One way is through adoption.
While there are several categories of adoptable children, at Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, we focus on the adoption of children in the Arizona foster care system.
Over our 32 year history, AASK has facilitated thousands of adoptions. We’ve learned a few things along the way.
A sense of permanency–knowing there are people who will always love you–is critical to any child’s development. Foster care is designed to be a temporary refuge for children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
The goal of the foster care system is ultimate to restore each child to permanency. Sometimes, foster care can lead to adoption. When this is the best outcome for the child, AASK is there to help with the adoption process.
The adoption process begins with a court-approved certification. Obtaining a certification for adoption requires meeting a few essential requirements such as being at least 21 years old to foster (18 to adopt), must be legal US and Arizona resident, all adult household members must pass a fingerprint-based criminal history records check and an approved home study.
The home study is essentially a comprehensive narrative about the family wishing to be certified. It includes elements that document financial stability, physical health and emotional preparedness to parent. Adoptive parents do not have to be married, own their home or have a designated sexual orientation.
From personal experience as former foster parent and an adoptive dad, I can tell you that an important quality every adoptive parent needs is commitment. Commitment to a long and intrusive process is just as important to as a willingness to make a commitment to a child. Especially when adopting children from the foster care system like my wife and I did thirty years ago.
Back then, and as it is now, we were asked all kinds of questions that nobody asked us before we made a baby. I can remember thinking, why does this social worker need to know so much about who I am, what I do, have done in the past, my philosophies on discipline and get character references when nobody seemed to care when we had our first two sons biologically?
Despite my second thoughts and occasional irritation with the process we pressed on and eventually became certified. Then the waiting for an adoptive placement began.
For a child to be “legally free” for adoption the legal rights of the biological parents of that child need to be either voluntarily relinquished or, as is the case with some children in the foster care system, be terminated through a legal process.
When one or more of the parents of a child in foster care still have their parental rights in place the court may see a path for the child to be reunified with them.
This creates what is referred to as a ‘legal risk’ or ‘high risk’ adoption. In other words, a parent’s legal rights that are still in place add a level of risk for the prospective adoptive family. Based on the adoptive family’s level of acceptance of this legal risk, along with their preferences for the child they want to adopt (i.e., age, gender, health conditions) affect how long they will wait for an adoptive placement.
For my wife and I, the wait for our third son was over a year. He was a “high risk” adoption and the roughly ten months we waited for him to be legally free for adoption was a trying time. Almost every time the phone rang, we wondered if it was the call telling us a judge decided to return him to his biological parent. Living with that possibility was emotionally draining at times and tested our commitment to the process. But we persevered and have never regretted it!
We at AASK, as well as with my four children - two of which are now on their own adoptive parent journey - celebrated with thousands of other adoptive parents and children during November's National Adoption Month. We celebrate not only the successful conclusion of the adoption process, but the fact that each child adopted now has a new ‘forever family.’ A family they have helped to build.
You can learn more about kids who are already legally free for adoption and waiting for an adoptive family at aask-az.org/meetthekids.
Editor’s note: Mr. Funk is the AASK community engagement director.