Whether you’re adopting or fostering a child, it’s a difficult process that can take months – even years – to finalize. But in the end, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you’re making a big difference in a child’s life as well as enriching your own by welcoming someone into your family. But before you get to that stage, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops along the way. One of the key parts of the process is that you have to successfully pass a background check.
Why Are Background Checks Done?
By the time you get to the background check stage you’ll have had various interviews and meetings already. But these checks are an important legal step before you can be seen as prospective parents. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not everyone is suitable to be a parent, which is why background checks have to be run in the first place. Although the interviews and home studies can go perfectly well, background checks can throw a spanner in the works and potentially prevent you from adopting or fostering altogether. This makes background checks a large part of the lengthy legal process that goes into adopting or fostering a child.
Who Gets Checked?
As well as yourself, anyone that is living in your house will likely be subject to a background check including your partner, other family members, or children. Issues with anyone in your household can prevent you from adopting, so everyone should be ready. Background checks aren’t always done on children though, as each state has a cut off for how old a child must be. For example, if you live in Florida this applies to anyone over the age of 12, but in other states, it is usually only for anyone from the age of 16 or 19 onwards.
What Background Checks Are Done?
Naturally, it’s important to know what checks are made so you can be suitably prepared for them. After all, you don’t want to have invested so much time and effort just to find out your application has been denied for something on your background check that you could have easily corrected.
Background checks for adoption (and fostering) vary depending on the state so it’s important to check what applies in your area, but some things apply across the country. One of the most important parts of the check is the criminal background report. Since this is potentially an instant disqualifier, it’s obviously something that is taken very seriously. Often, fingerprints are needed to compare with criminal databases as well. Adoption agencies also need to consider how stable a parent’s finances may be, so you can expect background checks to also include credit reports and bankruptcy histories. This is true for fostering too, even though maintenance payments may be provided by the government to help.
What Can Disqualify You?
Since bringing a child into your home is such a huge responsibility there are things that could disqualify you. Obviously, a criminal past is a red flag. Past offences like domestic abuse, or any kind of child abuse (including abandonment or neglect) will also make potential guardians ineligible. It’s a similar scenario for anyone who appears in a sex offender registry. Any other past crimes can be a disqualifier too, but this varies by state. Often, these instances are approved on a case-by-case basis.
Financial histories are something that is also looked at carefully. For example, a bankruptcy filled within the last 10 years could rule prospective parents out of contention unless they can prove they now have the means to look after the child. To be fully prepared, it’s well worth running a background check on yourself first to know exactly what adoption agencies will see. This is especially true as there are times when checks provide wrong information that you may need to correct first.
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