-placement visits to take place. A report of the post-placement visits, along with the termination of parental rights/consent, will be presented to the judge at a hearing. The judge will evaluate if the adoption was conducted in a legal and ethical manner, and then the judge will issue a final adoption decree. If the child’s name needs to be changed, the court will issue a certificate, and families will file to receive a new birth certificate for their child. Families adopting internationally may or may not need to finalize their adoption in state court, but it is still a good idea to do so. Often, a court will file and enter an order recognizing the foreign adoption without a formal hearing. Finalizing the adoption in the U.S. allows for a new birth certificate to be issued for the child, and the child’s records to be maintained by Vital Statistics.
One of the biggest questions many families have is how much will an adoption cost? Families pursuing domestic adoption in Idaho can expect to pay for legal, medical, and reasonable living expenses during the birth mother’s pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum. Any financial expense exceeding $500 must be approved by the court and the total financial assistance to the birth parents may not exceed $2,000 without the court’s specific authorization. Payment may not be made directly to the birth parents, so prospective adoptive parents must use a third-party vendor, such as their adoption agency or an adoption facilitator, to transfer the funds. If the birth parents revoke their decision, then the court will order the birth parents to reimburse the prospective adoptive parents for all adoption expenses paid by the prospective adoptive parents to the birth parents. The total cost of domestic adoption in Idaho is between $15,000-$40,000, depending on advertising fees and if a family chooses independent or agency adoption. Families adopting from foster care in Idaho can expect to pay between $0-$2,500. These costs include finalizing the adoption, though no fee is charged for home study or post-placement supervision. Families adopting internationally can expect to pay between $25,000-$45,000, depending on their country of choice.
Thankfully, there is assistance available for families. Families pursuing foster adoption in Idaho may use the Idaho Adoption Assistance to reimburse up to $2,000 in adoption-related expenses. Additionally, families can expect to receive monthly subsidies along with a Medicaid card to assist with medical expenses until the child is 18. Some employers offer adoption benefits, and active-duty military personnel can find reimbursement for adoption-related expenses through the National Military Family Association. All families can partake in the adoption tax credit (ATC), which permits a tax credit of $13,810 per child. The credit can be used over the course of five years, and families adopting domestically may take advantage of the credit as soon as they begin the process. Families adopting domestically may use the ATC whether the adoption is finalized or not. Families adopting internationally will have to wait until the adoption is complete to claim the tax credit. Still worried about affording adoption? There are countless loans and grants available to families, so be sure to do your research.
Pursuing adoption can be daunting but it is an incredible journey and a beautiful way to build a family. Do you have experience with adoption in Idaho? Any tips or advice?