The great thing about living in the United States is the diversity of people, cultures, languages, geography, thought, and religion. Arizona is a microcosm of America. If you are looking to complete an adoption, do it in Arizona! Though Arizona is located in the Great Southwest, there is a great variety here. The same could be said about the kinds of adoptions that are available here. Not only are there a great variety of adoption options in Arizona, but there is also a child-centered approach to caring for kids and meeting them where they are. Take a look!
Who is eligible for adoption in Arizona?
If you are an adult in relatively good shape who can provide a safe, healthy, and thriving environment for a child, and can pass a background check, you would likely be approved as an adoptive parent! Here are some details about the requirements for adoptive parents in the state of Arizona.
- Age Requirements. In Arizona, the minimum age requirement to adopt is 18 years of age. There is no maximum age to adopt, but you will need to be in good health. The age range of children who are available to be adopted is 0 to 17 years of age. Under special circumstances, adults may also be adopted until the month before they turn 22. It’s just as important to adopt older children because many youth transitioning into adult life fail without a permanent family.
- Background Checks. You will need to pass a series of background checks if you would like to adopt. This varies from agency to agency. Background checks require the following things:
- Fingerprinting. You will need to be fingerprinted if you wish to adopt. This assures that the child is being placed in the safest environment possible. If you have minor misdemeanors, you may be able to appeal. But larger crimes may block you from adopting. If you adopt through the foster care system, you will need to obtain a Level One Fingerprint Clearance Card, which goes to the FBI for clearance.
- Criminal History Self Disclosure. This is an affidavit that lists all possible crimes and charges in the state of Arizona. Your notarized signature attests to the fact that you have not committed any of the listed crimes.
- Child Protective Services Clearance Record. This is a background check that confirms whether you have any substantiated Child Protective services allegations against you. This is conducted in Arizona as well as other states.
- Driving record. Some agencies may run a Department of Public Service check on you to determine any moving violations against you. This is not required by the state.
What types of adoptions are there in Arizona?
The decision to adopt is not exactly like choosing a box of cereal in an aisle of the local supermarket. Many couples think of choosing a child that is best for them and that meets their needs. In reality, the best adoption agencies are those that are child-centered; they choose the best family for the child. There are many different types of adoptions that make that happen.
- Private Infant Adoption. This is when an expectant mom, possibly experiencing a crisis pregnancy, is matched with a promising family who is a good match for her child. This is completed either with or without an adoption agency but must include an attorney. This can take place if the mom and the adoptive family know one another beforehand, or it could be as the result of a match facilitated through an adoption agency. This costs nothing to the mother; the adoption fees are paid to the agency or attorney by the adoptive family. It could cost upwards of $40,000 to adopt privately. The adoptive family will need to become certified to adopt in Arizona if they wish to adopt a non-relative.
- Foster care adoption. Every year, half a million kids in America end up in foster care, and about 100,000 of them become free to adopt. In 2016, there was a peak of about 18,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system with 4,000 of those being free to adopt. Children in foster care are almost always there through no fault of their own (due to abuse, neglect or abandonment). Foster care adoption is the process of adopting a child from the foster care system. The adoptive family must become licensed through the State of Arizona to foster but does not need to be certified to adopt through their county of residence. The biggest need in Arizona is to adopt older kids, teens, and large sibling groups. Foster care adoption in Arizona costs $0 to nothing, and licensing could take as little as four to six months with the Department of Child Safety’s Office of Licensing and Regulation. The child(ren) will need to be in the home of an adoptive family a minimum of six months before finalization can be considered.
- Kinship Adoption. Also known as Relative Adoption, kinship adoption takes place when a relative chooses to adopt a family member. This benefits all parties involved. Kinship adoption costs nothing to either party. The kinship family does not need to be certified and may not need additional training. Kinship adoptions can be completed privately or through the foster care system. The child(ren) will need to be in the home a minimum of three months before finalization can be considered.
- Fictive adoption. This is when a close friend chooses to adopt a child he or she already has a relationship with. This can be a teacher, a coach, a pastor, or a family friend. The advantage of this is that the child is not being adopted by a stranger but someone who already knows his or her strengths, needs, and behaviors. The adoptive parent will already have an advantage in meeting the child’s needs.
What team do you need to complete an adoption in Arizona?
Have you ever been part of a great athletic team? Whether it was baseball, basketball, softball, or volleyball, there is nothing like being a member of a winning team! If you want to succeed in adoption, you need a good team around you. Let’s face it. Adoption is a team sport! Even though you will be raising the child, you cannot do it alone. The more support you have and the more support the child has, the more successful the adoption will be before, during, and after placement. So, what superstars do you need to draft to make Adoption Arizona a great team? Keep reading.
