What does legally free mean?

Legally free refers to the status of the birth parents rights. For youth listed in the Heart Gallery, parental rights have been terminated by a judge and the child is “free” to be adopted by another family. That means the birth parents have no legal rights to the youth. Legal Risk refers to situations where there is still a chance the youth can be re-unified with their birth parents or other relative.

After the adoption, can a birth parent take their child back?

Once parental rights are terminated, the birth parent cannot seek the return of the youth.

Who can adopt in Alaska?

Alaskan adults over age 18 can adopt, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. Second parent adoptions have been allowed in the state but are not addressed by statute. Parents must be 21 to be foster care licensed in Alaska. Other states and countries may have different age restrictions for making child placements.

Can I adopt if I am single?


What is Open Adoption?

An “open adoption” describes an adoption in which adoptive parents and the child’s birth family agree to some degree of information sharing and/or contact. The degree of “openness” is very case specific and varies greatly from exchange of annual photos to extended visits in person. Open adoption is usually preferred over closed adoptions and is considered to be influential in helping children develop a healthy self-identify and understand their personal history.

We want to adopt an infant. Can we do that through the Heart Gallery?

While approximately 25% of children in out-of-home care are age 3 and under, it is rare that infants and young children will be legally free for adoption. The Heart Gallery focuses on children who have been in the system a long time, and who are school aged and older. The ACRF Adoption Learning Path is a better option for families wanting to pursue infants and toddlers.

What children are considered to have “special needs”?

In Alaska, the legal definition of special needs is "physical or mental disability, emotional disturbance, recognized high risk of physical or mental disease, membership in a sibling group, racial or ethnic factors, or any combination thereof."

Can I adopt a child of another race?

Yes. By law, state agencies cannot bias placements by race. However, private and international adoption agencies can have preferential placement policies with multiple selection criteria such as race, religion, marital status and age.

Can I adopt an Alaskan Native Child?

Alaskan Native children can be adopted through tribal adoption, through foster to adopt and privately. For children and youth in the child protection system, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act affects placement of children who qualify as tribal members and provides tribes legal status to be involved in adoptive placements and decisions. Adoptions involving Alaskan Native children can be complicated as there are over 200 recognized tribal entities in Alaska. Tribes must approve adoptions of Alaska Native children by non-Native families. Parents should seek tribe specific information early in the process.

Can a military service member adopt while stationed in Alaska?

Yes, members of the military can adopt. However, parents should consider how transfers will impact timelines for placement and adoption finalization.

Can I adopt if I have a criminal record?

A criminal background check is required for all household members age 16 and over. The State of Alaska has established barrier crime guidelines that prevent adults with certain criminal histories from becoming foster or adoptive parents. However, minor or historic offenses may be allowed depending on the circumstance and proof of rehabilitation. Parents can contact the Alaska Office of Children’s Services or their home study writer to inquire about their specific criminal history.

We heard that adopting younger children is preferable for bonding and attachment and they will not have been through as much trauma. Is that true?

Not always. As Dr. Gregory Keck said, “younger is longer, not better”. With young children, parents will not fully understand the impact of the trauma until the child is older. With older youth, parents will have a clear understanding of their children’s needs and have support team already in place. A youth is never too old for a family and healing is possible for all children from hard places.

Do you have to earn a certain income or own your own home?

There are no income requirements to adopt from the Alaska foster care system. Families must demonstrate capacity to support their growing household and do not need to own their homes.

How long does adoption take?

Adoption timelines vary depending upon the circumstances surrounding the child and the inquiring family. As a general guideline, adopting through the Heart Gallery can take on average 9-12 months from inquiry to finalization. The family can potentially take placement after completion of the licensing and training requirements, approximately six months into the process.

What is a home study?

A home study is a comprehensive assessment of an adoptive home and is required for most adoptions. A home study describes the current family constellation, and assesses the family’s capacity to successfully support and integrate an adopted child or children.

How do I get a home study?

The State of Alaska Office of Children’s Services provides adoption home studies for children adopted from Alaska foster care at no cost to families. A home study referral will be made after the youth has been in your home for three months. Parents have the option of hiring their own home study writer who is approved by the Office of Children’s Services. A current listing of approve home study writers can be secured from the Alaska Center for Resource Families.

How much does an adoption cost?

The Heart Gallery offers information and support to families at no cost. Families who adopt through the State of Alaska do not have to pay adoption costs for adopting through the foster care system.

Is financial assistance available for adoptions?

State child welfare agencies often provide adoption assistance for home studies and legal proceedings for adopting through the foster care system, and parents adopting children with special needs may be provided with ongoing monthly subsidies. A federal income tax credit allows qualifying parents adopting through any agency to receive reimbursement for many adoption related expenses after adoption finalization.

Parents should investigate state specific rules regarding adoption assistance, and the most recent tax credit regulations before proceeding in an adoption. The military and many businesses and organizations offer adoption assistance to their employees.

Where do I start my adoption journey?

Attend a Alaska Heart Gallery Orientation where you will receive information and the foster parent licensing application. The Heart Gallery staff will walk you through the process, every step of the way.

You may also contact The Alaska Center for Resource Families, a non-profit agency providing free support, information and training to assist families considering and pursuing adoption. Contact your local office or check out the booklet Paths to Adoption in Alaska.