Adoption is the legal process that permanently gives parental rights to adoptive parents, and means giving a home and guided upbringing to a child who doesn't have that opportunity. Throughout the United States, more than 100,000 children and youth are in need of permanent adoptive families.
Any child under the age of 18, who is not an illegal alien and is present in the state at the time the petition for adoption is filed, is eligible for adoption in Arizona. The parents of the child must sign consents to adoption, unless under Arizona law their consent is unnecessary. A child's consent is necessary when the child is 12 years and older.
Compared to more liberal states, like California, Arizona has created relatively strict limitations on who may adopt. Any adult resident of Arizona, whether married, unmarried or legally separated, is eligible to qualify to adopt a child. However, the state law restricts unmarried or same sex couples from jointly adopting a child.
Investigators and social workers rigorously examine the backgrounds of potential adoptive parents in order to protect children and ensure a safe domestic environment. Before adoption approval, a certification study, or "home study," is conducted by either a licensed adoption agency, an officer of the court or the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Characteristics of a good adoptive parent include financial stability and dependability, the ability to advocate for children and the flexibility to remain friendly with your child's welfare worker.
There are four main types of adoptions in Arizona. The first is called a private or direct placement. With this type of adoption, birth parents choose who they would like to adopt their child, and give their full consent. Typically, in these types of cases, children are adopted directly out of the hospital and put into the custody of the adoptive parents.
The second type of adoption is an open adoption. An open adoption is similar to a private or direct placement, in that there is communication between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The biggest difference is that there is a much greater level of openness after the exchange occurs, when it comes to an open adoption. This generally means that the birth parents have not relinquished all of their rights, and may later be open to set up meetings with their birth child. There are also semi-open adoption options in which the adoptive parents set strict guidelines that limit the contact that the birth parents have with the adopted child.
Agency adoptions are those in which birth parents release their parental rights to a licensed adoption agency. Most of Arizona's contracted licensing agencies charge an $800 certification fee. This fee is reimbursed to the individual or family who is adopting once a waiting Arizona child from the U.S. foster care system is placed in their home, making the adoption process essentially free of charge.
Finally, adopting a stepchild is likely the most common form of adoption in the United States. This is when the legally married spouse or registered domestic partner of a child's biological parent adopts a child. This type of adoption process is slightly simpler than the other categories since one of the parties is the child's birth parent.