The Adoption Process in Iowa
Iowa law states that individuals and couples alike are eligible to adopt a child, so long as they are 18 years of age or older. They do not need to own a home or even live in a house. They can be renters living in apartments or condominiums.
There is no cost to you to be a foster parent or adopt a child from the Iowa foster care system. Orientation, training, licensing, and support services are free to families and funded through the DHS. After adoption, the parent or parents will be assigned a support specialist who will be available free of charge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
As discussed in more detail below, financial assistance for children with special needs is also available.
Before you adopt a foster child, however, the child’s parents must voluntarily relinquish their rights as parents, or those rights must be terminated by the Juvenile Court because the parents are deemed unfit or unable to care for their offspring, also known as Termination of Parental Rights (TPR).
Adoption Home Study
Unless you are adopting a stepchild or a relative within the fourth degree, you will need to undergo a home study conducted by a social worker. The social worker will conduct face-to-face interviews with all family members and visit the home to see whether it is fit for an adopted child.
Background checks will be conducted, including a criminal record review. Barriers to adoption include felony convictions for domestic abuse, child endangerment or abandonment, any crime against a child, or a drug-related offense within the past five years.
The home study will then be repeated annually once the child is formally adopted.
Finalizing the Adoption
Once the child has been placed with you, the adoption agency or a certified investigator will make three visits to your home, typically at intervals of one, three, and five months after placement.
At some point after 180 days, a finalization hearing will be scheduled. The judge will ascertain whether the adoption meets all legal requirements, including the Indian Child Welfare Act if you’re adopting from a federally recognized tribe and the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children if you’re adopting from out of state. If everything checks out, an adoption decree will be issued.
Of course, if you’re adopting a foster child from a facility in Iowa, the legal barriers will be minimal, mainly that the birth parents have relinquished parenting rights or have been issued a TPR.
State and Federal Assistance for Special Needs Children
Children can qualify for federal or state adoption assistance based on their needs. A child with special needs is defined as having one of the following needs or circumstances that may be a barrier to adoption without financial assistance:
- The child is five years in age or older or has special needs regardless of age.
- The child is a member of a sibling group of three or more children placed in the same adoptive home.
- The child has a medically diagnosed disability that limits one or more major life activities requiring professional assistance or special equipment.
- The child has been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition that impairs the child’s mental, intellectual, or social functioning and requires professional care.
- The child has been diagnosed to have a behavioral or emotional disorder that is age or situationally inappropriate and interferes with the child’s intellectual, social, and personal adjustment.
- The child has been determined to be intellectually disabled.
If one or more of these conditions have been met, the adoptive families are eligible for daily financial assistance based on the age of the child. In addition, children who qualify for federal assistance are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits.