Jessica C. Graves, Owner, 7400 N Oracle Rd, Ste 150-403 Tucson 85704, 520.468.3838 - Hablamos Español

Tag: adoption attorney

How to Serve Foster Families in the Tucson Community

Non-profit organizations in the Tucson community need volunteers like you to promote the well-being, educational opportunities, and basic needs of children in foster care. Organizations such as the Children’s Heart Gallery, More Than a Bed, FostAdopt Connections, Arizona Helping Hands, Spreading Threads, and Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation play a vital role in the community through the services and events they provide to foster families. Volunteer opportunities in these organizations can include organizing donations, speaking at events, stocking warehouses, hosting collection drives, and photographing children in the foster care system. Each of these volunteer opportunities is a wonderful way to serve your community and support Tucson’s at-risk youth!


Volunteer Opportunities

DCS Children’s Heart Gallery

Website link:

The Arizona Children’s Heart Gallery was created to capture the personalities of children in foster care awaiting families through photography. The Children’s Heart Gallery helps potential families gain insight into the stories, interests, and personalities of children in foster care who are awaiting permanent homes. A wide variety of volunteer opportunities are available at the Children’s Heart Gallery for people skilled in the areas of photography, styling, and writing. Volunteer guides are also needed to help the children navigate through the event. Volunteering at the Children’s Heart Gallery is a wonderful way to help share the stories of children in foster care, and aid in finding them permanent, loving homes.


More Than a Bed

Website Link:

More Than a Bed is a nonprofit, Christian resource center for Arizona foster, kinship, and adoptive parents. More Than a Bed collects household items, clothing, beds, furniture, etc. and distributes these items to Arizona foster, kinship, and adoptive parents. Qualified families are able to shop for these items at no charge. More Than a Bed plays an important role in helping foster parents remain in the system and encouraging others to become foster parents and support Tucson’s at-risk youth. In 2019 alone, More Than a Bed provided resources to over 900 families and 2,800 foster children. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at More Than a Bed. These opportunities include: sorting donations at the warehouse, organizing the warehouse, folding clothing, receiving donations, tutoring, offsite party fundraisers, and supply drives. Each of these volunteer positions plays a valuable role in helping More Than a Bed continue to support foster families and protect Tucson’s at-risk youth.


FostAdopt Connections

Website link:

FostAdopt Connections is a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting and empowering kinship, foster, and adoptive families by providing mentorship, resources, and community. Volunteer opportunities include: going shopping with children in group homes, being a mentor to a foster, kinship, or adoptive parent, and many more. Contact to find out more about volunteer opportunities!


Arizona Helping Hands

Website Link:

Arizona Helping Hands (located in Phoenix) provides essential needs for children in foster care in the state of Arizona. Arizona Helping Hands provides basic needs for foster families including: bed sets, cribs, diapers and wipes, hygiene kits, children’s clothing, and safety equipment. During the holiday seasons, Arizona Helping Hands helps to make the holidays special for foster children by hosting drives for new toys. Volunteers are especially needed to help during community collection drives. Volunteer opportunities at Arizona Helping Hands include decorating Birthday Dreams bags, sorting and organizing clothing donations, sorting and filling stock in the warehouse, and working on seasonal collection drives. Volunteering at Arizona Helping Hands is an amazing way to serve the community, supply foster families with basic needs, and make the holidays special for children in foster care.


Spreading Threads Clothing Bank

Website Link:

Spreading Threads is a nonprofit clothing bank which provides free clothing to foster children in Southern Arizona. Donated clothing items are available at no charge to foster families every second Saturday of each month. Both monetary and clothing donations are needed to help support the wonderful mission of this organization. Volunteers are also needed to help in the process of sorting and organizing donations to ensure they are available to foster families every second Saturday of each month. Volunteering at Spreading Threads is an amazing opportunity to support a grassroots organization which provides basic needs to Tucson foster families.


Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation

Website Link:

The mission of Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation is to enhance the lives of Arizona foster care children by financing educational opportunities and outside activities. Volunteers are especially needed during the events hosted by Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation. These events include the VNSA Book sale, the Speakers Bureau Training, and the Slider Throw down. Volunteers during the VNSA Book sale will help organize and run the book sale, which takes place at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation is invited to speaking opportunities statewide, which requires volunteers to speak on the organization’s behalf. The Speakers Bureau Training provides volunteers with the skills and training necessary to speak about the organization’s missions and goals at statewide events. Volunteering at Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation is a great way to promote the self-esteem of foster care children through educational opportunities and events.

Change a life—Become a Foster Parent

Foster care and adoption are both options that can provide children with a loving, supportive, and nurturing environment. Adoption and foster care differ as adoptive parents provide a permanent home to the child, as well as become the legally responsible parents. Foster care is an important part in the process of finding permanent devoted caretakers for children. If you are looking to begin a rewarding experience as a foster parent in Arizona, it is important to understand the process of becoming a foster parent, types of foster care, as well as expectations for foster parents.


Background information on foster care

What is foster care?

Making an informed decision about becoming a foster parent relies on understanding the purpose of foster care and the role you will play as a foster parent. Foster care is considered to be a temporary home for a child. A child typically enters foster care when their birth parents are unable to provide a safe home and need a little extra support to take care of their children. It is important to recognize that children do not enter foster care due to something they have done, but because their birth parents need some additional guidance and assistance. The primary goal of foster care is to reunite the child with his or her birth parents once the birth parents have been provided support and assistance. Once a child enters foster care, he or she is legally placed under the custody of a state agency.

Who can become a foster parent?

There is always a need for foster parents to providing loving homes for children in Arizona. Arizona sets forth a few requirements for those hoping to become foster parents. A foster parent can be single, married, or in a relationship. However, if you are married and living together, both individuals must satisfy the requirements for becoming a foster parent. A foster parent must also be at least 21 years old. To ensure the child’s safety, every adult in the household must pass an FBI and local criminal background check, as well as possess a Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card, which can be acquired through the Department of Public Safety.

What are the steps to become a foster parent?

There are six general steps to become a foster parent:

  1. The first step requires you to complete foster parent pre-service training. This training provides valuable information about those duties required of foster parents. There are 11 online courses, which can be completed at home, as well as 15 hours of in-person instruction. During COVID, you may be able to participate in these mandatory courses online. Check with a foster care agency or Arizona’s Office of Licensing & Regulation for more information.
  2. The second step requires a medical evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional. A medical form must be completed by your regularly seen doctor or practitioner (e.g., family physician, nurse practitioner, or a psychiatrist if you have been seeing her on a regular basis).
  3. The third step involves the financial requirements and responsibilities. This step exists to ensure that potential foster parents can meet daily living expenses for a child. These expenses may include clothing, grocery bills, rent, etc. Although foster parents may receive foster care reimbursement payments from the State, it is common for these payments to be delayed initially. Thus, being able to financially provide for a child in the beginning, before these payments may begin, is important.
  4. The next step revolves around the home study. This process includes participation in a comprehensive interview process. A prospective foster parent must select a foster care licensing agency contracted with the Department of Child Safety to conduct a home study. The home study process involves a series of personal questions asked of prospective foster parents. This personal interview process is intended to ensure foster parents are able to properly care for a child.
  5. The fifth step (you’re almost done!) involves a Life Safety Inspection (LSI), which guarantees a safe home environment for the child. The home must be free from common safety hazards. To complete this step, it is important to review the LSI Preparation Guide and requirements: CSO- 1601 Preparation Guide and the Pool Guide: CSO-1602 Pool Guide. Both can be found on the DCS’s Form website.
  6. Finally, foster parents must be lawfully present in the United States. This means that you are a United States citizen or national or a non-citizen authorized by a federal entity or by a court.


