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.