Are you interested in adopting a child in Oklahoma? There are a lot of similarities between states when it comes to adoption, but there are a lot of differences, too.
The practice of adoption dates back as far as ancient Rome when passing on your family name to a male child was significant. Families would use adoption to ensure that their assets and inheritance was passed to a male heir. Both boys and girls were adopted to affluent families, though women were less valuable, as their rights to inherit fortunes were limited. They were, however, still able to be wed to influential families. Adoption practices continued throughout the world during the middle ages and onto the modern period when adoption began to be used as a way to create a family. As the United States grew, immigration increased, and the Civil War came to an end, the number of orphans increased. With this increase of misplaced children, adoption agencies began to emerge and laws were formed to protect children from lives of servitude.
President Theodore Roosevelt hosted the First White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children in 1909 where the vision for child welfare in the United States began to be cultivated. As time has progressed, adoption practices and laws have passed to further protect children in foster care and through private adoption.
1. Adoption Laws in Oklahoma
Continued adjustments and advancements to adoption law and culture are present in Oklahoma. In 1997, The New Oklahoma Adoption Code was passed. In it, it states:
“… the Committee recognized that the right to participate in the rearing of one’s child is deemed fundamental and must be afforded special protection under the Federal Constitution. Thus, another important objective was to ensure that the Oklahoma Adoption Code provided procedural and substantive protections for birth parents. New provisions in the Code include detailed requirements for the contents of permanent relinquishment and consent forms and accompanying judicial certifications, which are included in an effort to ensure that a birth parent’s consent or relinquishment is both informed and voluntary.”
This is just one example of the ongoing adjustments to adoption laws in Oklahoma to ensure that all parties involved in the adoption of a child are represented and given appropriate rights. In the case of any adoption, the consent of the biological parents is required, unless the parents’ rights have been terminated or the parents have died. In Oklahoma, adoption proceedings can take place in the county where the child being adopted lives or in the county where the hopeful adoptive parents reside. If the hopeful adoptive parents are married, both the husband and wife must be legally involved in the adoption process. To adopt a child in Oklahoma, the hopeful adoptive family must have a completed home study and wait six months before the adoption is finalized.
2. Foster Care
Foster Care in Oklahoma is done through Oklahoma Human Services. Oklahoma Human Services works closely with biological families to provide resources that will help families to stay together with reunification as the goal. Children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care for his or her safety and protection. While families work toward unification, children are placed with a resource family (foster family). The resource family is the “bridge that connects the child and the family while working toward unification.” If the court decides that reunification is not in the best interest of the child, parental rights are terminated. Oftentimes, the resource family adopts the children that are in their homes.
Children in care that are waiting for adoption in Oklahoma range in age from infants to 17 years old. Many of them have special needs, are a part of a sibling group, are from various ethnic backgrounds, and have medical, physical, and/or emotional needs.
“Resource Family” or “Bridge Resource Family” are common terms used in Oklahoma when referring to the foster family.
To become a licensed Bridge Resource Parent, you must complete 27 hours of training, complete a home study, and pass fingerprint background checks. Other requirements include a medical evaluation of both parents, verification of marriages and divorces, a family life-book, and recommendations from references If you are adopting a child in Oklahoma through the OKDHS Adoption Services, adoption times vary depending on how long the child or children have been in your home. OKDHS Adoption Services speak of wait time to adopt a child in care saying:
“If you are identified as a Bridge Resource Parent, have a relationship with the child placed in your home and reunification is no longer the goal, the adoption can take less than 6 months once the termination of parental rights have occurred and all legal matters have been resolved. If you are a Bridge Resource Parent that has a specific preference for the child you would like to adopt, such as age, sex, no siblings, if could take a longer period of time. Your family will have a great chance of adopting quicker if you choose a waiting child rather than an infant or the ‘perfect’ child.”
Being a foster parent comes with its set of challenges but can also be very rewarding. When working with foster care, it is important to remember that the primary goal of the foster care system in any state is reunification. The younger the child, the more time the biological family has to work their services and have the child placed back in their home. As a foster parent, you will be responsible for coordinating visits, medical appointments, childcare, and other needs for the child. It is important to be prepared for the chance that the child isn’t placed in your home forever. The older the child, though, the more likely the parental rights have been terminated and the more likely they will be able to be adopted.
If you are interested in becoming a Bridge Resource Family in Oklahoma, you can contact OKDHS Adoption Services for more information.
3. Waiting Children
If your preferences to adopt a child are not limited to age, Oklahoma has children that are waiting to be adopted. Waiting children are children that have been in the foster system, have had their parental rights terminated, and are still waiting on a forever home. Most of these children are older in age. It is also common that waiting children have emotional and behavioral needs that are often significant. To view available kids, you can visit the Heart Gallery of America and the Oklahoma Heart Gallery. To adopt a waiting child, you would be licensed as a foster parent in Oklahoma. After the child has been in your home for 6-12 months, the adoption can be finalized.
