What is adoption?
Adoption is the transfer of parental rights from one person or couple to another person or married couple. Adoptive parents have the same responsibilities and rights as biological parents. Adoption is a permanent and legal process.
What types of adoption are available?
There are four main types of adoption:
- Adopting an infant or child from the United States foster care system
- Adopting an infant or child from the United States
- Adopting an infant or child from another country
- Adopting a stepchild or stepchildren
What kind of families adopt?
Adoptive families are as diverse as the children waiting to be adopted.
What are the qualifications to adopt?
Before any person or married couple may adopt a child, the person or married couple must be certified by the court as acceptable to adopt children. The court reviews a home study prepared by an agency. In private adoption cases, the applicants typically make their own arrangements with an agency to prepare the home study, whereas in a foster care adoption, those arrangements are usually made by the Department of Child Safety (DCS) on behalf of the applicants. The home study contains information about the applicants’ social history, finances, physical and mental health condition, and reference statements from family and friends. The home study must also contain information on pool safety, appropriate weapons and ammunition storage, and pet licenses and immunizations, if applicable. It also contains information about the applicants’ criminal history and history of referrals to the Department of Child Safety’s child welfare system, if any. Once this information is submitted to the court, the court makes its determination as to whether to certify the applicants as acceptable to adopt children.
The requirement that a person be certified to adopt does not apply where the prospective parent is the spouse of the legal parent (e.g. a stepparent), or is an aunt, uncle, adult sibling, grandparent or great-grandparent of the child. This requirement also does not apply to persons who are currently licensed foster parents in the State of Arizona if those foster parents are seeking to adopt a foster child in their care, and DCS recommends the adoption of the child by the foster parents.
How much does it cost to adopt?
The cost of adoption depends on a number of things: the type of adoption, the agency you work with, the state in which you live, attorney fees and any necessary travel expenses. A foster care adoption is not expensive and financial assistance is available for parents who choose this path.
Range of adoption costs
Foster care adoptions: $0-$2,500
Licensed private agency adoptions: $5,000-$40,000+
Independent adoptions: $8,000-$40,000+
Intercountry adoptions: $7,000-$30,000+
Stepparent adoptions: The County Attorney’s Office will file a stepparent adoption petition for free. The adoptive parents need only pay any court costs or other minor costs associated with the adoption, such as obtaining birth certificates or other required documents. There may be a requirement that the biological parent relinquish his/her parental rights, or his/her parental rights be terminated, before the County Attorney’s Office will file and assist in the completion of the adoption. For more information, contact the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at 602-372-5415.
Stepparent adoptions can also be accomplished through a private attorney. Fees vary depending on whether the biological parent voluntarily consents to the adoption, or his/her parental rights must be terminated. Fees vary from $1500-$10,000+ if a termination of parental rights is required.
Is financial assistance available for individuals adopting?
A growing number of companies and government agencies offer adoption assistance as part of their employee benefits packages, including time off for maternity/paternity leave, financial incentives and other benefits. Congress has also made federal tax credits available for foster care adoptions to help offset required fees, court costs and legal and travel expenses. In 2016, the maximum federal tax credit for qualifying expenses was $13,460.00. Many children adopted from the foster care system are also eligible for financial assistance, medical insurance, mental health services, and assistance with attorney and agency fees. These types of benefits enable more families to adopt.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS
MYTH : There are not enough loving families available who want to adopt children from foster care.
TRUTH : A national survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and conducted by Harris Interactive in 2012 reveals that one in five American adults have considered adoption, and of those, 72 percent, or roughly 47 million Americans have considered adoption from foster care – more so than any other form of adoption, including private adoption of an infant or international adoption. The research indicates that there are many families interested in foster care adoption but that more needs to be done to find ways to connect these families with waiting children. Through National Adoption Day, the Coalition puts a national spotlight on more than 100,000 waiting children in foster care in the hope that more people will take steps to adopt.
MYTH : Adoptive parents must be a modern version of Ozzie and Harriet.
TRUTH : Prospective adoptive parents do not have to be rich, married, own a home, or be of a certain race or age to become an adoptive parent (Nearly one-third of adoptions from foster care are by single parents). In fact, families are as diverse as the children who are available for adoption. Patience, a good sense of humor, a love of children and the commitment to be a good parent are the most important characteristics.
MYTH : All children in foster care have some kind of physical, mental or emotional handicap; that’s why they are classified as “special needs.”
TRUTH : The term “special needs” is somewhat misleading, because it can mean that the child is older, a minority or requires placement with his/her siblings. While some children are dealing with physical or emotional concerns, they need the nurturing support only a permanent family can provide. Many children in foster care are in the “system” because their birth parents weren’t protective and nurturing caretakers— not because the children did anything wrong or because there is something wrong with them.
MYTH : Families don’t receive support after the adoption is finalized.
TRUTH : Financial assistance does not end with the child’s placement or adoption. The vast majority of children adopted from foster care are eligible for federal or state subsidies that help offset both short-and long-term costs associated with post-adoption adjustments. Such benefits, which vary by state, commonly include monthly cash subsidies, medical assistance and social services.
More information about federal and state subsidy programs is available from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) at 1-800-470-6665, or www.nacac.org.
MYTH : Children in foster care have too much “baggage.”
TRUTH : This is perhaps the biggest myth of all. Children in foster care—just like all children—have enormous potential to thrive given love, patience and a stable environment. Just ask former U.S. Senator Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell or Minnesota Viking Dante Culpepper. They were both foster children who were adopted by caring adults.
MYTH : It’ s too difficult to find information on how to adopt.
TRUTH : There are resources available to help potential parents take the first step towards adopting out of foster care. For more information log on to www.nationaladoptionday.org, www.adoptuskids.org, or simply call 1-800-ASK-DTFA, www.davethomasfoundation.org.
MYTH : If you’re gay or lesbian, you can’t adopt.
TRUTH : Arizona allows gay or lesbian parents to adopt, and gay or lesbian married couples can adopt jointly.