What Are the Criteria for Adopting a Child in Connecticut?

If you’re thinking about adopting a child in Connecticut, you’ll want to make sure you meet the state’s adoption requirements. Adoption laws vary from state to state, and many of the rules can be confusing.

The complexity of the process shouldn’t put you off from moving forward, but it’s important to get a firm handle on what you need to do to get to the finish line. If you have questions about adoption, an experienced Connecticut adoption attorney can provide the answers you need. Here is what you need to know about eligibility for adopting a child in Connecticut:

Laws and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Connecticut

According to Connecticut law, any adult ages 21 or over is eligible to adopt a child. Adoption is available to single parents as well as same-sex couples. If a married couple is adopting, they must do so jointly unless an exception is made by the court.

Laws to Become a Foster Parent in Connecticut

Foster parents often become adoptive parents after making a strong connection with a child. In Connecticut, you must also be age 21 or older to act as a foster parent. Further, you must be of good character, complete a background check, provide a supportive home environment, complete a home study, and attend a 10-week training program.

Who Must Consent to a Connecticut Adoption?

In the state of Connecticut, the following people must consent to an adoption:

  • A statutory parent
  • A parent who consents to a stepparent adoption by a spouse because the other birth parent has died or has had their parental rights terminated
  • The child’s guardian who agrees to adoption by a relative

A birth parent who is a minor can consent to adoption. But the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to ensure that the parent is giving voluntary and informed consent. Any child aged 12 or older must consent to being adopted.

Birth parents can voluntarily consent to adoption 48 hours after the birth of the child. Consent is made by a petition to voluntarily terminate parental rights that is filed with the appropriate probate court. If the birth parents are unmarried, the petition should state whether a putative father exists that will be given notice of the adoption. Anyone claiming to be the father of the child has 60 days to object to a notice and file a paternity claim.

Parental consent is not necessary in cases where the court finds that a parent has:

  • Abandoned the child
  • Been found guilty of child abuse or neglect or sexual assault that resulted in conception of the child
  • Failed to establish an ongoing relationship with the child
  • Had their parental rights to another child terminated
  • Deliberately harmed another child or conspired to harm a child

What Expenses Can Adoptive Families Pay or Collect?

Adoption can be a costly process and giving birth can be expensive as well. Prospective adoptive parents in Connecticut are permitted to pay up to $1,500 towards the birth mother’s living expenses. Any costs above this figure must be approved by the court.

Any family adopting a special needs child in this state can apply for a medical and/or financial subsidy. This financial assistance helps pay for living expenses and the support of the medical and emotional needs of children who qualify.

What is Connecticut’s Home Study Requirement for Adoptions?

Most adoptions in Connecticut involve a mandatory Home Study except for stepparent adoptions. The study is completed by the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) or a child placement agency, and it must be completed within 60 days of the court’s request.

The purpose of the home study is to ensure that the adoptive home is suitable and safe for the child. It includes a child abuse registry check and criminal records check for anyone in the home ages 16 and over.

Most home studies are routine, but the agency will not approve the study if anyone in the household has been convicted of a violent crime or had a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect.

Get Help from a Connecticut Adoption Attorney Today

Adoption is incredibly rewarding, but it doesn’t come without considerable determination and effort. If you are thinking about adopting a child, having an experienced Connecticut adoption attorney in your corner can take some of the stress and confusion out of this process. At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, we can answer any questions you have about adoption and are standing by to fully represent your interests throughout this process. Call our Hartford office at (860) 461-7494 or reach out to us online for an initial consultation.

Adopting a Special Needs Child in Connecticut – Subsidized Adoptions

According to the National Adoption Center, there are over 130,000 children with “special needs” in this country awaiting permanent homes. In the context of child welfare, foster care, and adoption, “special needs” refers not only to children with disabilities but also to those whose risk factors for disability, race, ethnic, age, or other characteristics make them more challenging to place.

Adoption is a gift for both the child and their adoptive family. But, it is an extremely important decision that can create financial hardships, particularly if a child has special needs. In the state of Connecticut, a child may be eligible for a subsidy through the state if they qualify.

What is Connecticut’s Adoption Subsidy Program?

Children with special needs who are adopted may qualify for adoption assistance or subsidies. These are programs under the Federal Title IV-E (part of the Social Security Act) as well as from the state itself.

