Ah! Arizona, the Grand Canyon State! Sunny skies, fresh air, and low humidity. What a great place to raise kids. If you are looking to complete an adoption, Arizona is a great place to do it. Like any life-changing decision, you need to be well-informed and well-educated before jumping headlong into adoption. Here are some things to consider when pursuing adoption in Arizona.
Private or public adoption?
Private Domestic Adoption. The first thing you will need to decide is whether to pursue a private adoption or a public (foster care) adoption. With a private adoption, Arizona requires an attorney. The cost for an attorney in a private adoption will cost thousands of dollars. But a good lawyer will put you on the right path to successful adoption.
Secondly, you will need to decide whether to go through an adoption agency if you adopt privately. If you do, they will recommend attorneys to complete your adoption. If you are interested in a private adoption, Arizona has many adoption agencies that can assist you in this area. (Adoption.com has a great directory list of adoption agencies for you to search through). Look for an agency that you identify with, that will support you, and that will help you to avoid many pitfalls that adoptive parents fall into. They will help you with your home study, background checks, and training. There are different types of adoption agencies that specialize in teens, children with disabilities, various ethnicities, and the faith community. Application fees, home study fees, and other fees may apply when you pursue adoption through a private agency. Lastly, every adoption agency may have additional requirements above and beyond Arizona state requirements.
Foster Care Adoption. If you prefer a public adoption aka, foster care adoption, Arizona has many options for parents who are not able/willing to pay thousands of dollars to adopt. The good news is that foster care adoption is free! Nevertheless, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) foster children come into care through no fault of their own due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and therefore have suffered great trauma in their lives. 2) there may be a risk involved when fostering to adopt. The foster child may be reunited with his parents, be placed with another family member, or maybe placed with another foster parent instead. My family adopted two children from the Arizona foster care system and went through with no bumps and bruises. Here are the steps to take when you foster-to-adopt in Arizona:
Become licensed as a foster parent
A foster care applicant becomes licensed by the State of Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), through the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR). You will need to choose a foster-licensing agency to walk you through the licensing process. Arizona’s licensing process can be long and lengthy, taking anywhere between four to nine months. But this ensures that all foster homes are quality in nature. The process includes a five-week training called Foster Parent College, which is about 30 hours long and is completed partly online and partly in a classroom setting. DCS also requires a home study, background checks, a physician’s statement, and a life safety inspection. The licensing agency may also conduct interviews with your references, employers, your child’s school, and anyone else that may help to determine your acceptability to foster. Arizona foster care licensing does not cost anything, and in most cases, the home study and the application fee are free.
Adopt your own foster child
Once you become a licensed Arizona foster parent, your foster care home study can be used to adopt your own foster child, if that child becomes available for adoption. At that point, if there are no other family members who are acceptable to adopt, the foster parent may have an opportunity to adopt after the termination of parental rights (TPR). This is an easy transition since the child is already a part of the family! The waiting period from TPR until adoption finalization is three months for current foster parents or related adoptive parents (kinship adoption). Kinship adoption is also preferable for grandparents, cousins, and older siblings because the child already has a previous relationship with adoptive parents.
Adopt a child from another foster home
The other option is to adopt a child from a different Arizona foster home. You may need to be certified to adopt in this case and have a separate adoption home study written. A foster home may not want to adopt their own foster child for many reasons, including the age of the foster parents, a decision to move out of state, or other reasons. When that is the case, the child’s social worker promotes this child to different agencies. When matched, your social worker will send your home study to the child’s social worker. If all parties feel it is a good match, the next step is an adoption selection meeting where everyone discusses the child’s strengths and needs as well as the prospective adoptive parents’ strengths and needs. If all agree, the parents proceed with day visits, overnight visits, and then a weekend or week-long visits; a placement is made. In Arizona, if the child is not related to the adoptive parents, the waiting period is six months from new placement till adoption finalization.
– The Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children (ICPC). If an Arizona resident wants to adopt across state lines, he or she must complete an ICPC with his or her current adoption agency.
– The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Preference is given to Native Americans who wish to adopt Native American children. However, if you are non-Native, and you wish to adopt a Native child, you must be approved by ICWA. (Although there have been recent changes to this law:
Indian Child Welfare Act Declared Unconstitutional
ICWA’s Last Stand? The Brackeen Decision
Identified or unknown child?
Identified child. The trend in Arizona Adoptions tends towards kinship and fictive adoptions. A kinship adoption is where the prospective adoptive parents are related to the child. A fictive adoption is where the child has a previous relationship with the adoptive parents such as a teacher, a youth pastor, or a neighbor. Both instances are excellent choices because there is a familiarity, and the child is not being placed into a totally strange home. This makes the transition much easier.
Unknown child. In the case where you want to search for an unknown child to complete an adoption, Arizona has great options. Go to a photo listing website and search for a child in Arizona or out of state that may be a good match for your family. Keep in mind that these websites list older children, sibling groups, and kids with special needs. If you feel skilled enough to care for these kids, then go for it! If not, then get training and get experience. These kids need forever families also.
Open or closed adoption?
Open adoption. Open adoptions are a relatively new concept in Child Welfare. In Arizona, open adoptions have been the mode of operation in child welfare for the past 20 years or so. Open adoption is where the birth parents still have limited contact with the adopted child. In the former mode of operation—closed adoption—there was little, if any, contact between adoptive parents and birth parents. The files were usually sealed under court order. Therefore, an adopted child did not have access to his culture, family history, or medical history. Nowadays, in most states, open adoption is now expected if it is in the best interest of the child. Open adoptions have their benefits, but they can also present moments of conflict. From inappropriate conversations to broken promises to missed appointments to relapses in drug recovery, conflict is a real possibility.
Closed adoption. Closed adoptions are generally a thing of the past but may still exist if the biological mother insists on having the records sealed. This may be especially true if the birth mother does not want her identity revealed. Even if the adoption is open, there may be certain sections that are closed in the adoption records, such as any private health information. It usually takes a court order and a compelling reason to open any closed adoption record in Arizona.
How will I fund my adoption?
Lastly, if you pursue a private adoption, Arizona has different options for financing. Whether you work out a payment plan with your adoption agency or utilize loans or grants, a private adoption can be affordable. However, if you adopt through the foster care system, there is no cost at all!
Adoption Subsidy. In Arizona, a child may receive an adoption subsidy if there are documented special needs. An “adoption subsidy” is a monthly stipend that provides financial assistance for an adoptive parent. In your adoption, Arizona subsidies are valid until the child turns 18 years of age or 21 if the child is still in school. The adoption social worker facilitates the subsidy and is usually the last thing approved before adoption finalization. The subsidy board may turn down a family’s request for a subsidy if they deem the child to have no special needs.
Adoption Tax Credit. The adoption tax credit is an incentive for families who have completed a finalized adoption with the courts. The maximum credit a family can receive is $13,000! Regardless of whether you adopted domestically or internationally, privately, or through the state of Arizona, you may be eligible for a tax credit. The adoption tax credit goes against your tax liability of the year you claimed it on your Federal Income Tax Return.
Adoption has been a great adventure for me and my family here in Arizona! We completed three adoptions both privately and publicly, and it has been an absolute blessing. Yes, it can be a long process and yes, there can be some bumps in the road. But in the long run, there is no greater satisfaction than to know you have given a child a forever family and a family a forever child.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.