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Keyword Exclusive – Improving Kentucky’s Adoption Process

Supplement to letters to the editor in the March 2007 Kentucky Living Letters column:

Among the letters on the November adoption feature, several asked about Kentucky adoptions. The following December news release from the state auditor’s office offers some timely information that seemed worth printing here.

A performance audit released by State Auditor Crit Luallen on Kentucky’s adoption process found that the time between when a child was classified as having a goal of adoption and actually being adopted was more than 22 months. After the termination of parental rights, final adoption takes almost another year, even though 85 percent of the adoptions were by the children’s foster parents. Children are staying in state custody an average of more than three years.

“The Commonwealth has an interest in making adoptions a favorable choice for Kentucky families. The audit provides detailed county-by-county data that should assist policy makers in analyzing where improvements in the system are most necessary. There are wide-ranging differences from each county,” Luallen said.

Kentucky has done a good job of removing financial barriers to adoption by making adoption-assistance payments equal to foster care payments. However, barriers still exist. Studies show that the first informational call prospective parents make is key to continuing the process. Kentucky, like many other states, does not have a centralized location with staff dedicated solely to the function of answering calls and guiding citizens through the process.

Among the 12 recommendations, the audit calls for a wide-ranging public awareness campaign to inform the public that children need homes. The state should work with private adoption agencies so that children in state custody can come to the attention of people interested in adoption. The public awareness program should promote a centralized toll-free phone number that will connect prospective parents with advocates who will encourage and assist them through the adoption process.

The audit also recommends that Kentucky consider the formation of a birth-father registry. There have been incidents where biological fathers prevent adoptions even though they are not involved in the child’s life. Twenty-three states have registries requiring fathers to show evidence of their desire to parent a child prior to having legal standing to prevent later petitions for adoption. The registry allows men, not married to the mother of a child, to register their paternity so that they will be notified as to any legal proceedings involving the child. The court will then send a notice of adoption to the father. If the father chooses not to place his name on the registry, he will not be a party to the adoption.

“A study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute showed that less than half of the persons requesting adoption information actually go forward and apply to become adoptive parents,” Luallen added.

This audit is posted on the Internet at

To read the November 2006 Kentucky Living feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Adoption: Labor of Love

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