In Connecticut, the adoption assistance program is run entirely by the state, but 50% of it is funded by the Federal Title IV-E program. The State of Connecticut outlines the process for how families can qualify for and collect these subsidies.

Who is Eligible for a Subsidized Adoption in Connecticut?

Special needs children are not only more difficult to place in adoptive homes. The costs of caring for these children are also sometimes higher than with other children. Connecticut defines special needs children as those who meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Physical or mental disability
  • Severe emotional maladjustment
  • Over age eight
  • Age of two or over and having ethnic or racial factors presenting barriers to adoption
  • High risk of physical or mental disability
  • Part of a sibling group that should be placed together

If a child is being adopted from a private agency, parents should determine if there is eligibility for subsidies or assistance before the adoption is finalized.

What is the Amount of the Benefit?

Children with special needs who are adopted in Connecticut may qualify for subsidies, which are paid to adoptive families to help defray expenses related to the child’s need for ongoing treatment, therapy, or to cover one-time expenses.

In Connecticut, the current per diem (daily) adoption assistance rate is equal to 100% of the USDA’s estimate of the cost of raising a child. The rate varies based on the age of the child:

  • Ages 0-5:    $25.99 per diem
  • Ages 6-11:  $26.29 per diem
  • Ages 12-18 $28.52 per diem

A child diagnosed with a “medically complex” condition will receive assistance in line with the care and attention they require up to a maximum of $47.10 per diem. These children must meet specific requirements, and their cases are reviewed annually.

Any financial subsidy you receive for your child is not considered income for tax purposes. In the event this changes, please verify this information on the IRS website.

There are other nonrecurring benefits available as well. These include:

  • Up to $750 per child for expenses directly related to adoption
  • Up to one year of childcare expenses paid through Care4Kids

According to Connecticut law, regular financial subsidies end on the child’s 18th birthday. But, if a child was adopted after age 16, the financial subsidy can continue until age 21 as long as the child is enrolled and attending a post-secondary educational program on a full-time basis.

How to Apply for a Subsidized Adoption

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers Connecticut’s adoption subsidy program. The prospective adoptive family and the DCF social worker should negotiate the adoption assistance agreement before the adoption is finalized. The DCF Central Office will make a final determination about assistance.

Upon finalization of the adoption by the Probate Court, DCF will begin making monthly subsidy payments to the family. These checks are generally issued on the 15th of each month.

DCF will conduct an annual review of every case to confirm the continuing need for a subsidy. Adoptive parents will need to submit a sworn statement indicating that the special need continues to exist, and that the child remains a legal dependent. The Adoption Subsidy Review Board has the option to continue, reduce, or terminate payments, but major changes won’t be made without the benefit of a hearing.

Get Help from An Experienced Connecticut Adoption Attorney

Adoption is an emotional and complex process. It’s certainly not something you should approach without a thorough understanding of your rights and obligations under the law. As a trusted and knowledgeable adoption attorney, it is my honor to help bring families and children together using strong legal agreements. Contact our Hartford office today to learn more about how we can assist you with a special needs adoption in Connecticut. Our office number is (860) 461-7494.

What to Do If DCF Calls You – Important Information about DCF Investigations

One of the scariest calls you can get is from a DCF worker. DCF stands for the Department of Children and Families. In Connecticut, they have the task of protecting the welfare of children located in the State of Connecticut. According to DCF, “the mission of the Department of Children and Families is to protect children, improve child and family wellbeing, and support and preserve families.” This is taken from the Parent’s Right to Know brochure given to each parent.

This mission statement sounds ok until you realize what DCF has the power to do. They can investigate your entire family and make a determination if your children should remain in your care. Knowing this power, you have to do more than read a brochure. You need to understand their goals and procedures when you are being investigated by DCF so you know how best to deal with DCF if they call.

In this blog, I will outline the overall procedure of each investigation. This is to give you some insight into what to expect. In the next post, I will give explanations about your rights as parents. The final post in this series will give some tips on what to do if DCF has called you. The goal is not to give legal advice on to handle your case because each case is different. The goal is to help you understand the role and function of the DCF investigation so that you can be prepared.

What is a DCF Investigation?

There are three different types of allegations the Connecticut DCF handles — physical abuse allegations, neglect allegations, and sexual abuse allegations. DCF handles all of these allegations in much the same way. But, depending on the circumstances, the agency may do an emergency or non-emergency response. One of the main differences is that DCF may also report cases of sexual abuse and serious physical abuse to local law enforcement.

