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From Foster to Adoption

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Adoption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

From Foster to Adoption

The process of fostering a child with the intent to adopt can be intimidating. Stories in the news discuss the need for foster parents, but many people shy away from the foster care process because they fear becoming attached to the children then have them returned to their biological families. However, understanding foster care and the process can help a family make a more informed decision.

What is foster care?

Foster care is temporary placement of children who have been removed from parental care due to abuse or neglect. Although the goal of foster care is to reunite families, this is not always possible.

As of March 2016, over 19,000 Arizona youth were in foster care while 3,000 more were living in shelters or group homes because there were not enough foster families. Many common fears are unfounded and with enough education more children can be appropriately placed.

 What are the steps to go from fostering to adopting?

The first step in the process is to contact a local agency to be licensed as a foster parent. Prospective foster parents must choose an agency they feel is a good ideological fit since they will be working together for the long term.

Working with an agency is also important because before adopting the biological parents must relinquish their parental rights. With agency adoptions, most children are free for adoption before the placement occurs.

Once a family has been licensed to foster, foster parents can search for a child that they feel will complete their family. The social worker at the agency will help network with other agencies as well as share photolistings of children looking for placement to help create the best home for everyone.

Once the foster parents have found a child they would fit their family, they can meet the child. However, sometimes multiple families will be interested in the same child, at that point the agency will decide.

Once foster parents have been selected for a child, a series of meetings is set up to help ensure that the parents and child are comfortable with one another. This may take place over several meetings and several weeks. The child’s comfort level with the new family is very important to the placement to make sure everyone is happy. This is also when paperwork such as the Interstate Compact or adoption assistance agreement will be completed.

If you are adopting a child who you have already been fostering, the process will obviously be much different.  In this case, you will have been involved with the child for some time.

Once the court has determined that reunification is no longer possible, it may proceed with the process to terminate that child’s natural parents’ rights.  During this process, you may be asked if you would like to adopt that child.

In 2016, Arizona law changed to the benefit of adopting parents and now licensed foster parents no longer need to be certified to adopt.  The licensed foster parents may still need a limited social study to be prepared and filed with the Adoption matter to show the results of the central registry records check is complete and current and to discuss any material change in circumstances that have occurred since the foster licensing process.

Is the process expensive?

Most adoptions for children from the Arizona state foster system do not cost anything to the adopting parents.  Most foster children will qualify for state adoption subsidy which can include ongoing AHCCCS medical coverage, a per diem, and attorney fees paid for your adoption attorney.

Additionally, most adoptions from the foster system will qualify for the full Adoption Tax Credit on your federal tax return for the year in which you finalize the adoption.

Contact an Arizona Adoption Lawyer Today

Overall, the foster-to-adopt process is complex. With many different steps and many different moving parts, the help of an attorney can make the process easier and often at no cost to you. To schedule a consultation with one of our East Valley family law and adoption attorneys, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or contact us online.

FAQ: Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

FAQ: Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona

We often receive inquiries from individuals with questions about the termination of parental rights in the context of adoption.

Among the most commonly asked of these questions is whether we handle cases involving the termination of parental rights – and the answer to that question is “yes.”

Here are some answers to some of the other questions we often hear regarding terminating a person’s parental rights.

 

Who can Terminate Parental Rights?

Parental rights can be terminated by consent (i.e. a parent agrees to give up his or her parental rights with regard to a child) or can be terminated by a court order.

In cases in which a biological parent will not willingly terminate their parental rights, it may be necessary for a party, with a legitimate interest in the welfare of the child, to petition the court to terminate parental rights.  There are several grounds to terminate parental rights in the State of Arizona.

 

When Will a Court Order the Termination of Parental Rights?

A court may only terminate parental rights if it finds that a statutory ground for termination exists by clear and convincing evidence and also that the termination is in the best interest of the child.

 

What are the Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Arizona?

