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Questions about Adoption

Listing of Adoption and Foster Care Information Nights is now available.

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  1. What is adoption?
  2. How do children become freed for adoption while in the care of DCYF?
  3. Why do we consider children freed for adoption through the Department as children having "special needs"?
  4. How does a family begin the adoption process with the Department?
  5. How is the application processed?
  6. How soon after submitting an application can a family expect to be included in the 'assessment and training' phase of the homestudy process?
  7. What is DCYF's preadoptive assessment and training process?
  8. I think that adoption is "right" for me, but what if I change my mind?
  9. What is a "Homestudy?"
  10. What type of matching takes place in adoption?
  11. How long will a family wait to be matched with a child?
  12. When can a child be legally adopted?
  13. What is a "legal risk" placement?
  14. How does a family become eligible to accept a "legal risk?"
  15. What is the cost of adoption through the Department?
  16. Is "private adoption" legal in Rhode Island?
  17. What is the role of the department regarding private adoptions?
  18. What services does DCYF provide to families adopting children of the child welfare system?
  19. Do foster parents ever adopt children placed in their care?
  20. How do I learn more about becoming an adoptive parent?

1. What is adoption?

Adoption is defined as the receiving of a child of another family into one’s own family and embracing that child as your own. Adoption is meant to establish a legally-recognized, lifelong relationship between a parent and child who are not biologically related as parent and child. The adoptive parent(s) becomes legally and morally responsible for the child’s safety, education, health care, value development, life skills and development, as well as the day-to-day care of the child.

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2. How do children become freed for adoption while in the care of DCYF?

The department is mandated by law to work with biological parents in an effort to reunify families. If, despite the Department’s efforts to help them, biological parents are unable to provide a safe and healthy environment for their children, the Department may seek to terminate their rights as parents.

Petitions to terminate parental rights are heard and decided in Rhode Island Family Court. If such a petition is granted by a judge, the child becomes legally free to be adopted by another family.

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3. Why do we consider children freed for adoption through the Department as children having "special needs"?

The process by which a child becomes freed for adoption is often very lengthy. Often children have lived in substitute care for several years before becoming legally adoptable. This certainly adds to their emotional confusion.

In addition to the above life experiences that affect these children emotionally, there may be other factors that would present specific challenges to their adoptive parents. One such challenge may be accepting parenting responsibility for an older child or for a group of brothers and sisters all at once or a child of another racial background. Another may be accepting parenting responsibility for a child who is physically, intellectually, or emotionally challenged. 

No matter what the child’s "special needs," in the long run they are just children. What they need most is the stability of a strong, loving family in which to grow to adulthood; a family that will help them cope with their emotionally troubling past and is committed to an ongoing lifetime relationship.

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4. How does a family begin the adoption process with the Department?

Adoption applications are made available at the Department’s monthly adoption information meetings. The process begins when we receive the completed application.

Information meetings are held at the offices of Adoption Rhode Island, a private agency that serves as an exchange for information about adoption and children waiting for adoption.

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5. How is the application processed?

Several things are done upon receipt of an application. First, a check is made with the Bureau of Criminal Identification at the Attorney General’s Office. Record of a felony conviction would automatically disqualify an application.

Second, a check is made through the Department’s own records. Families who have involvement with the Department as clients would be contacted and their past involvement discussed. Whether or not they would be able to proceed would depend upon the circumstances of the past involvement and on the present situation.

Third, references requests are sent out to those persons indicated by the applicant as personal references.

Once all the references have been received, the application is considered complete. A preliminary visit is then made to the home to provide the family the opportunity to ask any questions that may be on their minds. It also provides the Department with an opportunity to clarify any questions that may have risen in reviewing the applications.

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6. How soon after submitting an application can a family expect to be included in the 'assessment and training' phase of the homestudy process?

The wait to be involved in the assessment and training phase of the adoption Homestudy process is seldom more than 6 to 12 weeks.

