As a hopeful adoptive parent or pregnant mother considering adoption in Montana, you may feel overwhelmed by adoption processes, laws and qualifications. If you live in Billings, Missoula, Great Falls, or anywhere else in the state, read on to learn how to adopt or place a child for adoption in Big Sky Country.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Adopting a Child in Montana
Every state has laws regulating the adoption process, from who can adopt to allowable adoption expenses. The following section provides information on basic laws and guidelines for adopting a baby in Montana.
What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Montana?
An unmarried adult, stepparent or husband and wife jointly may adopt in Montana. A married adult who is legally separated or whose spouse is incompetent may adopt singly.
What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Montana?
Adoptive families may pay for the birth parent’s medical and prenatal care, up to 10 hours of adoption counseling, travel or temporary living costs, legal fees and other reasonable costs related to the adoption. Adoptive parents may not pay costs related to the prospective birth parent’s education, vehicle, salary or wages, vacations or permanent housing.
What are the laws to become a foster parent in Montana?
Foster parents in Montana must be at least 18 years old, pass a fingerprint-based criminal background and child abuse registry check, complete an orientation and pre-service training program and provide references. Couples must be together for at least 24 months before becoming foster parents together. All prospective foster parents should have sufficient income to support their household without relying on foster care reimbursement.
Additional information about foster care in Montana is available through the Child & Family Services Division.
Is it legal to use advertising or facilitators to adopt in Montana?
In Montana, only the Department of Public Health and Human Services or a licensed child-placing agency may advertise that a child is available for adoption or that they will accept a child for adoption. No person, other than the department or a licensed child-placing agency, may engage in placement of a child for adoption or foster care or facilitate placement by maintaining a list of birth parents or prospective adoptive parents.
Laws, Rules and Qualifications for Placing a Baby for Adoption in Montana
There are many Montana adoption laws in place to protect birth parents’ rights throughout the adoption process. If you are considering adoption for your child, it is important to understand the basic rules and regulations of placing a baby for adoption in Montana
When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
A parent may execute consent 72 hours after the child’s birth. The parent must receive counseling before consenting to the adoption.
The consent must be acknowledged before an officer who is authorized to take acknowledgements or must be witnessed by a representative of the department, an agency or the court.
Who must consent to the adoption?
Consent must be executed by:
- The child’s birth mother
- The husband of the birth mother if he is the presumed father of the child
- Any person whose parental rights have been established by a court
- The department or agency that has custody of the child
- The child’s legal guardian, if both parents are dead or their rights have been terminated by the court
A child who is age 12 or older must consent unless he or she lacks the mental capacity to execute consent.
When is consent not needed?
Consent is not required from an individual:
- Whose parental relationship to the child was terminated by the court for unfitness, has been determined not to exist or has been waived
- Who has been judicially declared incompetent
- Who has not been married to the birth mother and who, after conception, executed a notarized statement denying paternity or interest in the child
When does the birth parents’ consent become irrevocable?
The birth parents may revoke consent only if the prospective adoptive parent, department or agency named in the consent mutually agree to revocation of consent prior to the order terminating the parent’s parental rights.
What rights does the father of the baby have in Montana adoptions?
In Montana, a man is presumed to be the father of a child, and therefore has parental rights, if:
- He and the child’s mother are or were married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage has ended
- Before the child’s birth, he and the child’s mother attempted to marry each other, though the marriage could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage or the end of cohabitation
- After the child’s birth, he and the child’s mother have married or attempted to marry each other, and:
- They have acknowledged the man’s paternity in writing or in a paternity acknowledgment form
- He consents to be named as the child’s father on the birth certificate
- He is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or court order
- He receives the child into his home and openly represents the child as his own
- A blood test shows a 95 percent or higher probability of paternity
The vital statistics bureau has established a putative father registry to provide notice of termination of parental rights to a putative father who asserts parental interest in a child. This allows the putative father to appear in a proceeding and gives him an opportunity to establish his rights to the child. An individual who is not married to the mother but is presumed to be the father and registers in compliance with the requirements of the putative father registry is entitled to receive notice of a termination of parental rights proceeding.
Home Study and Post-Placement Requirements in Montana
One of the most important steps for prospective adoptive and foster parents in Montana is the home study. The home study determines whether prospective parents are able to provide a safe, nurturing home to a child. The following section answers common questions about the Montana home study process.
What is included in the Montana home study process?
The Montana home study includes an evaluation and review of the following:
- A check of criminal conviction data, data on substantiated child abuse or neglect, and data pertaining to any involvement in incidents of domestic violence
- Medical and social history and current health
- An assessment of parenting skills
- Ability to provide financial support for a child
- Knowledge and awareness of adoptions issues, including open, interracial, cross-cultural and special needs adoptions
- A check of youth court records of any person living in the home
The home study consists of at least one in-home visit and at least one interview with each family member.
Who is included in the home study process?
The prospective adoptive parents and their home must be studied.
Who will conduct the home study?
The department, a licensed social worker, or a licensed child-placing agency may conduct the pre-placement home study in Montana.
On what grounds will the home study not be approved in Montana?
The Montana home study may not be approved if there is concern that the placement of a child would pose a significant risk of harm to the physical or psychological wellbeing of the child.
When should the home study be completed?
The home study must be completed and approved prior to placement. A pre-placement evaluation is valid for one year and must be updated if there is a significant change in circumstances.
What are the post-placement study requirements for Montana?
A six-month post-placement supervision period is required in direct parental placements. The post-placement evaluation period must be supervised and evaluated by a licensed social worker. The evaluation will include a personal interview with the adoptive parent in the home and an observation of the relationship between the child and parent.
For a department or agency placement, the department or agency will supervise and evaluate a six-month post-placement evaluation period to determine whether the proposed home is suitable for the child.
What are the home study requirements for stepparent or relative adoptions in Montana?
If the court is satisfied that the stepparent adoption is in the best interests of the child, it may waive the pre-placement and post-placement home study requirement.
What are the home study requirements to adopt a child from another state?
Any out-of-state placement is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).
What are the requirements to adopt a child that is currently in my care?
The home study and post-placement evaluation may be waived if the child being adopted has been in the prospective adoptive home as a foster child for at least one year.
To start the home study process, contact one of these trusted Montana home study providers:
- Lutheran Social Services of Montana
Lutheran Social Services of Montana provides international and domestic home studies and post-placement adoption services in the state of Montana.
- Youth Homes
The staff of Youth Homes can help provide legal home study services for families hoping to adopt in Montana. They are also able to assist families that are adopting through another agency, or internationally.
Visit 1800HomeStudy.com to learn more about Montana home study providers.
Montana Adoption Professionals
For more information about adoption in Montana or to begin the adoption process, contact one of these local adoption professionals:
- American Adoptions
- Catholic Social Services of Montana
- Youth Homes
- Partnership for Children
- Lutheran Social Services of Montana
For more information about foster care in Montana, visit the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Things to do in Montana
Whether you find yourself in Big Sky Country for visits with prospective birth parents or you’re waiting for ICPC approval, here are a few fun places for adoptive families to visit in Montana:
- Glacier National Park
- Beartooth Highway
- Playmill Theatre (West Yellowstone)
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (West Yellowstone)
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Crow Agency)
More information about visiting Montana is available at http://www.visitmt.com/.