Special Terms for Adoptions
The following are some terms adoptive parents need to be familiar with. Understanding these terms is important in ensuring that adoptions proceed smoothly and that adoptive parents receive all the assistance available to them.
In 2003 there were 1204 adoptions of children in custody of Washington State's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), with more children still awaiting adoptive homes. The purpose of the adoption program is to meet the permanency needs of children who are in the care and custody of DSHS. A Place Called Hope strives to find safe and stable families that can best meet the needs of the child.
Open communication agreements allow contact between the adoptive parents and birth parents. In some instances there is also contact allowed between birth parents and the adopted child. The frequency of contact is negotiated and communication may include letters, e-mails, telephone calls, or visits. It is important to note that even in an open adoption, the legal relationship between a birth parent and child is severed. The adoptive parents are the legal parents of an adopted child.
The goals of open adoption are:
- To minimize the child's loss of relationships.
- To maintain and celebrate the adopted child's connections with all the important people in his or her life.
- To allow the child to resolve losses with truth, rather than the fantasy adopted children often create when no information or contact with their
birth family is available.
Special Needs Children
To be considered a child with "special needs" each of the following statements must be true:
1. One or more of the following factors or conditions must exist
- The child is of an minority ethnic background.
- The child is six years of age or older at the time of application for adoption support.
- The child is a member of a sibling group of three or more or of a sibling group in which one or more siblings meet the definition of special needs.
- The child is diagnosed with a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive or emotional disability.
- The child is at risk for a diagnosis of a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, or emotional disability due to prenatal exposure to toxins, a history of serious abuse or neglect, or genetic history.
2. The state has determined that the child cannot or should not be returned to parent's home
3. A reasonable but unsuccessful effort was made to place the child for adoption without adoption support.
(Other unique conditions may exist in which a child would qualify. Almost every child in the state's Foster Care program qualifies for Adoption Support).
Adoption Support Program
The Adoption Support Program assists families adopting special needs children by providing ongoing financial and medical benefits to qualified children based on state and federal regulations.
Qualification - To qualify for Adoption Support, DSHS must have made the determination that adoption is in the child's best interest. The child must:
- Be less than 18 years of age when DSHS and the adoptive parent sign the Adoption Support agreement.
- Be legally free (birth parents rights have been terminated).
- Have special needs.
- Be in state funded foster care (or eligible for and likely to be placed in foster care) OR be eligible for federally funded adoption assistance.