Adoption Disqualifiers
December 5, 2008 12:36 PM   Subscribe

What are some reasons a person would not be able to adopt or foster parent in the United States?

This is for the purposes of a story I'm writing; sorry about the hypothetical nature of the question, but I'm really stuck. I understand having a sex crime on one's record would be one reason, and being gay (in some states) would be another, but I'm interested in others. Thanks in advance.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Perhaps a mental health issue?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2008

A persistent history of substance abuse or financial instability?
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2008

At least in Virginia, being unwilling to commit to not using physcial punishment. I'm a foster mother and I had to sign an agreement not to use it.

Not having enough income to support a child.

I have depression and had to have my psychiatrist write a letter saying I was OK to parent. I assume not being willing to do that would put you out.

Lying on your application (this is an assumption)

Not having a suitable home (you have to pass a fire inspection, home inspection, etc.)

Having had your parental rights terminated in the past.

Not being able to get your doctor to sign off on your health.
posted by orsonet at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2008

I've always heard people with some health issues or chronic illnesses aren't allowed to adopt (the worry being they won't live to care for the kid through adulthood, I guess)
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2008

In Texas, at least, it's not just limited to sex crimes. Practically any felony or higher-level misdemeanor precludes you from fostering or adopting.

(personal experience)
posted by lockle at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2008

There can be age limits as well as financial and marriage requirements, too, but these vary by state and country. See, for example, this extensive list of requirements and disqualifications for couples adopting from China.
posted by scody at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2008

Criminal record.
Substance abuse (including alcoholism).
Unclean/unsafe/improper living conditions.
Financial difficulties.
Certain specific health conditions.

There's more, but they do vary by locale. For adoption, you have to pass a home study, where a case worker visits your home, interviews you and inspects the living conditions.

And, yeah, China is incredibly strict.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2008

It would really depend on the state and/or the county, in the US.

From the NYC website:

In general, you can be a foster parent if you are in good health and at least 21 years old. You can be married or single. All adults in your household will be subject to a criminal background check and a clearance by the State Central Registry for Abuse and Neglect, and some findings might disqualify you from foster parenting. You must have your own income and a large enough home, free from health and safety hazards, to comfortably accommodate a child. Most important, you must be be able and willing to provide care and guidance on a daily basis to a child in need. If you have questions about your qualifications, attend an orientation to discuss your particular issues.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:45 PM on December 5, 2008

I work for Boulder County (Colorado) and our requirements are consistent with what others have listed here already.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 1:51 PM on December 5, 2008

Lack of patience? My parents opted to adopt my sister from Russia, as it was a quicker process than trying to adopt from within the US.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2008

Yeah, in New York City, they can reject you for having too small an apartment. Which is bizarre, given Manhattan real estate prices and the fact that a kid could be in an abusive home with 20 people in a studio or in an awful group home/residential program and he's not allowed to move into a spotless one bedroom that adults would pay $2000 a month for.

China disqualifies fat, single, over 40, on medications from adopting the girls they are throwing away!
posted by Maias at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2008

I don't know about China banning over 40. I knew a couple who were much older that adopted a baby from China. Granted, they were wealthy.
posted by fructose at 10:08 AM on December 6, 2008

Folks above have said lots of good stuff, so I'll add just a few other things:

I'm not sure if being gay prohibits you from fostering in any states, though some states (Florida, primarily) have used it to prohibit you from adopting.

There is a list of crimes that I believe all states are required to follow re excluding folks from foster care, if they want to continue to receive federal funding for their foster care program. I'd look up that list for you, but I'm sleepy. In my experience (working in state child welfare system for years, though never directly certifying foster homes), major person and drug felonies will generally rule you out. Manufacturing or distributing drugs, domestic violence, child abuse, most sex crimes, repeated DUIs-any crime that might reasonably be expected to impact the risk you might pose to children. There are exception processes for some crimes, but not for others. If you have a conviction for molesting a 4 year old, doesn't matter how long ago it was, you're not gonna be a foster parent. If you have a conviction for selling pot in the early 80s, or three DUIs in a row when you were drinking but you've been in recovery for twenty years, then you might be OK.

Lying about your history can exclude you. If you say you have no crime and then they run the check, with fingerprints, and catch you, you might be SOL.

Being unwilling to cooperate with the agency's plan for the child. If you think you are put on God's Green Earth to save all the poor little children from their horrible parents, so don't really see the need to bring them to visits, I hope we'll rule you out. Foster parents have to commit to no physical discipline.

Adoptive parents who have not dealt with the issues leading to their need to adopt are often gently discouraged or ruled out by agencies. Not that you have to be done grieving your infertility, for instance, but if you're not really ready to move on, if you see adoption as some crappy last choice, a good social worker will see that and send you to counseling first.

While there is no specific upper age limit for adopting from the state system, there does need to be a reasonable expectation that you will live long enough to raise the child to adulthood.
posted by purenitrous at 11:03 PM on December 8, 2008

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