What is Legal Risk?

Adoption - Legal Risk and Concurrent Planning

If you have been researching adopting for foster care, you have no doubt encountered the term "Legal Risk". Legal Risk simply refers to a child's status withing the Juvenile Court Dependency Process, specifically in relation to the termination of parental rights, known as the Selection and Implementation (or .26) Hearing. The court process is explained in detail here: Juvenile Court Dependency Process - (opens in new window).

What is important for adoptive parents to be aware of is how these court related timelines affect the level of risk associated with a particular adoption. Although many foster children are identified for adoption via a Concurrent Plan, they are not "legally freed" for adoption prior to the Selection and Implementation Hearing. Until the completion of the Selection and Implementation Hearing, there is still a chance for the child to be reunified with their biological parents or placed with a relative who may adopt them. This possibility for reunification in relation to the court process defines the term "Legal Risk".

Concurrent Planning:

When children enter the foster care system, they may be in what is called a Concurrent Plan. This means that the court is looking at both the possibility of reunification with the birth parent or a relative and a permanent adoptive placement. Although there are exceptions, infants and toddlers are generally in Concurrent Planning and the overall risk of the child being reunified with the biological parents is higher. As part of the Concurrent Plan, there is a 6 to 18 month time period in which biological parents are offered court ordered services. If these services, which may include drug/alcohol treatment, mental health services, job assistance, etc. are followed through and completed, the birth parents have a good chance of reunification with their children. However, if the parents fail to complete court ordered services or reunification services are terminated for other reasons by the court, the child will likely continue on to adoption.

Please keep in mind that the central goal of Concurrent Planning is reunification with the birth parents and Adoption is the secondary plan. Families interested in concurrent planning must be willing to help facilitate these reunification efforts. This will include transportation for birth parents' visitation. Families must be willing to accept the risk inherent in concurrent planning, be prepared to experience loss, while also preparing for the goal of adoption.

If you were to adopt a child during the Concurrent Plan phase, the risk of the child being reunified with the biological parent is higher. However, if there are no relatives, the relatives do not qualify, or the parents do not follow through with their court ordered services or reunification services are terminated for other reasons, the child will often continue on to adoption.

Lower Legal Risk:

Lower legal risk adoptions refer to cases where the children are further along in the court process, although parental rights may or may not have been terminated. Low riskgenerally applies to older children (8 and up), sibling sets, and/or children with special needs. These adoptions are inherently lower risk because the children are further along in the court process and are less likely to reunify or are "legally freed" for adoption. Children may be in matching if:
Adopting children from the foster care system is a complex topic! We encourage you to contact us to discuss your questions with one of our experienced adoption professionals who will answer your questions in greater depth and more fully explain the process in a confidential one on one personal orientation.

Copyright © 2019 Families For Children, Inc. All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy