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Background Checks for Adopting Parents

Background checks for adopting parents are an important part of most cases. The two background checks are (1) DCFS Child Abuse Central Registry and (2) criminal history.

The DCFS Child Abuse Central Registry check is quick and easy--and free. The client/applicant must provide a copy of his/her driver's license and be sure to sign the request form on page 2. The fastest way is to email the completed form and driver's license to DCFS, and DCFS will often reply within a few days, depending on the length of their queue.

If DCFS finds records with the client's/applicant's name as a Subject, then we must file a GRAMA request. GRAMA stands for Government Records Access and Management Act. This law allows citizens to obtain a copy (usually a redacted copy) of records about them, similar to the federal FOIA law.

A client's criminal history can be obtained from Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), 4315 S 2700 W, Suite 1300, Taylorsville UT 84129. Getting a criminal history is a little more work because it requires a fee and fingerprints, along with a copy of the client's/applicant's drivers license. You can use the form online and go get your fingerprints from local enforcement (in certain locations) or from Your Unique Prints (YUP) (in certain locations), or you can visit BCI in person.

The main point, however, is that just because you have a criminal history does not necessarily mean you cannot adopt.

Certainly, if you were recently convicted of a heinous crime against a child, you probably won't be allowed to adopt anytime soon. But having a DUI 12 years ago probably will not prevent you from adopting your stepchild. The guiding principle is the "best interest of the child." The Court will not be as interested in what we might call "old" criminal history as in the current bond the child has with the client/applicant.

To be clear, however, there is a category of "disqualifying offenses" that are more serious. These offenses are mainly related to child abuse. If there is a child abuse conviction, then the Court must follow Utah Code 78B-6-117 which generally prescribes a 10-year waiting period, a clean record during the 10 years prior to filing the adoption petition, evidence of successful rehabilitation, and clear and convincing evidence that the child is safe with and bonded to the adopting stepparent.

To make sure that the requirements of section 78B-6-117 are fulfilled, the judge might require a home study or appoint a Guardian ad Litem who will represent the best interests of the child. Cases involving a disqualifying offense can thus take longer and cost more, but adoption is possible if the requirements are met.

For legal guidance on your specific situation, contact us at the Utah Adoption Law Center at (435) 592-1235 or (385) 200-1972.

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