Adoption is the legal transfer of all parenting rights and responsibilities from the original parent to a new parent. Adoption extends throughout lifetime. The parental rights have been severed and the adoptive parents have all the rights of birth parents.
Adoption permanently alters the legal relationship between a child and his or her biological parents. Adopted parents become the legal parents and biological parents give up all parental rights and obligations.
A guardianship does not sever the legal relationship that exists between a child and his or her biological parents, it co-exists with that legal relationship. Birth parents retain important rights such as choice of religion and visitation if their rights have not been relinquished or terminated.
A.R.S. §8-533 establishes, among other things, the following grounds for severance:
Also, the court must find that it is in the children’s best interest to terminate the parents’ rights. Once a parent’s rights have been severed, their children are free to be adopted by others.
If the child is 12 years or older, they must consent to the adoption, unless the court, in the best interests of the minor, dispenses with the minor consent.
With guardianship, if the child is 14 years or older, they must consent to the guardianship.
Yes. If the child is a ward of the state, the cost of the adoption will be reimbursed.
If the child is not a ward of the court, the child may be adopted but adoption reimbursement and subsidies are not available and the costs must be paid by the adoptive parent.
Follow a link to a list of attorneys.
Adoption is handled in juvenile court.
Yes. If the child was a ward of the court, your child may be eligible for adoption subsidy through the Adoption Subsidy Program. Supports may include:
For more information on adopting children from foster care: https://dcs.az.gov/blocks/adopting-foster-care
No. Unless the child is a ward of the court and has special need, as determined by the DCS Adoption Review Committee, the child will not be eligible for subsidy.
A child is eligible for adoption subsidy if he or she:
The cash assistance is a rate that is similar to that of foster care and the amounts change dependent upon the age of the child.
Your adoption worker will assist you with the application process. Once completed, all applications are submitted to the DCS Adoption Subsidy Review Committee (ASRC) to determine eligibility.
When there is no longer a possibility that a birth parent can care for the child, adoption provides the only permanent option for the child. The child will have a permanent family for life.
Adoption means that you become the legal parent of the child. The birth parents no longer have any parental rights. You can make all parental decisions and assume all parental responsibilities. You can change the child’s name, get access to all records, make all decisions, and travel anywhere.
When a child is adopted, they may lose benefits provided by the State of Arizona, including counseling and health insurance among other benefits.
Click here for information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Arizona.
Guardianship is the legal relationship between a minor child and a guardian that gives the guardian certain rights and obligations regarding the child. A guardianship doesn’t sever the legal relationship that exist between a child and his/her biological parents, instead, it co-exists with that legal relationship.
Until the child is 18 years of age.
If the child is only going to be with you for a few weeks, you may not need to obtain formal guardianship. If the child will be with you longer and/or you need to enroll the child in school, obtain medical care, or are in Section 8 Housing, guardianship may be warranted.
You may not be able to enroll a child in school or obtain medical information for the child if you are not the guardian, nor will you be able to obtain medical treatment.
No. There are resources that will assist you in completing the necessary forms for guardianship.
The required information packet can be found at: http://www.azcourts.gov/selfservicecenter/Self-Service-Forms/Filing-for-Minor-Guardianship
https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/sscDocs/pdf/pbgcm11iz.pdf - these are written instructions on how to complete the paperwork
http://duetaz.org/index.php/services/grandparents-raising-grandchildren/ - Duet holds workshops on how to complete paperwork
Arizona Kinship Support Services works in partnership with Children’s Law Center to offer free monthly guardianship clinics in Phoenix to help caregivers complete guardianship petitions. Click here for more information.
Arizona Kinship Support Services’ KARE Center works in partnership with Southern Arizona Legal Aid to offer free guardianship clinics in Tucson to help caregivers complete guardianship petitions. Call 520-323-4476 to get information about their upcoming clinics.
Yes, there are two types of Guardianship in Arizona.
Title 14 Guardianship can be pursued when there is no DCS involvement. It involves parental consent, it is filed in juvenile court and it does not allow for subsidy. This also has an annual report to the court as a requirement. It does allow for AHCCCS, WIC, SNAP, TANF
Any person interested in the welfare of a minor (and has the child in their care) may petition the court for the appointment of a Title 14 guardian. A guardian may be appointed when someone other than the parent wants to be appointed by the court to take over parent responsibilities, such as decisions regarding housing, medical care and education.