The Oklahoma Heart Galley “uses the power of photography to raise awareness, inspire communities, and recruit adoptive families for Oklahoma’s legally free children.” They work with photographers that donate their time and talents to take pictures of precious children that are in need of a home. Their website says, “Through our traveling exhibit and online gallery, we help introduce communities to children who need forever families. Each child’s smile, personality, and unique spirit are showcased in beautiful, professional photographs. For prospective supporters and families, these images can spark a life-changing connection. Foster children who are featured in the Heart Gallery are three times more likely to be adopted.”
Many of the kids on the Heart Gallery are ready and willing to find a forever home.
4. Private Adoption
If you would like to adopt through private adoption in Oklahoma, there are some things you need to know. In Oklahoma, you must be 21 or older to adopt, unless you or your spouse is a relative of the child. Adoption is available for LGBT families in Oklahoma. In many states, advertising for adoption is not allowed. However, Oklahoma allows adoptive parents with an active home study to advertise the adoption. Anything that might give the impression of trafficking children is strictly prohibited. When adopting a child in Oklahoma, adoption facilitators can be used, but the State Department, a licensed child-placing agency, or an attorney are the only parties that can act as an intermediary in the placement of a child.
Oftentimes, birth mothers need financial support to ensure their physical and mental health during the pregnancy and soon after. Approved support for birth mothers includes medical, legal, counseling and birth-related necessities after the birth mother has contact the agency or attorney. Assistance with car payments, car repairs, or furniture are not allowed. If the cost of these needs exceeds $500, they must be pre-approved in court. In Oklahoma, post-adoption contact agreements are legally enforceable. Once the adoption is finalized in front of a judge, consent becomes irrevocable.
A putative father is a man who is unmarried to a child’s birth mother and is assumed to be the father of the child. In the case of a putative father, a statement must be sent to the father to inform him that the mother is making an adoption plan for the child. It is the suspected father’s responsibility to reply to this notice to request a paternity test or request that the court keeps him updated on the status of the adoption. It is the responsibility of the adoption agency or attorney of the hopeful adoptive family to present all of this information to the putative father and his responsibility to take any desired action within thirty days.
An expectant mother and father are able to go before a judge before the birth of their child and request temporary custody for their child after birth to a prospective adoptive family. The law states:
“A prebirth request … for an order of temporary custody shall not be construed to be a consent to the adoption of the minor or a permanent relinquishment of the minor. Until such time as a consent or permanent relinquishment is signed by [birth parents,] the [birth parents] may apply to the court at any time to vacate the order of temporary custody. Upon such application, the court shall set aside the temporary custody order and order that the minor be returned to the parent.”
Most private, domestic adoptions are done for infants. This type of adoption is most common in the United States.
5. Special Needs Adoptions, Stepparent Adoptions, and Relative Adoptions
When considering adopting a child in Oklahoma, there are a variety of other types of adoptions that are done including, but not limited to special needs adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and relative adoptions.
Adopting a child with special needs is an amazing thing and the system is set up in a way to provide support for hopeful adoptive parents of children with special needs. Children with special needs are adopted through a state agency, an Indian Nation child welfare department, or a private agency that specializes in and is licensed for special needs adoptions. Oftentimes, adoption subsidies are available to help adopted children with special needs. Depending on the need of the child, this subsidy often covers the medical care and a stipend to support therapies and other needs until the child is 18. If adopting a child with special needs is something you are interested in, reach out to a state agency, an Indian Nation child welfare department, or a private agency for more information about the trainings and support that they offer for hopeful adoptive families of children with disabilities.
A stepparent adoption must go through an attorney. This process is often less complicated than an adoption through foster care or private adoption. Oftentimes, the home study requirement can be waived. For the adoption to be approved, the “non-custodial parent must consent to the adoption or the rights of the non-custodial parent must be terminated because the court has determined that the non-custodial parent has failed significantly in his or her parental responsibilities.”
In the case of a relative adoption is very similar. The process must go through an attorney, private agency, or Indian Nation.
Whatever path you decide to take to adopt a child in Oklahoma, the end result is the same: your family and capacity to love will grow.
For Expectant Parents
If you have found yourself in an unplanned pregnancy, you might be feeling overwhelmed, lost, and scared. There are many resources available to you to help you through the process. First, realize that you have choices. You can choose to parent your child or place your child for adoption. If deciding to place your child for adoption, you will want to find an adoption agency to work with. An adoption agency will support you throughout the process. Treat this as an interview process. Call around and ask questions to decide if the agency is a good fit for you. A good agency will provide you counseling services before and after your baby is born. They will walk you through the process of medical care resources, financial assistance, and legal resources. They will help you to choose the best family to place your child with. Look for an agency that puts the needs of birth mothers and their children at the forefront of their work.
Remember that you know your child better than anyone and you know what is best for him/her. Trust your maternal instinct and trust that you will ultimately do what is best for your child.