For a lot of parents, having children is the highlight of their lives. Bringing children into your home is a great gift and brings a lot of emotional and personal rewards. For some couples, having biological children isn’t an option. Whether you decide on adoption because of infertility, a heart for adoption, or other circumstances, growing your family through adoption is a beautiful thing. It is such a unique experience—bringing two families together that love a child. There is a lot to consider when you start the adoption process. If you live in Alabama, there are things to consider that are unique to your state. Here is an Alabama adoption guide, complete with a lot of useful information to refer to when creating your adoption plan, and for expectant mothers considering placing their children for adoption.
Adoption Through Foster Care
Children enter the foster care system ultimately because his or her living situation has been found to be unsafe for them. Whether it’s neglect, abuse, drug use, or other unsafe practices in the home, children are temporarily removed from their homes while their parents can work through child services to get their children back. Children from traumatic places are placed into a foster home that can provide for their physical, emotional, and medical needs while they are away from their parents. The goal of foster care is to reunite parents with their children. With the help of a case worker and judge, parents put together a plan to be reunited with their children. If they work child services and meet the requirements set in court, they are able to regain parental rights. If the parent(s) do not fit the requirements and a judge finds them unfit to parent, parental rights will be terminated, and the child(ren) will be available for adoption.
Foster care is a big part of our Alabama adoption guide, because there are a lot of kids in need that are looking for their forever homes. Adopting through foster care is little to no cost. Children adopted from foster care also receive medical care until age 18, and generally receive a living stipend from the state to support them until this age as well. Generally, children that are available for adoption from foster care are older. It does happen sometimes where a younger child or infant is placed in a foster home, are fostered for a long time, and his or her placement leads to adoption.
To become a foster parent in Alabama, you can work with the Alabama Department of Human Resources or a private foster agency. Either way, you will be required to complete an initial application. With this application, you will be notified if you’re approved to move forward in becoming a licensed foster home. You can be approved to foster in Alabama if:
- You are at least 19 years old.
- You can provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for a child.
- Your home meets the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes, found on the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR) website.
- Your home has enough space for the child and his/her personal possessions.
- All members of your family are willing to support the needs of the child in care.
- All members of your family are in good health.
- All adults in the home are willing to undergo a thorough background check, which includes criminal history.
A home study for foster care is a similar to the home study process for private adoption. A home study is an official document and write-up of your family. A case worker will meet with you and the members of your family that live in the home and learn all about you. They will ask you about your history, your parenting philosophies, your relationship, education, religion, hobbies, and just about anything else you can think of.
Something important to consider when adopting through foster care are the demographics and needs of the child or children you are open to. Age, gender, race, and level of disability are all things that will be considered when your case worker is writing your home study. Because children in foster care have experienced various levels of trauma, it is important to take that into account. If you have other children in your home, have experience dealing with trauma, or the amount of support you have in your community are all things to consider. Children that are placed in foster care in Alabama include: children from all ethnic and economic backgrounds, children with backgrounds or experiences that have placed them at risk, brothers and sister who need to stay together, teens with various degrees of mental, physical, or emotional problems, and children of all ages who cannot currently live with their birth families due to the risk of neglect, physical, or sexual abuse.
To become a foster parent, you will receive a lot of training to make sure you are prepared. You will learn more about children from traumatic backgrounds, effective parenting and discipline strategies, and how to complete the needed paperwork. These trainings can be time-consuming but are designed to prepare you for whatever child or children might be placed in your home. When choosing which foster agency to use, it is important to do your research! Similar to private adoption agencies, you will find a wide range of competencies in various agencies. Talk to your friends, read reviews, and ask questions. Fostering a child is very challenging, and it is so important that you are supported throughout the process. Finding a strong agency is key to your success.
Private adoption is the process of working with an adoption professional that matches hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers. There are a few ways to do this. You can work through independent adoption, work directly with an agency, or contract with an adoption consultant.
Independent adoption isn’t always advertised as an option, but it can be a cost-friendly way to adopt. Yeatts Family Law and Divorce Attorney, a law firm in Alabama, teaches its clients a little about private adoption, saying:
“In Alabama, the steps to effectively independently adopt a child can start with getting an adoption attorney. An adoption attorney is a lawyer that focuses on adoption related cases. The best attorneys understand how important it is to match you with your preferred child to complete your family. The process starts with the prospective parents looking for a birth mother that is willing to [place] her child for adoption” (Source).
Independent adoption requires that you work with an attorney and a case worker. The case worker works with your family to complete your home study and post-adoption visits. The attorney helps complete the legal aspects of the adoption and help you through finalization. If you are hoping to match independently, a great resource is connecting with expectant moms through Adoption.com’s Parent Profiles. Hopeful adoptive families can create a profile with pictures and information about the family. Expectant parents can look through the profiles and find a family that is a good fit.
