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ND Health and Human Services streamlines adoption process for children in foster care and adoptive families

ND Health and Human Services streamlines adoption process for children in foster care and adoptive families

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) Children and Family Services initiated an adoption streamlining effort this month to ensure a more timely and safe adoption process for children in foster care who have a permanency goal that includes adoption.

“North Dakota families who are seeking to adopt from foster care will now have a more simplified experience,” HHS Adoption Services Administrator Julie Hoffman said. “Families should expect less paperwork, no background check processing fees, fewer home visits, fewer required personal references, an abbreviated training process for relative adopters and the foster care home study will be made available to adoption workers to supplement the adoption-specific study process.”

The new process will also positively impact North Dakota foster care case managers. Case managers should expect a streamlined process for Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK) referrals, less paperwork, electronic access to child files, increased collaboration between custodians and AASK and earlier involvement for AASK in child and family team meetings.

In state fiscal year 2023, AASK facilitated and finalized the adoptions of 232 children in state and tribal custody. AASK is a Catholic Charities North Dakota program that delivers adoption services to children and families in North Dakota in partnership with HHS and other public agencies.

In 2022, Children and Family Services began discussions with AASK to better streamline the foster care and adoption home study process. The discussion carried forward into the 2023 legislative session in which Senate Bill 2080 was passed to address several issues related to the adoption process. Following the bill’s passage, HHS assembled a formal team to review current practices and establish an enhanced streamlined process by Feb. 1, 2024.

“During the discussions, we discovered an overlap of efforts between the foster care and adoption home study processes,” Hoffman said. “Our goal was to create efficiency by focusing on streamlining and simplifying what we could without endangering the quality of the assessment, training and support provided by adoption workers to families who are beginning a lifetime journey in providing permanency to a child.”

To initiate the streamlined process, HHS established subcommittees to focus on specific topics within adoption. The four subcommittees were adoptive family assessment and foster care licensing process; referral process paperwork and custodial team; relative search and active efforts and court action for the termination of parental rights.

The subcommittees worked to revise policy and procedures, develop a centralized process, revise and streamline paperwork and develop new guidance and work aids to better assist case managers, licensing workers and adoption specialists.

For more information about adoption opportunities, services and resources, visit hhs.nd.gov/cfs/adoption-program.

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