The DCF Investigation Process

The DCF generally has 45 days from the date of the report to conclude its investigation. During the investigation, the agency will make an on-site visit and talk to the child, if possible.

The investigator will review and preview DCF investigation reports. They will also speak with any witnesses that might have knowledge of the abuse or neglect, such as parents, co-workers, or healthcare workers.

DCF is one agency that doesn’t need to look for work, it comes to them. A call comes into the DCF hotline number (1-800-842-2288). A social worker responds and asks a series of questions about the case. They need to know more than just general compliant, names and addresses. They may do a preliminary investigation over the phone to determine as much information as possible. They ask about others in the home. They ask about issues of drug use or domestic violence. They need to know all the issues as much as possible before making a determination of what is next.

After the call, the social worker in connection with a supervisor will determine how best to proceed. If they determine that there is not enough to proceed with an investigation because there is not enough information or the issue does not include issues of abuse or neglect then the call goes no further. If there is a valid concern of abuse or neglect, then the call is coded for the type of response needed.

From there, the report is sent to the office covering the town where the child is located. The social worker has to initiate contact with the family by making a telephone call or visiting the home if necessary. After the call is made, the investigator will begin the investigation.

The investigation typically starts with contacting the reporter. The investigator will see if there is anything more to report. This person may have opted to be anonymous, but that anonymity is only as to keep that information from the parent. DCF keeps information of each person that calls the hotline of abuse or neglect. The anonymity is important because DCF needs individuals to make reports of abuse or neglect otherwise, without fear. This may be the only way some kids can get help.

The social worker will call you to make arrangements to come and interview you regarding the investigation. If you take the call, then the DCF will come to your house as planned. They will speak to you about the issues in the case. After speaking with you, the social worker will ask to speak with each of your children alone. They will start with the child who is the subject of the report. They will also speak with any other children. They will also ask to speak with each adult in the home. They do so to make sure they have made contact with each person who has come in contact with the child in question.

If you don’t take the call, then DCF will have to make a determination as to how to proceed. The social worker will consult with his or her management as to how far they should go to make a connection with the family. They may try the house again. They may continue to call. The DCF team could also consider legal avenues such as filing a petition in court asking the Juvenile to intervene.

DCF Home Visit

During the home visit, DCF will ask about the kids’ medical and educational status. Although DCF could be there about a concern of physical abuse, they will need to ensure that the child/children are up to date medically and are going to school on a regular basis. In order to do so, DCF will ask for the parent to sign a release of information. This will allow DCF to contact the doctors and school officials about your child. If the child is in counseling, DCF will also inquire of the counselor the child’s status.

The purpose of all these interviews is to get as clear an understanding of the family’s status. The social worker only has a short period of time to complete the investigation. This does not mean if they finish in time required, that the investigation is invalid, it just means it’s late.

DCF will talk with any other individuals that may be important to completing the investigation. Once the investigation is complete DCF will have to decide whether to substantiate (to find that the child was abused or neglected) or to unsubstantiated (to find that the child was not abused or neglected). They will also determine who is the cause of the abuse or neglect.

The last determination is whether to place someone on the DCF central registry. This registry is a registry for individuals who have been determined to be a danger to children. It is not a public list. However, employers such as schools and daycares can enquire of DCF, in writing, whether or not a potential hire is on the list. The Central Registry does not prevent people from getting a job, that is up to the employer. However, for most schools and daycare facilities, they will not want to hire someone on the DCF Central Registry. It is also important to note if a person is on the Central Registry, it can prevent that person from being a foster parent even for a relative.

Lastly, the social worker will discuss the findings with the supervisor and program manager if necessary. Then will then finalize the investigation by notifying the family of the results. DCF will send a letter detailing the decision made regarding the investigation. The letter will note the following

  1. The type of abuse or neglect that is substantiated or unsubstantiated
  2. If the person will be listed on the DCF central registry
  3. How you may challenge the findings

Challenging the DCF findings is important as it can have a lasting impact on your employment if work with children or your future with your children.

The investigation process can be very difficult to go through. If handled poorly, a parent could find themselves in a juvenile court answering to a judge. In our next post, we will detail your rights as a parent when dealing with DCF.