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Arkansas Adoption Guide

Arkansas is a gorgeous place to live. The mountains, rivers, campgrounds, and springs all speak for themselves, but let me give you an idea of what you will encounter while visiting Arkansas. If you love the beautiful outdoors, there are many places to hike and/or camp such as Buffalo National River, Beaver Lake, and Eureka Springs. If you are the type of person who prefers indoor activities, especially during the cooler months like September through March, there are places like the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Fort Smith in Arkansas City, The Clinton House Museum, and Prairie Grove in Fayetteville. A fun thing about some of these historic locations is that they are available to be rented out for overnight stays. There are activities for the entire family in Arkansas.

Placing a child for adoption is rarely an easy decision; this task can weigh heavily on an expectant mother’s mind. Putting your child’s needs above your own takes a lot of courage, commitment, and selflessness. There are expectant mothers everywhere tasked with this difficult decision but most will take in the needs of their children before their own wants. This guide will walk you through some of the procedural adoption steps for both expectant and birth mothers. It will also acknowledge prospective adoptive parents and even those who might be looking at providing foster care in hopes that it leads to adoption.

Steps to Adoption for the Expectant Mother 

The first thing any expectant mother must decide is whether or not to parent her baby, have an abortion, or place her child for adoption. As stated previously, this is a very difficult decision and should not be taken lightly. An expectant mother choosing to place her child for adoption is one of the most courageous and selfless acts she can do for her child. It can also be a great decision for herself if it allows her to finish school if she is a teen mother or college student. The expectant mother should make this decision on her own terms. As an expectant parent, you should not be coerced or pushed into a decision by anyone, not even your partner, parents, well-meaning friends, coworkers, or others. The decision rests solely with the expectant mother, and sometimes, even the expectant father.

For some expectant mothers, after the novelty of finding out they are pregnant wears off, and reality sets in; they may find themselves with no help, barely any education, or hardly any financial stability. These may be important factors when choosing adoption. When these well-meaning people in your life try to sway you one way or another, you must remember that a baby/child needs a lot of time, love, and commitment; if you are unable to provide that in spades, giving yourself and your baby a better shot at life is what is best for both of you. 

The second of the five steps is forming an adoption plan. The main component of an adoption plan is deciding whether you want an open or closed adoption. Some birth mothers prefer a closed adoption. This form of adoption restricts access between the birth parents and child once placed with the adoptive parents. For some, this makes it easier to get back to the lives they had before (or some form of the life they had). Even with a closed adoption, the birth parents’ lives might not return to the way they were. There could be some semblance, but often they are never the same. This type of adoption makes it difficult, however, when the child involved wants to find who his or her birth parents are because these records are usually sealed so that the adoption agency will not even give information about the birth parents to the adoptee.

The other generally accepted adoption plan is referred to as open adoption. This type of adoption allows for open communication between the birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents, throughout the pregnancy, birth, and after the baby is born. Sometimes the adoptive mother is allowed into the hospital to watch the delivery of her future child. Other times both prospective adoptive parents are allowed to see the birth, if the birth mother wants to involve the prospective adoptive parents in the experience. An open adoption constitutes an agreement between the expectant parents and adoptive parents, detailing what type of communication will be best for all parties, post-placement. Types of communication include letters, photos, videos, and sometimes even visitation.

Step number three for expectant mothers is choosing the parents or family, that the child will be placed with. This, in and of itself, is a hard decision as expectant mothers might sift through many, many profiles of people who want to adopt. There are easier ways nowadays to look at profiles of families and individuals looking for a baby to adopt. This is called a photo listing where you, the birth mother, are able to look at profiles of families online. How should you decide where to place your baby? How will you know your child will be safe and cared for? The difficult answer is, you really don’t. You use your gut instinct and the information available to make the best decision you can. Your gut will rarely let you down. 

This selection process can take as much time as you need. Some may connect with a hopeful parent profile in minutes while others might need months to select their favorite candidate. You might ease the process by preparing yourself a window of time to select potential parents before the delivery. Doing this early enough can make the whole process a little easier, as it gives you time to sift through and carefully consider each option. 

In the next step, number four, the expectant mother prepares for the placement of her baby. This includes communicating with experts and writing a hospital plan. Hospital plans are required in the state of Arkansas. This plan might include the birth mother deciding where she wants to have the baby and who remains in the delivery room during the birth—sometimes the adoptive mother, and even the adoptive father, are allowed.

During this time, the birth mother decides whether she wants to see her child before they are handed over to a caseworker associated with their adoption agency or the adoptive parents. Making this choice might run through the expectant mother’s mind during pregnancy, delivery, and post-placement. This is rarely an easy decision, to say the least. As part of the hospital plan, the last choice the birth mother makes is how she will return home. 