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7. What is DCYF's preadoptive assessment and training process?

This is a series of eleven 2 ½ to 3 hour work shops, usually presented in the evening. Six to eight prospective adoptive families participate in an informal atmosphere that encourages group discussion.

During this group process, participants explore a number of topics related to Older/Special Needs Adoption. These include Separation and Loss, Neglect, Abuse and Sexual Abuse. The issues are discussed as to their impact on a child’s normal development, on his/her ability to form trusting attachments, and on his/ her behavior. Participants are given an opportunity to process the above issues and their implications for those who accept the challenges of parenting children from the child welfare system. This processing helps them to determine their own readiness to accept these challenges. It also helps them assess the capacity of their existing family system to adjust and cope with the placement of an older special needs child.

During the group process, provisions are made for prospective adoptive parents to speak with experienced adoptive parents.

Class exercises and self assessment "homework" are a part of the process. These are helpful to prospective adoptive parents as they identify and explore their own lifestyle, interests, values, strengths and limitations.

One or more homes visits will be made during or shortly after the Assessment and Training process. These provide an opportunity for the recruiter/trainer to get to know the family better and for families to present questions or concerns in the relaxed atmosphere of their own home.

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8. I think that adoption is "right" for me, but what if I change my mind?

Not all families who complete the Assessment Training process go on to adopt. Some decide that they are not at a point in their lives to accept the challenges of older/special needs adoption. For others, there may be issues that must be addressed before they are ready to do this. However, most families who complete this phase are ready and willing to proceed.

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9. What is a "Homestudy?"

Once the family has completed the eleven week Assessment and Training process, has submitted all their "homework" and has had at least one home visit; their adoption recruiter/trainer will write up an Adoption Assessment Summary. This document is commonly called the "Homestudy" and presents a written reflection of the family and their lifestyle. By reading a family’s "Homestudy," a social worker can get a general impression of them and begin to determine if a particular child may fit with a particular family.

Before a family can be considered as a possible resource for children, their "Homestudy" must be approved. Each Adoption Assessment Summary is reviewed by a committee of adoption specialists. If they feel that there are any unanswered questions regarding a family, they will recommend clarification before submitting the "Homestudy" for final Department approval.

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10. What type of matching takes place in adoption?

Matching the needs of particular children to the strengths, interests, and lifestyle of particular families is very important. We work with families as equal partners during this matching process. When a family expresses an interest in a particular waiting child and when a social worker, after reading their "Homestudy," feels a particular family will be able to meet the individual needs of a child, he/she is trying to place; an appointment will be made to discuss the child in detail. Families are not expected to accept the first child presented in every case. Similarity, the placing worker upon further contact may decide that the family is not the appropriate match for the child in question.

Adoption Rhode Island is an important part of the matching process. They publish pictures and descriptions of waiting children and make those available to waiting families. They also maintain "Homestudies" of waiting families on file and make them available to social workers seeking adoptive placement for children on their caseloads. Finally, they sponsor "Adoption Parties," where approved waiting families can interact with waiting children in an informal setting. Sometimes "matches" are the result of families and children meeting at an Adoption Party.

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11. How long will a family wait to be matched with a child?

This depends upon the family’s ability and willingness to consider the children waiting at the time they are approved. The families who are most flexible stand the greatest chance of being matched most quickly. Some families may wait a very long time. The child most appropriate for them may not be ready and waiting for adoption placement when they are.

Once a "match" has been agreed upon and an initial introduction has been made, a series of preplacement visits would be scheduled. These usually go on for a period of 4 to 8 weeks before the child actually moves into their new homes.

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12. When can a child be legally adopted?

In this state, a child who is legally freed for adoption must live with a family on a preadoptive basis for at least 6 months. After that time, the family can have their lawyer submit an adoption petition to Rhode Island Family Court.

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13. What is a "legal risk" placement?

