Adoption Applicant Review Committee (AARC)
What is AARC? Do I need a lawyer for the AARC?
Sometimes multiple families want to adopt a child from foster care. The competing applicants may be, for example, foster parents versus relatives of the child, or they may be relatives versus relatives. They may be caregivers—those with physical custody of the child—or they may not. Competing applicants submit applications to the Adoption Applicant Review Committee,
otherwise known as “AARC.” The AARC process is not as formal as a court proceeding. Less formality, however, means less safeguards such as transparency, consistency, and due process.
The AARC process is not as formal as a court proceeding. Less formality, unfortunately, means less safeguards such as transparency, consistency, and due process. In an AARC, you may not be entitled to any information–called “discovery” in the courts–that would help you prepare for the AARC meeting. (Note: other parts of the law do entitle caregivers to most information having to do with themselves or the children in their care, but we have seen DCF deliberately obstruct caregivers from receiving this information before an AARC.)
You will be given notice of when the AARC meeting will be held. You will not know:
- Who will be on the AARC
- The evidence submitted to the AARC by others
- Who else is speaking to the AARC, when, or what they are saying
The AARC keeps no formal record–whether through a zoom recording or a court reporter–that would allow a meaningful review of its decision. You will likely never know what was said or done at the AARC, and instead will receive a letter with the AARC’s final decision, usually 2-4 weeks after the AARC.
The implications of the AARC denying your adoption application are serious: you have the option to (1) appeal the decision (to a DCF employee who will act as a hearing officer in deciding whether to overturn its own employer’s decision), and/or (2) file a petition to adopt and ask the court to find that the Department has acted unreasonably in withholding its consent to your adoption.
Therefore, it is a good idea to retain an attorney to advise you during the process. We are highly experienced in litigation involving the Department of Children and Families and can help you whether you are preparing for the AARC or considering an appeal.