What does St. Nicholas Center do?
St. Nicholas is a non-profit, adoption agency under Catholic Social Services. In 1991, we were awarded a contract through Arizona’s Division of Child Safety (DCS). The children are transferred to St. Nicholas from DCS after the parental rights are terminated for the purpose of adoption.
Our mission is finding permanent, adoptive families for children in the foster care system. We generally have between 400 and 500 children in our unit at any time. Many of these children are being adopted by their relatives or foster placements, younger children in particular. However, nearly 100 are still waiting to be matched to an adoptive family.
Who are the children waiting to be adopted?
The children who are still in need of an adoptive family are generally 7-15 years old. They are both girls and boys, and often times sibling groups who need homes. They come from all races and backgrounds. Currently, we have many children age 10 and older.
They come to our unit from DCS after the biological parental rights are terminated, meaning they are in the legal care and custody of the state. This can be a lengthy process which is why many of our children are older. Also, it is common for many of the younger children to be adopted by their relatives or foster placements.
These children have been victims of abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. Due to such trauma and instability, some of the children exhibit difficult behaviors. However, we coordinate behavioral health services to address issues and help ensure a smooth transition into placements. Some of the children have medical needs such as developmental delays and/or exposure to drugs and alcohol that may require special attention. If you pursue adoption, you will receive a specific history on the child you adopt to help you work with their needs.
What kind of families are we looking for?
The ideal traits of interested families are loving, understanding, open-minded, dedicated and patient people. Adoptive families need to be able to provide the child with a stable, nurturing environment.
We are currently in need of families interested in sibling groups, school-aged children or teenagers. People interested in very young children should consider foster care or infant adoption, as we specialize in older children with special needs. See our contact page for more information.
How does the process begin?
The first step is to contact our offices. The certification specialist will ask questions to be sure that we are the right agency for you. The next step is certification.
Certification includes: completing 30 hours of specialized PS-MAPP training, obtaining fingerprint clearance cards, passing a background check, showing that you are physically, medically and emotionally able to care for a child, demonstrating financial stability, providing references, and having a home study completed and approved
Certification usually takes between 4 and 6 months. After the certification is issued, families must wait until they are “matched” with a child to proceed towards adoption.
There is NO tentative time-frame for this match to occur. The time frame depends entirely on the needs of the children at our unit.
What is the cost of adopting with St. Nicholas Center?
Because we contract with the DES, the adoption costs for our families are minimal. The state absorbs the court costs and fees of the fingerprint clearance cards, PS-MAPP training and home study. The only expenses for the family are the home improvements, if any, necessary to have their home study approved by the court.
Please keep in mind that certified families do not receive a reimbursement rate like foster care providers. It is possible that the child eventually qualify for adoption subsidy, but it is not guaranteed.
What is a home study?
The home study is a comprehensive report written by the certification specialist. The home study is written according to the information gathered in both interviews and the application paperwork. The home study is then sent to the Pima County Juvenile Court for the issue or denial of certification.
Once I am certified, what happens next?
Once you are certified, the search for your adoptive child can begin. Your certification will be valid for 18 months and must be renewed yearly thereafter. Your certification specialist will present information on children that may fit well with your family. If you hear of a child that you are interested in, you will review the child’s Specific Known Risks (SKR) and/or Child Information Form, documents written by the child’s case manager summarizing all medical, psychological and educational information from the child’s history. If you still want to move forward, your worker will submit your home study for review by the child’s team.
What happens after my home study is submitted?
Once the home study is submitted, the child’s case manager and supervisor will review it for a potential family selection meeting or match meeting as it is sometimes referred to. There may be several families presented at the meeting. Each family’s worker will attend the meeting and advocate for their family, who will not be present.
If you are “matched” with a child, a presentation meeting will be arranged where you will attend with all members of the Child Family Team (CFT) to answer questions and discuss the transition plan. Before the meeting, the potential adoptive parents will receive ALL the information pertaining to the child that our agency is legally permitted to provide; all medical, psychological and educational information listed in the SKR and Child Information Form from the file.
By law, the child must be in the home for at least six months before the adoption can be finalized. During that time, the child’s case manager will be working with you on all the necessary steps towards adoption, including certification, agency consent, subsidy application and filing the petition.