Deciding to adopt a child is huge. You are choosing to take care of and help foster a child’s growth, regardless of any biological imperative. It’s one of the most beautiful and noble acts that anybody can undertake.

But it is also a rather confusing process, filled with ups and downs and a lot of waiting and hoping. Most people have never adopted a child before, so they have no idea what to expect from the experience or how to go about instigating it. Perhaps the biggest question that hovers over the whole ordeal is whether or not to work with an adoption agency.

In Arkansas, you do not have to work with an adoption agency in order to adopt a child. Some states require you to, but Arkansas is one of the many that allow for independent forms of adoption. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best option.

Our experienced family law lawyers are going to dive into the subject to show you what an independent adoption looks like, what is required to adopt a child in Arkansas, and what you should look for from an adoption agency. This should help answer a lot of your questions regarding adoption, though feel free to reach out to us with any other questions you may have.

What is an Independent Adoption?

An independent adoption is one in which there is no agency involved in the process. It may alternatively be referred to as a private adoption. Most independent adoptions are done through an agreement directly between the adoptive parents and the birth parents of the child to be adopted.

However, an independent adoption may also be facilitated through a third party. For example, an attorney may help to facilitate an adoption. Other common third parties include doctors or even a member of the clergy.

There is no legal requirement for an independent adoption to be facilitated through a third party. However, while it is not legally required, it is recommended that adopting parents work with a qualified and experienced adoption attorney. There is a lot of paperwork involved in adopting a child, as well as a lot of hoops that have to be jumped through to make progress through the adoption process.

This is especially true when dealing with complicated adoptions, such as international adoptions, since there is a lot of groundwork that must be completed in order to go forward with the adoption. There are other adoptions that are much easier, in comparison, such as when a spouse takes the steps to adopt a child their spouse had with a previous partner.

Independent or private adoptions often end up costing a lot less than adoptions done through an agency. While this is one of the major benefits of independent adoption, it is worth noting what the fees paid to an adoption agency go towards. Some percentage of the fees go towards administrative costs, but a large portion goes directly to things like the expectant mother’s medical care or a child’s housing, clothing, feeding, and entertainment costs.

What is Required to Adopt a Child in Arkansas?

Adopting a child may not be the easiest thing to do, though pretty much everybody would agree that’s for the best. After all, some people absolutely are not in a position where they can raise kids. This may be because of something as extreme as a drug problem or something as relatively minor as simply being too busy to care for a child’s needs.

In order to adopt a child in Arkansas, there are certain requirements that must be met and standards that are suggested.

Requirements and standards such as:

  • While the law does not make explicit reference to age, agencies prefer when adoptive parents are between 22 and 50 years of age.
  • Certain agencies may prefer that adoptive parents be married, but the law itself does not make it a requirement.
  • You must be able to provide the child with a safe and reasonably sized home. You do not need to own the home, and it does not have to be a house, but it must be a safe environment for a child.
  • Having a criminal record does not necessarily prevent somebody from being able to adopt a child, but it can. Adoption agencies consider the individual on a case-by-case basis, so it depends on the circumstances of the criminal conviction.
  • You must pass a home study in certain cases, but not step parent adoptions, which are normally handled by probate adoption attorneys. This is an evaluation of the day-to-day life in the home and an inspection of the home. A certified individual conducts it. They also conduct an interview and will review any important documents.
  • The other parent must sign a consent to the adoption or be served and offered an opportunity to appear in court. 

What Should You Look For in an Adoption Agency?

If you choose to work with an adoption agency, you’re going to want to be careful about which you work with. Adoption agencies aren’t all made the same, and there is such a thing as bad ones.

Here are some tips for how to select a good adoption agency if that’s the route you choose to go:

  • Ensure they are fully licensed.
  • See if they are a full-service adoption agency or whether you’ll need to work with other parties as well.
  • Check if they offer counseling and support services to help new parents grow and flourish.
  • Speak to an adoption attorney about the agency you are considering to see if they notice any red flags.
  • Ask about whether there are any financial protections for adoptive families in case of adoption disruptions.

Should I Speak to an Attorney First?

If you are going to be adopting a child, there are a million changes that you are about to experience. While an attorney can help you with the paperwork and the legal side of adoption, they can also offer you the type of advice that you aren’t going to get anywhere else. There is going to be a lot of paperwork involved and a lot of legal changes you need to be prepared for, from changes to your estate plan to tax form changes and more. Working with a professional, you’ll be able to get a much better understanding of what needs to be done and have an easier time balancing it all. OMG Law Firm has filed dozens of adoption petitions since its inception.