Colorado

Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption

Authored By: Colorado Legal Services
Read this in:
Spanish / Español

FAQ

How is adoption different from other types of custody (like guardianship or legal custody)?

When a child is adopted, this ends all of the birth parents' rights and responsibilities. This means that a birth parent cannot just reappear one day and try to reclaim the child. Guardianship does not sever the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents, but means that a caregiver is responsible for the care and custody of the child. Legal custody is different than guardianship in that it may be easier to receive government services from the state if you are a guardian rather than a legal custodian.

Colorado's primary goal is to reunite a child with his/her biological parents or family when possible. If this is not possible, the state's goal is to find a permanent home for the child.

Go to the bottom of this page for links to court forms and instructions regarding Adoption.

What qualifications do I need to become an adoptive parent?

To adopt a child, you must be 21 years of age. You can adopt whether you're single or married, whether you rent or own your home. A person cannot adopt if he/she has been convicted of any of the following: child abuse or neglect, abusing a spouse, any crime against a child, or any crime involving violence, rape, sexual assault, or murder, or other physical assault or batter.

What is the process to adopt?

One way to adopt is to contact your county's Adoption Coordinator to help you through the process.

You will additionally have to do the following:

  • Attend an orientation to learn more about the process
  • Complete and submit an application and have a background check
  • Attend a county or state-wide training program to learn more about good parenting and the changes that come with adopting a child
  • Participate in a family assessment where a caseworker will visit your home and interview you and your family members to understand more about your family
  • Find a child who is waiting for a home.

Generally, it takes one year after the child has come to live with you to have the adoption finalized, which means the child has become a permanent member in your home.

For more information about the process and links to your county's Adoption Coordinator office as well as trainings in your area, go to this website.

Is adoption confidential? What is a confidential intermediary?

While confidentiality is very important to the adoption process and also throughout the child's and adoptive family's life, the law does allow for some interested parties to obtain adoption records. These interested parties include adult adoptees, adoptive parents, biological parents, and biological siblings. To be able to get adoption records, a person must file a motion in court and then the court will appoint a confidential intermediary to help out so that confidentiality is maintained.

Confidential intermediaries will inspect relinquishment and adoption records on behalf of an interested party who wants to get information from these records. If one person wants to get in touch with another (i.e. an adult adoptee wants to speak with their birth mother), the confidential intermediary will attempt to get consent to communicate from both parties. If one party does not want to communicate, then this information may not be given out. This information can be found on the Colorado Judicial Branch website.

To learn more about public records, visit the two sites below:

  • Public Records Research - look up and get copies of information such as marriage and birth records, home ownership information, and other documents. (Please note - there may be a charge to get some of this information.)
  • Vital Records - get certified copies of birth and death certificates, and marriage and divorce verifications. (Please note - there may be a charge to get some of this information.)

Where can I find the forms I need to fill out?

If you are interested in adopting, the Colorado Judicial Branch website provides information, instructions, and forms for every kind of adoption. The links below will direct you to all instructions and forms related to that specific type of adoption.

How do I adopt a step-child?

Under Colorado law, a child can be adopted by a step-parent if the parent that the child lives with agrees, and if the parent that the child does not live with either:

  • Had abandoned the child for a year or more
  • Has not supported the child, without good reason, or
  • If one parent has legal custody, and the non-custodial parent consents to the adoption.

Steps for Step-parent Adoption

  1. Before you can file for adoption, the parent wanting to adopt the child must submit to an Arrest Record check. You can contact your local law enforcement office to get the check done. The Arrest Record check will cost $10 per person being checked. You must do this before you can file for adoption.
  2. In order to file for adoption, you must complete the required forms. If you are filing for the adoption of more than one child, you must file a separate Petition for each child.

    Scenario #1: When both birth parents agree to the adoption, you must complete the following forms, which you can find on the Colorado Judicial Branch website:

    o Petition for Adoption
    o Verified Statement of Fees Charged
    o Consent of Adoption - Custodial Parent
    o Consent to Adoption - Non-Custodial Parent
    o Notice of Hearing
    Please Note: If the child to be adopted is over 12 years of age, the child also must agree to the adoption, and sign the Consent to Adoption - Child Over 12 years of age form.

    The parent that the child lives with must fill out the Consent of Adoption - Custodial Parent form, and the parent that the child does not live with must fill out the Consent of Adoption - Non-Custodial Parent form.