Types of foster care

Unlicensed Kinship Care

This form of foster care provides care for a kinship member (family member, friend, teacher, etc.) without a foster care license issued by the Office of Licensing and Regulation. In this situation, the kinship member is caring for a child who is under the custody of the Department of Child Safety, but the kinship person is not licensed by the state as a foster parent. If the case ultimately goes to adoption, it depends as to whether the kinship person will need to become certified to adopt the child. It ultimately depends on the legal relationship between the kinship person and child. For example, in general, a grandparent does not need to become certified to adopt his or her grandchild. However, a cousin may still need to become certified to adopt, even though they are still considered family members. Check with an adoption attorney or adoption agency to find out more information regarding your specific situation.

Kinship parents may benefit from becoming licensed to foster. It may be beneficial to complete the process in becoming a licensed foster parent as you may be eligible for foster care reimbursement payments.

Licensed Kinship Care

In this form of foster care, care is provided to a kinship member under a state-issued foster care license.

Licensed Foster Care

Licensed foster care is considered traditional foster care, involving individuals who satisfy the requirements and training to become a foster parent and looking after a child in DCS’s care and custody.

Respite Foster Care

In this form of foster care, respite caregivers provide short-term care to foster children. This helps give foster parents rest from daily childcare responsibilities.

In-Home Respite Care

In this situation, a caretaker provides care for children in another person’s licensed foster home.


Expectations of DCS for foster parents

General expectations for foster parents

  • Treat the children in your home as if they are family
  • Understand that the children are with you on a temporary basis
  • Support the plan to reunify children with their families
  • Interact with the biological family members
  • Follow the case plan created by DCS
  • Actively participate in meetings that involve the children in your care—school meetings, court hearings, child and family team meetingsetc.
  • Be an advocate for the children in your home

Expectations for Licensed Foster Parents

  • Continue meeting licensing requirements of the Department of Child Safety’s Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR)
  • Report any changes to your home or living situation to OLR and licensing agency
  • Be available and willing to accept a child into your home with limited information
  • Be flexible in your preferences and honor the parameters of your license
  • Understand your responsibility to assist DCS in providing care to children in foster care


What are children in need of foster care like?

It is important to recognize that children in foster care have experienced trauma. Children are removed from their birth parents’ home at no fault of their own. It is also necessary to remember that children who have experienced trauma may have difficulty communicating their feelings with words. Children may resort to communicating their feelings through different behaviors, such as silence, anger, and tantrums.


 What are the current placement needs in Arizona?

The greatest need for foster homes in Arizona is for children between the ages of 13-17. There is also a great need for foster homes for children between the ages of 9-12. A common misconception is that Arizona has a high need for foster homes for infants. However, the need for foster homes for infants accounts for less than 1% of Arizona’s total need.


Foster care agencies in Tucson and Phoenix

Tucson agencies:

Phoenix agencies:


If you have any questions about the foster care process or adopting through foster care, call Jessica Graves at 520-468-3838 or email her at to find out more. Jessica has represented hundreds of foster and kinship parents in their adoptions of their foster children. Jessica also accepts payments through Arizona Department of Child Safety Subsidy.





My Adoption Story

My Adoption Story

“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.” – Fleur Conkling Heyliger

March 24th will always be one of the most important days of my life. On this day, almost 29 years ago, I flew from Seoul, Korea, to Michigan to meet my forever family.

As an adult, I know that many stories begin like this. However, as a child, I never thought about what adoption really meant. I’m not quite sure my schoolmates knew either. My classmates just knew me as the girl who always shared cookies, cake, or cupcakes and celebrated her adoption every March 24th. Each year, my mom or dad helped educate my friends and classroom about my “Plane Day.” We would even bring in little folded handouts to give to everyone.

Then, my parents and I would talk about Korea and my adoption to the class. I would bring in my big Korean book and sometimes even my little Korean outfit.

We celebrated every year that I still lived at home, and still celebrate this day even now. It is a day I will forever cherish because I was, and am, so proud of my adoption.

Nevertheless, it never truly occurred to me the significance of my adoption, nor how special my family is, until I went to law school and became an adoption attorney.

You see, I am not the only adopted child in my family. Both my younger sister and brother were adopted, too. Each of us have a very different adoption story.

