Road to Adoption

It has almost been two years since we decided it was time to expand our family.  In the beginning, we were unsure of what to expect nor did we know what ages or gender would be a best fit for our little family.  We realized that it could take a very long time and so, even though every aspect of our life was not ready for a child, we decided to begin the preparations necessary so we would be ready when the right child came along.

This blog is to, hopefully, help others who are contemplating a similar path and are wondering what is involved and what the steps are to complete an adoption.

The first decision was a fairly easy one for us, private or public (state) adoption.  Since we did not have our hearts set on a baby and there are hundreds of children in Arizona alone who are looking for a permanent home, a public adoption, we decided, was the best option for us.

1.  Orientation

The first step in a state adoption is to attend an orientation.  For Arizona, you can find a list of these on the web at: https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=102&id=1628

Otherwise, look up your own state on: www.AdoptUSkids.org

In Arizona it does not matter at what agency you choose to attend the orientation, if it is a state sponsored agency they are required give you the appropriate materials that include the initial application.

2.  Choose an Agency

After an inital orientation, our next step was to fill out an application for fostering and adopting in Arizona, during which we were required to choose an an agency that would represent us as a family and act as our liason to the Department of Economic Security.

HINT: Do your homework on the agency you chose! Your agency will not only license you but also will represent you during court proceedings and red file meetings (when placement is being contemplated).  Here are some important questions to ask:

  1.  Is it affiliated with a specific religious agency or whose bylaws preclude non-traditional families? While this may not be of concern to some, for us it was a large issue as we needed to ensure our agency was not only prepared to represent a non-traditional family but also willing and well equiped to do so in a state with laws that are currently non-adventageous for same sex couples. 
  2. What are the times of the orientation classes?  Many agencies only offer weekday classes so make sure you can commit to over a period of time, – 10 weeks in our case – before you decide.
  3. What type of adoptions do they specialize in?  Some only work with special needs kids or within a specific religious organization.

After the agency receives your application expect a call from an agency representative for a personal meeting and interview.

HINT: It is important to note here that a lot of public adoption agencies are not paid by the state until they make a successful placement. This meeting is a two-way interview whereas they are seeing if the prospective family fits their needs and prospective families should ensure they are comfortable that the agency can do the same. It is crucial that prospective families are honest in their answers as well as their “gut feelings” about the agency during these meetings. Prospective families and their agencies are tied together for a long time during this process so it is imperative that each are a good fit.

We chose AASK, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, as our agency for our public adoption in Arizona. We chose this agency as our agency of record as they were not only equiped to meet the needs of us as a non-traditional same-sex couple, but they excel in it. They also had a very successful placement rate, were publicly known in Phoenix for their efforts in foster care and adoption and had a class schedule that fit our personal needs.

www.AASK.org

3.  Classes

While each state laws vary, in Arizona we were required to enroll in a series of 36 (30 state sponsored and six hours agency sponsored)  hours worth of classes.  In our case, the majority of the classes were focused on fostering children through the state system and the program was sponsored by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) with a minor focus on straight adoption and fost-adopt; a program in which you foster a child with a concurrent plan of separation for their parents.   Our state required that every class be attended with allowance for two absenses in which a participant had to find a make-up class to attend before recieving a license from the state.

HINT: Depending on the type of state sponsored program, there is typically a large fee required due to the adoption agency. This fee is typically refundable after a placement and is a “good will” fee ensuring the commitment of prospective families.  In Arizona there is also a $12,000 + fee if you would like to be placed on the birth mother registry. This fee is not refundable but can be applied as a tax deduction one year after a successful placement.

4.  Home Inspection

While we were taking the classes we were also preparing for the home inspection.  This is a very strict inspection that assures your house is safe for children.  The inspection, which is done by both state and agency, include such things as:

  • Five foot pool fence with no opening more than four inches (if you have a pool and will be eligible to have children below six).
  • All medicine, alcohol and cleaners in locked cupboards.
  • Fire detectors in all rooms, Carbon Monoxide detectors on each floor and large fire extinguisher on all floors.
  • Non slip bath surfaces.
  • General safe environment.

5. Paperwork

Be prepared for lots of paperwork because there will be lots of it. While each state’s requirements can vary, here are some things to consider starting early as they may they can take a while. A good foster/adoption agency will have these forms ready for you at the outset of the process and will run traps on checking them for completeness and submitting them.

  • Fingerprint clearance card
  • References (each reference has a comprehensive report to fill out and send in to the agency)
  • Copies of pay stubs, insurance cards (vehicle and personal), social security cards, birth certificates, vehicle registration and many more items as required by your state and agency.
  • Detailed history of each family member.
  • Detailed history of family interaction and norms.

6.  Odds and Ends

In addition to the classes and state-mandated coursed, home study meetings with your agency rep. (family specialist) may also be required and include identifying they types of family make up you wish to undertake including:

  • The type of program you wish to enter. Options for us included adoption, foster care, respite care (watching kids when foster families must leave town), fost-adopt or any combination.
  • How many children are you willing foster or adopt?
  • The age of the child/children you are willing to take in your house?
  • What are the physical or mental needs that you are or are not willing to take?
  • What special considerations, if any, are you willing to make as it relates to a child?

HINT: During our process we changed our minds multiple times on family make up and program. It is a natural part of the process and it is important to be honest with yourself during the process to ensure a successful placement for both the child/children and you.  It is especially important to know that once you are state licensed, any changes to age, needs and number of children may require a change to your license and require a re-submission to the courts for re-licensinc.  Other considerations are appropriate bedding and rooms to meet legal requirements for the license (enough rooms, beds vs. cribs, etc).  

A note to same-sex couples:

While some states have laws in which adoption preferences are granted to married heterosexual couples (sadly, Arizona is among these states) we have been told that these laws are merely an inconvience in which to be worked around.  Don’t let it hinder your desire to foster or adopt.   The caseworkers and child reps will fight for the child to be sent to the home that is a best fit for them, end of story.  There are too many children out there to deny them a loving home, so don’t let ignorance deter you.

 

 

 

 

Our biggest piece of advice is to start talking openly and honestly about what your expectations are and what the challenges may be.  As with any major undertaking, there will be ups and downs, so make sure this is something every member of the household desires.  Our advice, which mirrors the advice of many who have come before us on this path to adoption, is to talk to as many people as possible who have undertaken foster care and/or adoption. Expect to hear both stories that will raise your spirits high and tales that would give nightmares to even the most militant of families and know that your truth is yet to be told.

Here we are today, almost two years, thousands of dollars and endless hours of effort into the process  knowing, while we don’t have a child yet, the right one is waiting for us as we wait for them.   We wish you luck on your endeavor.

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