The filing fee, which must be paid to the Clerk of the Court at the time the petition is filed, is $156* plus any local fees (which can be determined by checking with the specific county’s court).
Apache County Cochise County Coconino County Gila County Graham County Greenlee County La Paz County Maricopa County Mohave County Navajo County Pima County Pinal County Santa Cruz County Yavapai County Yuma County
*A request can be made to the court to waive or defer this cost.
The petitioner and any other adults in the home over 18 years old must be fingerprinted.
Parent consent from both parents must be obtained via a notarized document. If the whereabouts of the parent(s) is unknown, Publication of Notice of a Hearing is necessary.
Non-biological applicant must be fingerprinted for a background check.
If the child is 14 or older, the child must also sign a consent to guardianship.
All forms can be found at: https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/JuvenileCourt/guardianship.asp
Annual Progress reports are due to Juvenile Court each year. If the annual report is not completed, the guardianship is revoked. https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/LawLibraryResourceCenter/Forms/JuvenileCases/jg_jgcg9.asp
Click here for information about guardianship clinics where you can obtain help completing guardianship petitions.
There are two types of Title 8 Guardianship, both established through Juvenile Court.
In both cases the parents’ rights are suspended.
The child has been declared dependent for the previous 8 months by the petitioner and the court agrees.
A guardian is assigned the care, custody and supervision of a child by the court. This means the guardian has rights and responsibilities in making important decisions affecting the life, education, medical treatment, and development of a child.
It is subsidy available to those caregivers who have been appointed as the permanent guardian of a child is who is ward of the court and in foster care. These children cannot return home to their parents and adoption has been ruled out as a possible alternative.
Dollars that provide financial assistance to help a child’s legal guardian care for the child.
Guardian subsidy lasts until the child is 18 unless:
The basic guardianship subsidy rate is $12.95/day/child. Special consideration may be given when a child enters guardianship from a licensed foster home. If a child receives Social Security benefits, the amount is deducted from the guardianship subsidy.
The child is a citizen or qualified non-citizen.
Yes, guardianship may be revoked, but this can only be done by a judge.
Parents must show:
No, once you have guardianship, you cannot become a licensed foster home for that child.
Court Appointed Special Advocate.
A CASA is a volunteer. CASA volunteers are everyday people appointed by a judge to advocate for abused and neglected children in court. Click the video to watch a short video on “What is a CASA?”
Any child who is in the custody of DCS can have a CASA assigned to their case. However, there are not enough CASA volunteers for every child. If the child in your care has a CASA assigned to them a Legal Party memorandum will be sent to all parties listed in the minute entries of the court with the name of the volunteer.
Each county CASA Program is required to screen every dependency case that is filed with the court by DCS. Since there are not enough CASA volunteers to appoint to every case, a screening tool helps the program prioritize which cases most merit a CASA.
CASA volunteers get to know the child by talking with the child and everyone else in that child's life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them. Click here to learn more about what a CASA’s responsibilities include. Click the video to watch a short video about “How Can a CASA Help a Foster Parent.”
CASA volunteers play an entirely different role in the case. The volunteer is the only person whose sole job is to get to know the child and determine what is in his or her best interests. The caseworker’s main role is to work with the family and help them to complete services so that their children can be returned to a safe home. Caseworkers, attorneys and other professionals in the cases have many cases involving many families and children. CASA volunteers work with only a few children at a time, so they can have time to dedicate to getting to know the child and really finding out what they need and what would be best for the child’s future. Judges rely heavily on the information they receive from CASA volunteers who are charged with serving as the “eyes and ears” of the court.
A CASA is assigned to stay with a case until it is permanently resolved.
CASA volunteers start with 30-hours of training. Additionally, they receive at least 12-hours of ongoing training annually.
Follow the link below and find your county:
The Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) reviews the case of each child in foster care every 6 months and advises the court on the progress of the case toward permanency. FCRB hearings are held every six months and are scheduled about 2-3 months before being held. Foster parents generally get a letter from the Superior Court of Arizona notifying them about an upcoming FCRB meeting.