My parents knew I was theirs while in utero. I was supposed to be born premature, but, nearly nine months passed before I was born. I spent the first three months of life in a Korean foster-like home before I was flown to the United States. A little bit later, I was legally adopted. I, of course, have no memory of the first three months of my life. However, I do have an area on the back of my head which is flat—likely due to being constantly laid down in the crib.

My Sister’s Adoption Story

My sister’s story is quite different than mine. She was found on a bench at a train station before being placed in an orphanage—a story that may not be unlike other Chinese adoptees, at least from my very limited understanding and knowledge. She lived in an orphanage before my parents flew and brought her back to the United States. She was eighteen months old by the time she reached her forever home.

Flash forward years later when my sister was in elementary school and my parents, along with the assistance of our dentist and pediatrician, discovered she was not actually 18 months old when she came to us. Instead, she was closer to my age. We had grown up believing she was four (4) years younger than me. Now, it seems as if she was only about eighteen (18) months younger. Due to a congenital heart defect and malnourishment, she was small enough to pass as an eighteen-month-old when she joined the family. After much debate, my parents decided not to change her birth certificate date as they didn’t want to take away 2 years of her life.  We still celebrate her birthday as we always do, even though it may be a few months off.

My Brother’s Adoption Story

When my sister and I were both in college, my parents decided to foster an 8-year-old little boy. It was his experiences which spurred my passion for child welfare. Within one year of having my brother placed in my parents’ house, he was adopted. One aspect that struck me about my brother’s experiences was his lack of photos as a child. In fact, he had nothing to account for his childhood except for a plastic bin with a red top. That bin, about 2.5 feet long, 1.5 feet wide, and 1 foot deep, contained the first eight years of his life. Eight years of life was stuffed in a bin. Sure, this is a step up from trash bags that many foster children carry around, but a plastic bin isn’t a significant improvement.

Due to the constant flow of case workers, lawyers, judges, etc., the only person who knew him for the duration of his case was his volunteer CASA worker (Court Appointed Special Advocate), to whom my family was entirely grateful. In fact, she was the only one who had a few photos of his childhood.

Helping Make Forever Families

The timing of my brother’s adoption happened to coincide with my time as a law student. I was inspired by my brother to discover more about foster care and adoption, and I became more interested in child welfare and the issues surrounding it. I took courses geared towards children and the law. I became involved with extracurricular activities that had to do with children and families. I even wrote my substantial paper on child welfare and adoption. As I became more engaged with the legal field, I also learned about “adoption lawyers.” So, upon graduating from law school, I began working as an adoption attorney and now assist families in building their forever families.

Practicing as an adoption attorney really opened my eyes to the different needs in child welfare: birth families, poverty, lack of funding, overworked employees, etc.

The Greatest Gift & Hardest Goodbye

Practicing also gave me a new appreciation for birth parents. Part of my job includes representing birth mothers who are placing their children for adoption. Prior to practicing, I honestly had not even thought about what mothers go through in an adoption. Not many of my friends had children, nor do I. Thus, I did not truly understand how emotional of a decision it is to place a child for adoption. It was not until I met with a mother whom was signing away her rights that I started to grasp the difficulty and emotions. These moms are amazing. They make truly courageous and selfless decisions for their children. I realized then that I am living a full and successful life because of my own birth parents. Without their courage, strength, and belief that I could do great things, I would not be where I am today. These moms and dads want the best for their children, which is why they choose adoption.

But, as many know, adoption, both private and through foster care, is not without its challenges. In the private realm, there are a myriad of unknowns: birth parents consenting, being matched with a child, the traveling, the expenses, post-placement visitation. Similarly, there are unknowns with foster care adoptions: the history of trauma and abuse for the child, the length of time of the court case, the home visits with case workers, social workers, lawyers, the multiple placements, severing of ties with birth families including parents, relatives, and siblings, future services to help with healing from the past. Discussing all the various issues would require another blog post entirely. Ultimately, it is important for individuals to know and understand the possibility of these challenges before deciding whether to foster or adopt.

