The ABCs of Adoption in Arkansas

By Dwain Hebda

ABCs of Adoption in Arkansas

So you've made the decision to open your home and family up to adoption...what's next? Savvy talked to Keith Metz, communications specialist with Arkansas Department of Human Services' Department of Children and Family Services for a high-level look at the steps involved to prepare for this important vocation.

The first step is to complete an application called a DCFS Foster Family Home Inquiry, available on the website under the FAQ menu. This form gathers basic information about the applicant as well as preferences on the type of child or children they are interested in adopting. DHS will notify the applicant when the Home Inquiry has been received, and that the required background checks have been initiated.

Once these requirements are satisfactorily met, applicants are encouraged to attend an informational meeting in their area. These meetings, held frequently at churches, community centers and DHS offices statewide, give a more in-depth look at the process of adoption and the expectations and demands this action requires.

If an applicant is still interested, a home walk-through is conducted. This cursory inspection looks for the basic requirements of sufficient space and general safety of the applicant's home.

Applicants must complete Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) training to be approved for adoption. The two options for completing this training is through DHS, which can take up to eight weeks, or through the CALL, a Christian-based Arkansas organization dedicated to increasing foster and adoptive families. The CALL's coursework is identical to DHS', but is conducted over two intensive weekends of instruction.

Upon completion of PRIDE training, DCFS completes a more thorough home inspection, which may indicate necessary home modifications such as handrails, fire escape plan or other elements. The last qualifying step of the process is a final walk-through, upon completion of which the family is eligible to welcome a child into their home.

Quick Adoption Facts

• Marital and family status does not affect one's eligibility to adopt; single individuals as well as married applicants are considered for adopting children. It's also not a disqualifier to already have children in the home, either biological or adopted.

• The greatest need for adoptive homes are for teenagers, for sibling groups or for children with special needs.

• The process of becoming an open adoptive home can be lengthy. Completing all training, background checks and home inspections take at least six months. And that's just getting approved—it can take equally as long or longer to match a family with the right child.

• Once a child is placed, there is a mandatory sixmonth period before the adoption can be finalized, during which time DHS performs a series of in-home visits, both planned and unannounced.

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