Kinship adoption is the legal process of placing a child with a close relative or family member. It provides a permanent home after a child has been removed from his or her biological parents. If you are already raising a family member’s child, here are some reasons to consider a Colorado kinship adoption:
- Someone in your family is unable to care for their biological child or children.
- Temporary guardianship has turned into a more permanent situation.
- The child’s natural parent has not made necessary improvements (e.g. substance rehabilitation, homelessness, etc) to provide a stable environment in which to raise the child.
If you’re experiencing these or similar scenarios, it may be time to consider becoming the child’s legal parent. Kinship adoptions are relatively easy to complete, especially for Coloradans already serving as legal guardians.
When Kinship Adoption is Necessary
Minor children need protection, support, and nurturing. When biological parents cannot provide these basic needs, the state must find the child a better home. Often, the child is placed in a relative’s home.
In my experience, the state would rather place a child with an aunt, uncle, or grandparent than make the child a ward of the state.
When a Child Needs a New Home
The opportunity for a kinship adoption can arise from any of the following circumstances:
- the biological parents or legal guardians have died
- the biological parents have consented to adoption or voluntarily terminated their parental rights and responsibilities
- the state has determined that the child will not be safe with its biological parents
- the biological parents abandoned the child at least one year ago
What is Abandonment?
Colorado Revised Statute 19-5-203 (1) (j) lays out the circumstances and procedures for a kinship adoption. It defines abandonment as:
“(Failure) without cause to provide reasonable support for such child for a period of one year or more.”
A parent has abandoned a child when he or she fails to:
- provide food, clothing, shelter, or medical care for their child, or
- has not made a reasonable effort to contact the child for at least one year
Child abandonment also occurs when a parent or guardian turns a child over to state authorities for a number of reasons, including:
- mental illness,
- substance abuse,
- long-term incarceration,
- poverty, or
- a lack of commitment to the legal responsibility of raising a child.
Eligibility for Kinship Adoption
First, there must be justification for placing the child or children in a new home. This means the biological/original parents must be deemed unfit or unable to care for the child.
Once a need is established, a kinship adoption can be initiated by an adult who either:
- is a relative of the child or has a significant relationship with the child,
- is willing to make a long-term commitment to the child, and
- has had physical custody of the child for at least a year.
— C.R.S 19-5-203 (1) (j)
The person petitioning for kinship adoption must pass a criminal background check and other clearances to be approved. Someone under investigation for child abuse or neglect is not a good candidate for kinship adoption.
Not all kinship adoptions are initiated by a family member. In some cases, a non-relative adult can try to adopt if they already have a significant relationship with the child. This non-related significant adult can be a coach, a teacher, or a close family friend.
The Age of the Child
Any child 12 years of age or older must consent to the adoption in writing. — C.R.S 19-5-203 (2)
The child to be adopted must be 17 years old or younger. However, a court may approve certain adult kinship adoptions for adoptees between the ages of 18 and 21.
The Kinship Adoption Process
While most kinship adoptions are uncontested, there is still a formal process to complete. Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll take if you move forward with a kinship adoption.
Step One: Establish Eligibility
Make sure that you and the child are eligible for kinship adoption.
A child is eligible for kinship adoption if they are 17 years old or younger and his or her parents are unfit or unable to care for them. The petitioner is eligible to adopt if they meet the requirements discussed above and is a relative of the biological parents or a significant adult in the child’s life.
Get Your Background Check
You and other adult members of your household must pass both a state and federal fingerprint criminal background check. This standard procedure must be completed 90 days before filing kinship adoption paperwork.
Next, all adults in the home must submit to a TRAILS background check. The TRAILS database identifies individuals who have committed previous child abuse or child neglect.
Step Two: Establish Compatibility
A Colorado family court wants assurance that you can give the child a good home. After all, the child has already been removed from one bad parenting situation. The court takes seriously its responsibility to make sure the minor child’s next home is the right one.
Complete a Kinship Adoption Home Study
Many Colorado adoptions require some form of home study. The court appoints a qualified and objective professional to conduct a thorough evaluation of the adopting parents. They will do their own background check, conduct interviews, and inspect the home to make sure it is suitable. The court will receive a written evaluation of the home study.
Waive or Modify the Home Study
The home study is not necessary in most Colorado kinship adoptions. In fact, I almost always file a motion to waive this part of the process. The child is already acclimated to the home in these cases, so the home study generally isn’t necessary.
A home study can also be modified. In contested cases, which are rare, we can seek a modified home study. Even though the child is comfortable in the home, the court might want to know about one or two specific issues. A modification will limit the home study to those issues only.
Step Three: Make Your Case to the Court
As the kinship adoption petitioner, you must show you are ready to step in and raise the child. The court will want evidence from you that you are able to promote the child’s physical and emotional well-being.
At the adoption hearing, we’ll present documents and/or provide witness testimony to support your case. We’ll show the court that you have the home space, the financial resources, and a loving intent to raise the child.
Let Us Help with Your Colorado Kinship Adoption
It is unfortunate anytime a child cannot remain with his or her biological parents. However, you still have the power to keep the child or children in the family. That’s the great appeal of a kinship adoption. It’s also a relatively easy process in most cases because courts favor keeping a child with family when possible. If you’d like to consider this option, Robinson & Henry’s experienced family law attorneys are ready to help. Call 303-688-0944 for your case assessment.