Each board has five volunteer members and there is a staff person who facilitates the meeting. The volunteer members are required to attend one day orientation training when they are first appointed to the board and they have annual on-going training to continue to improve their skills.
To find out if your child has a hearing coming up, call the FCRB office that serves your region. If you are the current placement, then you can also request that the FCRB office send you copies of FCRB reports.
Attending the FCRB meeting provides you with the opportunity to share information about the child with the board and also to discuss any concerns or needs you have. The board prepares a written report summarizing the information received and making recommendations, and this report is sent to the judge and other parties involved in the child’s case (for example, the parents, the foster parents, attorneys, etc.).
If you cannot attend the FCRB meeting in person, you may be able to participate telephonically. If this is not possible, you can provide the board with information by telephone, email, or letter. Click here for additional information about foster parent participation in FCRB meetings.
Do not let a fear of writing stop you from writing your statement. A good FCRB statement simply tells a story. Start by pretending to write a letter to a friend about your experience with the child(ren) in care. What has gone well? What was difficult? What help do you need? What concerns do you have? What do you hope will happen? Do you hope the child gets to reunite with his/her family? Why or why not?
Remember, the FCRB advises the juvenile court in four key areas, so try to address them in your statement:
Knowing the FCRB may discuss the following, try to include them in your statement as well:
Lastly, good spelling and grammar are important, so ask someone (keeping confidentiality requirements in mind) to proofread your statement.
The child (if age appropriate), the child’s biological parents, the child’s DCS case manager, and the child’s foster parents are invited to attend the FCRB meeting.
Yes, the child is invited to attend the FCRB meeting or send a written statement via email or letter. Click here for additional information about youth participation in FCRB meetings.
The FCRB is focused on the best interests of the child in care and must make a determination in the following four areas: (1) safety, necessity, and appropriateness of placement; (2) case plan compliance; (3) progress toward mitigating the need for foster care; and (4) a likely target date by which the child may be returned home or placed for adoption or permanent guardianship. The FCRB also assesses whether “reasonable efforts” leading to permanency are being made by DCS.(From www.azcourts.gov/fcrb/FAQ)
On behalf of each child, the FCRB reviews:
FCRB meetings generally last about 30 minutes.
A court hearing is when the judge is updated about the parents’ progress on their service plan and how the child is doing in placement. Based upon these updates, the judge can make a decision regarding the child’s case plan (for example, ordering for reunification or ordering a case plan change to severance and adoption). Also, the judge may issue orders for additional services for the parents and/or the child.
Click here for a list of Arizona counties and their courthouse locations; select your county and look for the juvenile court location information.
DCS is required to comply with state statutes regarding hearings and reviews of DCS cases.
At this hearing, the court will determine the permanent plan for the child and set a timeframe. If the court finds that termination of parental rights or permanent guardianship is in the child’s best interest, the court will order a motion to terminate parent rights or for permanent guardianship be filed within ten days.
Click here for a chart explaining the Juvenile Dependency Process and timeframes.
If the parents have not made diligent efforts towards reunification, the state may file for termination of parental rights earlier if children under 3 years of age have been in care for 6 months.
The following people attend court hearings:
Juvenile Court Judge or Commissioner Child’s parents Child’s parents’ attorneys (each parent will have an attorney assigned to them) DCS case manager Assistant Attorney General (AAG) – legal counsel for DCS Child (depending on age and type of hearing) Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) – child’s legal counsel to represent the child’s best interests Child’s attorney (not appointed for every child) – child’s legal counsel to represent the child’s wishes Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) – if appointed Foster parents
Yes. Rule 41 (I) of the Arizona Rules of Procedure for Juvenile Court gives you that right to notice, to attend, and to be heard. It also gives DCS the responsibility of providing that notice.
While foster parents are not required to attend court hearings, attending hearings provides foster parents with the opportunity to hear directly what is going on with their child’s case and learn about any changes to the case plan. It is important for foster parents to know that it is common for a few hearings to be scheduled at the same time, so you cannot be certain exactly what time your case will be called into the courtroom nor can you be certain the exact length of time of your hearing. Some hearings last 5 minutes, and others can take more than an hour. Attending court hearings also provides foster parents with the opportunity to talk with the DCS Caseworker and the child’s GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) outside of home visits.
