Adoption | video length: 10 mnutes
All right, you've made it to the adoption chapter of the AZDCS orientation video. We know this may seem like a lot of information, but you're doing great.
And if you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out to AZDCS. They are super nice and helpful, and they can answer your questions in English and Spanish.
In fact, Toni is one of them, and she is going to tell us some important things to know about adoption.
Adoption is a permanent legal decision approved by the court that makes you the child's legal parent. Adoption gives you the same rights and responsibilities you have for a biological child. Children in foster care are available for adoption only after the birth parents’ rights have been terminated by the court. In selecting an adoptive family for a child, AZDCS looks for a family that can best meet the needs of the child. We do not match children and families, we match families to children. Arizonans who want to adopt must meet certain criteria, and depending on the relationship with the child, may be required to be certified by the court.
The following are certification requirements to become an adoptive parent:
You must be at least 18 years of age and be present in the United States legally.
You can be single or married.
If you're married, both parties in the marriage must complete all adoption certification requirements.
You will have to pass an FBI and local criminal background check and have a level one fingerprint clearance card issued by the Department of Public Safety.
In addition, you will participate in an extensive interview process with an agency adoption worker, pass a home safety inspection and be medically qualified by a healthcare professional.
Finally, you must be able to meet your living expenses.
Once you've been selected as a child's potential adoptive parent, a transition plan will be created with your team. Transitional visits begin so you and the child can get to know each other. These visits typically begin with a couple of hours and then gradually expand to full-day and overnight and weekends until the child moves in with your family. However, this is just a suggested timeline. AZDCS allows the child to guide the length of the transition time. Typically a child will live with an adoptive family for at least six months before a petition to adopt is filed with the court.
We want to make sure you know being licensed to foster is not a requirement for adoption. However, it may help you better understand the needs of the children in foster care. If you intend to adopt, certification is the only way you can seek placement of a child who is legally free for adoption. There is no foster-to-adopt licensing category. The purpose of foster care is to temporarily care for a child until the child is able to reunify with their parent. If a child is not able to reunify with their parents, the caregiver may have an opportunity to adopt the child. Relative placements are sought throughout the process, and approximately half of the children placed in foster care find permanency with a relative. Please remember that children of all ages need permanency. To learn more about children that are currently available for adoption, please visit childrensheartgallery.org.
Hopefully, that cleared up some questions you may have had.
Thanks, Toni. You should also know that sibling groups and teenagers, like me, are in the most need of adoptive parents. Let's hear a firsthand experience with Keri, who recently adopted children through the AZDCS Children's Heart Gallery. And while you do that, I'm going to try firsthand experience with some ice cream.
Nice! Me too!
Hi. I'm Keri, and I adopted a sibling group of three from foster care in the state of Arizona. Which honestly, I never thought I'd say something like that. But here we are, through this journey that started with a bunch of little decisions and ended up with the biggest and best decision of my life.
My husband and I were wanting to have children and were at a point of considering different routes, whether it was going to be fertility treatment or pursuing adoption, and had no clue where to start. But as we started to do our research, we realized maybe we could take this desire we have to have kids and match it with a need here in our home state of Arizona, and I’m so grateful that we chose this route.
I didn't know that it was possible to specifically want to adopt. And I know there's many many families and a great need for families who can support reunification through foster care, but there's also a need for families who are looking to open up their homes for a permanent new addition. And for us, we thought, well, we'll go in, we'll get one kid under the age of two so they won't have too much memory of early negative experiences. But as we took the classes, and as we learned more about typical childhood development, the effects of trauma on the brain and all these amazing resources that are presented as you pursue this path, we decided we wanted to open our home to at least two kids. Then, at the last minute, my husband was talking to our licensing worker, and she said, "Okay, so two kids maybe age nine and under?" And my husband said, "I could do three!" So I said, "Sure! Threaten me with a good time!" And sure enough, we wound up on the adoption registry looking for a sibling set of three.
Within a month of having our adoption certification complete, we were matched with the most amazing, wonderful children who are smart and talented and funny and had been through so much in their little lives. When we first got to know them, they were ages two, three and five. And our son had been separated from his sisters because his behaviors were pretty extreme based on some of the things they'd experienced. And so, the first step was getting them to reacclimate to each other as they got to reunify in our home, and that really formed the stable base of support for them to learn and grow and move on with their lives. There are moments when they're playing on a playground and laughing and doing normal kid things that feel so rewarding because I know where they came from and what they've been through, and I can see that it hasn't impeded the joy that's in their hearts.
When you adopt a child from foster care through the Arizona Department of Child Safety, you can expect a lot of support from the staff members and other organizations. In addition, you'll find all kinds of support groups to help you along through the journey of adoption. When adopting a child through AZDCS, there's little to no cost. You may receive an adoption subsidy, which is based on the child's needs and health benefits. That's something we were completely surprised to learn. You will also be able to participate in the sibling information exchange program and confidential intermediary program through the courts to provide a contact between parties of adoption so you can stay anonymous. Finally, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit for adoption-related expenses.
As you've heard, being an adoptive parent takes work. In the upfront, with planning and paperwork and ongoing, to be a successful parent to your adoptive child. But it has been the greatest blessing of my life. I am so glad I made the decision to adopt. I hope you'll consider doing the same.
Wow! What a great story.
And who knew there were so many support programs for adoptive parents?
I didn't, and the people watching probably didn't either. You can visit the Children's Heart Gallery to learn more about adopting a child from foster care through AZDCS. Now that we have all the information about foster care, kinship and adoption, we're excited and ready to go. It's time to pick a foster or adoption agency. So Rosanna, which one should they pick?
Whichever one has the best ice cream?
Maybe not the worst strategy. But, we have Joseph here to tell us more and give the viewers some pointers on picking the agency that's right for them.
Hi. My name is Joseph and I'm a licensing and adoption specialist. AZDCS contracts with a number of licensing agencies, but the agencies may vary by county. It's important to find an agency that is contracted to work in the county where you live. Choosing your licensing agency is the beginning of a long-term, mutual relationship. They'll be asking you a lot of questions and diving deep into your family core values and history while frequently visiting your home. Every agency has different philosophies, requirements and restrictions that make their support of your family unique. If you haven't selected an agency yet, AZDCS has created a digital experience that will help you find the agency that is the perfect fit for you at azdcs.gov/GetStarted. For answers to your questions about selecting an agency or in general support through your foster and adoption journey, call us at 1-877-KIDS-NEED-U (1-877-543-7633).
There are so many great agencies to choose from in Arizona.
The AZDCS website is a good place to start to find the agency that is right for you.
Congratulations! You've just watched the AZDCS foster, kinship and adoption orientation video. Before you go, Rosanna and I want to thank you for being generous with your time and spending it learning how to help foster children in Arizona. AZDCS and the licensing agency partners are here to help you through the process of becoming a caregiver to help children in foster care. If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to reach out. We hope you continue the journey to become a caregiver of children in foster care. You’ll have an incredible impact on the life of Arizona children in need, and they will change your life for the better. Visit azdcs.gov/foster for more information.
Jesse & Rosanna 31:00