- Adoption Agency. The first member you will need to draft is the adoption agency. The adoption agency is full of professionals who will walk you through the process. They will take you through the application process, which includes background checks and interviews and references. They will write your home study report, which is a written summary of your eligibility to adopt. They will help you develop an adoption profile, which is a short statement describing your family, lifestyle, and values; this will be posted to their website so expectant moms can read and compare it to other profiles. They will also provide matches to children who you may be able to care for. Adoption agencies will also provide other resources to make your adoption process easier.
If you choose not to adopt privately, you may want to choose one of the dozens of foster care-adoption agencies in Arizona. They do everything a private adoption agency does, however these agencies sub-contract with the state of Arizona to not only complete adoptions, but also to complete foster care licensing. If you choose this option, some of the team members are the same while others are different.
- The first teammate you will need is a Trainer. This person is an all-star who will safely guide you through the Arizona Child Welfare system called the Department of Child Safety. They will give you an overview of the Behavioral Health System that helps with counseling. They will also teach you about the foster care system, explaining why kids are in foster care in the first place, and what the systems’ goals are. The trainers use a curriculum called Foster Parent College, which is a hybrid course of online learning and face-to-face classroom learning that takes roughly 30 hours to complete.
- Social Worker. The next teammate you will need is the foster-adopt Social Worker. This superstar will help you with the licensing process, which also includes a Physician’s Statement and a Life Safety Inspection. The total time it takes to become a licensed foster-adopt parent varies from case to case and from family to family and from agency to agency. But barring any unusual circumstances, it could take about four to six months to become licensed.
- Attorneys and Lawyers. Yes, you will need to have legal representation if you want to complete a legal adoption. They will help complete the needed documents, including the Adoption Certification, the Petition to Adopt, and the Order of Adoption. Your attorney can also help you negotiate a Post-Adoption Communication Agreement, if necessary. Attorneys file these documents in court and represent you in all matters. They help a lot when you hit bumps along the way.
- Judges. All legal documents are reviewed and approved by the judge. Very rarely does a judge deny any court filings unless there is an administrative error; if the adoption agency, the attorney, and all other interested parties agree, the judge usually signs off on all court filings. The Finalization of Adoption is a special day when the family, the child, the team, and all other invited parties witness the final court hearing. This can happen in the courtroom, the judge’s chambers, or even virtually (if the circumstances call for it). In Arizona, the finalization can happen at any time throughout the year, but sometimes people like to coordinate the event with special occasions like National Adoption Day or National Foster Parent Appreciation Day.
- Additional teams. Your adoption day is special and does not spell the end but the beginning of a unique relationship. Because many of these children have gone through trauma, there may need to be additional teams to support you and the child on the Adoption Arizona team. Here are a few:
- Child and Family Team (CFT). This is a team started in the foster care process that helps address concerns of the family in the care of the child. This team usually does not continue after adoption.
- Individualized Education Plan Team (IEP). This is a team of educational professionals that assist children with learning disabilities. The IEP develops a plan to modify learning to help the child. This plan may contain strategies to help the child develop coping mechanisms if they have emotional or developmental delays.
- Individualized Support Plan Team (ISP). This team is specifically for families who have fostered, adopted, or gained guardianship of a child with Developmental Disabilities. This team assists the child in learning new skills, charts growth and delays, and develops safety plans or Behavioral Treatment Plans as needed.
What makes adoption in Arizona unique?
There are some additional considerations to bear in mind if you wish to adopt in Arizona.
- AHCCCS. Every child adopted through the foster care system receives a form of Medicaid insurance. This is called the Arizona Health Care Cost and Containment System (AHCCCS). This can be used for physical, mental, or behavioral health treatment. There are also laws that protect adopted children who need to use the behavioral health system in Arizona, even after an adoption is finalized. For foster children, AHCCCS is the primary insurance, but after adoption, AHCCCS could become secondary.
- ICWA. Arizona has large and vibrant Native American Communities. They have a rich history and vibrant culture. If you are also Native American and wish to adopt a child from one of these communities, the process is simple. However, if you are non-native, this may be more difficult. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) protects Native American children who are going to be placed for foster care and adoption by non-native parents.
- ICPC. The Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children (ICPC) regulates children who are placed for foster care across state lines. This process is a bit longer than other adoptions in Arizona, but the work and time put into it is well worth it if you wish to adopt a child in another state.
Whatever choice you make, do it for the right reasons and with the child in mind. There are a variety of adoption options in Arizona but also a variety of children with different needs. Choose the child who you can best care for. Meet them where they are. Meet their needs. You may not be able to change the world, but you can change the world for one child. Take a chance and call an adoption agency today! GO TEAM ADOPTION ARIZONA!