The adoption process is a lengthy one and there are a number of issues that may pop up at any time to derail your planned adoption.
We regularly receive inquiries from prospective parents asking whether they should even consider initiating the process because of past criminal charges, ongoing financial constraints or any other number of issues. There are, however, very few disqualifying preconditions.
Any legal, adult resident of Arizona is potentially eligible to adopt or foster parent a child. You can be single, married, divorced or widowed.
It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home, and you must be at least 18 years of age to adopt a child or 21 to become a foster parent. From there, procedures differ depending on whether you want to enroll in Arizona’s foster parent program or you want to adopt a child.
If adoption is the route you choose, regulations vary depending on whether the child resides in Arizona, out of state, or out of the country.
Your adoption home study must be completed by a licensed agency that will conduct an extensive background check and home inspection before the final home study report will be submitted to the court for review and hopefully certification.
The background checks will be conducted of any adult living in the home and not just of the adoptive parents. While rules differ for blood relatives, step relatives and foster parents, adoptive parents generally must be able to obtain clearance following a fingerprint-based analysis of federal and state records.
Under state law, there are dozens of criminal offenses that would preclude you or any individual in the adoptive parent’s home from obtaining that clearance. Crimes committed against children or other vulnerable members of the population, violent felonies, and sex crimes will automatically void your eligibility to be placed on the state’s adoption registry.
It doesn’t matter if you were convicted in Arizona or in another state. Further, there is a secondary list of over 60 other offenses – ranging from shoplifting to manslaughter – that may also prevent you from obtaining that clearance; however, you will also be given an opportunity to explain the offense to the judge and how you have changed since that conviction.
You can tell the judge what you have learned from the experience. If you are any other resident of the prospective household have been convicted of a crime on this list, you may use this mechanism allowing you to petition for a “good cause” exception.
Even if you’ve never been convicted of a crime that would prevent you from obtaining a fingerprint clearance card, there’s no guarantee that an adoption agency will make a recommendation to a state court that a judge issue a certification.
Many prospective adoptive couples also believe that there is an income requirement to be certified to adopt. There is no income threshold. The court will look at both your income and expenses, assets and debts, before deciding about whether you can provide for a child.
Aside from the background checks, your social worker will conduct at least two visits to a potential home to evaluate the home environment. There are several factors evaluated during this process aimed at identifying parents of suitable moral and financial fitness that would make good matches for children in need of adoptive parents.
There are many traps and pitfalls in the adoption process. A prior criminal conviction may keep you from being certified, but it doesn’t have to. We have years of experience advising and assisting parents through this lengthy but rewarding experience.
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.