If you are an Alabama couple seeking to adopt, you may have heard that it is easier to become an adoptive parent if you begin as a foster parent. While this is true, there are numerous concerns and legal complications you may wish to consider before taking steps to become a foster parent.
At Five Points Law Group, our attorneys work to help dedicated and loving families adopt. For help with your adoption or to get answers to some of your challenging questions, call us today.
Becoming a Foster Family in Alabama
First, to become a foster parent in Alabama, there are some rules and minimum qualifications. In general, you must:
- Be at least 19 years of age
- Have a safe home
- Meet the Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes
- Have enough space for the child
- Make sure all people in your household are willing to participate in child care duties
- Make sure all members of the household are in good health
- Ensure that all adults in the home are able to pass a criminal background check
Is it Really Easier to Adopt as a Foster Parent?
Sometimes. In order to adopt a child in Alabama, you must petition the appropriate court for permission to assume legal responsibilities for the child. This can be a complex process. In a foster home arrangement, the State of Alabama will first make a determination of your suitability, then once a child in need is identified, that child will be placed in your care temporarily without many of the lengthy proceedings that accompany an adoption. But take note: Foster care is usually temporary.
Assuming the natural parents do not take the legally required steps to regain custody of their child, a court may eventually terminate their parental rights. If this occurs, you will still need to petition for adoption; however, the court will be looking for the best interests of the child. Since that child will have been in your care for some time, foster parents are often preferable as adoptive parents.
So, when things go right, being a foster parent means getting parental custody of an adoptive child earlier and in a more streamlined way.
Problems With Foster Adoptions
Now that you understand how being a foster parent might make things easier, it is important to note what happens when things do not go smoothly. Many times natural parents will begin to improve their lives and get custody of the child again. After being a parent to a young child for months or even years, you could have to return the child to what seems to be an abusive or even unfit home life. Courts are very reluctant to terminate parental rights unless there are serious reasons. This can lead to a painful back and forth, where the child is shuffled from natural parent to foster care and back again. In many situations, a foster family may care for dozens of children before they ever find a child to legally adopt.
How an Attorney can Help
Many times, the most difficult part of the adoption process is navigating the court system and all of the legal requirements involved. A guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to interview and investigate in order to help the court make decisions. Often the GAL’s report will make a big impact on the outcome of an adoption. Likewise, there may be conflicting arguments regarding the safety and welfare of a child going back to a natural parent. Having a skilled adoption lawyer on your side puts you in a better position to get the outcome you are seeking.
Call Five Points Law Group today to schedule a private meeting with one of our skilled adoption lawyers in Birmingham.