Arizona law sets out several reasons that a court may terminate parental rights. At least one of these statutory grounds must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.  Some of the more common grounds for termination include the following:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse or neglect
  • A parent’s history of chronic substance abuse
  • A parent is incarcerated for a felony and the duration of incarceration is excessive
  • The presumed father failed to file a claim of paternity within 30 days after being served with a Notice of Adoption
  • The parents have relinquished the child to an agency or have consented to an adoption

For a full list of the reasons that a court may order the termination of parental rights, view the statute here.

 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I am Involved in a Dispute Regarding the Termination of Parental Rights

Terminating parental rights is a complicated matter. For this reason, people who are seeking to have someone else’s parental rights in a child terminated should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

Likewise, anyone who believes that their parental rights may be at risk of termination should retain legal counsel in order to ensure that their legal rights are protected.

 

Contact an Arizona Termination of Parental Rights Lawyer Today

If you have questions about the termination of parental rights or believe that you are in a situation that warrants pursuing such an action, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

To schedule a consultation with one of our East Valley family law and adoption attorneys, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or contact us online.

How an Attorney Can Make the Adoption Process Easier

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

How an Attorney Can Make the Adoption Process Easier

If you are in the early stages of planning an adoption or have hit a snag in the process, you know just how complicated it can be.

The fact that adoption is a complex process should come as no surprise.  After all, an adoption will make the adoptive parents legally responsible for the care of another human being (that’s no small thing) and will essentially remove all legal responsibility from the biological parents (involving constitutional rights).

Fortunately, there are many ways that an adoption attorney familiar with the process can make it easier for both birth mothers and potential adoptive parents. Some of these are detailed below.

 

Address Any Issues Before They Arise

There are many issues that could potentially derail an adoption. For example, a biological father could potentially try and block a birth mother from placing a baby for adoption.

Likewise, adoptive parents in the State of Arizona must first be certified by a court as acceptable to adopt, and issues like a criminal history or financial problems could prevent certification.

When you retain a lawyer, he or she will thoroughly review your case, determine whether any issues may arise, and advise you to take certain steps to mitigate the chances that those issues will cause a problem.

In Arizona, and in many other states, a biological father’s paternity rights can be resolved prior to a baby’s birth.   Having an experienced attorney involved early in the pregnancy can help resolve and mitigate problems before a baby is ever placed in the adoptive parents’ home.

 

Identify All of Your Options

There are many options for both parents and birth mothers when it comes to adoption.

For example, you can pursue a foster adoption through the State, go through a private agency, or be matched with a birth mother or adoptive family through your attorney. When you meet with an attorney, he or she will discuss your options with you and help you determine which is right for you.

 

Make Sure the Process Stays on Track

Adopting a child or placing a child for adoption is a multi-step process that involves various state agencies and the courts.

Often, certain things need to happen before the process can move forward, and it can be difficult for those without experience in adoptions to know what to do next. An experienced lawyer will help you navigate the process and make sure that your adoption goes as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

 

Call Stuart & Blackwell Today to Speak with an Arizona Adoption Attorney

If you are considering an adoption, you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can.

To schedule a consultation with our adoption lawyers, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Considering Adopting a Baby? 3 Critical Steps to Prepare

Posted by on Sep 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

The decision to expand your family by adopting a child can bring lifelong rewards. However, this is also a huge decision with many different financial and legal implications and it should never be taken lightly.

1. Decide what type of adoption you want.

“Adoption” is a term used to encompass many different scenarios, as there are many options when you set out to adopt a child.

  • Private adoption
  • Adopting children from foster care/state custody
  • Agency adoption
  • Interstate adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • International adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • Adopting children with special needs (private, agency or foster)
  • Open, semi-open, or closed adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • Transracial adoption

You need to ask yourself many questions, including: Do you want an infant or are you open to an older child? Do you want an ongoing relationship with the birth mother? An attorney can walk you through these important decisions.