The fifth and final step for the birth mother to make is taking the next step forward with her life. She can make a life for herself knowing she made choices in the best interest of her baby. This may include returning to school, finding a job, and obtaining new hobbies. Journaling is a good way to deal with the emotional stress that may arise after returning home alone. This allows the birth mother to write out every feeling she has about her life post-pregnancy. This, to me, would be the most difficult part of the entire process, but with therapy and a great support system, making a new life is possible. 

Steps to Adoption for the Potential Adoptive Parents 

Being a prospective adoptive parent can be difficult; there are so many questions. One of which is how to begin. The first step should be finding an adoption agency. One such agency is called The Gladney Center for Adoption, although predominantly in Texas, this agency assists prospective birth parents nationwide. The steps to beginning the adoption process are difficult and time-consuming but are well worth the difficulties.

The first of the seven-step process of adopting a baby in Arkansas is the completion of court petition documents by the prospective adoptive parents. After petitioning the court, the second step is gaining a consent waiver. This is document confirms consensual approval from the expectant mother, and most of the time, the father, to the adoption of the child. If the birth parents have had their parental rights taken away or terminated, this is not needed. Step three of seven is the completion of financial petition documents. Adoptive parents must file a petition that details any and all expenses that they will pay for, should they be granted guardianship over the child. If said adoptive parents are next of kin, this rule does not apply. The next step, number four, when looking to adopt a baby or child in the state of Arkansas, is retrieving a certified statement from the birth father stating that he was made aware of the adoption plans, and notified that a hearing is to take place. Of the seven steps for adoptive parents, number five is the completion of a home study. Every state, including Arkansas, requires a home study. During this stage, a social worker will assess the family looking to adopt as well as where they live and whether the adoptive parents have everything in place to adopt a child. Even children over the age of ten must pass the home study. Just like number three, the home study may not apply for relatives. Step number six when looking to adopt a baby or /child is what is called a Child Study Report. This report is based on information related to the child that is being adopted. Again, relatives may not be required to participate in this step. Number seven, the last requirement by Arkansas’ law for prospective adoptive parents, is the adoption placement legal hearing. All reports must be completed and turned in for this hearing to occur. For the adoptive parents, this is a glorious day, as they are united as a family.

Foster Adoption

Another option, similar to adoption, is to become a foster parent. There are several requirements for becoming a foster parent in the state of Arkansas. Standardized background checks will be followed and confirmed before a child is placed in a foster home. These are just a few rules standardized across Arkansas for foster parents:

  • Applicants must be at least 21
  • If a two-parent household wants to apply, they must provide evidence of a stable relationship (single individuals may apply) 
  • The parents or individuals looking to foster cannot have health issues or disabilities that may hinder their ability to provide or care for the child(ren). Adults are required to complete a physical prior to having children placed with them
  • There must be adequate space for the child(ren)
  • Parents must be able to financially, physically, and emotionally care for the child
  • Anyone in the house, where fostering might occur, who is 14 years of age or older must pass the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Registry
  • The head of household must certify, in writing, that no one over the age of ten possesses a criminal background
  • Those applying must pass CPR and First Aid training 
  • The goal is reunification with the child(ren)’s family 

Becoming a foster parent, and then adopting is a bit easier than adopting from an agency, but it is not guaranteed. Some of the reasons for this are that the child or children have become a part of the family and have hopefully become comfortable being in the home, the foster parents want to adopt the child(ren), and/or the birth parents are unable to meet the requirements to be reunited with their children. Many times children who are older have a more difficult time finding parents to adopt them. If they find comfort in a foster home, this makes things much smoother for the entire family, especially if the foster parents desire to adopt.

There are many rules when it comes to the placement of children, but it can be very rewarding for all parties involved. Placing a child can be the most courageous act a birth mother takes, especially if she is unable to care for her child. On the other hand, there are many families who do not have the ability to have children or they want to add to the family they already have. Either way, children need to know that no matter what, someone loves them, somewhere. Giving love to a child is arguably the most rewarding thing that any adult could do. 

Jenn Martin-Wright is a cowboy, jean wearing, country music, and rock lovin’ cowgirl who loves books and jewelry. She was born three months too early with a disability that should’ve taken any semblance of a normal life from her. Her mom made sure Jenn did everything she was capable of. Coming from a big family, it was either keep up or get left in the dust. Jenn graduated high school, then on to getting married, having kids, and receiving a BS in Social Work. Jenn lives in Idaho with her kids and a Maltese named Oakley who has become her writing helper as she writes novels under an alias of different genres.

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