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I am currently a foster parent in Arkansas. One foster child lives with me, and the other three live with other foster parents. We're not sure yet, but it looks like the parents' rights will be terminated soon. My wife and I have expressed interest in adopting the child currently in our care, but we have recently been told that there is a "new law" in Arkansas which requires that foster children be adopted with their siblings. We were told (by a social worker from the state) that first the children would be available to residents in the county, and if nobody adopted the children from the county after a period of time, they would subsequently open the adoption up to the whole state, followed by the whole country.

I understand the desire to keep the children together if at all possible. However in this case, three out of the four children have special needs which make taking care of them particularly difficult. I cannot imagine that anybody will take on the task of adopting all four of them (maybe I'm completely wrong - I hope I am). But when I asked what would happen after, say, several years with no adoption prospects, I was told that, no, the children would still ONLY be allowed to be adopted together.

Is this true? Would the state seriously deny adoption in all cases, even after the children had been up for adoption for several years? It seems in this particular case that it may do more harm to the children than good - e.g. the child which we are fostering (and who we are interested in adopting) is very young, and at this point, we have had the child for nearly half of his life; he barely even remembers his parents/siblings.

Does anybody know what specific law this person was referring to? I am curious to look it up myself and see if it is as absolute as this person was telling me. I would challenge this person myself, but I don't want to appear rude by challenging them outright without having researched it myself.

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    It's not rude to ask for help from government employees in finding and understanding laws and regulations, especially when they are the ones citing them. Unless there happens to be a user here involved in AR child services you'll probably get a better answer from the social worker too, in which case please post it back here! – feetwet Sep 10 '15 at 18:42
  • @Feetwet: Yes, I should have phrased my post better. As they explained the new law to me, my only thoughts were, "they have to be wrong, there is NO WAY what they are saying to me is correct, unless I'm SEVERELY misunderstanding them." I asked for clarification, but their answer was the same as before - "No, Arkansas will now not allow individual children to be adopted under any circumstances if they have siblings, unless you adopt ALL of them." I feel it would have been rude to push it much further (e.g. "But I'm CERTAIN you're wrong!") without researching if for myself first. – loneboat Sep 10 '15 at 19:13
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First off: if someone in DHS is telling you this, your first, best, and really only option is to get advice from an attorney specializing in family law. Regardless of what we tell you here, without representation you will have a hard time with officials who believe otherwise.

That said:

I don't find anything exactly matching what you describe. The Uniform Adoption Code (AR Code § 9-9-200 (2014)) does not specifically address sibling groups at all. Adoptive parents do have rights to streamlined adoption of a sibling of a child they already adopted, under the Streamlined Adoption act (AR Code § 9-9-701 (2014)).

In the section related to Placement of Minors (AR Code § 9-28-108 (2014)), however, is likely what the case worker was describing.

Subsection (b) (2) reads, in part:

(2) When it is in the best interest of each of the juveniles, the department shall attempt to place:

(A) A sibling group together while they are in foster care and adoptive placement

This is discussing foster care and adoptive placement, of course. I think the key wording is When it is in the best interest of each of the juveniles; that would be your argument (that it is not in their best interest).

I see a 2011 case, for example, discussing a sibling group of four children not entirely different from yours; while there are not children with special needs, there is a child with major behavioral issues, and one of the (three) foster parents is considering adopting one of the children and "would be open" to considering others, but clearly isn't expecting to be required to do so.

Note:

  • I am not a lawyer, and particularly not one specialized in family law
  • This is based on my reading of the 2014 Arkansas code. That is almost 2 years old.

That said, I don't see any news articles or similar discussing limitations in sibling group placement in Arkansas recently, which is the sort of thing that usually would get attention. That said, this has also been something that HHS has been trying to encourage states to push for – more sibling group placement and awareness of sibling group issues – so it's entirely possible something could have changed.

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