Fostering Together

I would like to briefly touch on the child welfare cycle for the benefit of those considering either fostering or adopting a child from this system. I am only familiar with two southern Arizona counties, and preface this information with a warning that every state and county is different.

For those unfamiliar with the Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) process, generally, if DCS takes a child from his or her home, the child is usually placed either with family, a friend, or a foster home. The parents then participate in a dependency case. Everyone in the case is given an attorney (mom, dad, child, DCS). Mom and dad are then given a certain amount of time and services to complete to have their child reunified and placed back with them. It sounds easy enough, especially if the parent really loves the child, right?

Well, what if the mom has a substance abuse problem, does not have a steady job or a steady place to live, and just had her one and only support taken from her? Now, she is required to attend court hearings, participate in random drug testing, parenting classes, substance abuse classes, home visits by multiple people, and visits with her child, sometimes supervised by a complete stranger. What if the mom started using drugs because her parents neglected her as a child and so she lacks a strong understanding of right and wrong? What if the mom lived in poverty and she thought she was raising her child better than her parents, the only persons whom she could look to for parenting advice? What if that mother herself had been placed in foster care at an older age (let’s say, age 8), grew up in a group home, and aged out of the system? If nobody wanted you in their family for ten years, how do you think you would feel? Do you think you would be able to overcome all that was thrown at you and succeed? Broken homes lead to broken people.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not every parent with a DCS case has suffered from a troubled life. Some of these cases involve inexcusable, abhorrent, and unforgivable actions, especially since it will take years of love, support, and services to try to help a child overcome the experiences and live a successful life. I don’t wish to categorize the various reasons for which children are taken from their parents’ homes. I just want to point out that in some instances, these moms and dads who lose their children need support and guidance, too. Trust me, I only want what is best for a child. After all, my own brother, whom I love and support, was one of these children.

Ultimately, we need to think about what we want to support. I know funds are limited and there are hundreds of thousands of organizations who need financial assistance to make the world better for children. However, I also know case workers, social workers, and attorneys who are supporting the families with children in the system are underpaid and overworked.  Judges also play a vital role in supporting the children and families, as do volunteers such as CASA workers, Foster Care Review Board members, and child mentors. Sometimes, the support may even come from their child’s placement, whether it be a family member, a friend, or foster parents. It is a difficult situation for everyone.

There are no easy answers here. There are families struggling, their children are being taken from them, there is still a genuine lack of resources for those impoverished and struggling with addiction, and there are teens aging out of the system without support. A child should not end up being placed out of home simply because of poverty.

The Numbers

As of June 30, 2018, Arizona had 13,670 children who were placed out of home: 5,073 were placed with relatives; 6,369 were placed in a foster home; and 1,665 were placed in a group home. The other 816 children were placed in an institution/residential home, were living on their own in independent living, had run away, were in a trial home visit, or did not have an identified placement. Of the 1,665 who were placed in a group home, 1,590 were eight years and older (95.5%). (source:, Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report Sep 2018 revised). I chose to begin with age eight because that’s how old my brother was when he was placed with us and I always think about where his life would be had he not been adopted.

Simply put, if we, as a society, put more emphasis on supporting those who need the assistance (teens aging out of the system, those persons living below the poverty line, those suffering from domestic abuse, etc.), perhaps we can help prevent the removal of children from homes. This way, foster homes can be open for children currently in care or in group homes, who need a loving, supportive family to help get them through their time in foster care.

Happy Endings

Now, the reason I love my job is because I can bring families together. Given how important my own adoption day is to my family, I try to celebrate the adoptions of my clients—the adoptive parents. I became a very amateur photographer in hopes of being able to help capture the day for the family. Oftentimes, I saw a family’s adoption being captured on a flip phone… in the year 2017. I wanted their adoption day to be something to cherish and always remember. After all, these families and children had been through so much already. I wanted to be able to capture a moment of happiness—the end of the dependency case and the beginning of their forever home.

