Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I am considering adopting a child. I am curious whether or not a criminal record will disqualify me from adoption. If so, what types of crimes are considered disqualifying?”
The state has a vested interested in ensuring any child who is going to be adopted is placed in a safe, loving and secure environment. With this in mind, all states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico, have some type of statutes or regulations requiring background investigations for prospective foster and adoptive parents and all adults residing in their households.
Now, because state laws vary, the type of investigations may vary. For example, most states require a check of all federal and state criminal records. Other states also require checks of additional child abuse and neglect registries. If you have a specific question about your state and your criminal record you will need to discuss your case with a family law attorney who is familiar with the laws in your state.
Criminal record and disqualification for adoption
Criminal convictions on your criminal record which are likely to disqualify a prospective parent from adoption or foster care include the following actions:
Conviction for felony abuse or neglect of a child
Conviction for spousal abuse
Conviction for crimes against children (such as child pornography)
Conviction for other violent crimes such as assault, homicide, sexual assault, and rape
Conviction for felony physical assault or drug-related offenses within the last five years
Conviction of arson
Conviction of kidnapping, fraud, or forgery
Conviction for illegal use of weapons or explosives
This list is not exhaustive and may vary by state.
Reviewing your state’s laws
The best way to find out if you may be disqualified from adoption is to review your state’s laws. For example, if you live in the State of Alabama you will need to review the Requirements for Adoptive Parents, which is found in the Ala. Code §§ 26-10A-19; 38-13-3(5); Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-22-.03.
This statute states that a criminal background check will be done for all adoption and foster parent applicants and members of the household who are older than 19 years of age.
Additionally, residents of Alabama will be barred from adoption if anyone in the household has been conviction of a sex-related crime; serious intentional physical injury or death crime; a crime against a child, such as abandonment or endangerment; a property crime, such as burglary, robbery or arson (exceptions allowed); or the manufacture, sale, distribution, use, or possession of controlled substances.
The state does allow certain exceptions for some crimes (excluding those related to the injury or death of a child) if the offense was more than 10 years ago for a felony or more than five years ago for a misdemeanor.
Criminal background checks are done prior to approving applications for adoption and foster care. If the applicant has been convicted of certain crimes it will eliminate their right to adopt.
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