What Is Foster Adoption?
According to the Missouri Children’s Division FY 2020 Report by the Missouri Department of Social Services, about 1,740 adoptions were finalized in Missouri in the fiscal year 2020. Adoption offers an opportunity through which families can accept children in need of a home, family, consistent love, and care.
Foster children adoption is the process of adopting a child through the foster care system as opposed to private adoption, which is done through a private adoption agency. If you are considering adopting a foster child in Missouri, it is important that you consult with a knowledgeable Missouri family law attorney for detailed guidance and legal representation.
For more than 20 years, Attorney Summer Masterson-Goethals of Masterson Law has been providing comprehensive legal guidance and compassionate representation to clients in a variety of family law cases. As an experienced Missouri family law attorney, she can review your unique situation of foster child adoption case and help you understand your available legal options.
Our law firm proudly serves adoptive families throughout Springfield, MO, and the surrounding communities. If you are considering growing your family with Missouri adoption support groups through the foster care system, our professional team can guide you through every step of the adoption process, including the assessment process and free training, and ensure that it is smooth, legal, and successful.
Missouri Foster Care Adoption Requirements
Foster care adoption in the state of Missouri requires a thorough evaluation of the prospective adoptive family. The prospective foster/adoptive parents may have any marital status as long as they meet the following established requirements:
- Must be older than 21 years of age
- Both physically and mentally healthy enough to take up parental responsibility
- Pass a criminal record check, including child abuse and neglect check
- Have a stable income or be financially capable of supporting the child
- Must be willing to work with the child’s birth family when required
- Live in a safe home that meets the state’s standards
Foster parents don’t have legal the same rights as birth parents, and decision-making can be shared between the agency, foster parents, and, in some cases, birth parents. However, they have to act in the best interest of the children in their care.
Although reunification with the birth mother or birth father is the primary goal of foster care, foster parents are sometimes asked to enter the adoption proceedings if returning to the birth family is not possible. If that occurs, foster children gain the same family rights as biological children and become full members of these Missouri families.
In a Missouri step-parent adoption, the parent must be legally married to the child’s legal parent for at least six months prior to the adoption. To find out more about this option and whether you meet the requirements, do not hesitate to contact a skilled family law attorney.
How to Find Foster Kids for Adoption in Missouri
In the state of Missouri, children whose parents are physically abusive, neglectful, unable to care for them, or struggling with addiction are put into the foster care system. In a move to reunite the child with the child’s family, the Missouri court will work with a caseworker to establish a reunification plan with the child’s parent and help them reach a place where they can provide their child with a safe home.
However, should the parent be unable to complete or follow the terms and conditions of the unification plan, their parental rights will be terminated. Once done, the child will be eligible for foster care adoption legally in the state and be considered as waiting for children for foster care.
The state may attempt to find family and friends to adopt the child and give them a forever home. However, if no relative is willing to take the child in or none was found, the child may be adopted by the foster parent. So, if anyone files the request for foster adoption, the court will consider it for the well-being of both the person and the child.
What Are the Steps Involved in a Missouri Foster Adoption?
Every foster care adoption is unique. The process usually varies depending on the child’s circumstances, as well as the parents’ preferred adoption method. For instance, adopting a waiting child from foster care is different from fostering to adopt in Missouri.
Your Missouri family law attorney can help you better understand this, but here are the basic steps involved in a foster adoption:
Determine Your Goals
As a potential adoptive parent, you have three options within the foster care system:
- Be a temporary foster parent
- Foster to adopt
- Adopt from foster care without being a foster parent
By considering your options, you can determine your goals. This will help you decide the next steps to take.
Contact an Adoption Agency
Next, reach out to a public adoption agency or professional to help with your adoption. There are several foster care agencies in Missouri. Ensure that you learn about the adoption agency’s adoption requirements, specific program, and other additional services to help you make informed decisions.
Prospective adoptive parents are usually required to attend orientation and pre-adoption parenting classes. The training may be in the form of any of these:
- PS-MAPP (Permanence and Safety-Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting)
- PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education)
Submit Your Application
Once you feel ready to begin the process, you will need to submit your application for foster care adoption. In your application, you can include relevant information about yourself, your life, as well as your experience with children. The foster care adoption agency will conduct a background check, child neglect, and child abuse checks. All these checks must be performed before your application can be approved.
Complete the Home Study
On submitting your application for foster adoption, the agency will carry out a comprehensive background check and a home study. Through the home study, the adoption agency will get to know more about your life and your family. This is to ensure that your home is safe enough for the child.
After your home study has been approved, the Missouri adoption agency will need you to sign a contract. Upon signing, you will be matched with a child.
After matching you with a child and before the adoption is finalized, the adoption agency will keep in touch with you for a period. This is often done to make certain that the adoptive placement is successful. You are within your rights to voice concerns about the placement at any time.
Finalizing a foster adoption process involves certain legal requirements. In some cases, the foster and adoptive parents may be asked to attend the adoption hearing. An experienced lawyer can help review your application and ensure that the adoption is legal and in compliance with applicable state laws.
Under Missouri laws, the foster care adoption agencies are required to offer counseling services to foster parents and adoptive children once the adoption has been finalized.
How Long Is a Child in Foster Care Before Adoption in Missouri?
Children in foster care are legally available for adoption once the Missouri court has terminated the birth parent’s parental rights. This means that the exact timeline can vary significantly depending on the unique circumstances of the situation of the foster/adoptive families and the children.
The process of terminating parental rights can be quite lengthy and complicated. This option is only considered after the court has made full efforts to safely reunite the children with their birth parents. While some parents may willingly give up their rights, others may be involved in a more complex situation, which can lead to a lengthy court battle.
These rights are only terminated by the court if the child’s best interests are not being met by their biological parents, and only in the most extreme circumstances, such as the commitment of a violent crime or severe child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. For more information on how these child welfare guidelines may affect your family’s circumstances, please contact Masterson Law for assistance.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Foster Parent in Missouri?
In Missouri, it usually takes between four and six months from the first call before you are fully licensed and ready for child placement.
Often, the amount of time it takes to adopt a child from foster care depends on the quality of your legal representation. A professional family law attorney can help you navigate any bumps in the road that would potentially slow down the process.
If you’re considering foster adoption in Missouri, contact Masterson Law today to schedule a one-on-one consultation. Attorney Summer Masterson-Goethals can offer you the experienced legal guidance, strong advocacy, and support you need to navigate key decisions and ensure a successful Missouri adoption.
Our law firm proudly represents foster parents across Springfield, MO, and the surrounding communities. Contact us today to speak with an experienced foster adoption attorney and get the help you need.