If you feel that you need more support, working with an adoption consultant and/or an agency are options to explore. When you work with an adoption agency, they will walk you through every step of the adoption process. They provide support for birth parents and resources for hopeful adoptive families. Using an agency is generally more expensive than adopting independently, but can give you a lot of peace of mind. When choosing your agency, it is very important to do your research! Join adoption groups on Facebook and get reviews and opinions from other adoptive families. While most agencies are wonderful, there are some out there that take advantage of families and you might spend a lot of money without ever being matched. It’s also important to ask agencies for a breakdown of their expenses, so you can get an idea of where all of your money goes.
Working with an adoption consultant is a combination of adopting independently and using an agency. An adoption consultant is an expert to the work of adoption and walks you through every process, without limiting you to one agency. They network with many adoption professionals across the United States to ultimately connect you with an expectant mother and support you through your adoption process. The average cost of using an adoption consultation is around $40,000. This is another great topic to bring up to other families who have adopted or are currently in the process.
What would an Alabama adoption guide be without some insight into financing your adoption? Finances can be a big deterrent for families that are wanting to adopt. With the cost of domestic adoption averaging around $35,000—$45,000, it can be overwhelming to imagine making such a big, financial commitment. Adoption grants are a great resource for families hoping to adopt but are short the total amount. In an article written by Natalie Brenner, she discusses seven adoption grants that everyone should apply for. Grants are usually provided by non-profit organizations that fundraise specifically for the purpose of helping hopeful adoptive families financially. All grants require an application process, and most require a completed home study before applying for the grant. Some grands award needing families with as much as $20,000 to go towards their adoption fees. Most grant awards average $3,000—$5,000. Whatever amount is provided can be a major help when coming up with the funds to adopt. A lot of grants require that you’ve been matched or placed with a child before they disburse the grant. Another requirement from a lot of available grants are that you are working with an adoption agency or consultant. The funds are usually dispersed directly to the adoption professional. This can be a challenge if you are doing an independent adoption.
There are additional laws to be considered with adopting from Alabama. Common questions that are presented with adoption include:
Who is able to be adopted in Alabama?
In Alabama, any minor can be adopted whose parent’s rights have been terminated. This can be done at any age up to 18. In regard to adult adoption, an adult can be adopted if they are found to be disabled or mentally unwell.
Who is able to adopt in Alabama?
Any married or single adult 19 or older may adopt. A married couple is required to be married for at least three years before adopting. LGBT individuals are permitted to adopt. To be approved to adopt in Alabama, you need to have a completed home study through a licensed case worker, and a background check.
Are you able to advertise for adoption in Alabama?
It is illegal to accept or pay money for anyone to advertise that you are hoping to adopt or that you are placing a child for adoption. According to adoption law in Alabama, “No person, organization, group, agency, or any legal entity may accept any fee whatsoever for bringing the adopting parent or parents together with the adoptee or the natural parents.” This can be a little confusing when you are paying an agency or a consultant. Legally, the money given to the agency goes toward other expenses that are not involved in the matching process.
What birth parent expenses are paid?
Medical, legal, living (rent, food, utilities, clothing, medical, travel, and lost wages based on an agreement in court) can be paid to the birth mother. These expenses can be paid up to four to six weeks postpartum. The laws of Alabama clearly state that children cannot be “bought” or “paid for.”
When can consent to adoption happen and when is it irrevocable?
In Alabama, birth parents can consent to adoption in front of a Probate Court Judge before the child is born. This becomes irrevocable five days within the birth of the child if consent to adoption was signed before the birth of the child. In the case that the consent to adoption happens after the child is born, it becomes irrevocable after five days.
Whatever path you decide to take with adoption in Alabama, it is important to do your research on what resources are available, the level of care agencies and adoption professionals provide, and to think about what options are a good fit for you and your family.
For Expectant Mothers
Many women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies and are considering placing their child for adoption don’t know where to start. It’s important to remember that you are your child’s mother and know what is best for him/her. Deciding to place your child for adoption will not be an easy decision. If you feel that it might be best for the child, it’s important to do your research. It is very beneficial to join a support group for expectant mothers on Facebook or in your community to hear opinions from other women and to get support. Research the adoption agencies in your area. You want to ensure that the agency you work with is ethical and has your well-being and the well-being of your child as their top priority. When talking to different agencies, ask them about the type of counseling services they provide for expectant moms. A good agency will help you to navigate your medical care, financial assistance, living assistance, and legal support. You can receive assistance from your child’s potential adoptive family under Alabama law. Your agency should be the one to ensure that everything is done ethically and that the resources are shared with you.
You know what is best for you and for your child. Deciding to place your child for adoption is a big decision that is selfless, honorable, and brave. You don’t have to do it alone!
Michelle is the mother to two beautiful children and a hopeful adoptive mama of one more! When she isn’t chasing her kids around, she is working as an adjunct professor teaching college writing and working as a freelance writer. She loves to be creative and runs her own floral design business for weddings and events. Her titles of wife and mother bring her the most joy, fulfillment, and challenge in her life.