2. Go over finances.

Adoption can be extremely inexpensive or extremely expensive, depending on some of your choices and depending on the birth mothers situation. There are costs throughout the process and there are often financial obligations that were originally unexpected. You need to make sure you are in the financial position to take care of the birth mothers needs and other procedural costs. If you are trying to adopt from another state or from a foreign country, there will be travel expenses. There may be medical expenses associated with the pregnancy and delivery that may not be covered by insurance or Medicaid and you may need to cover the costs. Finally, ensure you have the financial means to provide a good home for your adopted child.

3. Prepare for the process mentally.

Adoption is a process with highs and lows. It can take time to be chosen as adoptive parents or to be connected with a child. Birth mothers have the right to change their minds and occasionally they do, which can be emotionally overwhelming for prospective adoptive parents. Many prospective adoptive parents benefit from counseling or other types of support throughout this complex yet rewarding process.  Remember, however you add to your family, it’s a process and not without its challenges.  Try to enjoy the process and look for the upsides along the way.

Discuss Your Situation with a Dedicated Arizona Adoption Lawyer Today

If you are considering adoption, please feel free to discuss all of your options with an experienced adoption attorney at the law office of Stuart & Blackwell. We can help you through the entire adoption process and we can also make your profile available to our many birthmother clients. We help with all types of adoptions, including interstate, special needs, private adoptions, and more. Please call 480-420-2900 for more information today.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Place my Baby for Adoption?

Posted by on Sep 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

There is no Arizona law requiring you to hire an attorney. With that said, there are many reasons why it is highly advisable to have a trusted and experienced attorney guiding you through the entire adoption process. The following are some of the reasons why you should consult with a lawyer if you are considering adoption.

Deciding which type of adoption is right for you – Many prospective adoptive parents are unaware of the different types of adoption and available options for the process.  A knowledgeable lawyer can explain the benefits and potential drawbacks of each type of adoption and help you select the one that is best for your situation.

Overseeing the process – Pregnancy can be stressful and overwhelming on its own.  It can be even more stressful when you are considering the option of placing your child for adoption. Having a skilled attorney on your side to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken can make the process go more smoothly and take some stress off of you.  The prospective adoptive parents will cover the legal fees for the birth mom in nearly all cases.

Drafting your adoption plan and agreement – Your adoption plan is extremely important as it sets out your plans for prenatal care, financial assistance with expenses, counseling, delivery wishes, and more.  In addition, the adoption agreement will designate terms regarding confidentiality, closed or open adoptions, and other matters to make sure that your child’s best interests are served, as well as your own.

Protecting your rights – Birth mothers have many rights throughout the adoption process, though you may not be aware of all of these rights. An experienced lawyer will explain all of your rights and will serve as an advocate for you to ensure your rights are not violated in any way during or after the adoption process.

Providing support – Adoption is often difficult and having a dedicated attorney you can trust to provide an unbiased opinion and advice can be extremely helpful.

Consult with Our Committed Arizona Adoption Lawyers Today

At the law firm of Stuart & Blackwell, we know that deciding to place your baby for adoption is a deeply personal, emotional, and often difficult decision. We provide the highest level of personalized care for all of our birth mother clients and work to find the best home possible for your child, all while ensuring your rights are protected. Please call today at learn more information at 480-420-2900.

Can a Biological Father Prevent a Stepparent Adoption?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

Stepfathers can develop extremely close relationships with their stepchildren. This can be especially true if the child’s biological father does not play a significant role in the child’s life. However, despite a close bond, stepparents do not have any legal parental rights over the child. If the stepfather’s marriage fails, he will have no rights to custody or visitation or to be a part of important decisions in the child’s life. This can be true even if they had a relationship for many years. For this reason, many stepfathers want to preserve their rights and their relationship with their stepchild by legally adopting the child as their own.

 

Under Arizona laws, stepparent adoption is a relatively simple process with fewer requirements than other types of adoption. However, complications can arise in a stepfather adoption case if the biological father objects to the adoption.