    Scenario #2: If the parent that the child does not live with will not agree to adoption and you know where the parent lives, the following forms are required:

    o Notice and Summons
    o Notice of Hearing
    o Affidavit of Service/Waiver and Acceptance of Service
    o Petition to Terminate the Parent-Child Legal Relationship
    o Finding of Fact and Decree
    o Affidavit of Abandonment
    Please Note: If the child to be adopted is over 12 years of age, the child also must agree to the adoption, and sign the Consent to Adoption - Child Over 12 years of age form.

    Scenario #3: If you do not know where the parent of the child lives and cannot get his or her consent for the adoption, you will need to put a notice in your local county newspaper. The adoption hearing will be held 30 days or longer after the notice is in the newspaper. The following forms are required for this type of case (you can find all of these forms on the Colorado Judicial Branch website):

    o Motion and Affidavit for Publication of Notice
    o Order for Publication & Mailing
    o Affidavit of Abandonment
    o Affidavit of Diligent Efforts
    o Notice of Hearing
    Please Note: If the child to be adopted is over 12 years of age, the child also must agree to the adoption, and sign the Consent to Adoption - Child Over 12 years of age form.

3. After you have done the Arrest Record check and completed the required forms, you must file a Petition in the county where you live and pay to file it. (Filing fees can change - click here for a current list of fees.) Remember, if you are filing for the adoption of more than one child, you must file a separate Petition for each child. However, you will only have to pay the fee once. You need to check with your local court that they do not require additional forms or fees. If you unable to pay the filing fee, you must fill out the Motion to File Without Payment and Supporting Financial Affidavit form found here and submit it to the court.

4. The adoption hearing date will be set by the court after you file the forms listed in steps 3 and 4. After you have filed your Petition, you need to fill out more forms required for the adoption hearing. You must submit the following forms to the Clerk of your local court before the court will set a hearing date:

o Petition to Terminate Parental Rights
o Finding of Fact and Decree
o Final Decree of Adoption
o Report of Adoption/Obtaining a Birth Certificate

You can get those forms from the Colorado Judicial Branch website. Once all of the forms are submitted, the court will set a hearing date. The future adoptive parent and the custodial parent (the parent the child is living with) must appear at the hearing date. The non-custodial parent (the parent the child is not living with) must appear if he or she does not sign the Waiver of Service. This form waives all rights the non-custodial parent has to the adoption proceeding. If the non-custodial parent does not appear and the waiver was not signed, the parent the child is living with must provide proof that the non-custodial parent was notified about the hearing, which is called proof of service. If you were not able to locate the child's non-custodial parent and had to publish notice in a local newspaper, you must bring proof to the court that you put a notice in a local newspaper.

After the judge signs the Final Decree of Adoption, the court will order the birth certificate(s). The Report of Adoption form will be sent by the courts to the Bureau of Vital Records. When the birth certificate is ready, it will be sent to you.

I want to adopt a child with special needs, but I'm concerned about money. Is there anyone to help financially?

Colorado has two different adoption programs that can subsidize the costs that come with adopting a child that has special needs. The federal government provides adoption assistance payments statewide through the Title IV-E program. The state and county then help those families who do not qualify for Title IV-E, but that still need aid.

You should contact your county clerk's office to learn more about their adoption subsidy program. To help you understand how adoption subsidy works, below is Denver County's program as a model for adoption subsidy. While your county may have a similar program, it will most likely not be exactly the same as Denver's program.

Outline of Denver County's program:
In Denver County, if your adopted child has documented special needs, you can apply for an adoption subsidy to help care for your child. Special needs include a physical disability, mental retardation, developmental disabilities or a learning delay, educational disabilities, emotional disturbance, special health conditions, or other conditions that act as a serious barrier to the child's adoption.

Depending on your family and your child's needs, you may be eligible for a long-term subsidy (payment to partially meet the child's daily needs on an indefinite basis), a time-limited subsidy (payment to partially meet the child's daily needs for a specified amount of time), or a dormant subsidy (where no financial assistance is provided at the time of review, but may be provided at a later date). The maximum amount that Denver Human Services pays for an adoption subsidy is $500.00 per month and the minimum amount provided is Medicaid Insurance only. Frequently, subsidies fall between this maximum and minimum. Additionally, all adopted children are eligible for Medicaid insurance but parents must apply for this assistance.

You can apply for subsidies before an adoption is finalized if you need assistance. After a decision has been made, the program will review your child's case every three years to decide whether changes to your subsidy rate are appropriate, but you can request a review sooner if you believe that your situation has changed.

I have been thinking about placing my child up for adoption. How do I do that?

