When children are not able to safely live with their biological family, the Department of Child Safety may become involved and place the child in foster care. Foster care is only a temporary living arrangement for the child, while the children's parents work to remedy the unsafe situation. The activities and changes that the parents need to complete to have their children returned is called a case plan. You may hear "the case plan is reunification" when the goal is to reunite the children with their parents. If the parents are not able to remedy an unsafe situation and the children cannot return home, the case plan goal may change to adoption. In this case, the court terminates the rights of the parents and the child is said to be "free for adoption." Most children who become free for adoption are adopted either by a member of their extended family or by their foster parents.
For other children, an adoptive family - perhaps your family - is sought. In Arizona, families are certified by the court to adopt. The certification process is similar to foster care licensure and includes a fingerprint-based criminal history records check, home study and references. Adoption is a legal process that takes place in the court and makes the child a permanent member of the family.