 

Need for Consent

A child cannot have two legal fathers with equal legal rights. Therefore, in order to complete a stepfather adoption, the child’s biological father will have to either consent to the adoption or you will have to seek a termination of his parental rights. A form with their consent will have to be filed with the court along with the stepfather’s petition to adopt. In some situations, fathers will be willing to consent because it means they will no longer have any child support obligations or because they understand the child is closely bonded with his/her stepfather.

 

However, consenting to the adoption also means the biological father is consenting to give up all parental rights to the child. Not surprisingly, many fathers do not want to do this, even if they have not had a strong relationship with their child. If a father is against the adoption, he can refuse to consent.

 

Seeking a Termination of Parental Rights

If you want to continue with the adoption, you will have to seek a termination of the biological father’s parental rights. You must have legal grounds for doing so. A common ground for terminating parental rights is abandonment and failing to properly provide support for the child. Other grounds for termination include felony convictions with long sentences, history of chronic substance abuse or mental illness, and similar reasons. Presenting your case to the court can be challenging and you want a highly experienced adoption lawyer representing you in this scenario. Specifically you should hire an attorney who has experience litigating termination cases.

 

Call an Arizona Adoption Lawyer to Discuss your Case

Stepparent adoption can be fairly straightforward–unless the biological parent refuses to consent. In such situations, it is critical to have an experienced Arizona adoption lawyer on your side. Even if there is consent, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your adoption case. Adoption is a permanent legal action that has many implications and you want to be sure you do it right. Call the law office of Stuart & Blackwell in Arizona at 480-420-2900 for a free initial consultation.

3 Questions Adoptive Parents Should ask Their Attorney Immediately

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

Adopting a child is one of the most important decisions in your life. Adoption is a complex process with many variables and it is essential to have the help and representation of a highly skilled adoption attorney who understands adoption laws in Arizona and who can help facilitate a successful adoption. In addition, every adoption case is different with unique birth mothers, prospective adoptive parents, and varied circumstances. In order to ensure you can start your life with your new child in the best light possible, you want to make sure that your adoption attorney is the right one for you. The following are some questions to ask before deciding on your adoption attorney.

 

How many adoption cases do you handle?

Adoptions are traditionally handled by family law attorneys, who may also handle a variety of other family-related legal matters. If the attorney focuses most of their practice on divorce and has only handled a few adoptions over the years, they may not have the experience you need for a smooth adoption process.

 

Do you work with birth mothers, as well?

Attorneys who represent the interests of birth mothers as well as adoptive parents have a unique perspective from both sides of the adoption process. Law firms who can present your profile directly to birth mothers and try to match moms with adoptive parents can eliminate the need for a private adoption agency and make the process simpler for everyone.

 

What is your philosophy regarding adoption?

This can involve many different inquiries, including why they got into adoption law in the first place. You might ask whether the attorney supports the possibility of confidential adoptions, open adoptions, limited contact adoptions, or all of the above. You want to make sure your attorney will stand up for your needs and interests throughout the process. You might ask if the attorney is a member of any adoption groups or has experience with interstate adoptions. Furthermore, you want to make sure the birth mother is cared for, so you will want to ask regarding services the attorney provides to mothers including counseling and match services.

 

The above are only some of the many questions you can ask your prospective adoption attorney. In addition to questions, you should always make sure the attorney has a positive demeanor, pays attention to your concerns, fully and willingly answers your questions, and seems like a good fit for you and your family.

 

At the law firm of Stuart & Blackwell, we help families throughout Arizona with every step of the adoption process. We care about our clients and provide free initial consultations, so please call us today at 480-420-2900 for assistance.

Four Critical Steps for a Smooth Adoption

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

Four Critical Steps for a Smooth Adoption

Step 1: Determine which Type of Adoption is the Best for You

There are different options for adoption in Arizona, including a public adoption through the state or a private adoption arranged between you and the birth parents. Each has different pros and cons and some key differences between the two can include:

 

  • The cost associated with the adoption
  • How quickly the adoption can be finalized
  • The age of the children available for adoption
  • The risk of special needs of the adopted child
  • Eligibility for adoption tax credits or subsidies

 

Our experienced adoption attorneys will carefully review any questions or concerns and will evaluate your situation to help ensure you choose the right type of adoption.

