Some of the different ways to adopt, with a summary of the pros and cons.
Adopting from foster care
Adopting through OCS can be rewarding and frustrating. Children in OCS custody are very much in need of a good home, and foster parents are in short supply. This is a guaranteed way to do some real good in the world. There are two routes to take. You can apply for a foster care license and then wait for OCS to call you (it won't take long). You would then care for the child until it is decided whether reunification is possible. If not, you will be able to adopt, after the parent's rights are terminated. This can take longer than you think. Be prepared to deal with lots of bureaucratic hassles along the way. Alternatively, you can ask for a list of children in OCS custody who are already free for adoption. These children are generally older, but not always. If you find a good fit, you can ask to be licensed for placement of that child. In either case, OCS can provide federal funds to assist with the child's special needs, and the cost of the adoption is generally covered
Adopting though a local agency
A licensed adoption agency can often place a baby with you for adoption if you are prepared to wait a while. The cost is higher than through OCS, but generally less than working with a non-local agency. The hassles are lower, and the chances of the adoption being completed are higher. The agency handles all the interactions with the biological parents, and provides training and support to adoptive parents.
Adopting a relative is not hard if the parents want you to adopt. As long as you're a close relative, you will not need to have a home study, though it will be necessary for OCS to make sure you don't have a history of child endangerment in their database. It is highly recommended that you work with an attorney to guide you through the adoption process.
This is the one type of adoption which can be competed without legal representation, IF the other biological parent is in agreement. If the other parent is not on board, you will definitely need legal help, as there are very few circumstances where such an adoption can be done without consent of the other parent. Even when everyone is in agreement, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney to make sure there aren't complications you need to be careful about. Because it's so important for an adoption to be done right, it's still recommended that you work with an attorney. A home study will not be required however.
Additional resources provided by the author
ACRF (Alaska Center for Resource Families); Catholic Social Services; Office of Children's Services
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