Foster parents sit in the gallery of the courtroom; the gallery is the sitting area of the courtroom that is separated from the rest of the courtroom by a bar or short partition.
You can contact the DCS Caseworker and/or the child’s GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) to learn about what happened at court. You can also ask your licensing agency’s licensing worker to attend the court hearing in your place.
Generally foster parents attend hearings to learn about their child’s case. Some judges, however, ask all parties in the courtroom to introduce themselves and state their relationship to the case, and when they learn the foster parent is present, may ask if you have anything you would like to say. Foster parents have the right to participate and be heard at hearings. If you decide to speak at a hearing, it is recommended that you provide any information in a succinct and objective manner and that you focus on the child’s well-being (including progress and needs).
The length of a court hearing is dependent on many factors, and some last 5 minutes and some can last longer than an hour. It is unpredictable and so foster parents are encouraged to plan accordingly.
Although the child in your care has an attorney or GAL who is their legal advocate and you don’t want to interfere with their work, you can help your foster child by:
Click here to view a pamphlet called “Getting from Here to There: A Guide to The Dependency Court For Children and Youth in Foster Care.”
Unfortunately there is so much information and it is in so many different places that it is not necessarily an easy task. The law governing the welfare of children is found in Title 8 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) which you can access here. Court rules which apply to the proceedings in Dependency Actions can be found here. There are also regulations in the Arizona Administrative Code which apply to the care of children, the license of foster homes and other services which may impact children in care. Find the Arizona Administrative Code here and go to Title 21.
The case plan is a written document which is a separate and distinct part of the case record. It identifies the permanency goal and target date, desired outcomes, tasks, time frames, and responsible parties. More specifically, the case plan identifies what behavioral changes are required from the parent and/or the child to address the safety threats and risk factors that caused the child to be removed from the home and/or prevent the child from living safely at home without DCS involvement. The case manager is responsible for the development and implementation of the case plan in consultation with the family and service team.
The case plan is developed by the DCS worker, with input from the family at a staffing.
If a child is 14 years or older, the case plan must have input from the child with regard to education, health, visitation and Court participation.
DCS must complete the case plan within 60 days of the child(ren) being removed from the home.
The case plan must be updated every 6 months and at specific times in the life of a case when key decision are made (such as when a change in permanency goal is considered) or there is a significant change in case circumstances.
If you disagree with the plan, the following steps should be followed.
This plan specifies, for every child in out-of-home care, that there will be frequent and consistent contact between the child and the child’s parents, siblings, family members, other relatives, and any former resource family, especially those with whom the child has developed a strong attachment. Contact may be by telephone, mail and/or in-person visitation.
Visitation will take place in the most natural, family-like setting possible and with as little supervision as possible while still ensuring the safety and well-being of the child.
Permanency goal - The first stop in the case plan is to identify a permanency goal and a date that the goal is expected to be reached. The permanency goals are reunification, adoption, legal guardianship and another planned living arrangement.
Concurrent permanency planning - If it has been determined that family reunification is unlikely to occur within 12 months of a child’s removal, a concurrent plan must be identified. Concurrent planning activities will be implemented to ensure:
Placement - A placement must be identified for the child placed in out-of-home care. Options are:
Family Intervention Plan - This portion of the case plan specifies the kinds of services and supports that will be offered to the family in order to achieve the case plan permanency goal. The services and supports are to be tailored to meet the specific needs of the family;
Out-of-Home Care Plan - The following must be included in the plan:
Visitation Plan - This plan specifies, for every child in out-of-home care, that there will be frequent and consistent contact between the child and the child’s parents, siblings, family members, other relatives, and any former resource family, especially those with whom the child has developed a strong attachment. Contact may be by telephone, mail and/or in-person visitation.
Visitation will take place in the most natural, family-like setting possible and with as little supervision as possible while still ensuring the safety and well-being of the child.