 

Step 2: Connect with the Right Birth Mother

Many people do not know where to begin when trying to connect with birth parents for a potential adoption. After all, you cannot simply check the classified ads. In addition, you want to make sure that no fraud or scheming is at work in your potential adoption. Our attorneys understand how important connecting with the right birth parents can be—for all parties involved. We have profiles of both birth parents and of potential adoptive parents so we can best facilitate the right match for you.

 

Even if you do not find a match right away, we can keep your profile in our office at no cost to you and will show it to birth parents who are choosing adoptive parents. We will keep working for you until you achieve your adoption goals and can make suggestions to increase your chances of getting selected.

 

Step 3: Attend to the Needs of the Birth Mother

Once you have matched with a birth mother, you want to make sure that she—and your future adopted child—are properly cared for. She may need assistance with certain medical costs and living expenses during her pregnancy and in the few weeks that follow. Many adoptive parents in Arizona help with these expenses to ensure the well-being of both mother and child. However, in some situations, state law requires you to petition the courts for approval to pay these expenses and our adoption attorneys can help with that process.

 

In addition, our legal team works can work with birth mothers to help ensure they have the help they need. We often assist with the following and more:

 

  • Enrollment in Medicaid
  • Applying for food stamps
  • Obtaining any other medical or financial benefits they need
  • Adoption counseling

 

Step 4: Find an Experienced Adoption Lawyer You Can Trust

While all of the above steps are critical to a successful adoption, they are not simple tasks. You need an Arizona adoption lawyer on your side who can guide you through every step of the process. At the law firm of Stuart & Blackwell, we work closely with both adoptive parents and birth parents to ensure that everyone has the support they need during the adoption. To learn more about the many ways we can help, contact us to schedule a consultation.

If You’re an Adoptive Parent, You Need to Know About These Financial Benefits

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

arizona adoption

Welcoming an adopted child into your family is a wonderful event. Be it a newborn relinquished by a mother unable to raise the child or a foster-care youngster yearning to find love and comfort in a permanent home with new parents, adoption can be both fulfilling and challenging at the same time.

Nearly 135,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. At the same time, figures show over 423,000 children remain in the U.S. foster care system. Of those, nearly 115,000 are available for adoption but remain waiting. This number grows larger each year.

One reason the adoption rate isn’t higher in the United States is the high costs associated with being a parent.

Let’s face it. Raising kids is expensive.

According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013, it could cost middle-income parents just over $245,000 to raise a child to the age of 18. Add a four year college education at nearly $200,000 and the number is nearly overwhelming.

There are no statistics to refer to, but there must be a number of potential adopting parents who analyze those costs and eventually decide not to adopt because of the staggering costs of raising a child.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many financial benefits and programs available to help parents offset many of those expenses and make welcoming a new family member a joyful event rather than a burdensome expense.

Income Tax Deduction

The first and most immediate savings will show up when you prepare your first income tax return after you’ve officially adopted a child. You’ve just added an exemption that reduces your taxable income ($4,000 for 2015 tax year) for each year you can claim the child as a dependent.

Adoption Tax Credit

This is a tax credit that is offered to adoptive parents to encourage adoptions in our country. Section 36C of the United States Internal Revenue Code states that the credit is for qualified adoption expenses that are paid for by individual taxpayers. In essence, the federal government is reimbursing you for your expenses of adopting a child under 18 in the form of a tax credit. These expenses include:

• Court costs
• Lawyer fees
• Travel expenses
• Meals and Lodging
• Adoption fees and other expenses

Although this income tax credit provides a significant savings benefit to the parents, the government also made it one of the most complicated deductions for the average tax-payer to understand. Consulting an income tax professional for assistance the year you are eligible for the credit is recommended.