In some instances children are placed in what may become their permanent home before they are legally freed to be adopted. In these instances the Department has filed petition to determine parental rights with the Family Court and is actively pursuing that petition. This would be a "Legal Risk" placement. The purpose of this type of placement is to maximize the chances of establishing a child in a permanent home as early in life as possible. It should be noted, however, that there is risk that the child could return to the birth parents, if the Court’s decision is in their favor.

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14. How does a family become eligible to accept a "legal risk?"

In addition to successfully completing the Preadoptive Assessment and Training Process and receiving approval, a "Legal Risk" adoptive home must be inspected by fire officials and meet requirements established for foster home licensing. The license must be renewed each year if the status of "Legal Risk" adoptive home is maintained. However, the licensing would no longer be necessary once the child becomes legally free and is adopted.

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15. What is the cost of adoption through the Department?

The Department of Children, Youth and Families is Rhode Island’s public child welfare agency. The Department’s clients are the children who have come into our care. No fee is charged to families as we prepare them as potential adoptive resources and supervise the placements that are made.

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16. Is "private adoption" legal in Rhode Island?

Yes. Adoption arranged independently by biological and adoptive families without the assistance of the state or licensed adoption agency are legal. However, it is stipulated that such families must be known to each other and not be brought together by a third party. This is to prevent someone seeking to profit financially by bringing such families together.

Private adoptions can involve considerable risk! Legally the biological parents continue to have rights until the adoption is finalized. Families entering into such an arrangement definitely need to secure a competent lawyer to see that their interests and the interests of the child are upheld.

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17. What is the role of the Department regarding private adoptions?

Such private arrangements must be reported to the Department within fifteen days of the child’s placement. In turn, the Department is required to complete an investigation of the placement and submit a report to Rhode Island Family Court.

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18. What services does DCYF provide to families adopting children of the child welfare system?

The DCYF provides many if the same services to families adopting older/special needs children as would be provided by private adoption agency. These services include: 

  1. Preparation of the children to help them understand and accept the adoption experience. 
  2. Preparation of the family to help them gain an understanding of the children’s past experiences. The Preadoptive Assessment and Training process enables a family to make an informed decision about adopting an older/special needs child and go forward with realistic expectations. 
  3. Matching the strengths of the adopting family to the needs of their adoptive child is of prime importance to the success of the placement and therefore to the Department. 
  4. Ongoing supervision from Family Service Social Worker is essential to a positive adoption experience. The placing worker will have skill and experience in placing children, as well as knowledge and understanding the child being placed. In addition, he/she will have knowledge of community resources and will be able to help access them to support the placement. 
  5. Subsidies are available when the child being placed is eligible. These subsidies can provide financial assistance, medical coverage and the payment of legal fees, making adoption of older/special needs children possible by families with modest income.  
  6. The legal finalization of an adoption is a transaction between the family and a private attorney. However, the Family Service worker will facilitate the legal finalization by providing Family Court with necessary reports.  
  7. Once the adoption has been finalized, officially the role of D.C.Y.F. ends. However, any subsidy that has been agreed upon, will continue as long as the child remains eligible, usually to age 18. 

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19. Do Foster Parents ever adopt children placed in their care?

Yes. However, it must be realized that adoption is never the goal at the time a foster placement is made. Most children continue to be involved with their parents while in foster homes and most children return to their parents from foster homes.

If during the course of working towards reunification the process breaks down, the child may become freed for adoption. Should this happen, the foster care provider may be given consideration as a permanent family resource in order to provide the child with continuity in his/her life.

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20. How do I learn more about becoming an adoptive parent?

You may call (401) 254-7009 to speak to one of the Clinical Training Specialists in the Adoption and Foster Care Preparation and Support Unit. Or, you may contact Adoption Rhode Island, (401-724-1910), to find out the date, time and place of their monthly informational meeting.

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     All content © 2006 DCYF -- Last modified: May 11, 2011