Please see the Commissioner’s Designated Format for Completion of an Adoption and Child Foster Care Study on the MN Department of Human Services website for more information.
A wise first step in beginning the adoption process is to attend a free information or orientation meeting. Most agencies offer orientations that are generally open to the public.
Many agencies require prospective adoptive and foster families to attend training classes designed to equip families with the tools they will need to parent children with special needs. Training classes are offered statewide, and most classes range between 12 and 20 hours. Families often receive training provided by one qualified organization and continue the adoption process with a second organization. The MN ADOPT Pre-adoption Training page publishes the training schedules for many Minnesota agencies. Whether a family works with a public agency or a private agency, they will need to inquire about the agency’s training requirements.
At the conclusion of training, families who choose to continue the process of becoming a resource for a child must submit an application for either adoption or foster care. Those families pursuing foster care must work with their county social service agency. The requirements may vary depending on the county of residence. If pursuing adoption, a family may choose to work with a private agency or a county social service agency.
The social worker will guide the family through the process of completing the paperwork. The timeline for completion of a homestudy may vary depending on the social worker’s caseload; how promptly the family returns paperwork; and/or on the flexibility of the family’s schedule in accommodating home visits.
Once the information is gathered by the family social worker, it may take several weeks for the homestudy to be written. During this period the family may begin to identify children they are interested in by reading the Star Tribune waiting child column or by watching Kid Connection (broadcast on KSTP). They may also take the this time to gain more information about children with special needs, to attend educational seminars and training classes, and to connect with parent support groups.
Once the homestudy is complete, the family’s social worker will present it to the social workers of the children in whom they have an interest. In some counties, the homestudy may be made available to all guardianship or child social workers. Adoptive families will also be registered on the Minnesota State Adoption Exchange.
During the waiting process that up to this point can take from 4 to 6 months, it is important for the prospective adoptive family to be active in the process. Waiting for placement can be a frustrating time for families. During this period, many families choose to prepare a “life book” about their family to share with children during future pre-placement visits. A life book in this context is a pictorial and written representation of family the child is joining to help the child better understand and make sense of family make-up, values, traditions within the family. Life books are often used as a tool to help children attach emotionally to the new family.
Once a family has been selected as a potential good fit for a child, detailed information about the child’s past will be shared with the family. It is crucial at this stage to ask very specific questions regarding the child’s needs. It is important to assess realistically the family’s ability to parent a particular child. When the family and the workers feel certain about proceeding, the adoptive family will begin visits with the child in the foster home. Later they will visit with the child away from the foster home and eventually in the new adoptive home. This part of the process can go quickly or slowly, depending on the needs of the child. During this transition the adoptive family needs to be patient and respectful of the foster family the child will be leaving behind.
After placement, the child’s guardian will work closely with the family to ensure that the paperwork for adoption assistance is in place before finalization. The finalization takes place in a court of law before a judge, at which time the adoption is legal and a new birth certificate is issued identifying the adoptive parent(s) as the legal parent(s). Adoptions are usually finalized nine to twelve months after placement.
Before and after finalization, it is important for the adoptive family to develop a support system of family, friends, adoptive parent groups, and others that can be supportive during this transition. Contact with birth siblings is sometimes requested. Parenting children with special needs is often challenging. It will be important to the success of the family to take advantage of the information and trainings available in the State of Minnesota.
Applications for both adoption and foster care typically include a physician’s report; reference letters; a criminal background check for anyone living in the home who is age 13 and older; birth certificates; marriage certificates; and divorce certificates (if applicable). It is important to keep in mind that having a criminal background does not necessarily disqualify anyone. (For information refer to www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us section 259.67). Adoptive and foster families are not required to own a home or meet a minimum income standard. Most agencies require that a parent be at least 21 years old. When an application is submitted with the necessary forms, an adoption/foster care homestudy case will be opened and assigned to a social worker.
It is important during home visits or interviews that the family be forthcoming and clear about its strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses don’t necessarily disqualify a family. It is the information gathered at these interviews that the social worker uses to create a homestudy document.
This homestudy will be used to introduce and represent a family to a child’s social worker. The homestudy should be a detailed and accurate family portrait. The family should discuss any sensitive or confidential information about their family history. Adoption and foster care social workers are looking for families with “real life” experience and the ability to cope with challenges.
For information on the home study process, go to Child Welfare Information Gateway.