For taxable years beginning in 2015, under § 23(a)(3) the credit allowed for an adoption of a child with special needs is $13,400. For taxable years beginning in 2015, under § 23(b)(1) the maximum credit allowed for other adoptions is the amount of qualified adoption expenses up to $13,400. The available adoption credit begins to phase out under § 23(b)(2)(A) for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income in excess of $201,010 and is completely phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of $241,010 or more. (See sections 3.18 and 3.19 of this revenue procedure for the adjusted items relating to adoption assistance programs.)

And remember, a tax credit is not a tax deduction. A deduction lowers the taxable income that you pay taxes on. A credit is deducted in full from the tax owed, a significant savings. The actual credit amount is computed and based on the amount of adoption expenses incurred to complete the adoption — the more that is spent, the higher the amount of the tax credit.

This adoption tax credit is available for adopted children under the age of 18 and who are not a step-child of you or your spouse.

State Programs

The income tax deduction for dependents applies to state income taxes as well as federal. Most states also have adoption assistance programs to help ease the financial burden of adoption.

Arizona, for instance, offers adoption assistance and subsidy to “special needs” adoptees who meet certain requirements of eligibility. The maximum adoption assistance maintenance payment in Arizona is currently $590 for children ages 0-11 and $651 for ages 12-20. This program is aimed at easing the extra financial burden a “special needs” child places on a family above and beyond the costs of raising a normal child.

Employer Assistance

Many private companies have seen the value of adoption and have established programs that help employees pay for costs incurred during the adoption process. These adoption benefits are usually similar to benefits available to new biological parents. They included information resources, financial assistance and parental leave.

Everyone Says Adoption is Expensive… but Does it Have to Be?

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

arizona adoption

Perhaps you have considered adopting a child—or multiple children—but have put the idea aside because you have heard how costly the process can be. After all, a child’s life and well-being are at stake and adoption can be a complex legal process. In addition to the actual adoption expenses, you have likely assumed that you cannot afford a proper attorney to oversee the adoption process.  Attorneys often charge outlandish hourly fees, right? All of these costs come right as you must prepare to raise a child in your home, which can certainly be expensive enough on its own. Too often, such assumptions regarding cost can make people reconsider the choice to adopt.

 

On the other hand, if you are pregnant and are considering adoption for your child, you are also likely concerned about costs. You naturally want to make sure that the right individuals adopt your child and that all of your rights as a birth mother are fully protected, as well. However, you may worry about the costs of legal representation and, therefore, may put off calling an attorney. This is especially true if you are facing a variety of additional financial challenges aside from your pregnancy.

 

The good news for both adoptive parents and birth mothers is that adoption does not have to be outrageously expensive.

 

Free Representation for Birth Parents

At the law firm of Stuart & Blackwell, we believe that all birth parents deserve high-quality legal representation throughout every step of the adoption process. We also realize many birth parents are often under significant financial strain and that finances should not keep them from making the best decision for their situation. For this reason, we represent birth parents who are looking to place an unborn child or a child for adoption at no cost to them. If you are considering adoption for your child, do not hesitate to learn more about how we can help you for free today.

 

Cost-effective Options for Adoptive Parents

Many parents looking to adopt in Arizona choose to adopt from the foster care system, which is overseen by the Department of Economic Security (DES). There are many children in foster care who are legally free for adoption and who would love nothing more than to have a permanent loving home. At Stuart & Blackwell, our adoption lawyers are able to provide free representation to help finalize an adoption from DES. In addition, we can help you obtain adoption subsidies from DES to help cover any additional costs.

 

For a private adoption, if you need representation for a specific adoption, please set up a free appointment to learn more about our cost-effective services. If you are not that far along in the process and simply would like more information about your options, about the adoption process in general, or about how to connect with the right birth parents, we offer consultations that are significantly discounted from our traditional hourly rates.

 

Call Today for More Information

Overall, the Arizona adoption attorneys at Stuart & Blackwell believe finances should not prevent you from considering adoption. To learn more about how we can help you, please call or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.

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