To allow your child to be adopted by relatives or another family, you must relinquish custody of your child, which involves getting a final order by a court that means you know longer have any legal rights or obligations to the child. Your child will remain your heir at law until adoption by another family is final. The other natural parent may also claim custody if he/she is a suitable parent.

The process to relinquish custody is as follows:

Step 1: You and the child might have to get counseling if the court decides this is appropriate. Counseling will usually be provided by social services in your county or through a child placement agency.

Step 2: You must file a Petition for Relinquishment in Juvenile Court in your area that lists all the parties involved (natural parents, child, and other concerned parties) and your reasons for relinquishment. You'll also have to fill out an affidavit that gives information about the counseling you've received, provide copies of the birth certificate, and other information.

Step 3: Once the court receives the petition, you will have to attend a court hearing. The court may also appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) for the child, who is a special advocate for the child and reports to the court about the best interest of the child.

Step 4: If relinquishment is granted by the court, the court will then transfer custody to the county's department of social services, a child-placement agency, a relative of the child, or a foster or adoptive parent.

I was adopted and I want to learn more about my natural parents. What can I do?

If you were adopted and now are interested in learning more about your natural parents, click on the link below to have many of your questions answered by Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment. They have put together information on how to obtain original birth certificates, the process to find out about your biological parents, and other helpful information. Go to this website.

Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment also has a voluntary adoption registry to help provide voluntary contact between adult adoptees who were born in Colorado and their birth parents. For more information, go to this website.

To learn more about public records, visit the two sites below:

  • Public Records Research - look up and get copies of information such as marriage and birth records, home ownership information, and other documents. (Please note - there may be a charge to get some of this information.)
  • Vital Records - get certified copies of birth and death certificates, and marriage and divorce verifications. (Please note - there may be a charge to get some of this information.)

I am a grandparent who wants to adopt my grandchild or, at least, get more time with him/her. How do I do this?

If you are a grandparent and want to know what you're rights are in regards to gaining full or partial custody (Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - APR), click here to go to a page provided by Colorado Legal Services that has information about your legal rights, services available, and other important information.

I want to learn more about being a foster parent.

If you would like to learn about being a foster parent, there are several websites that offer information.

National Foster Parent Association - provides information on how to become a foster parent, other ways to help foster children, and contact information on to state foster parent associations.

www.changealifeforever.org - provides information to Coloradoans on foster care. This site provides prospective foster parents information on where to start and qualifications for becoming a foster parent.

I need help understanding the adoption process. Are there people who can help me?

There are many agencies in your county and the state of Colorado that can help you understand the process of adoption. Below are telephone numbers and websites you can explore to know learn about relinquishment, foster care and adoption.

Yellow Pages - provide a free question and answer hotline at 303-754-1000 with information on the following subjects:

o Choosing an adoption agency - press 3005
o How an adoption agency works - press 3006
o Role of adoption consultants - press 3007
o What do adoption services provide - press 3008
o Placing a child for adoption - press 3009

Adoption Assistance through Catholic Charities - provides adoption assistance for all families, regardless of race, religion, or financial condition. This website is for Denver residents, but you can call and ask about adoption services available throughout Colorado.

Colorado State Foster Parent Association and Resources for Adoptive Parents - provides a great list of other websites that may help you in learning about foster care or adoption in Colorado. The site provides links to different government sites for many of the counties in Colorado, to service providers who are here to help you through the foster parent/adoption process, and also links to national websites about adoption.

Denver Department of Human Services - provides information for Denver County residents about services for adults, families, and children at your local social service office. Programs include Child Support Enforcement, Adult Medical Services and Protection, Food Stamps, Adoption Services, Parenting Education, and many more.

National Council for Adoption - this national group provides information on adoption, including guidelines for approaching both deciding to adopt and taking the first steps. They can provide contact information to adoption agencies and attorneys to further assist you (these referred services may be fee-based).

The Adoption Exchange - a national non-profit 501(c)(3) child welfare organization founded in 1983 to work for safety and permanence in the lives of foster children.

What you need to know before you go to court and other general information

Click here to learn more about the process of going to court. This site includes information on filing, court fees, different forms to fill out, alternatives to court, and more.

 


This communication is made available by Colorado Legal Services, Inc., (CLS), as a public service and is issued to inform not to advise. No person should attempt to interpret or apply any law without the assistance of an attorney. The opinions expressed in this communication are those of the authors and not those of CLS or its funding sources.

 

If you need advice on this or any other legal problem, consult an attorney of your own choosing. If you cannot afford an attorney, talk to Colorado Legal Services, 303.837.1321.

Updated 04/12
D_44