Are you considering adoption and do you live in Missouri? If you are 21 years or older, can pass federal and state background checks (including child abuse and neglect screenings), have a stable income (enough to provide for yourself and a child), have stable housing, and can pass a basic medical physical, you are eligible to be an adoptive parent. Prospective adoptive parents can be married or single. However, it is important to keep in mind that some private adoption agencies in Missouri prefer married couples.
If you meet the qualifications listed above, then the first choice to make is what type of adoption you are interested in. Adoption in Missouri can occur through domestic/private, international, or through foster care. Domestic/private adoption occurs when a biological mother and father choose an adoption plan for their unborn child. Domestic/private adoptions may also include stepparent adoptions and the adoption of a child by a family member or adult they have a prior relationship with.
In Missouri, adopting domestically can be done through an adoption agency or an attorney, depending on the situation. Regardless of how you pursue domestic adoption, it is important to learn as much as you can about it. Adoption is very complex. Even children adopted as newborns will have questions as they grow older. The more open and comfortable you are about a child’s history, the better off the child will be. While adoptions in Missouri are considered legally closed, many agencies, attorneys, and adoption professionals encourage openness. Of course, child safety is paramount; however, if appropriate and safe, adoptive parents and biological parents can choose to work together for the long-term benefit of their children.
These articles offer great insight into openness in adoption:
International adoption occurs when a family adopts a child from a foreign country. Many of the same factors as domestic/private adoption also come into play with international adoption, except each country that a child is being adopted from typically has their own set of desired characteristics of adoptive parents, required financial backgrounds, preferred health statuses, and other qualifications. Adoption agencies in Missouri who provide international services are required to abide by regulations set forth by the Hague Convention. Again, adoption in Missouri requires that a child be in your physical custody for a period of six consecutive months prior to the adoption being finalized. This includes international adoption.
These articles can provide you with information regarding international adoption:
Once you have made your decision, it is time to fill out at an application with the agency or state office that you are applying with. In Missouri, the Department of Social Services Children’s Division handles adoption out of foster care. There are also private agencies who offer domestic/private, international, and foster care adoption. The application provides key information to agencies and is required to be in the adoption file.
On most applications, not only will you be asked to give information about yourself, but you may be asked questions surrounding adoption. For example, you could be asked about an acceptable age range or special needs. It is important to be honest on the application, but also recognize that your considerations may change as time goes on or as you learn more about the needs of children waiting for adoption in Missouri. Here is a helpful guide regarding the application process.
The first thing you need to have is an approved home study. Think of a home study like a biography of your life including financial screenings, personal and employer references, medical evaluations, background checks, and a thorough walkthrough of your home. Home studies are typically written by people who possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, counseling, psychology, or other related fields. A home study must have final approval and be signed by a master’s level professional.
The type of home study that is written usually centers around the type of adoption; however, they are all very similar. Home studies for private/domestic and international adoptions can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the agency and requirements of the state or country that you are adopting from.
Typically, a social worker visits your home up to four times during the home study process. He or she should be doing a walkthrough of your home during these visits, gathering paperwork and discussing with you the various aspects of your current situation, history, and how adoption will affect your family. It is key to be open in receiving information as well as asking questions. There really are no bad questions! Adoption social workers are there to help you during this huge step in your life. Here is a good article that explains the components of a home study.
Another factor to be aware of when you are considering adoption in Missouri is the timeline. In the state of Missouri, a child must be in the prospective family’s home for six months prior to the family filing their petition for adoption. This is required for any type of adoption. It is important for families and the child to feel comfortable with each other—to not rush the process, even though you want to. Yes, of course, it can be hard waiting, but it is worth the wait!
Foster care adoptions in Missouri are unique from adopting domestically or internationally as they may take longer than six months before finalization. If you are fostering a child, the court must abide by federal law in reunification efforts with the child’s biological parents. Once the court has satisfied efforts—typically 12 out of 15 months of services—the court may proceed with termination of parental rights.
After rights are terminated, the child is legally free for adoption. After the foster family has formally been selected as the pre-adoptive family, and the child has resided with the foster parents for a minimum of six months, the family can then proceed with petitioning the courts for final custody awarded through adoption. Families who want to adopt a child out of state custody in Missouri are required to attend the foster parent training (STARS) and adoption training (Spaulding). These trainings are typically offered by adoption agencies who train and approve families to provide foster care services.
There are many wonderful and unique kids awaiting adoption in Missouri! For more information about becoming a foster parent, you might want to look at these guides:
In terms of costs, adoptions in Missouri can typically cost anywhere from $5,000 up to $40,000. This includes the legal fees, medical expenses for the child, home study, and other pertinent documents that are required. These expenses may also include services provided to the biological mother (if applicable).
While these fees seem overwhelming, especially when all you want is to parent a child who needs a family, many people of all income levels can adopt. This guide offers insight into the cost and affordability of adoption.
If you are interested in adopting a child from the Missouri foster care system, you might be surprised to learn that there is very little to no cost. The home study and training are offered for free to interested families. While affordability should not be the only reason a family pursues adoption out of foster care, it does help to ease the financial burden that some adoptions can bring.
Missouri also participates in the federal adoption subsidy program. This program offers a monthly payment to adoptive parents after the adoption is finalized and until the child is 18-years-old. The adoption subsidy can also include the legal fees of the adoption, day care expense, and health insurance (MO Healthnet). While some families initially feel awkward about accepting the adoption subsidy, they are strongly encouraged to do so. Due to the trauma a child has been through, potential unknown medical and genetic factors that could come into play as the child ages, and the need for resources and support of adoptive families, the subsidy can offer financial assistance in dealing with these varying issues.
It should be noted that children adopted through domestic/private or international adoption are not eligible for the federal adoption subsidy program. Here is a very good article regarding the adoption subsidy. Most agencies in Missouri, who work with foster children and help to facilitate foster care adoptions, will have knowledge about the adoption subsidy program as well as other benefits for foster/adoptive families and children.
If adoption has crossed your mind a time or two, perhaps, it is time to pursue it! Adoption brings families together. It offers children the permanency of feeling loved and the foundation of stability. Most of all, it demonstrates the undeniable truth that being wanted is one of the greatest needs for children who wait. Adoption is not easy, nor it is always a smooth process, but it is definitely life-changing for all involved.
Adoption in Missouri happens all of the time. From each corner of the state, to the big cities and small towns, Missouri families offer hope, stability, and love to children in need. If you are interested in adoption and happen to live in Missouri, perhaps one day, you will join the many other Missouri families who have said “yes” to adoption.
Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.