Desired Family Behaviors - Identify services and supports aimed at achieving the desired behaviors required to address the safety and risk factors that caused the child to be removed from the home and/or prevent the child from living safely at home without the Department's involvement;
Every child and family receiving ongoing services from DCS must have a case plan. The case plan must be consistent with state and federal law.
A documented meeting arranged to share information, and to develop and/or review the case plan, and the evaluation of services and case progress. At the first staffing, the permanent case plan is developed. Case plan staffings are held at least every 6 months.
DCS will work in partnership with families, natural supports, and providers to identify the family’s strengths and needs in order to achieve safety, permanency and well-being.
In order of preference:
This plan specifies the kinds of services and supports that will be offered to the family in order to achieve the case plan permanency goal.
A safety plan is developed when it is determined that a child is in imminent danger.
A safety plan is a written arrangement between the parent, guardian, or custodian and the Department that establishes how impending danger threats to child safety will be controlled. The safety plan describes safety actions and services that will be implemented to prevent anticipated danger from causing harm to the child. Safety actions are active and intentional efforts made by the Department, the family, or informal or formal supports who will take responsibility for assuring that a child’s basic needs and need for safety are met. Safety services support the completion of safety actions.
DCS may propose a case plan of “undetermined” when the DCS is considering severance, as when there are aggravating circumstances; DCS is still required to include services in the plan until a final decision is made on severance.
GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem and generally is an attorney appointed to represent the child’s best interests.
A GAL is tasked with assessing the well-being of the foster child and then reporting their findings to the court. GALs are to meet with the child within 14 days of being appointed and also before every substantive hearing unless waived by the court.
Call your county juvenile court and ask them to connect you to the office that appoints and supervises GALs. The office that supervises GALs can give you the name and contact information of the GAL who has been appointed to your child’s case.
While all foster children have a GAL appointed, only some older foster children have an attorney appointed to represent them in court. While the GAL is tasked with representing the child’s best interests in legal proceedings, a child’s attorney will represent the child’s wishes.
Kinship caregivers and current foster parents should be invited by the DCS case manager to attend TDM meetings. During TDM meetings, all participants have the right to respectfully participate in the discussion.
I am a grandparent (or other relative): As a grandparent, unless it is determined that is it contrary to the child’s safety or well-being, you should be able to have contact and visitation with the child(ren).
I am a former foster parent and I wish to have contact and/or visits with a former foster child:
As a child’s former foster parent, unless it is determined that is it contrary to the child’s safety or well-being, you should be able to have contact and visitation with the child(ren).
Under Arizona state law, once a child is adopted or placed for adoption all visitation rights end.
Yes, DCS shall notify the foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, relative caregivers or relative who has been identified as a possible placement for a child in foster care under the responsibility of the State of the date, time, and location of all proceedings to be held with respect to the child.
Additionally, the foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or relative caregivers shall be afforded the right to be heard in any proceeding to be held with respect to a child in foster care. This right shall not be construed to require that any foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or relative caregivers be made a party to such proceeding solely on the basis of such notice and a right to be heard.
Mandated reporting is a legal requirement that requires certain professionals report reasonable suspicions of child maltreatment. As defined by ARS 13-3620, any person who reasonably believes that a child under 18 has been abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of this information to a peace officer, DCS, or to a tribal law enforcement or social services agency.
Yes, foster care providers have the responsibility for the care and treatment of a minor(s) and are considered mandated reporters. By law a mandated reporter who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of abuse or neglect shall immediately report or cause reports to be made to the Department of Child Safety (DCS).
Yes, according to ARS § 13-3620 (J), reporters are “immune from any civil or criminal liability” for reporting unless:
If possible, find a quiet, private place to talk. Do not make promises – reassure the child you will do what is necessary for their safety. Remember to listen and be supportive. If the information has not been volunteered, ask the child ONLY these four questions:
When reporting to DCS:
If DCS asks you to call local law enforcement:
Click here for an online training offered by Childhelp Info Center. (Licensed foster parents that complete this training and obtain a certificate will earn 2 advanced training hours.)
Southwest Family Advocacy Center’s mission is to reduce the trauma of interpersonal violence through a multi-disciplinary collaboration. The center provides in person and online training on many topics including mandatory reporting.