As I stated earlier, I was always proud of being adopted. It made me different. I never thought about how others saw my family. We are, after all, a family consisting of three white Americans and two Asian. It is obvious to everyone else that we were adopted. But I never saw the obvious. I just saw our family.

Now, without getting into a nature v. nurture discussion, I do have to say that I share in so many of my family’s qualities. To start, I have an intense love for ice cream. And gelato. In fact, while visiting Italy, I made it a point to have gelato Every. Single. Day. Come to find out, I take after my “Mom Mom” (pronounced “MumMum”), who ate ice cream nearly every day of her life. Similarly, I have her strength and tenacity (though some may confuse my tenacity with stubbornness).

I also have my mom’s feet, my dad’s eyes (and his sense of humor), my papa’s patience, my grandma’s wiggly toes, and my grandpa’s wiggly ears. I am awfully proud to be part of this family and am proud of all the qualities, good and bad, that come with it!




  • Birth parents are strong, courageous, and selfless.
  • The people working within child welfare want to protect children and make a difference to our community.
  • Not all parents in the DCS system are “bad.”
  • We need to do more to provide support for our community to help keep families together.
  • We can incite change (for the better) to allow permanency for foster children.

And finally…

  • My parents are strong. My parents are compassionate. My parents have the biggest hearts of anybody. As cliché as it might sound, without them, I would not be where I am today. I wouldn’t be building forever families like my own. I wouldn’t be part of organizations which support foster and adoptive parents and children, nor families with congenital heart defects. So, thank you. I love you.


About the Author

Arizona Adoption Attorney Jessica Graves is a double University of Arizona Wildcat alumni (Bear Down!), having found her home in Tucson where she lives with her husband and dog. Apart from being an adoption attorney, Jessica is a board member of Congenital Heart Defect Families of Tucson and More Than a Bed (foster and adoptive resource center). She is a member of the 2019 Greater Tucson Leadership Class and volunteers with Lawyers for Literacy each week. You can follow her on Instagram @JessicaGravesLaw, Twitter @JGravesLaw, and like her page on Facebook: @JessicaGravesLaw. For information on adopting a child in Arizona, you can contact Jessica at This article and any communication related to the article is not intended to provide legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship. All photos belong to Jessica Graves.

National Adoption Month – November 2018

November is National Adoption Month. For 2018, this means bringing awareness to those children and teens who are in the foster care system and in need of safe, loving, permanent homes. I think about where my brother would be now if our family didn’t adopt him at age 8. He would likely still be in the system in a group home (at age 14). He would not have a safe, loving, supportive, permanent home where he could be an active youth church mentor, a member of his high school Pit, and a hopeful guitar player.
Every child deserves to have a place and family where they can feel safe and loved.
As of June 30 2018, there were 13,670 Arizona children placed out of their homes. Of those, 1,506 children were legally free for adoption. 1,097 of those children were NOT placed in an adoptive home (source:, Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report Sep 2018 revised). Therefore, 1,091 children were in need of a family ready and able to provide them love and support.
If these 1,097 children lived on campus at the The University of Arizona, they would fill up six of University of Arizona Residence Hall Association‘s dorms north of 4th Street. Think about having Babcock, Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Rawls/Eller, & Manzi-Mo completely full with children who need a permanent, adoptive home.
Photo from Children’s Heart Gallery (
The Children’s Heart Gallery showcases some of Arizona children who are legally free for adoption. According to the Heart Gallery, “More than 33 percent of children in out-of-home care are 1 to 5 years of age. Youth 13-17 years of age comprise 21 percent of the children in care.” (source:
During November, I just ask that you think about these children and the other children in care. There are many resources available in which you may volunteer, donate, or mentor children. Over the next month, I plan to provide ways for you to get involved so we can all show our support for these children. Let’s be honest, these kids need the support of our community to be stable, successful, Arizona citizens. They deserve a chance in life and should not be punished for something out of their control. ❤
Photo from Children’s Heart Gallery (
For more information about adopting a child in Arizona, contact Arizona Adoption Lawyer, Jessica C. Graves. 520-468-3838.